Ranging from the worst season of Anze Kopitar’s career to the NHL’s worst five-on-five shooting percentage, there were plenty of offensive shortcomings to dissect over a third consecutive lengthy offseason for the Kings.
Enough, perhaps, for Tyler Toffoli’s drop-off to fly farther beneath the radar than it should have.
If the 25-year-old winger would have continued his career trajectory last season, it would have landed him among the NHL’s elite goal scorers.
Instead, his season was marred by a knee injury in December that shelved him for 19 games and plagued him for the remaining 30 after he returned. In a contract year, no less, he found himself in the awkward position of being healthy enough to play, but not to his capability.
“Definitely not to my capability,” Toffoli said, “and it definitely showed in my game.”
A season after scoring 31 goals, Toffoli nearly cut that total in half in 2016-17. He scored just 16 times and his point total plummeted from 58 to 34.
Taffoli’s plus-14 led the Kings before his stretch of 149 consecutive games ended Dec. 22, 2016. The severity of his knee injury required surgery immediately after the season.
“It’s something that I needed to do,” Toffoli said. “I’d say toward the end of the summer is when I started to feel a lot more confident in it. Once we started skating again and it felt better than it had during last season, that’s when I really started to get excited for this year.”
Knee surgery was just one of several major events this offseason for the five-year veteran.
Though the dollar figure assuredly would have been higher had Toffoli approached 40 goals last season instead of a precipitous fall to 16, the restricted free agent’s three-year, $13.8 million extension was something he is happy to have done in fairly painless fashion.
By comparison, linemate Tanner Pearson signed a four-year, $15 million deal a month before Toffoli’s contract extension.
“It was a big summer for me growing up,” Toffoli said. “All those things come with a lot more responsibility.”
Considering the Kings’ need for offense, he will have no shortage of responsibility on the ice.
The most notable among three rule changes announced by the NHL Thursday was the assessment of a minor penalty for losing a coach’s challenge of an offsides call on a scoring play.
Last season the cost of losing such a challenge was simply a timeout. The new rule raises the stakes enough for Stevens and his staff to adjust their approach, particularly late in the game, considering the risk of putting the opponent on a power play.
“Now if it’s a close game late, you want to be sure,” Stevens said. “You don’t want to say it might be offsides. You want more evidence that it is offside because you’re going to end up in the box in that situation. So it could be tough. We’ve got to err on the side of caution.”
MERSCH, CRESCENZI CLEAR WAIVERS
Forwards Michael Mersch and Andrew Crescenzi cleared waivers on Thursday and were assigned to the Kings’ American League Hockey affiliate, the Ontario Reign. There are 31 players remaining on a Kings roster that must be trimmed to 23 by Tuesday.
Mersch, 24, made his NHL debut in 2015-16, when he played 17 games with the Kings. Both he and Crescenzi, 25, spent the entirety of last season with the Reign.
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