Kings' 1st Stanley Cup Win a Win for NHL

CineSport—Darryl Sutter's scrappy, 8-seed Los Angeles Kings beat the Devils for the NHL's 2012 Stanley Cup. CineSport's Noah Coslov & Sporting News' Garry Howard share why a Kings' win is good for hockey.

The Los Angeles Kings capped off their improbable Stanley Cup run Monday night with a 6-1 beat down of the New Jersey Devils. The win certainly energized a city that normally reserves its excitement for the likes of the Lakers and Dodgers, but was it good for the sport?

A better question would be: what about this win for the Kings ISN’T good for the sport?

The 2012 Kings rank among the most unlikely champions ever. The team had a coaching change in December, couldn’t score on a consistent basis, barely snuck into the playoffs and had the top-seeded Canucks waiting for them in Round 1.

But they beat the Canucks in Round 1, then the Blues in Round 2, the Coyotes in the Conference Finals and finally the Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals, thus becoming the first 8-seed to win the Stanley Cup. And they did it while managing to beat every division winner in the West on the way. The Kings’ 16-4 playoff record is second to the 1988 Edmonton Oilers for the best ever.

One reason this improbable run was great for the attention-starved NHL: Everyone loves an underdog, and this team was exactly that. The Kings had a great defense throughout the season, but their 194 goals were the second fewest in the league, rare for a Stanley Cup champion.

Coach Terry Murray was fired in December. After the team was lead by interim coach John Stevens for four games, the Kings decided to hire Darryl Sutter. Not only did fans believe that Sutter’s harsh coaching style would never mesh with such a young team, there had never been a Stanley Cup champion that used three head coaches during the season.

Despite this, the Kings overcame their scoring woes and coaching carousel to rise as the underdog and capture the Stanley Cup. It made for a great story that had many fans interested and boosted the appeal of the sport.

If a great underdog story wasn’t enough of a shot in the arm for the NHL this postseason, the abundance of American stars was.

In a sport dominated by stars from Canada, the Kings featured an American captain in Dustin Brown and an American playoff MVP in standout goalie Jonathan Quick. Seeing American stars emerge during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, captains Zach Parise of the Devils and Ryan Callahan of the Rangers included, is great for the sport.

Hockey will always be popular in Canada, but, it lives in the shadow of baseball, football and basketball in America. With American stars in the spotlight of the Stanley Cup final in 2012, hockey can only grow in popularity in the U.S. as a result.

The Kings’ lack of scoring and coaching change during the regular season made them unlikely champions and their incredible run made the NHL exciting. With this happening in a major American city with the help of American stars, it put the sport in the spotlight in the U.S. and will only help the NHL grow its American audience.

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