It’s only been two days since the Los Angeles Kings claimed their first Stanley Cup championship in their 45-year history, and already hockey pundits are looking ahead to 2013 with one simple question: Can they do it again?
Bovada already has odds for the 2013 Stanley Cup, and the Los Angeles Kings are currently the second-ranked favorite to win next year’s Cup in a repeat at 11/1 (for whatever reason, Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins are the favorites to win it all next year at 7/1).
However, while betting odds may be in the Kings’ favor, history is not. No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions since the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. Furthermore, no team has even won titles less than six years apart since New Jersey won in 2000 and again in 2003. Thanks to free agency, the salary cap and an unprecedented amount of parity over the last decade, winning back-to-back Cups has become a challenge of Herculean proportions.
Heading into the start of the 2012 NHL regular season, most thought the Boston Bruins had as good a chance as any recent Cup-winning team to repeat. Conn Smythe and Vezina award-winning goaltender Tim Thomas was still in the crease, phenom Tyler Seguin would have a full season to get better and the vast majority of the Bruins‘ 2011 roster would be returning. Despite all of this, Boston failed to even get out of the opening round of the playoffs this spring.
So can the Kings succeed where the Bruins failed?
Well, every defenseman is under contract through 2013 and Drew Doughty is wrapped up through 2015. So is Justin Williams. Former Philadelphia Flyers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards are signed through 2016 and captain Dustin Brown is inked through 2014. That’s basically the nucleus of the team. The only unrestricted free agents are forwards Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser. And it’s widely assumed that Jonathan Bernier, the promising backup behind Jonathan Quick, will be a strong bargaining chip in the offseason for any extra needs the Kings may have.
In other words, the Kings have every reason to display the same dominance they did through their remarkable Stanley Cup run this season in 2013. But the Stanley Cup playoffs don’t care how good you are on paper or how many stars you have returning to your lineup. Just ask the the last nine teams who failed to repeat.