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Los Angeles Kings
Title track: 4
Fan relations: 75
Stadium experience: 24
Bang for the buck: 61
Change from last year: -34
It might take awhile to get to the top -- in the pursuit of a Stanley Cup and in our Ultimate Standings -- but it sure doesn't take long to slide down the hill. Witness the Los Angeles Kings, who, after winning their second title in three years in 2014, ranked no worse than sixth in coaching, players, fan relations and title track last year en route to a No. 5 overall ranking. But after missing the playoffs this spring and in the midst of much off-ice upheaval, they dropped to 39th this time around.
Of course, fans haven't given up entirely on the team. Ownership still earns high marks at 12th, and the title track numbers -- fourth, down slightly from second a year ago -- reflect the recent enthusiasm over twin Stanley Cup parades and a berth in the Western Conference finals in between those Cup wins. (Only three teams in all of sports scored higher than the Kings when fans were asked whether their teams had won or would win a title in their lifetimes.) And there are many who believe the Kings will indeed bounce back to be a playoff team this season, once again proving a threat to go deep in the postseason. If that's the case, a commensurate bump back up the fan rankings is likely in the offing.
In case you had any doubt, fans do pay attention off the ice as well as on, and the Kings suffered on both counts. Defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested last October on a domestic battery charge and suspended for the balance of the season. Jarret Stoll (now a New York Ranger) was arrested on drug charges after the season ended, and Mike Richards was charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for a controlled substance believed to be OxyContin and had his contract voided. And the team missed the playoffs. Hence, the Kings had the second-worst score in hockey when fans were asked whether "players act professionally on and off the field," and player rankings dropped from second to 44th. Simple, really.
If there is a cautionary tale in the Kings' slide down our rankings, it's in the fan relations category. Last year, when the Kings were on top of the hockey world and the toast of Los Angeles, they ranked second. But with the team's issues on and off the ice -- as well as slightly above-average ticket, concessions and parking prices, which didn't go unnoticed by fans (No. 80 in affordability) -- the perception of the franchise and its staff, as well as how they relate to fans, has changed dramatically, as noted by their 73-spot slide in that category this year.