After missing the playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons, the Kings began this offseason by cleaning out their front office. They brought in a new coach, general manager and team president, but few new players. The urgency to reverse the franchise’s direction is apparent, especially considering many of the team’s stars are in their prime. On the eve of training camp, plenty of questions remain about how the Kings will halt their underachieving trend.
1. Will Anze Kopitar bounce back this season?
The timing for Kopitar’s worst season as a pro certainly wasn’t ideal. One of the best centers in the NHL accordingly signed an eight-year, $80 million contract after 2016-17 during an eventful offseason in which he was named the Kings’ captain. His 12 goals and 52 points last season were the lowest totals of his 11-year career outside of an injury-plagued 2012-13 season. His shot rate (5.16 per game) and five-on-five shooting percentage (7.2 percent) were also career lows. Kopitar’s struggles and the Kings’ fate – they missed the playoffs for the second time in three years – were likely no coincidence. Simply based on the law of averages, a bounce-back season from Kopitar is relatively easy to expect. The 2016 Selke Trophy winner – for the league’s best defensive forward – struggled only on one end of the ice. He was a big reason the Kings allowed the sixth-lowest goals per game in the NHL last season. The main reason the Kings cleaned out their front office in the offseason was to find the offense that was sorely lacking last season. Head coach John Stevens is depending on Kopitar to return to form and lead that effort.
2. How will the Kings generate much-needed offense?
Without significant changes to the roster in the offseason, the Kings are largely depending on philosophical changes to improve one of the NHL’s worst offenses last season. With a lineup of larger, more physical players in the mold of the teams that won the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championships, the Kings will likely be at a speed disadvantage against most opponents. Therefore, Stevens is planning to be especially aggressive and calculated in transition. Assistant coach Pierre Turgeon was hired in the offseason as the first “offensive coordinator” in franchise history. He will be tasked with elevating the sixth-lowest scoring team in the NHL. The biggest offseason addition to the offense? Michael Cammalleri, a 35-year-old, 15-year veteran who…