The Los Angeles Kings aren’t just hoping that success begets success, they’re looking to prove it.
While much of the talk in the off-season that followed the club’s second Stanley Cup in three seasons detailed the continued construction of a burgeoning team culture, there’s still the efforts of many of the other 13 teams in the Western Conference who loaded up to put themselves in the best possible position to disrupt any plans the Kings have of repeating.
Centers were acquired. Ryan Kesler moved a thousand miles down the coast and joined Anaheim. Chicago will get minutes out of Brad Richards, not Michal Handzus, as a second line center. Jason Spezza will give Dallas an awfully potent one-two punch down the middle along with Tyler Seguin.
While the Kings laid low during much of the off-season arms race, they’ll benefit from the experience of recent successes. While they struggled with the proverbial targets-on-their-backs early in their lockout-shortened 2012-13 title defense, there is confidence throughout the dressing room that they’re more ably prepared to tackle the sudden commencement of the regular season and the unique challenges that have kept all teams since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings from repeating as league champions.
“I think our attitude’s different,” captain Dustin Brown said. “Having gone through it once before – granted, it was a little different with the lockout and everything that that entailed – I think our attitude as a group is a lot different than it was after we won it in 2012.”
“I think we’re a much more focused group than we were two years ago.”
“I mean, it’s just like anything else. Experience,” Brown said. “Everyone talks about experience, and I think it goes a long way that we’ve gone through that experience together. Individual experience is one thing, but having a group of guys together that have gone through it together, I think that experience is much more valuable than individual experience guys have accumulated over their careers.”
That collective experience, as Brown articulated, allowed for younger players who weren’t a part of the 2011-12 team – Jake Muzzin, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are among them – to quickly assimilate and buy in.
“Yeah, I think that’s where the experience of the group comes in,” Brown said. “They weren’t here the first time…But nonetheless we’re here, and if everyone has that focus and that attitude, a couple guys will pick up on it and kind of erase it.”
Though the team opens the season only 117 days after it paraded the Stanley Cup around the Staples Center ice, there was little to no dawdling during the truncated offseason.
“I’ve been really impressed with all of them, what they did this summer and their mindset coming back,” Sutter said on September 20.
Whether it has been the preparation, the experience, or the willingness to continue to forge ahead as a group, the Kings appear to be getting their game in place to where it needs to be for the season opener. Preseason records are meaningless, but it’s better to be 5-0-1 (Los Angeles’ record) than 0-5-2 (the record of Colorado, tonight’s opponent), and there don’t appear to be any concerns over individual or team play.
“As players, you don’t put much weight in the outcome of games in preseason,” Brown said. “It’s more about getting yourself ready, and if you’re getting yourself ready, everyone’s doing that then together – getting our team game in order coming back after a break – that’s all what preseason is for, is getting ready for October 8th.”
And, as the team hopes, the readiness to continue to embody the focus and intangibles that have led to such a stark outburst of success.