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The Puck Stops Here

Los Angeles Kings Are Not An Elite Team

The Los Angeles Kings are bound for the Stanley Cup finals.  Like their opponents the New York Rangers they are not an elite team.  Los Angeles might be as good a team as can exist in today's NHL but their dominances pales in comparison to almost all of the Stanley Cup winners prior to the 2004/05 lockout season.  This might be as good as it gets.  Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup in 2012.  They did so despite only qualifying for the last playoff seed in the West Conference.  This year they managed to take the sixth seed in the West Conference.  These are not dominant regular seasons.  This is not what one would expect of an elite team.  There is no team that is good enough to transcend hockey and draw in casual viewers to see them. 

How does Los Angeles stack up to my necessary but not sufficient condition that an elite team has a group of elite players including a top goaltender?  Their goaltender in Jonathan Quick might be in the top goaltender group in the NHL.  In 2012 he certainly looked like he was when he posted a .929 saves percentage and a 1.95 GAA.  He was a Vezina Trophy contender and won the Conn Smythe Trophy.  Since then he has not been able to match those numbers.  He posted a .902 saves percentage the year after his success and partially rebounded to a .915 saves percentage this year.  He is only posting a .906 saves percentage so far in the playoffs.  The argument that Jonathan Quick is a top NHL goalie was a very good one two years ago, but nothing he has done since is helping the argument.  Fr the sake of my argument today, I will accept him as a top NHL goalie, though I am beginning to wonder if this is a stretch.  At any rate, his Hall of Fame chances are not strong.  At age 28, he has one season that makes a strong case and there is little to show that he can match it.

How many Hall of Fame track players do the Kings have?  Drew Doughty is probably on that list.  He has never won a Norris Trophy, which would go a long way toward cementing his claim, but he is on the right track.  It is more likely than not he is having a Hall of Fame career.  Anze Kopitar is the next best candidate.  He is 26 and has never scored more than 81 points in a season, so that holds him back, but he has the potential for more.  He has never been a contender for a major award in the past.  He is nominated for the Selke Trophy this year, although Selke nominee is not enough to make much of a Hall of Fame case.  He has scored a pretty good rate over his career to date but will have to stay healthy and productive enough to double his current point total to have career numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame.  Kopitar is at best a maybe.  He is a little better than the maybe of Jonathan Quick.

Other candidates worthy of mention are Marian Gaborik.  He has found his game in the playoffs but is coming off of two poor regular seasons where his offensive totals dipped and his defence was a problem.  2011/12 was his last significant offensive year.  He is 32 now and has never had a season where he contended for a major NHL award.  It looks unlikely that will happen into the future.  In order to bring his career numbers to Hall of Fame levels he will have to be healthy and productive for the next half decade or longer and that hasn't been the case in his last two seasons.

Jeff Carter is also worth notice.  He is a solid sniper with defensive skills who represented Team Canada in the Olympics this year.  He has only once in his career exceeded 66 points and has 460 points at age 29.  He will have to be productive and healthy for a long time for those career numbers to approach Hall of Fame levels.  Mike Richards is roughly in the same place Carter is.  He has better defensive skills and possibly could have won a Selke Trophy by now, though he hasn't.  He too has a long way to go to have career numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame.

All told, I would predict that two Kings will make the Hall of Fame.  Doughty will probably get there and there are enough other candidates that one other will likely get a shot (Kopitar or Quick are most likely).  They have a depth of players who are good enough that it is reasonable to mention them as Hall of Fame candidates before discounting their chances a bit.  That makes them a good team in today's NHL where nobody is elite.  They are successful big market team.  Their location has helped them to secure the services of Gaborik, Carter and Richards and that gives them another forward line of good players.  Smaller markets could not have acquired such talent.

The NHL has what it wants in the Stanley Cup finals.  Los Angeles will play New York.  The two biggest cities in the NHL are playing against one another.  That may increase the number of people watching in their local markets but neither of these teams in a "team for the ages".  Neither of these teams is dominant over the league.  Neither of these teams is elite.  That doesn't happen anymore and that means the fan never sees a battle between two elite teams in the Stanley Cup finals.  Those days are gone and it isn't clear if they will ever return.  We are seeing a streak of teams win one Stanley Cup in a row after finishing in the middle of the playoff spots in the regular season and some of us are trying to explain how these teams are elite.  Great teams are a thing of the past, so battles between great teams are gone.  The hockey fan loses out.

