This year’s training camp at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo has a better atmosphere than I’ve seen there. I’ve only followed the Kings closely for about 10 years and in that time I haven’t seen this much depth on the Kings team. This year, the “problem” the Kings face is who to cut, not how to put together a team that can be competitive. That’s the issue every team wants to have. The players at the Kings’ training camp are all playing at such a high level that it makes the camp more enjoyable for everyone. Watching the drills is much more entertaining when the players are executing everything well.
I talked to the players and Coach Murray about the fact that the team seems to be having more fun out there this year than I’ve seen in the past. I thought perhaps it was because they were in the playoffs last year and are expecting to play at a higher level and make the playoffs again. Terry Murray said, “It’s a sign of maturity for a hockey club in my mind” and that the players know the drills and testing they’ll be going through when they arrive at camp, so they’re prepared, more relaxed, and have more fun.
Clearly, line changes happen throughout the pre-season and the season as the coach tries to get their best lines together. However, for the moment Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar are on the first line with Ryan Smyth. They haven’t played together on a line 5 on 5 for a while, but they’ve played on the power play and getting the line chemistry back shouldn’t take long.
The beginning of training camp always seems to be about getting their timing back and for Willie Mitchell, that’s even more the case, since he’s been off the ice with his concussion for a while. He’s also learning the Kings’ system, working with new teammates, a new coaching staff, etc. It’s early, but I thought Willie and Drew Doughty looked pretty good together in practice.
The first Kings’ pre-season game is Wednesday night in Colorado. Their first game at Staples Center this pre-season is the following night when they have split squad games at 7 in Phoenix and hosting Phoenix at 7:30 at Staples Center in LA. I’m sure Thursday’s game in LA will be better attended than any pre-season game in LA for a while. The fans are all very happy to be supporting a more competitive team again.