When the 8th seed upsets the 1 and 2 seed, the general consensus is to check if that glass slipper is going to fit. Usually, it will.
However, for the Los Angeles Kings, the glass slipper is way too small and delicate.
The Kings are much different than your average, everyday, run of the mill Cinderella story. Sure, the Los Angeles Kings barely squeezed into the playoffs. Sure, they knocked off the back-to-back Presidents Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks in 5 games. Sure, the 2nd seeded St. Louis Blues fell to the Kings without taking a single game from them. That doesn’t make a Cinderella though.
The Kings deserve better than to be cast as Cinderella’s.
Los Angeles underachieved during the year and it didn’t appear likely that they would be able to reach their potential. If things started to click, it would be too little, too late. That notion, obviously, was dead wrong.
The Kings do not qualify to be true Cinderella’s because they are a team overflowing with talent. They were the Stanley Cup choices of more than a few people in the pre-season but ended up disappointing greatly with their regular season performance. The only big change made to their roster actually improved their product on paper as they swapped underperforming players with the Columbus Blue Jackets, receiving Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson.
Their roster, on paper, is one to be feared. Captain Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and shut down defenseman Willie Mitchell, along with the aforementioned Jeff Carter are as strong a core roster as any team in the NHL. For some reason though, their season was executed similarly to a Heath Bell 9th inning with the Miami Marlins. Considering their roster, the LA Kings should never have been a number 8 seed.
The coaching change closer to the end of the season seemed to be the turning point. Although the results didn’t show in the regular season, the hard-nosed style of a Daryl Sutter coached team showed up against the Vancouver Canucks as the energy and aggressiveness of the Kings combined with their skill made for a very difficult matchup.
Darryl Sutter has been able to take his Kings to the Western Conference Final and he hasn’t even had to rely solely on Vezina nominated goaltender Jonathan Quick to do so. Don’t get me wrong, Quick has been outstanding, but he is not the sole reason for the success of the Kings.
The Kings are not a reincarnation of the 2010 Montreal Canadians, who, despite a severe lack of talent, were able to ride goalie Jaroslav Halak to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final where they were eventually defeated. They are not a roster absent of depth parallel to the 2006 Edmonton Oiler team that made the Stanley Cup Finals on the backs of Dwayne Roloson who was able to transform from solid to other worldly in the playoffs.
To qualify as a Cinderella story in sports, teams generally have unexpected heroes emerging to immortalize themselves in playoff history. In the NHL, that role is predominantly reserved for the goaltender. After playing a mere 6 regular season games following a late season call-up, virtual unknown rookie Ken Dryden earned the starting job in 1971 for the Montreal Canadians before the start of the playoffs. The Canadians ended up winning the Stanley Cup.
For the Kings these series of events are just the result of an underachieving team putting things together at the right time. The Kings are not a one-hit wonder. This is not simply a matter of getting hot like Steve Blake in the 4th quarter kind of deal. They are built to succeed for a number of years to come. The 2010 Canadians, 2006 Oilers and 2003 Mighty Ducks, predictably, were unable to repeat the success of their fluky runs. Los Angeles does not fall into that category.
The Kings have won largely due to the fact that they are the better team. The 8th spot was a scary position for them to be for higher seeds because it was very possible that they could put it together at any time. The scattered puzzle pieces finally began to make some sense in LA and it was the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues who got stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The slipper won’t be fitting for the Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 playoffs but that is by no means an omen for their imminent exit.
The slipper won’t fit because the Kings are too good to be a glass shoe type of team.
Chris is a writer on Comedic Prose, and he also is the editor of Painting the Black.