After months of painful somnambulism, the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings and the also-ran Ducks both are about to make their season debuts, actually skating, on real ice, in games that count in National Hockey League standings. For real.
Reebok Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings 2012 Conn Smythe Award T-Shirt
|The Kings, minus the injured Anze Kopitar and Willie Mitchell, return their entire team from last year, and even have Jonathan Quick in goal, despite his off-season back surgery. Hours ago, the team announced long-term contract extensions for all three guys responsible for putting this group together and making it work – Head Coach Darryl Sutter, GM Dean Lombardi, and Club Pres, Luc Robitaille.
In the short season, they need to get off to a faster start than last year. A couple of key injuries could make that difficult, but the story begins in twelve hours.
As to the Ducks, they also had a horrible start to last season, but few people recall how hot they were the second half, due both to the fact that the Kings were even hotter, and the fact that the clubs’ top scorers all had mediocre seasons. 25-year-old Bobby Ryan is coming off his fourth consecutive 30-goal season, but his point total fell drastically, and Teemu Selanne is a year older and at 41 definitely slipped a bit last year, but was still the Duck’s point leader.
Ryan Getzlaf’s career low 11 goal season was hard to understand, and he needs a big comeback to earn a new contract. Also coming off a disappointing season that followed his MVP year, Corey Perry will also be in his free-agent-to-be season. Both of them are 27 and are guys the team want to resign, and hope to be at the heart of the offense for several years to come.
Combine all this free agent drama with a bunch of new guys in Sheldon Souray, Bryan Allen, and Dan Winnik and the undeniable fact that there was not much time to work out the kinks of new players and new combinations, the 2013 (only) season is a real crapshoot – they could move to the top of the Pacific Division, or languish at the bottom like last year. Starting off in Vancouver will not be easy.