L.A. = New Hockeytown?

Daniel Williams

After navigating through traffic, one-way streets and long lines at the metal detectors, nothing gets a hockey fan more excited than feeling the cool breeze from the rink blow through tunnel on their way to take their seats.

Watching a hockey game at the Staples Center is a unique experience for Kings fans, especially when the Stadium is filled with Detroit Redwings fans.

Apparently, Los Angeles became Hockeytown Oct. 27 when the Redwings were in town to play the Kings.’ For every fan wearing purple and black, there was another one wearing red and white.’ There were so many Redwings fans at that game that an octopus was thrown onto the ice at the beginning of the third period, a Redwing tradition.’ Detroit would also end up winning the game 4-3 in a shootout.

Not that there is anything wrong with cheering for someone other than the home team.’

It’s difficult not to respect the defending Stanley Cup champions.’ Including the most recent season, the Redwings have won four Stanley Cups in the past 11 years.’ They’ve also won four out the past six Presidents’ Trophies, which is awarded to the team that ends the season with the best record.

Maybe some of the fans in attendance that game were simply want to be a part of the bandwagon.’ But maybe Los Angeles hockey fans are just so starving for a team to be productive that they begin actually cheering for whatever team they like.

The Kings are a young team with potential offensively.’ There is strong leadership in veterans such as Derek Armstrong and Michal Handzus.’ Those veterans are also surrounded by young talent which includes the Kings top three scorers from last season: Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Anze Kopitar.’ Kopitar was the Kings leading scorer with 32 goals and 45 assists in just his second NHL season.

However, the Kings are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Detroit.’ They have yet to win their first Stanley Cup or Presidents’ trophy.’ Not to mention finishing last season tied with the Tampa Bay Lighting for the worst record in the NHL.

The Kings are missing two key elements that are essential to winning in the NHL.

One is defense.’ The Kings averaged 32 shots against them per game last season, which was the third highest in the league.’ ‘ An offense, no matter how much potential there may be, is never going to take off when the team spends a great deal of the game in their end of the ice.

Second is penalty-killing.’ The Kings ended last season with a 78.0 penalty kill, the worst in the NHL.’ Combine this with the amount of shots the Kings were letting through, it’s no surprise they ended up at the bottom of the league.’ A team can’t expect to give up that many scoring opportunities and expect to stay in the game.

You can’t neglect the most important player for killing penalties, the goaltender.’ Despite that Jason LaBarbera has been solid for the Kings with a .910 save percentage; he still had a losing record of 17-23 with two overtime losses.’ Nothing against LaBarbera, but you need a strong goalie to backstop a team in order to make a run at the cup.’ Here are a few names of goalies who have won Stanley Cup in the past 10 years: Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Martin Brodeur, Jean-Sebastien Giguere.’ It might be unfair to compare LaBarbera to these elite names of goaltending, but it is now coincidence that the teams these goalies played for were always in contention for a championship.

The Kings will occasionally show glimpses of what they can do on the ice.’ The game against the Redwings is a perfect example.’ It speaks well for a team that was last in the NHL last season to be able to keep up with the defending champions.

But the NHL season 82 games, not just one.’ If the Kings can pull themselves out of the bottom of the Pacific Division, then maybe fans will cheer for them more than for the visiting team.’ But until then, Staples Center is going to continue to be just another outskirt of Hockeytown.