As unlikely as dynasties are in this era of a hard Cap, the Kings are pretty freaking close right now. They have two of the last three Cups and lost in the Western finals in between. Chicago took it to them in that series, but you can imagine how the legend would grow if Kane's double OT had been a game 7 winner and the only thing standing between the Kings and three consecutive Finals appearances. Looking at the ages of their key players, it's not hard to speculate about how many more runs they might take in the next few years. You can't even say they have impending Cap issues, though Kopitar will be UFA after two years and could push for Toews-like money.
But then there's...the rest of the story. First Cup, the Kings were an 8 seed; last year, 6th seed. The middle year is actually the highest they've been seeded at 5th.
Last year, the Kings were 26th in goals for, 27th in PP%, but first in GA/G (only the Bruins were even close to LA's 2.05 GA/G) and third in 5 on 5 differential. Think about that for a second. They were so good on defense that they were third in 5v5 goal differential despite scoring the 6th fewest goals in the league. (some of that will be a question of PP; total goals, they were 7th at +32). Kopitar led the Kings in scoring with 70 points. Carter had 50. Williams and Mike Richards had 43 and 41. No one else cracked 40 points. (In comparison, the Bruins had Krejci with 69, two other players with more than 60, three more guys over Carter's 50, and then three players in the 40s including two defensemen.)
Things changed a bit in the playoffs: the PP% shot up 8%, they topped the chart in 5v5 differential, but they also led in raw goals/game, though they dropped to 4th in goals against/game. They nearly crapped out against the Sharts, but once they reminded the Sharts who they are, the Kings remembered how to be a dominant playoff team.
From what I've read both at the time and since, the conventional story here is going to be about three things: the acquisition of playoff scoring sensation Marion Gaborik (I think he's going to have to change his name to "PSS Marion") and the contributions of young guns Pearson and Toffoli, and elevated performances from Carter, Williams and Muzzin. I wonder, though, if this is looking at the Trees and missing the forest. This is the second time in three years that the Kings have added a guy who would be one of their leading playoff goalscorers late in the season (and both from Columbus...). The odds are against that formula working once let alone twice. Other teams have gotten a boost from rookies in the past, but again, the odds are against rookies having a significant impact in the playoffs.
If I'm a GM looking to the Kings as a model, the lesson I'm taking away is: build big, build young, build a defensive identity up the middle and put the emphasis on playing a high energy, high "compete" game. You won't score enough to win a President's Trophy or be a top seed, but you'll make the playoffs, and you'll be able to beat anyone on any given day. Then, address clear limitations at the deadline. Both times the Kings won the Cup, they couldn't score goals. I don't mean the way some people say the Bruins can't score because they don't have a 40 or 50 goal guy; I mean outside of Carter and Kopitar, only Justin Williams (19) had more than 15 goals on that team. The Bruins had 8 players with 16 or more goals, including 5 with more than 20. So, at the deadline, if they were going to add players, what else would they have pursued other than scoring? This is fundamentally different from a team like the Bruins or Blackhawks looking ramp up their offense even more, and probably more likely to succeed. And the most common commodity on the trade market leading up to the deadline is almost always a guy known for scoring some goals. Iginla and Jagr; Vanek, Moulson, Gaborik just the last two years.
The media and fans tend to fixate on goalscorers - stars, faces you can market - but I think the lesson of the Kings is that you need to build a rock solid, high energy team first because, if you have that, you actually can acquire and more easily integrate a goalscorer or two late in the year. That's the biggest difference between the Bruins model of 2011 (very similar) and the Kings. Even though Jagr was a terrible fit in a CJ team, and spent 20 minutes a game using his butt to maintain possession of the puck along the boards, he's the only genuine goalscorer the Bruins have added at the deadline in the Chiarelli era, and coincidentally, they went to the finals. I think the Kings might just be showing why it worked, and it might just be something you can use as a blueprint. Step 1 is the hardest: a top 5 goalie, a Norris calibre D, and a Selke calibre C*. But from the perspective of managing your way toward a Cup winner, letting goalscoring be your (regular season) weakness might be the new trap.
*obviously, this is also the Bruins and the Blackhawks, so no surprise these three teams are dominating the Finals over the last 5 years.
Are you not entertained?!?!