Corey Abbott

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What Went Wrong: LAK, CAR

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


 

Our What Went Wrong series continues for teams that didn’t qualify for the postseason. We will examine clubs in groups of two and look at some players who underperformed or who the team will be looking for more from next year.

 

Feel free to view part one (Colorado and Vancouver), part two (New Jersey and Arizona), part three (Buffalo and Detroit) and part four (Florida and Dallas).

 

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK and @CoreAbbott on Twitter.

 

Listen to the Rotoworld Hockey Podcast every week both on Rotoworld and iTunes.

 

Los Angeles Kings

 

Los Angeles missed the playoffs for the second time in the last three years. The Kings placed 22nd overall in the league standings after posting a 39-35-8 record. They were bounced in the first round of the postseason in 2016 in five games by San Jose and agreed that it was time for a change in team philosophy.

 

The Kings have not adapted yet to the trend of adding speed and skill to their lineup. This failure cost coach Darryl Sutter and GM Dean Lombardi their jobs a day after the regular season concluded. Rob Blake will serve as the team’s new vice-president and general manger and John Stevens will be the bench boss.

 

Los Angeles only had number one goaltender Jonathan Quick for 17 games, but preventing goals was not a problem. The Kings were sixth in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.45 and they allowed just nine more goals than they did in 2015-16. Peter Budaj filled in admirably while Quick recovered from a groin injury and the team continued to dominate puck possession.

 

However, leading the NHL in Corsi For% doesn’t mean much when the team isn’t scoring. Jeff Carter topped the Kings with 32 goals and Tanner Pearson scored 24, but after them Tyler Toffoli was the next closest player with 16 markers. Los Angeles was held to two or fewer goals 43 times in 2016-17 and they were shutout 10 times, which tied them with Vancouver for the second-most in the NHL. Their opponents registered a save percentage of .922 on 2,553 shots, which placed them 28th overall. They also ranked 27th in the league with a team shooting percentage differential of minus-1.69 percent.

 

The Kings were 12-14-3 against their Pacific Division rivals in 2016-17 and they will need to be much better than that to keep pace with Anaheim, San Jose, Edmonton and Calgary. Arizona is building talent that could threaten as well, so the Kings will need to be on the hunt for upgrades.

 

Anze Kopitar - Kopitar dropped from 25 goals and 74 points in 2015-16 to 12 markers and 52 points this past campaign. Without Kopitar’s production the Kings completely lacked any semblance of depth scoring. The 0.68 points per game he posted was by far the lowest of his NHL career. On the bright side, Kopitar was much better down the stretch, with six goals and 16 points in 19 matches, and the Kings remain confident that the club’s captain can bounce back.

 

Jonathan Quick - The Kings will need a healthy Quick even though goals against wasn't an issue in 2016-17. There’s something to be said for having a goaltender who can instill confidence in his teammates and provide them with a much better margin for error. Quick went 8-5-2 with a 2.26 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage when he was in the lineup.

 

Tyler Toffoli - Toffoli generated 16 goals and 18 assists in 63 games last season. That’s a far cry from the 31 markers and 58 points he established in 2015-16. His injured knee, which he had surgery on in late April, probably held him back and a healthier year in 2017-18 could allow him to return to his previous form. He expects to be ready for training camp and armed with a new three-year contract worth $13.6 million, Toffoli hopes to reward the Kings’ faith in him and build himself back up for a better deal down the line.

 

Jake Muzzin - Muzzin reached the 40-point plateau for two consecutive seasons prior to hitting a snag in 2016-17. He accounted for nine goals, but only tallied 28 points and finished with a career worst minus-21 rating. Muzzin’s power-play totals were also down from his previous years. The 28-year-old blueliner has the ability to get between 30-40 points next year if his consistency improves.

 

Carolina Hurricanes

 

Carolina posted a 36-31-15 record to finish 21st overall in the NHL. It is the eighth consecutive campaign that they failed to qualify for the playoffs, but there is still plenty of belief within the organization that the team is heading in the right direction.

 

The Hurricanes’ offense improved in 2016-17 compared to the previous season. They went from 27th overall to 20th in goals for per game. It’s still not an area of strength for the squad, but there are pieces in place to progress in that category. Jeff Skinner led the way with 37 markers and rookie Sebastian Aho produced 24. Carolina needs much more from Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm in order to help them take the next step.

 

The team has constructed a young, up-and-coming defense corps. Justin Faulk, Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin and Brett Pesce have formed a strong core to build around. They helped the Hurricanes permit just 28.3 shots per game, which ranked them fifth overall in the NHL.  Carolina also has prospects Ryan Murphy and Haydn Fleury, who can either add more depth on the back end or serve as trade bait.  

 

However, the Hurricanes suffered from inconsistent goaltending and that ultimately proved to be their undoing. Cam Ward and Eddie Lack contributed to a team save percentage of .901, which was better than just three teams in the league in 2016-17. Carolina GM Ron Francis sought to address this problem in late April when he acquired Scott Darling from Chicago. It is hoped that Darling can follow in the footsteps of Edmonton’s Cam Talbot and become the next diamond in the rough backup who earns the role of a number one netminder.

 

One of the biggest problems facing the Hurricanes going into next season is playing in a stacked Metropolitan Division that has been the best in the league over the last two campaigns. They will also have to improve a road record that posted a mark of 13-19-9 last year.

 

A year ago when Carolina missed the playoffs, the team was praised for making positive strides. The Hurricanes are shaping up to be a potential club on the rise, but they still desperately need a center capable of playing on one of the top-two lines and adding more goal scoring on the wings is crucial. Can prospects like Julien Gauthier or Warren Foegele help in this regard? It’s certainly possible, but Francis needs to be active in free agency and the trade market. Carolina still has a great deal to be optimistic about, but they can’t sit idly by and it will be difficult for them to crack into the postseason picture in 2017-18.

 

Victor Rask - Rask got off to a strong start, but then the scoring droughts began. The 24-year-old endured a 14-game pointless skid from Jan. 14-Feb. 21. Rask managed to generate eight goals and 30 points in 65 games after he accounted for eight markers and 15 points in his first 17 appearances. He has the talent to become a 50-point player if he can operate with more consistency, especially if he keeps playing with Skinner.

 

Elias Lindholm - Lindholm netted 11 goals for a second straight season. Still, he managed to crack the 40-point plateau for the first time in 2016-17. Unlike Rask, Lindholm started slowly and then heated up down the stretch. He racked up five goals and 14 points in 17 games in March. The 22-year-old forward has the potential to find another gear in 2017-18.

 

Justin Faulk - Faulk had a personal best 17 goals in 2016-17, but his points per game dropped to 0.49. That’s a significant step back from his previous two campaigns. His production on the power play also decreased. Faulk was knocking on the door of 50 points in 2014-15 and injury prevented him from doing the same in 2015-16, but if Carolina continues to progress offensively then a return to 40-plus points is certainly within his reach.

 

Teuvo Teravainen - By his own admission, Teravainen had an up and down season for the Hurricanes in 2016-17. Still, he feels that his game improved as the year progressed and he became more comfortable with his new teammates. Teravainen notched career highs with 15 goals and 27 assists for 42 points in 81 games. He heated up in March with 12 points in 17 outings and the Hurricanes will need more of that as the 22-year-old develops into a top-six scoring threat.



Corey Abbott is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him Twitter @CoreAbbott.
Email :Corey Abbott



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