Kings have ‘exceeded’ expectations under new regime – Orange County Register

LOS ANGELES — Considering the Kings missed the playoffs last season and then underwent coaching and general manager changes, it would have been a bit much to expect them to be one of the top teams in the league after 29 games this season.

But with 39 points (18-8-3) and a six-game winning streak ahead of Thursday night’s game against the Ottawa Senators at Staples Center, that is the case. Right wing Dustin Brown suggested that while several players, including himself, remain from the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championship teams, moves made during the offseason are partly responsible for the strong start.

The Kings led the Pacific Division and were tied with Nashville for the top spot in the Western Conference going into Thursday’s games.

“I mean, if you look at our team, the core is still in place and that core has won two Stanley Cups, so I think it was getting a fresh start,” said Brown, in his 14th season with the Kings. “Obviously, they made changes with the coaching staff – a new voice, a new direction. The management and everything has just really been different.

“The other thing to look at is every good team, to compete, you’ve gotta have younger guys come in and earn their jobs and we’ve had a number of guys who have come in and played really well for us. That allows us to be a top-end team.”

Former associate head coach John Stevens replaced Darryl Sutter, and former assistant general manager Rob Blake was elevated to the top spot after the Kings parted ways with Dean Lombardi.
One young player who has contributed nicely is Adrian Kempe, a 21-year-old second-year left wing who has 10 goals and seven assists. (He was in 25 games in 2016-’17).

Defenseman Drew Doughty doesn’t hide the way he felt about the coaching and front-office changes.

“We really didn’t know what our team was going to look like,” he said. “And then coming into camp, with the coaching change and GM change, I saw some bright lights in that direction. I knew that the boys were going to have a lot more fun in the room, we were going to have a lot more freedom to do things.

“So I saw a bright side in that aspect, but I really didn’t know what to expect.”

Doughty was honest, and cautious.

“We’ve definitely exceeded my expectations and I think we’ve exceeded everyone else’s,” he said. “But it’s just the beginning of the season still; we’ve got a lot of hockey left to play. We want to get even better and exceed those…

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