- Fail to win at home
- Fail to win in overtime while losing in overtime regularly
- Fail to score on the power play
In reality, the season was something of a success. They lost their best player and still finished with the same number of playoff wins as they did last year. Regardless of what happens in the offseason, though, failing to make it out of the first round next season must (and likely will) have dire consequences for the team and front office. The Kings were ahead of schedule in making the playoffs last year. They will be behind schedule losing in the first round next year.
Es el tiempo, amigos. This was the last playoff series the Kings are allowed to lose while still blaming youth, inexperience, and a developing system. This was the last year of my standing up for Dean Lombardi and Terry Murray when results don't reflect effort. This was the last season of writing off Doughty's defensive lapses, Kopitar's missed nets, and Quick's soft goals.
There is no more room for error. And there wouldn't be next season regardless of the ultimate results of this season. Kings fans put up with some very, very lean years with the promise that, given 5 years, the team would be able to regularly contend for the Stanley Cup. This was the fifth year.
2011-12 will be the most important Kings season since their acquisition of Wayne Gretzky. Failure will once again implode a promising core of young players in an effort to improve the product on the ice, a process which rarely succeeds in professional sports. It will derail all of the progress made over the last 5 years and, in my mind, severely impact the future of the franchise in Los Angeles. It will be entirely up to the players to play to their abilities, earn a strong seed in the playoffs, and make it out of the first round.
I can't say I'm angry. I'm disappointed, to be sure. Next season, failing to score on a 5 minute major through the last 3 minutes of regulation and the first 2 minutes of overtime will engender a very different response.