Point Shots: What Makes the L.A. Kings So Terrifying?

by Kolby Solinsky

White Cover Magazine

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‘Conventional wisdom’ is just that. Conventional. And wise.

The thing with wisdom, though, is it’s an assumed quality. You’re not just wise because you’re old, but you could fool someone to thinking you are if you are. In the same way, you’re not innovative just because you’re young. So often, referring to patterns and proven facts as conventional wisdom does a disservice to whatever you’re trying to pour credit on – there’s a reason great things are great, basically, and someone worked really hard to make them great. But the things’ greatness becomes more appreciated than the people that made them do.

Take, for example, the Los Angeles Kings.

Conventional wisdom says, they heat up in March and April, just in time for the playoffs. But then conventional wisdom’s not giving them enough credit for their process – they don’t seem to wait as much as they are smart. They’re patient. They trust in each other.

Because while everyone else is playing the Kings, the Kings are also playing themselves. They’re perhaps the only team in the NHL that really actually controls their own destiny – and like their best defender Drew Doughty, who routinely tops 30 minutes a night playing for Darryl Sutter, their stats and record mask what is a traditional, subtle brilliance to their play. Sportsnet showed some clips of Doughty’s play last Thursday, while the Kings were confidently shutting out Vancouver. There were moments of laziness, maybe, where Doughty would glide and coast, but then he’d rush and create a play, and one of his forwards would hustle back to cover for the team’s most creative, unique player. 

But you quickly understood, in watching just a minute or so of mashed-up clips, that Doughty’s formula for himself gives him all he needs to play 30-plus, and to be (on any given night) the best defenceman in the National Hockey League. His coasting is planned, his laziness is a method of self-survival. He’s no doubt been entrusted with the world by his head coach, Sutter, and he handles it by figuring it out. He conserves and he knows when and where to spend his energy. And because he’s focused on his own game and his team’s game, it doesn’t matter what Chicago or Nashville or San Jose or Anaheim have designed to contain him – because the only player who can contain Doughty is Doughty himself.

The Kings are that, as a team. And that’s why they terrify every seeded club in the Western Conference, whether it’s a top team like the Ducks or Predators, or the Canucks, Flames, or Wild at the other end of the seesaw. They all know they can probably beat the Kings, somehow, in seven games. But they don’t how to. Because it’s impossible to beat L.A. when they’ve got their poker face on. And this, my friends, is one helluva poker face.