2010-11 YEAR IN REVIEW: Part 1 of a series.
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings suffered an earlier than desired exit from the 2010-11 season, when they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks, who won the series 4-2.
To be sure, another first round exit from the post-season party was not what the Kings had in mind this year, as expectations, both their own and just about everyone else’s, was for them to at least advance to the second round.
Although they faced extenuating circumstances that affected their ability to enjoy post-season success, namely, the loss of leading scorer and top defensive forward Anze Kopitar to a devastating ankle injury in late March, the Kings showed that if they had the discipline to adhere to their system and structure, they could have won that series, advancing to the Western Conference Semi Finals. Given that, it doesn’t matter how you slice it. The fact remains that the Kings did not meet expectations for the 2010-11 season.
Following Frozen Royalty’s look back at the 2010-11 season, (see 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Were Reminiscent Of A Roller Coaster Ride), it is now time to look at the players, coaches, and front office in a year-end evaluation of the franchise.
In Part 1, Frozen Royalty looks at the forwards.
LEGEND: GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; P = Points; PIM = Penalties In Minutes; PP = Power Play Goals; SH = Shorthanded Goals; GW = Game Winning Goals; OT = Overtime Goals; S = Shots; TOI = Time On Ice/Game; SFT = Shifts/Game; FO% = Face-Off Winning Percentage
Anze Kopitar, Center
2010-11 Regular Season: 75 GP, 25 G, 48 A, 73 P, +25 (plus/minus rating), 20 PIM, 6 PP, 1 SH, 6 GW, 1 OT, 233 S, 21:35 TOI, 25.60 SFT, 49.90 FO%
2009-10 Regular Season: 82 GP, 34 G, 47 A, 81 P, +6, 16 PIM, 14 PP, 1 SH, 2 GW, 0 OT, 259 S, 21:47 TOI, 25.80 SFT, 49.7 FO%
Kopitar led the Kings’ offensive attack once again this season, leading the team in scoring. But, as he has in past seasons, he was badly inconsistent this season, going through a couple of long goal-scoring droughts, and he never really heated up to a point where he was dominating for a significant stretch of games, despite the fact that he has the skill and strength to do so.
One look at Kopitar’s numbers this year compared to 2009-10 show a significant drop in goals, power play goals, and shots. Missing the last nine games of the season, does not account for the drop in those numbers.
But on the defensive side of the puck, Kopitar shined. He became the Kings’ top defensive forward, supplanting center Michal Handzus. In fact, in key situations where Handzus would have been on the ice, matching up against the opposition’s top center, last season, this year, Kopitar quickly became head coach Terry Murray’s go-to-guy in those situations.
Although the plus/minus statistic can be very deceiving, in this case, Kopitar’s +19 improvement over his 2009-10 plus/minus is significant. In fact, Kopitar has raised his defensive game so much that he was in the conversation for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, awarded annually to the National Hockey League’s best defensive forward, and should have received greater consideration for the award over Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk, one of this year’s Selke finalists.
A big reason for Kopitar’s improvement, especially on defense, was his strength and conditioning, as he finally got serious about working out last summer. Even more dedication to his strength and conditioning, in addition to rehabilitating his right ankle, will be needed if he wants to take another step forward in 2011-12.
Offensively, Kopitar must take his game to the next level in 2011-12. He must become more of a goal-scoring threat, and be more aggressive with the puck in the offensive zone, as opposed to always being a playmaker first. Defenders overplay him to pass because they know that he will do that the vast majority of the time. Giving defenders something more to think about will open up both the passing and shooting lanes, making him a multi-dimensional threat, something the Kings desperately need.
Dustin Brown, Right Wing
2010-11: 82 GP, 28 G, 29 A, 57 P, +17, 67 PIM, 7 PP, 0 SH, 2 GW, 0 OT, 233 S, 19:22 TOI, 24.6 SFT
2009-10: 82 GP, 24 G, 32 A, 56 P, -6, 41 PIM, 7 PP, 0 SH, 3 GW, 2 OT, 248 S, 19:15 TOI, 24.7 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, -3, 6 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 0 OT, 10 S, 20:00 TOI, 29.5 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P, -7, 6 PIM, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 15 S, 18:53 TOI, 27.2 SFT
Although Dustin Brown had a couple of stretches this season where he was a non-factor, in terms of both offensive production and physical play, they were not long ones. In the end, he proved to be rather consistent, especially in terms of his year-to-year performance, as evidenced by his numbers.
Brown, who has been among the league leaders in hits the past few seasons, was right there once again this season, ranking third, with 300 hits.
As a power forward, Brown needs to improve in the consistency department. But because he seems to give everything he’s got when on the ice, one has to wonder if he was suffering from an injury during the stretches where he was ineffective.
As a still rather young captain, Brown is still learning on the job, but has drawn on the collective experience of the older veterans, such as Handzus, Ryan Smyth, and Rob Scuderi. Nevertheless, he is becoming a fine captain, and has already made the Kings his team. He has the respect of the young players and older veterans alike, which will be key going forward.
Justin Williams, Right Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 73 GP, 22 G, 35 A, 57 P, +14, 59 PIM, 5 PP, 0 SH, 3 GW, 0 OT, 213 S, 17:15 TOI, 22.0 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 49 GP, 10 G, 19 A, 29 P, +3, 39 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 140 S, 16:22 TOI, 20.4 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 3 G, 1 A, 4 P, even, 2 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 16 S, 16:44 TOI, 23.3 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 3 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, even, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 4 S, 11:24 TOI, 17.0 SFT
One look at Justin Williams’ statistics pretty much tells the story of his 2010-11 season. Although he took a big hit and suffered a late-season shoulder separation that required off-season surgery (he is expected to be ready for training camp in September), Williams was, arguably, the Kings’ most consistent, reliable forward this season.
