There aren't many hard questions facing the Los Angeles Kings following their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, but the Kings still make it interesting.
But there's always room for improvement in the eyes of the organization, and here's a closer look at five questions that will need to be answered if the Kings hope to keep their mini-dynasty going for the 2014-15 season:
1.Will Brayden McNabb make an impact this season? -- McNabb was considered to be a budding prospect for the Buffalo Sabres when he was traded to the Kings at the NHL Trade Deadline in March for forwards Nicolas Deslauriers and Hudson Fasching. The 6-foot-4, 208-pound defenseman is a physical, left-handed puck mover with 37 games of NHL experience and general manager Dean Lombardi feels he's ready for an NHL role.
"He's worked his [butt] off, and with all the homework we've [done] on him, he's got a shot," Lombardi said. "And I think him being here in the playoffs makes him really hungry. His skating is the only issue. If we can get that tightened up, he's a good player."
Even if McNabb, who signed a two-year contract in July, doesn't make the lineup out of training camp, he will likely see time with the Kings at some point. It doesn't hurt that he can get mentored by a defensive unit that has been intact through three straight trips to the final four.
2. How will Mike Richards and Dustin Brown rebound? -- It seems like nitpicking, but it's difficult to overlook that two of the Kings' most important veterans were invisible for large parts of the regular season. Richards had one goal in a 36-game stretch and was relegated to the fourth line, and Brown had his lowest career point total in a full season and was moved to the third line, although he turned it around after the trade deadline.
The Kings were able to mask their lack of production last season, but it will be interesting see how the two respond.
3. Is there a cumulative effect of playing 64 Stanley Cup Playoff games the past three seasons? -- Listen to Lombardi on how the Kings finished the playoffs last season.
"I remember coming back to New York after losing Game 4 and walking in the back of the [trainer's room]," he said. "It was like Gettysburg. It was unbelievable how banged up these guys were, and nobody knows."
The Kings were also one of the most penalized teams in the League in 2013-14, sometimes a sign of mental fatigue. But the Kings are now less of a grind-it-out team and play more of an attacking style, which would seem to lend itself to less wear-and-tear that caught up with them in the 2013 playoffs.
4. Will the Kings sleepwalk through another regular season? A better question might be, does it matter? -- The Kings have finished eighth, fifth and sixth in the Western Conference the past three seasons and come out with two Cups. No one will blink an eye if they don't get home-ice advantage for the fourth straight season, except for coach Darryl Sutter grumbling about travel and schedule.
5. Will Jonathan Quick recover quickly from wrist surgery? -- Lombardi said Quick is on track to recover from a June 24 procedure on his wrist that is expected to keep him out 10-12 weeks, which pegs his return around mid-September. Quick came back from a serious groin injury to play in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and even if he isn't ready, the Kings can afford to give him extra time with capable backup Martin Jones ready to shoulder more of the workload.
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Author: Curtis Zupke | NHL.com Correspondent
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