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The Foundation Of The Los Angeles Kings Compared To The San Jose Sharks

Is the balance of power in the Pacific Division shifting? Sure the LA Kings won the Stanley Cup, but are they going to start dominating the division? We look at what makes the roster tick and how it compares to the San Jose Sharks.

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If you're a fan of the San Jose Sharks, there's precious little to feel good about lately. In a very mercurial season that saw one of the franchise's quickest playoff exits, the 8th seeded Los Angeles Kings put on one of the most dominant post-season runs in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup, leaving Team Teal as the only California team without a Stanley Cup Championship to its credit. For the most part, during the past decade, the Sharks have managed to easily handle the Kings, who have not been terribly competitive since the lockout. It was a forgone conclusion that the Sharks would contend for the Division Title, and possibly the Conference Title, while the Kings would struggle to make the playoffs.

But this season will have many questioning if the balance of power in the Pacific isn't shifting, and that the Kings might be poised to break out and become the sort of consistent contender that the Sharks haven't quite managed to be.

But even while Sharks fans bemoan the Kings current success, there may be some silver linings for the team, and lessons to learn. The Kings have managed to assemble an impressive roster, and find a style of play that has created success. Can the Sharks learn from it?

Here's a look at some of the key players for the Kings, and who the Sharks might turn to in order to find the same kind of success.

The Foundation

Jonathan Quick

The Kings are clearly built well from the net out. The team's most important player has clearly been Quick, who has had his name engraved along side the likes of Patrick Roy, Ken Dryden and Bernie Parent on the Conn Smythe trophy. The numbers speak for themselves. 16-4, 1.41 GAA, .946 SV%, 509 saves, 3 shutouts. Not too shabby for a third round draft pick who's only 26. He's been showing steady improvement every season, and now looks to be a fixture in net for the Kings for years to come.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Antti Niemi

Many people would be quick to dismiss comparisons between Quick and Niemi. But it's important to keep a few factors in perspective. Niemi has played fewer career regular season games than Quick, and still has a Cup to his credit. His regular season numbers are comparable to Quick's. And while Quick might be a more athletic netminder, capable of making dramatic saves, Niemi's more unorthodox style focuses more on using his size to take away quality chances down low and allow his defense to clear rebounds. It's very possible Niemi will be more reliable in the long run. So while Quick should rightly receive praise for his incredible season, there's no reason to believe Niemi isn't equally capable of delivering similar results.

The Playmaker

Drew Doughty

The 22 year old defenseman did it all for the Kings. Playing a team leading 26 minutes a night, including almost 5 minutes a night on the Power Play, chipping in 4 goals and 12 assists along the way. Doughty's star has been on the rise for several seasons now, and many look for him to become a fixture on Team Canada's blueline and in the Norris Trophy conversation for years to come. There's no doubt he spearheaded the King's attack this season, and rightfully so. Doughty is an extremely gifted skater who's strong on his skates, and has a solid grasp of the game.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Dan Boyle

While Dan Boyle gives up over a decade in age to LA's young phenom, he also boasts a Cup to his credit, and knows precisely what is required of an offensive defenseman who plays over 26 minutes a night and shoulders significant responsibility on the Power Play and on the team's breakout. Boyle has also posted comparable regular season numbers to Doughty, and has the benefit of experience on his side. While Doughty may be featured on Team Canada's Blueline in 2014, Boyle has already won Gold with Team Canada in 2010. Drew Doughty has all the potential in the world. Dan Boyle has already realized his.

The Driving Force

Anze Kopitar

Kopitar has largely toiled in obscurity, playing on some very mediocre Kings teams. And even in those situations, anyone who bothered to watch would have seen a player with all the makings of a superstar. The fact that he's Slovenian and plays in LA means that many fans were not acquainted with Kopitar. But his 22 minutes a night and team leading 20 points in this post season campaign have shown everyone just what this incredibly talented 24 year old centerman is capable of. For a division that, at one time boasted Joe Thornton, Brad Richards and Ryan Getzlaf, there's a case to be made to say Kopitar may, in fact, be the most talented center of that lot. If it's not true now, it's hard to imagine it won't be in as little as one to two seasons. He's scored at least 20 goals every season since breaking into the league in 2006, while becoming a true two way centerman, playing heavy minutes on the penalty kill and against tough competition. And with the new influx of talent on the Kings' roster, Kopitar's visibility and productivity are only going to go up.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Joe Thornton

Joe Thornton's numbers are crazy good. For those who like to label his as soft, as a choker and an underachiever, it can be only said that they are ignoring basic statistics, and not watching Sharks games. While Joe remains a dominant offensive centerman, he has rededicated his efforts to becoming a true two-way player, and very much leading the team. It's no coincidence his defensive renaissance has coincided with his captaincy. Joe is very much a leader for San Jose, and he leads by example. He's bigger than Kopitar, and has experience under his belt. And he can still do things with the puck that no one else in the league can. While there's no denying Kopitar's talent, most GMs would probably still pick Thornton to build a team around.

The Revelation

Dustin Brown

Dustin Brown is not a particularly liked player around the league, and most certainly not in the Pacific Division, where he has a reputation as a Diver and a Pest. But in spite of this reputation, he's also known as a hard nosed skater who can throw his body around, play tough minutes and contribute on the Penalty Kill. Brown hasn't always been the most consistent player, and there were rumors he was being shopped. Brown managed to overcome this reputation and tie Kopitar in Goals and Points in the playoffs this season, playing with the sort of drive that showed it was no accident that the team made him the youngest team captain in team history in 2008.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Patrick Marleau

The former captain has better numbers than Brown, and yet, is also plagued by constant trade rumors, and does not enjoy the reputation a player of his stature should. Marleau has also had trouble shaking the underachiever tag, in spite of scoring 30 goals in each of the past 4 seasons, and in 6 of the past 7. He also anchors the team's top penalty killing unit. And yet, whenever there are rumors of trades and other roster shake ups, it's a safe bet that Marleau's name will be the first one on the list. When the Sharks put together a successful playoff run, it's safe to assume Patty will be a major driver on that run.

