How the Kings prepare for Cup defense

The journey to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships begins in the offseason. Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

This group of Los Angeles Kings is one that seems to enjoy a challenge. Such as entering the playoffs as a No. 8 seed and winning it all, as they did in 2012. Or dropping three games to start the first round before waking up and beating the San Jose Sharks like they did this year. Or becoming the first team to win three Game 7s en route to a Stanley Cup.

It’s a sign of talent and mental toughness, a combination the Kings are going to need if they want to become the first team to repeat in the salary-cap era. Since the Chicago Blackhawks already beat them to the punch of becoming the first two-time champ in the cap era, next season is an opportunity for the Kings to one-up their Western Conference rival as the first back-to-back champ operating under a cap.

What’s it going to take for that to happen? Here’s a look at general manager Dean Lombardi’s offseason:

What happened in 2013-14

Points: 100 (No. 10 overall in the NHL during the regular season)

Goals per game: 2.42 (No. 26)

Goals against per game: 2.05 (No. 1)

Power play: 15.1 percent (No. 27)

Penalty kill: 83.1 percent (No. 11)

Corsi for percentage: 55.7 percent (No. 1)

Expectations this year: Before the season, I picked the Kings to win the Stanley Cup, after finishing second in the Pacific Division.

Did they meet expectations? Yes. We’ll forgive their third-place finish in the Pacific behind the Ducks and Sharks.

Front-office offseason priorities

1. Sign Marian Gaborik. According to colleague Pierre LeBrun, the Kings and Gaborik’s camp have already started talking contract extension, and this is such a natural fit for both sides that it should get done.