TIME TO HIT ERASE
Among Kings fans, low expectations have become the norm.
How low? The fans hope they don’t have to find out.
With training camp opening Friday at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, the organization wants to avoid a sequel to last year’s Nightmare on Figueroa Street.
The Kings believe they’ve hired the right man to get them eventually into the postseason for the first time since losing a seven-game series to Colorado in the 2002 conference quarterfinals: Terry Murray, a man accustomed to dealing with high expectations.
How high? He was fired after leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 1997.
He inherits a team that is even younger than last season’s, which finished 32-43-7 for second-worst in the league. At times, the team seemed comfortable with losing, producing four losing streaks of five or more games.
Perhaps the only positive from last season was that the Kings’ ugly finish earned them the second overall pick in the entry draft. They used it on 18-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty, who might just break into the lineup come the start of the Kings’ season on Oct. 11.
OK, so maybe it’s best to temper those expectations a while longer.
* Rob Blake. Aging defenseman left the Kings for the second time in his career and signed a one-year, $5-million deal with San Jose.
* Michael Cammalleri. Unhappy after a contentious salary arbitration last summer, he went to Calgary in a three-way trade with the Ducks that gave the Kings a first-round draft pick.
* Lubomir Visnovsky. Slumping defenseman traded to the Edmonton Oilers (keep reading).
* Jarret Stoll. Better known in L.A. as the fiance of former supermodel Rachel Hunter, but that will change. The 26-year-old center was traded from the Oilers for Visnovsky and had 14 goals and 22 assists in 81 games last season.
* Matt Greene. A stay-at-home defenseman was part of the Stoll trade. Greene totaled one goal in 46 games last season.
At least the Kings know where their offense will come from. The 26-and-under quartet of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Patrick O'Sullivan (a restricted free agent who still needs to be re-signed) were the top four goal scorers and point producers last season.
Second-year standout defenseman Jack Johnson will be back too, as will goaltender Jason LaBarbera and center Derek Armstrong.