By Meesh Shanmugnam, Staff Writer
Now that the NHL lockout has finally ended (pending ratification), Kings’ fans can start discussing the more important things in life – When will the banner be raised?
How will the Kings repeat as champions?
Why are the Lakers… You get the point.
First though, we must revisit where the Kings stand entering the new 2013 season. We last left off with the championship roster returning in its entirety and Jonathan Quick undergoing back surgery (expected to be ready around training camp).
The lockout hasn’t exactly been kind to the Kings though. First, Jordan Nolan suffered a broken finger during a fight in his first AHL game of the season.
Then, Alec Martinez underwent surgery after blocking a puck with his face overseas.
Even after a rough start to the lockout, the most recent updates have been even more unnerving. Anze Kopitar hurt his knee just a couple days before the lockout ended. He is expected to be out 2-3 weeks which has him returning for the start of the season at best, or missing a couple weeks potentially. In a 48 game season filled with only conference games and overloaded with divisional games, it will only take one losing streak to cripple a team for the year.
On top of the Kopitar injury, Jonathan Quick still has not been cleared to play though he is “getting close.” Were the Kings attempting to predict the future when they said Quick would be ready for training camp? He surely would not have been ready at any point before January and still may miss a few early games before all is said and done.
Luckily for Los Angeles, depth and experience should help them through some early bad breaks. Jonathan Bernier is more than capable of handling the reigns until Quick is ready. Though most of the hockey world questions how soon Bernier will be traded, especially since he asked for it, I imagine he will be a blessing in disguise as Quick returns from injury into a compact schedule. Bernier has demonstrated that he is quite capable of playing in the NHL with a .910 save percentage and 2.50 goals against average in 48 games. The talented team in front of him will help quite a bit too.
Meanwhile, the Kopitar injury could easily be mitigated by the health of Simon Gagne, a full season of Jeff Carter, and hopefully a better start from Mike Richards and Dustin Penner. Even two of those aspects falling into place will help the Kings deal with the loss of Kopitar for a couple weeks if necessary.
Finally, the Kings may get a nice boost from some kids currently playing in the AHL. Defenseman Slava Voynov will return to the NHL at full speed with 35 games played already this season. He has 7 goals and 9 assists with a team-leading 106 shots for the Manchester Monarchs. Forwards Dwight King and Andrei Loktionov will also be options to return to the team after spending time in Los Angeles last year. King has 17 points in 28 games, while Loktionov has 18 points in 26 games. Additionally, there may be an influx of new blood as 2nd year center Linden Vey is leading the Monarchs with 27 points in 35 games and winger Tyler Toffoli is nipping at his heels with 26 points in 34 games.
The health of the Kings may be in question when the season starts, but those thoughts can wait for now. It’s time for fans to finally celebrate the banner raising for their 2011-2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings.