No one has even won titles less than six years apart since New Jersey won in 2000 and again in 2003. And other than Detroit and Pittsburgh splitting a pair of back-to-back showdowns in 2008 and 2009, no team has even made it to the Final more than once since the owners' lockout wiped out the 2004-05 season.
The Bruins looked like they were poised to change all that this past year. Unlike most recent champions, they were not hit hard by defections in free agency and returned nearly their entire Cup-winning roster intact. But the strain of the previous season's long run, the short offseason and the pressure of every opponent going all out to beat the defending champs took its toll on Boston, which failed to even get out of the opening round of the playoffs this spring.
Now it will be the Los Angeles Kings' turn to find out just how real the Stanley Cup hangover is. The Kings claimed the franchise's first Cup on Monday, and while the first order of business is some serious celebrating, eventually Los Angeles will turn its attention back to the ice and look to finally end the long drought between repeat champions.
That won't be easy with all the challenges a reigning champion faces these days, but the Kings might just be better positioned to make a run at it than any other recent champion. At the very least, Los Angeles should prove that this spring's surprising run was no fluke, as they will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
Like Boston, the Kings will have almost everyone back next year. Nineteen of the 23 players who dressed during the postseason are under contract for next season. Of the other four, forward Dwight King, who made a surprising impact with five goals in the playoffs after not joining the big club for good until a February recall, is a restricted free agent who should remain in the fold without issue.
The only unrestricted free agents are forwards Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser.
Penner rebounded from a horrid regular season that saw him manage just seven goals in 65 games and become a healthy scratch at times with a strong playoff. He chipped in three goals (two game-winners) and 11 points in 20 postseason games, which might be enough to help him earn another decent contract, just as his contributions to Anaheim's Cup run in 2007 helped him land a bloated five-year, $21.25 million deal.
The Kings could afford to give Penner that next deal and retain Stoll and Fraser. But they also have the cap space to sign an upgrade. Despite having 20 players under contract, L.A. has just over $54 million committed. Even if the cap comes down from the current estimate of $70 million after a new collective bargaining agreement is hammered out, the Kings will have the ability to make some noise in free agency.
Los Angeles will also now be a desired destination, with a Cup on its resume and a chance at more championships to go along with the sun and sand at the beaches and the Hollywood glitz as selling points. The Kings could even get into the bidding for prized free agent Zach Parise, and signing away the Devils captain would really rub salt into New Jersey's wounds.
Even without Parise, the Kings are set up for a lengthy reign. Only four players on the roster are over 30. Their entire defense is under contract, as are both Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick and backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, though both of those netminders will need new deals after next season.
Los Angeles also has nine of the 13 forwards who dressed in the Final returning, and that will rise to 10 if and when King reaches a new deal. Key scorers Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne are all back, while King and Jordan Nolan will be up for a full season after being recalled late in the year and establishing themselves as key contributors in the playoffs.
Help within the system is on the way as well, with Derek Forbert, a 6-foot-5 defenseman taken 15th overall in 2010, honing his skills at North Dakota and forward Tyler Toffoli coming off back-to-back 50-goal, 100-point campaigns in the OHL.
One online gambling site, Bovada.com, has already given the Kings 11-1 odds of winning the Cup again next year. Only Pittsburgh has better odds at 7-1. Recent NHL history has proven that repeating as champs is a long shot for any team, but the Kings proved this spring that betting against them wasn't wise, and that may not change any time in the near future.
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