Vancouver Canucks 2017-18 season preview: Los Angeles Kings Edition

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08: Drew Doughty
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 08: Drew Doughty /

Are the Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings on the same level now?

After years of dominance and striking fear into the Vancouver Canucks, the Los Angeles Kings have finally fallen. An 86-point season for the Kings meant no playoff hockey for the second time in three years, just one game won in the playoffs since their 2014 Stanley Cup championship.

The Kings were absolutely terrible offensively last season, with just five teams having worse offensive productions than they did. Although they were defensively pretty darn good thanks to Jonathan Quick‘s netminding, their top offensive talents failed to convert last year.

It wasn’t just Quick’s netminding, however, that kept L. A.’s defence near the top of the league. They allowed the least shots against last year.

What kinds of changes did the Kings make to get back to winning ways? Let’s see.

Offseason Changes

The Kings are undergoing something similar to what the Canucks experienced. A long playoff run followed by a couple of decent regular seasons with nothing to show for in the postseason, eventually coupled with a lacklustre regular season.

They fired the GM and the head coach, much reminiscent of how the Canucks fired successful coach Alain Vigneault and general manager Mike Gillis. It will be up to the Kings now to make sure they do not tread the same dark paths the Canucks have these past years.

Los Angeles Kings (39-35-8)

2016-17 vs. Vancouver
  • (2-2-0) 9GF, 9GA vs. VAN

2017-18 vs. Vancouver

  • Nov. 14 @LA
  • Dec. 30 @Vancouver
  • Jan. 23 @Vancouver
  • Mar. 12 @LA

3 Storylines to Watch in 2017-18

  1. Do the Canucks have physicality?

The Canucks added Patrick Wiercioch who stands tall at 6-foot-5 and weighs over 200 pounds. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Erik Gudbranson is back to prove his critics wrong following his wrist surgery last season.

More from The Canuck Way

Michael Del Zotto is known for his love for taking the body when defending. His 173 hits in 51 games certainly is not a figure to simply dismiss.

Up front, Thomas Vanek should add size while Derek Dorsett returns to reclaim his spot after a neck injury.

Why am I just suddenly talking about grit?

The Kings led the league last year in hits. Though Milan Lucic is gone and now McNabb is gone with Greene, the Kings are not going to be pushovers by any means.

If the Canucks want to really compete against Los Angeles, they will need both size and speed.

2. The need for skilled snipers

As mentioned above, the Kings are superb defensively. A big part of that is the netminding but another essential part of their success is their ability to reduce the amount of pucks that get on net.

It will not be easy to get a shot off against the Kings. What does that mean? All and any shots that the Canucks can manage against the Kings will need to be quality shots. There will need to be rebounds and traffic in front but the main point is that the Canucks need quality snipers.

That may mean Brock Boeser, Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner, or even Nikolay Goldobin. Whomever it may be, the Canucks need these guys to bring their elite shooting skills against one of the elite netminders of the decade.

3. Lombardi’s Drafting vs. Benning’s Drafting

One of the names at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft that was being floated around in Vancouver was Gabe Vilardi. He was an option for the Canucks at fifth overall and yet he fell to 11th overall, where he was picked by Los Angeles in what many are calling the biggest steal of the 2017 draft.

Sure, the Kings may have gotten lucky this year at the draft. In the previous years under Lombardi, however, the Kings did not do so well. This is an area that Vancouver can feel confident about under GM Jim Benning.

Excluding the seven players drafted this year, the Kings have drafted 27 players in the past four years. These players have totalled 50 NHL games in all and just 12 points so far.

For a team that is getting long in the tooth with the current core that won the Stanley Cup three years ago, this could spell trouble if the Kings end up becoming like the Canucks and dismantling their aging core without a decent pool of drafted prospects.

Next: 30-in-30 Edmonton Oilers Edition

The Kings and the Canucks are both looking for a fresh start with new coaches after a disastrous season in 2016-17. Will either one of these teams be able to make the playoffs in 2018?