x = 12 – y – (z-5)/2
That was my prediction for the Kings in 2011-12. Where x = conference seed, y = number of 20 goal scorers, z = number of shoot-out wins. Results rounded to the nearest counting number.
How did my little predictive formula do? Let’s see. 20 goal scorers: 4 (Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Carter). Shoot-out wins: 6. So,
x = 12 – 4 – (6-5)/2
x = 12 – 4 – 1/2
x = 7.5
rounded up… 8th place!
I see no reason not to use the same formula for this season, indexed, however, for 48 games instead of 82. That should be:
x = 12 – y – 41*(z-5)/48
…where x = conference seed, y = number of 11.7 goal scorers, z = number of shoot-out wins. Results, again, rounded to the nearest counting number.
In case it’s not obvious, I am not serious. I’m not wrong, but I’m also not serious.
While going through last year’s predictions, I came across a post I had totally forgotten about, written as Darryl Sutter was about to take over for the foundering Kings, in late December, 2011.
Well, it’s been a weird, long off-season. The Kings staggered through their 33 game exhibition schedule, finishing up with a mediocre record of 15-14-4. Drew Doughty is signed and looks to be in game shape just in time for the season to begin. New-comers Mike Richards and Simon Gagne found some pre-season chemistry with Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown, all of whom wisely paced themselves through the grueling pre-season and appear ready to hit the ground running once the season begins tonight. Richards, Doughty, Dustin Penner and Willie Mitchell all nursed pre-season injuries and hopefully have gotten the injury bug out of the way now that the games count.
In just a few hours, the Kings are poised to begin a truncated 49 game regular season. They need a record of 30-15-4 to qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive year. With the added pressure of high expectations, coach Terry Murray took the unorthodox step of donning a Darryl Sutter mask, which he will wear throughout the season.
Well, we all know what happened. The Kings went 25-13-11 (61 points) from that point, three points less than I said they needed, but still just barely good enough. And then they played pretty well in the post-season, too.
But the reason I bring up my jokey mid-season season preview is the coincidence that Sutter took over with 49 games remaining. In essence, the Kings under Sutter played a stupendous shortened season just last year.
And now it’s time to do it again. With better players. But no warm-up. That’s kind of the good news / bad news of it. I am comforted knowing that all 30 teams are in the same boat with regard to the sudden arrival of the season, the long layoff, and the compressed groin-straining schedule.
Reasons for optimism
- Last season, Drew Doughty missed camp and didn’t hit his stride for several weeks. This season — wait, there wasn’t really a camp, and Doughty has been skating in Ontario just like last pre-season. Never mind.
- Doughty weighed in at 205 this week. That’s lighter than his usual. Except it isn’t. Last season, he weighed in at 203. Okay, cross that one off the list, too.
- Last season started with the likes of Ethan Moreau, Trent Hunter and Kevin Westgarth in the bottom-six. This season, we have Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, maybe Anthony Stewart.
- Last season, Jack Johnson was playing top-four minutes. Since the trade deadline, we’ve upgraded to full-time Slava Voynov.
- For this team, Sutter > Murray. (I still think Murray’s name should have gone on the cup, as a scout, which he was after being fired, by the way.)
- Last season, Mike Richards was the new kid and it took a while for him to find a rhythm with his new teammates. This season, chemistry will presumably be less of an issue.
- Last season, Simon Gagne was ineffective and then injured. Now, he’s symptom-free. I actually don’t know whether this is a net positive for the Kings (see next section), but let’s pretend it is.
- Alec Martinez, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Slava Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Jonathan Bernier have been playing during the lock-out, so they should be in pretty good shape. That’s about half the team.
- As has been pointed out by many, including me, the long layoff could work to the Kings’ advantage, making them more rested than your usual defending cup champion.
- Tyler Toffoli is a year older and a year closer.
- We get a full season of Jeff Carter. And, yes, I believe that is a very good thing.
Reasons to worry
- The Kings were nearly unbeatable in the playoffs last season. But, sad as this is to say, this level of play can’t last forever. When they come back down to earth, who are they? Are they some new, evolved extra-confident and great version of themselves, or are they closer to last season’s Kings of the regular season?
- Simon Gagne missed most of the season and most of the playoffs. I have no idea how he is going to fit in this year, or if he will even be able to stay healthy.
- And when Kopitar comes back, Gagne in all likelihood will drop to the Stoll line. How is that going to work? Will playing with Gagne elevate Stoll’s game? What kind of line is that, anyway? Seems like an offensive-minded line that’s possibly not very good.
- Jarret Stoll was great in the playoffs and lousy in the regular season. Which Stoll will we see?
- In the playoffs, the Kings remembered how to score — but during the regular season they were last or second to last in the league in goals-for. And people forget that the team’s goals-for went down under Sutter (goals-against went down even farther, though — thus, success).
- Willie Mitchell is injured. Maybe not for long, I don’t know. But he logs a lot of tough minutes. Who’s going to replace him? Martinez? Muzzin? That could work. But it’s a big change from last year.
- Quick’s back. No, I mean his back, not the fact that he’s back, which of course he is. Let me start over: I’m concerned about his back. Without a fully-operational spine, he can’t do all his Quick moves. Though his mind control powers ought to be unaffected.
- Kopitar’s knee. He needs it.
- I don’t want to lose any of King, Nolan or Clifford. When Kopitar returns, Gagne, Stoll, Lewis, Nolan, Fraser, King, Clifford, Richardson and Stewart will be crowding the bottom six. Two of those guys sit in the press box, one must go somewhere. Is Nolan (the only one with waiver-exemption) heading back to Manchester? Is someone going to be moved?
- Teams that won’t make the playoffs in the west: CBJ, CGY, DAL, COL and (narrowly) EDM.
- Where will the Kings finish? Obviously: x = 12 – y – 41*(z-5)/48. Come on.
- How many 20 goal scorers — er, I mean 11.7 goal scorers? Kopitar, Brown, Carter, Penner, Richards…and Voynov.
- Break-out season: Voynov.
- Takes a step back: Stoll.
- Do the Kings repeat? Almost. Kings lose in the cup final to Philly, game seven, triple OT, goal by Wayne Simmonds.
Yeah, like I have any idea what’s going to happen.