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Button Breaks Down the Kings

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Terry Murray has his Kings on the verge of being Stanley Cup contenders.

Hockey is alive and well in Los Angeles and the Kings give every reason for their faithful to believe that this is a team that is getting better and positioning themselves to be a Stanley Cup contender for years to come.

What's not to like? Drew Doughty is a star and Jack Johnson is on the verge of becoming one. They can be pillars of the blue line for a long time. Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene add combativeness and the willingness to do the "heavy lifting" that is necessary to be successful as a team. The Kings don't give up a lot of shots, (27.6 shots against per game and 3rd best in 2009-10) and this is a testimony to the efforts of their defense. The signing of free agent Willie Mitchell is a coup and only strengthens this group. There are some very good young prospects in the system and it is almost an embarrassment of riches.

Anze Kopitar is now a top center and demonstrated that he can take hold of a game. Dustin Brown is a "heartbeat" player who takes the game and finds a way to impact it in some way, shape or form. Young players can play in the league but when they mature is when they can become the difference between winning and losing and Kopitar and Brown are that difference for the Kings. They have balance throughout their forward group with the ability to play any way the game requires. They can skate, score, play defense, be physical and have a will and determination about them that is difficult to deter. Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Wayne Simmonds and Michal Handzus are part of a collection of forwards that don't leave the Kings short in any aspect.

Jonathan Quick emerged as a bona fide No. 1 and displayed the stamina of a workhorse goaltender. Jonathan Bernier waits in the wings, learning and maturing and in time this could develop into one of the best tandems in the league.

I am unabashed about my belief in this team. Terry Murray is an excellent coach and I feel they are ready to establish themselves as serious contenders for the Stanley Cup. How about a Stanley Cup Parade in Tinseltown?

THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM

The kids are all right --
The Kings have assembled a strong core of young players who now have some solid experience under their belts. There is little chance that Kopitar, Brown, Doughty, Johnson and Quick will be overwhelmed by the NHL now that their rookie days are behind them.

The vets are all right -- GM Dean Lombardi may have failed to snag Kovalchuk, but Mitchell will be a strong addition to the defense and Ponikarovsky adds another veteran support piece up front. Both will fit seamlessly with the likes of Scuderi, Smyth, Handzus and Stoll.

The plan is all right -- Again, Kings fans may be disappointed that their team didn't land Kovalchuk, but this is an intelligently built roster supported by a strong coaching staff that will push for bigger and better things in 2010-11.

Former Calgary Flames' GM Craig Button is an analyst for the NHL Network.
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