When Darryl Sutter, the Kings’ new coach arrived, the whole season seemed to start over again. This was something that long-time Kings’ fans could understand. This had been their experience for over 40 years, they told me. They hoped to hold on to at least get a berth in the playoffs.
Just before the end of the year, about one-third of the way through the season, long-time Kings’ fans began to calculate whether we could actually make the playoffs. (There was zero discussion about winning the Stanley Cup). According to SportsClubStats.com, at that point we needed to finish the season with a 28-13-5 season to do so. Unfortunately being a newbie, I had no idea with that last “5” came from. What could it mean?
Sis, a long-time Kings fan, informed me that 28-13-5, in English, meant the Kings needed to win 28 games, lose only 13 and tie 5 by the end of the season to make the playoffs. A hockey team gets no points for losing, but they do get one point if the teams are tied at the end of regulation play. The teams then go into a shootout in overtime, when the losing team can still pick up that extra one point. The top eight teams in the Conference go on to the playoffs.
That little stat would become extremely crucial to the Kings by the end of the season. Just a couple of points one way or the other would make or break this team. Other pertinent stats that informed the question of whether the Kings could reach the playoffs included these: 1) the Kings were 0 for 21 on the power play by the turn of the year, and 2) they also killed 69 of their last 71 penalties. They and their fans continued to cross their fingers and hope for the best.
Realizing we needed offensive help, our new coach Sutter brought up Dwight King and Jordan Nolan from our AHL pool. Jarrett Stoll was out with an injury and Slava Voynov went down to Manchester. This would turn out to be a serendipitous turn of events, since King scored at least five goals during the playoffs. Nolan too played well, and helped the Kings sweep the St. Louis Blues in the semi-finals with his first post-season goal. Both Stoll and Voynov would bounce back with important contributions as well.
Just before the trade deadline at the end of February, 2012, everyone agreed our beloved Kings had turned stagnant. We played a great defense, but couldn’t score goals. We looked great on paper, but we couldn’t score goals. We did just well enough to stay within distance of that eighth and last slot to make the playoffs, but we needed our players to score more.
We traded Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter of from Columbus, hoping that would make the difference. Carter, it turned out, was a close friend of Mike Richards because they both played in Philadelphia together. The word around town was they also loved to party. We signed Willie Mitchell to a two-year contract, one of the oldest players on our team.
The Kings had a 26.6% chance to make the playoffs as the team entered the last quarter of the season. Would we, could we, pull it off?
Well, heck yeah. Next column: How the Los Angeles Kings pulled out of the rut and went on to win the Stanley Cup
- Newbie No More, Now a Los Angeles Kings Fan for Life (kingshockeyforwomen.com)
- The 2012 L.A. Kings Hockey Season Redux: Newbie No More Part 2 (kingshockeyforwomen.com)
- 2012 L.A. Kings Hockey Season Redux: Newbie No More Part 3 (kingshockeyforwomen.com)