EL SEGUNDO — The Kings’ shift in offensive philosophy was apparent the moment their general manager and coach were fired one day after last season ended.
The organization, however, is being careful not to alter the existing defensive foundation for the most successful stretch in franchise history. Promoting John Stevens to head coach was a not-so-subtle indication.
A defenseman during his 15-year playing career, Stevens was a primary architect of the Kings unit that limited the opposition to the fewest shots in the NHL last season.
The franchise’s new head coach insists the changes his regime is implementing on offense won’t compromise the defense. There is no gray area in that sense.
“We really have to try and improve in those (offensive) areas but it’s not by taking risks,” Stevens said. “It’s not by sending four guys below the goal line. It’s not from cheating in on pucks or anything else. It’s just trying to get better guidelines with a better middle lane drive, maybe trying to use the back of the net more, maybe having a higher guy in the offensive zone.”
In other words, there are risks the Kings can take to generate more goals than the attack that produced more than just five other teams in the NHL last season. But the team that finished 10th in the Western Conference last year doesn’t feel it’s far enough away to justify desperate measures.
“It’s not like we’re all of a sudden going to be a high risk, bomb-it-up-the-middle type of team,” forward Dustin Brown said.
There are compelling reasons for avoiding such risks. The best example is a Kings’ shot total that was the sixth-highest in the NHL last season. Of course, their five-on-five shooting percentage of 6.22 that was the worst in the league.
In the most simple terms, the Kings will try to put themselves in better position for those shots this season.
What they will not do is alter their position on the defensive end.
“We have arguably the best goaltender and arguably the best defenseman in the league, so that goes a long way,” Brown said. “All the changes that we’re trying to make on one side of the puck, it’s not going to affect the other.”
GABORIK PRACTICES WITH TEAM
Marian Gaborik skated with his teammates on Friday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in April.
The Kings forward took the ice by himself at 7 a.m., something he has been doing since training camp began on Wednesday. What was different was his return at 8:30…