Key losses: Zigmund Palffy, RW (FA - PIT); Jaroslav Modry, D (FA - ATL); Jason Allison, C (FA - TOR); Roman Cechmanek, G (FA - Europe); Jozef Stumpel, C (FA - FLA); Martin Straka, C/LW (FA - NYR); Anson Carter, RW (FA - VAN); Ian Laperriere, C (FA - COL); Scott Barney, C/RW (FA - ATL); Jason Holland, D (FA - Europe); Bryan Muir, D (T - WSH); Stephane Quintal, D (Retired); Adam Deadmarsh, LW/RW (FA)
Key player unsigned: Yanick Lehoux, C
Forwards: On paper (or a computer screen), it looks as if the Kings lost a lot up front since last season ended. Gone with Palffy, Allison, Stumpel, Straka, Carter and Deadmarsh are more than 1,100 career goals and 2,800 career points. But of those numbers, only 30 goals and 33 assists were potted for the 2003-04 Kings, a team devastated by injuries. Despite those injuries, the Kings finished in the middle of the pack (18th) in goals scored, as younger (e.g. Mike Cammalleri) and less-heralded (e.g. Derek Armstrong) players got opportunities that might not have otherwise been available to them. Couple a taste of NHL experience with the dominant years that Cammalleri and 2003 first round pick Dustin Brown put together in the AHL during the lockout and these two young Kings could be impact players in 2005-06. But the Kings will not rely solely on youth, as they bring in the loud-mouthed Roenick, the injury-prone Demitra (he'll fit right in), the under-rated Conroy and the shifty Bure to provide offense and sell tickets. Interestingly, none of those four played more than 68 games in 2003-04; one would have expected the Kings to look to more durable players after their recent experiences. The Kings also brought back 2003-04 leading scorer (and 40-year-old come February) Luc Robitaille. But perhaps the most important move of the Kings off-season was convincing budding star Alexander Frolov to leave Mother Russia and return to the NHL with a five-year contract. Add in checkers Trent Klatt and Eric Belanger and classic agitator/fan favorite Sean Avery and the Kings have a good balance of speed, skill and grit... if they can stay healthy.
Defensemen: The loss of Modry is a significant one for the Kings. The Czech rearguard led L.A. defensemen in games played, average ice time, points, plus/minus, penalty minutes and shots on goal. The Kings haven't replaced Modry and haven't really tried to either, which leaves a gaping hole at the #1 defenseman spot. Aaron Miller and Mattias Norstrom are both smart, physical defensemen with next to no offensive skills. Nathan Dempsey is more well-rounded, but smallish. The even-smaller Lubmoir Visnovsky is a power-play specialist with limited defensive ability. Look for 2001 first round pick Tim Gleason to get increased minutes and for Grebeshkov to get an opportunity as the team looks to better the blueline from within. Still, the Kings would be wise to add a rugged defenseman or two.
Goaltenders: Cechmanek's departure leaves the Kings with a starting goalie in Garon who has played in 43 NHL games entering 2005-06. The 27-year-old Chandler, Quebec native is coming off a year in which he lead Manchester to the second-best record in the AHL, posting impressive numbers along the way. Of course the question is can he carry that over to the NHL and sustain it over the course of an NHL season. If he can't, the Kings are in a world of trouble, as Labarbera, with only five NHL games to his credit, is penciled in as #2 on the depth chart.
Bottom line: The Kings' special teams were horrible in 2003-04, finishing 27th on the power-play and 28th on the penalty kill. The additions they've made should help them improve in both categories, but the keys to the 2005-06 Kings season will be how well the defense plays, how well Garon plays, and how healthy the team can stay. If it all comes together, the Kings could be a very good team. More likely, L.A. will be fighting for a playoff spot in March.