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Comments

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Depends what you consider an “elite” team. I think it’s valid to call them elite simply based on the fact that they made it to the Cup finals twice in the last 3 years. Their core is locked up for a long time, so I don’t see a reason why they couldn’t continue their success in the playoffs for the next few years.
I would say Kings are more of an elite team than Rangers. At the very least you have to agree Kings had to go thru 3 widely considered “elite” teams to get to the finals. Rangers did not.
Kings have very underrated players on the team, maybe that’s why they don’t get any love in that department.
As far as Quick goes, he is a top-tier goalie who is playing average right now. It happens to the best of them

Posted by George0211 on 06/02/14 at 03:08 PM ET

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I now consider Marion Gaborik a hall of fame player

Posted by scooter on 06/02/14 at 03:10 PM ET

MoreShoot's avatar

Kopitar is at best a maybe.

Yeah, but he’s essentially a 225 lb Zetterberg, and I’d take him over several players with better stats.

 

Posted by MoreShoot on 06/02/14 at 03:17 PM ET

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Clearly you are a Canucks or Capitals fan…...

Posted by thorny99 on 06/02/14 at 03:18 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Great teams are a thing of the past, so battles between great teams are gone.  The hockey fan loses out.

This is just such an odd complaint coming the day after the end of one of the most-entertaining playoff series of the last 20 years.

Had the Hawks won, they would have missed out on being called elite by your standards because of Crawford, right?

I don’t know. There’s a lot of things about the post-salary-cap hockey world which I don’t like, but as a fan who’s watched from the previous epoch through to this one, I don’t feel after that series like I’m being denied something that’s actually better.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 06/02/14 at 03:30 PM ET

Down River Dan's avatar

Not gonna be one of those guys who poo-poo analytic’s and proclaim they aren’t valid. I’m just not sure, at this point in time, if there is a stat that can be used to proclaim someone elite or not elite.

However, I do know this. I’ve see the Stanley Cup up close and I didn’t notice any asterisks next to any of the team names. LA or New York,  someone is getting their name on the trophy. Elite or Not.

   

Posted by Down River Dan on 06/02/14 at 03:40 PM ET

awould's avatar

Depends what you consider an “elite” team.

That is the point. The entire premise relies on the fact that TPSH uses his own opinions as supportive “facts” for his other opinions. It’s all unprovable assertions. LA isn’t as good as ANY Cup winner pre-2004? Based on what? Ok. I disagree, therefore they NOW qualify as elite.

This is just such an odd complaint coming the day after the end of one of the most-entertaining playoff series of the last 20 years.

This was my first thought. Gimme a break, this series was awesome. Featured 2 great teams and, in my opinion, at least 4 but very possibly 6 future hall of famers. Also, the last Pens/Wings series was excellent, even if the wrong team did win. Again, two great teams with multiple future hall of famers.

Also, if LA wins another Cup and Kopitar keeps up his pace for a few more seasons, which should see LA make at least 2 more deep runs in the playoffs, he will be a hall of famer. But that doesn’t support the definition so Kopitar is defined down to a low-maybe. Gimme a break.

It’s an arbitrary system that pretty much prohibits any team in the salary-cap era from being elite.

Posted by awould on 06/02/14 at 03:47 PM ET

awould's avatar

Also, who cares?

Posted by awould on 06/02/14 at 03:49 PM ET

pautna's avatar

Ha ha!! Good comedy writing. The Kings have lost one playoff series in the last three years. They’ve reached the Conference finals three years in a row. They done all this by breaking over 10 NHL records in the process. I could go on and on, but will spare my fellow KK readers the otherwise boring stats.

Also, PSH seems to be confusing the regular season with the ‘real’ season. Coach Sutter’s attitude is that all you have to do is get into the playoffs and you have a chance. And it’s worked really well so far.

