Every year it’s customary to dissect the Stanley Cup finalists to try to figure out what your team is lacking or did wrong throughout the year in comparison. So, in that tradition, we took look at the L.A. Kings 2011-2012 season to see how they did it. Here’s a quick comparison between the Kings and Sabres season storylines.
High profile offseason acquisitions
Over the summer, L.A. added Mike Richards and Simon Gagne— veteran forwards who helped to change the makeup of the club. The Sabres added veteran leadership of their own when they acquired Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff (in separate trades) and took a swing at offensive improvement by signing free agent Ville Leino.
Strong start to season
The Kings opened the season according to expectations, going 5-1-1 in their first seven games. The Sabres opened the season according to expectations, going 5-1-1 in their first seven games.
The Kings struggled to score all season (29th in goals) and as a result couldn’t string together a consistent stretch of winning hockey. In fact, the Kings didn’t win 3 in a row from mid-November until Mid-March, when a late push earned them the 8 seed in the West. The Sabres (16th in goals) went from November through February without a 3-game winning streak, then got hot– still falling short of the playoffs in the East.
“This team is playing hockey? Sorry, but doesn’t look that way to me. The last two games made me throw up in my mouth. I chucked my season seat renewal packet in the trash.” Sound familiar? It should if you’re one of the LA Kings faithful. That’s a post from LAKingsInsider.com from March 10 of this year. There are lots more like it. As it turns out, the Sabres weren’t the only team whose lackluster play caused a near revolt from their fan base.
Rumors and pressure to trade your 2010 U.S. Olympian
With pressure mounting throughout the season trade talk eventually settled on what was thought to be the King’s best asset, 2010 U.S. Olympic team member Dustin Brown. While not under his control, here’s what Brown said about his GM withstanding the pressure to make a major trade: ”I just focused on hockey and getting this team to the playoffs, because I felt like we had a team that could do a lot if we got there and started playing together.”
And here’s the Sabres’ 2010 U.S. Olympic team member Ryan Miller explaining his position on a possible shakeup trade: “…this locker room’s going to be pretty much the same, if not completely the same, and we’ve got to find it from in here. [Points to chest] We can’t sit and wait for somebody else to (blank)ing do it.”
Late surge to 8th place
The hole the Kings dug themselves required an extended run of winning hockey to gain a playoff berth. The Kings wouldn’t find themselves in possession of 8th place until the last week of the season. The Sabres got there as well, but couldn’t hold on. As a result of those last few games, the Sabres haven’t played in nearly two months.
***The Road Not Taken – Coaching Change***
The Kings and Sabres had shockingly similar season narratives… with one huge exception. The Kings decided to fire coach Terry Murray in December and replace him with Darryl Sutter. Despite desperate pleas by fans and media for the same move, the Sabres stayed the course with Lindy Ruff.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Kings hold a 1-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals and play the Devils in Game 2 Saturday night.
We could have been Kings.