The Redeemed

Dustin Penner

Lazy. Out of shape. Overpaid. Underachieving. Each of these had been used to describe Penner in the past few seasons. After a promising start to his career that included a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Correy Perry, Penner found himself at the center of the storm when the Edmonton Oilers offer-sheeted him for a whopping $4.25M, sparking a war of words between then GMs of the Oilers and Ducks Kevin Lowe and Brian Burke. His time with the dreadful Oilers left many criticizing Penner for never living up to his contract. His trade to the Kings was meant to lead to spark a renaissance for the once promising Left Wing. But the move only seemed to make matters worse. Penner's first season in LA was a huge disappointment, and he seemed destined for the bench and another trade. Instead, new head coach Darryl Sutter helped turn Penner's game around, and Penner contributed 3 goals, including 2 game winners, en route to the second Stanley Cup of his career. It would seem the man who couldn't stay healthy while putting a fork full of pancakes in his mouth might be on track for a productive career after all.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Ryane Clowe

Like Penner, Clowe is a big, physical winger who can be alternately brilliant and baffling. When he's at his best, Clowe is the team's best puck retriever, helping establish the cycle with his physicality. But when Clowe is struggling, his lack of speed can make him a huge liability, especially defensively. As covered in the season review, Clowe does represent an intriguing trade possibility, but the team does know what Clowe can provide at his best. He is coming off one of his worst seasons, and if he can turn it around, the Sharks suddenly look like a much different team, a much more dangerous one.

The Hired Guns

Mike Richards and Jeff Carter

It's not very often a team can pick up two cornerstone players from the same team. But the dictates of upper management and a perceived cultural war in the locker room meant that Philadelphia's loss (partially by way of Columbus) was LA's gain. On balance, the Kings acquired the pair in exchange for Brayden Schen, Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson, and 1st and 2nd round draft picks. Add in the fact that the Kings unloaded Ryan Smith for Colin Fraser, and added Simon Gagne in Free Agency, and it's clear that the influx of talent for the Kings played a big role in their success this season, and lays the foundation for future success.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Martin Havlat and Brent Burns

While the Wild might not have been coming off a Stanley Cup final, they too were looking to change the culture of their team. As a result, the Sharks were able to make major changes to their roster, though they paid a much steeper price, effectively sending Devin Setoguchi, Dany Heatley, prized prospect Charlie Coyle, and a first round draft pick for the former Minnesotans. The injury to Havlat and the demands on Burns to adapt to a new team limited their productivity in their first season, the foundation does exist for success moving forward.

The New Lease on Life

Willie Mitchell

After being part of one of the most impressive blue lines in the league with the Vancouver Canucks, a series of injuries left Willie Mitchell's future uncertain. When it was made known the Canucks would be parting ways with the big defenseman, teams jumped at the chance to sign him, especially knowing his injury situation meant he could be offered a bonus laden contract that could ease his cap hit. The Sharks were among the teams bidding for his services, but Mitchell chose to sign with LA, who offered him the security of an additional season in their contract. The move, which was a gamble by GM Dean Lombardi, looked to be a failure when Mitchell suffered a freak injury his first season in LA. But Mitchell recovered, and, in spite of being weighed down by Jack Johnson, managed to remain a productive defenseman. He provided effective mentoring for young Slava Voynov, who looks poised to be a much better all around defenseman that the highly specialized Johnson, and will help ease the burden on Mitchell, who remains one of the best shutdown defenseman in the league.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Brad Stuart

Everything old is new again, as the former 3rd overall pick returns to the team that drafted him. Stuart bounced around the league a bit after he was traded in a package for Joe Thornton. He landed on his feet in Detroit and won a Stanley Cup, but will likely be remembered for turning Max Talbot into a Pittsburgh legend. His game has suffered recently, and he's expressed a desire to be closer to his family, which still resides here in San Jose. Stuart does represent a minor upgrade to Douglas Murray, who is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. Stuart is not quite what he once might have been, but it's possible coming somewhere new, and somewhere where he might be wanted, will help spark a change and return him to form.

The Taskmaster

Darryl Sutter

After 29 games, it became clear that Terry Murray would not be able to lead the Kings back to the post-season. Darryl Sutter, who had previously manage to take some very ordinary Sharks teams to the playoffs, and took the Flames to within one game and one blown call of a Stanley Cup, was brought in to bring structure to a clearly talented but underachieving squad. The results speak for themselves. Sutter's hard nosed approach led the Kings to a remarkable 25-13-11 record, and, of course, the 16-4 post-season run. Known for his taciturn and somewhat stern demeanor, the Kings were very much a reflection of Sutter's defense first mentality, capable of winning close games, and playing whistle to whistle.

Who will play this role for the Sharks?

Todd McLellan

While Sutter represents of a bit of a throwback in terms of coaching, Todd McLellan represents a bit of a new wave of thinking, studying advanced stats in order to determine the best matchups for his players. Sutter managed to get the most out of his players, and McLellan, who has shown he has a knack for matchups and in-game adjustments, will need to do the same for a roster which, from top to bottom, features players who, in one facet of their game or another, had severely disappointing seasons.

The Sharks may be the last California team to hoist the Stanley Cup. But, if they manage to get the best from their players, the wait may not be much longer.