One of the things I’ve gotten a kick out of this year is people writing about a team/city/fans they obviously really don’t know about, making them look ridiculous to those who do.

Posted by pautna on 06/02/14 at 04:03 PM ET

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cue mean-spirited rebuttal from PSH because he can’t handle criticism and doesn’t understand why the world does not see things the way that he does in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ....

Posted by scooter on 06/02/14 at 04:21 PM ET

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PSH, you are so f’n depressing.

Posted by lv2skor on 06/02/14 at 04:27 PM ET

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I want to chirp PSH but I feel the odd’s are too great he is merely an 11-year old child upset at a sport he is struggling to comprehend.

Posted by patrickjoyce19 on 06/02/14 at 04:34 PM ET

Paul's avatar

Please keep the comments on topic.  Discuss the content, not the author, thanks.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 06/02/14 at 04:36 PM ET

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Apologies…but have you read his articles?

Posted by patrickjoyce19 on 06/02/14 at 04:38 PM ET

Paul's avatar

Everyone pj19 and feel free to agree or disagree with them all you want.

The other stuff is not needed.

No harm by the way, just a reminder for all.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 06/02/14 at 04:40 PM ET

awould's avatar

Also, PSH seems to be confusing the regular season with the ‘real’ season. Coach Sutter’s attitude is that all you have to do is get into the playoffs and you have a chance. And it’s worked really well so far.

Exactly. LA is a team that is built for the playoffs.

Posted by awould on 06/02/14 at 06:01 PM ET

Hootinani's avatar

Yeah, but he’s essentially a 225 lb Zetterberg, and I’d take him over several players with better stats.

 Posted by MoreShoot on 06/02/14 at 03:17 PM ET

Preach

Posted by Hootinani on 06/02/14 at 06:27 PM ET

shazam88's avatar

Great post by awould about 10 up from mine.

Pseudo-statistical reasoning and labels applied to teams based on extrapolated / guessed selected individual accomplishments such as HOF induction, are completely nonsensical.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 06/02/14 at 07:04 PM ET

bigfrog's avatar

Coach Sutter’s attitude is that all you have to do is get into the playoffs and you have a chance. And it’s worked really well so far.

Exactly, and that’s why you could call the Kings an “Elite Playoff Team”. They won three game sevens in the opponent’s building to reach the SCF’s this year. During last nights game 7 in Chicago they fell behind two goals early in the game, but kept fighting back. Not too shabby.

Posted by bigfrog on 06/02/14 at 09:32 PM ET

Avatar

Who really cares if teams are elite or not? What makes you immortal is having your names engraved on the Cup.

Posted by redwingshomersLOL on 06/02/14 at 10:21 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

why you could call the Kings an “Elite Playoff Team”. They won three game sevens in the opponent’s building to reach the SCF’s this year. During last nights game 7 in Chicago they fell behind two goals early in the game, but kept fighting back.

This line of reasoning is pretty questionable.  Los Angeles was almost eliminated but on less than a handful of examples managed to fight their way back.  It’s certainly not a big enough sample size to be statistically meaningful.  What is meaningful is that the team barely won and was almost eliminated.  An elite playoff team would not repeatedly almost lose playoff series.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 06/02/14 at 11:42 PM ET

awould's avatar

I can tell you one thing, those years with “elite” teams produced some pretty lopsided Finals series. Lot of 4-0, 4-1 series wins. So I’m not sure when these battles between great teams actually happened.

Posted by awould on 06/03/14 at 12:03 AM ET

Puppies and Hookers's avatar

TPSH is not an elite hockey writer.

Posted by Puppies and Hookers from La la land on 06/03/14 at 02:44 AM ET

Puppies and Hookers's avatar

An elite hockey writer would have more positive responses than negative responses to his columns.  The majority of responses to PSH are negative. 

IwoCPO has more positive responses than negative responses to his columns.  IwoCPO is an elite hockey writer. 

PSH has has had years to develop a following of devoted readers but has failed to do so.  Therefore PSH is not an elite hockey writer. The hockey reader loses out.

Posted by Puppies and Hookers from La la land on 06/03/14 at 02:52 AM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

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Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com