Even in the playoffs against San Jose, Williams was one of the Kings’ best players, despite the fact that his right shoulder was nowhere near full strength.
Last summer, Williams displayed a strong commitment to the team, and to himself, when he diligently worked on his strength and conditioning. It showed right off the bat, as he was the team’s best forward during the pre-season, and for much of the early going once the regular season began.
More of the same from Williams will be needed next season if the Kings expect to take the next step.
Ryan Smyth, Left Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 82 GP, 23 G, 24 A, 47 P, -1, 35 PIM, 9 PP, 0 SH, 2 GW, 0 SH, 0 OT, 195 S, 18:02 TOI, 22.5 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 67 GP, 22 G, 31 A, 53 P, +8, 42 PIM, 11 PP, 0 SH, 3 GW, 0 OT, 206 S, 19:40 TOI, 23.8 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 P, +3, 0 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 14 S, 18:20 TOI, 23.3 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, even, 6 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 11 S, 18:38 TOI, 24.7 SFT
At this point in his career, 35-year-old Ryan Smyth is not going to light the NHL on fire, either offensively or defensively. His job is to provide some offense, and teach the young players on the team a thing or two. Despite that, he ranked fourth on the team in scoring, and was their second-leading scorer in the playoffs.
Of course, all that is a double-edged sword, given Smyth’s numbers—it is indicative of the Kings’ offensive woes.
Late in the season, there was a fairly long stretch of games where Smyth became a perimeter player, and skated so slowly that he looked like he had an anvil on his back. He drew criticism from the media and fans alike, but it turned out that he was playing through pain, suffering from an undisclosed injury. But in the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs, Smyth regained his form and became one of the Kings’ better players in the post-season.
As stated earlier, Smyth has been around long enough where everyone knows what they’re going to get from him, night in and night out. Add to that his veteran experience, and you get a valuable asset. However, the Kings need to add a top-tier left wing to their first line so that they will no longer have to rely on Smyth to play that role, as he is no longer going to score thirty or more goals in a season.
Jarret Stoll, Center
2010-11 Regular Season: 82 GP, 20 G, 23 A, 43 P, -6, 42 PIM, 4 PP, 1 SH, 5 GW, 0 OT, 187 S, 17:09 TOI, 24.5 SFT, 57.5 FO%
2009-10 Regular Season: 73 GP, 16 G, 31 A, 47 P, +13, 40 PIM, 4 PP, 0 SH, 4 GW, 0 OT, 164 S, 17:25 TOI, 234.9 SFT, 56.0 FO%
2010-11 Playoffs: 5 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P, +4, 0 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 5 S, 18:44 TOI, 27.8 SFT, 54.8 FO%
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P, -4, 4 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 7 S, 14:30 TOI, 26.5 SFT, 52.6 FO%
Heading into the 2010-11 season, Murray was looking specifically at Stoll to score more goals, and create more offense. But even though he scored four more goals this season than he did in 2009-10, not only did Stoll’s point total drop a bit this year, but his offensive production disappeared for long stretches after a hot first month or two of the season.
That was certainly not what Murray had in mind.
Stoll’s play indicates that he is more suited to third line center duty. As such, the Kings need someone to fill the second-line center position, and they are hoping center prospects Brayden Schenn or perhaps Andrei Loktionov can fill that role. But neither may be ready for that responsibility yet. Realistically speaking, Schenn probably needs at least a year in the NHL, maybe even a season at the American Hockey League level, before he will be ready to be the team’s number two center. Loktionov will also need more time at the NHL level, and even then, he may not have the physical attributes to handle that responsibility.
Who will fill that role will be one of the big question marks for the Kings heading into the off-season and their 2011 training camp.
Wayne Simmonds, Right Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 80 GP, 14 G, 16 A, 30 P, -2, 75 PIM, 1 PP. 0 SH, 3 GW, 0 OT, 117 S, 13:27 TOI, 18.9, SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 78 GP, 16 G, 24 A, 40 P, +22, 116 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 2 GW, 0 OT, 127 S, 14:28 TOI, 19.7 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 P, -1, 20 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW , 0 OT, 12 S, 14:44 TOI, 20.5 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 P, +1, 9 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 14 S, 14:21 TOI, 20.7 SFT
The numbers tell much of the story for Wayne Simmonds this season, as he took a step backwards this year in his all-around play. Indeed, his play with and without the puck was often not at the level it was last season, when he was ten points better, was more effective on the forecheck and in the defensive zone, and he was often more aggressive, as his penalty minutes indicate.
Several times this season, Murray said that Simmonds’ game is the straight-ahead, north-south, grind-it-out style, and that is when he is effective. But when he tries to get fancy with the puck, with nifty-looking toe drag moves and the like, the result is often a turnover.
That direct, in-your-face game is what Simmonds gave the Kings during the playoffs against San Jose, when he was one of the Kings’ best players. But that style was often not what he displayed during the regular season.
In short, Simmonds’ mission for next season is clear: work on what he is most effective at and stick with it.
Michal Handzus, Center
2010-11 Regular Season: 82 GP, 12 G, 18 A, 30 P, -5, 20 PIM, 4 PP, 0 SH, 3 GW, 0 OT, 94 S, 17:20 TOI, 24.2 SFT, 51.7 FO%
2009-10 Regular Season: 81 GP, 20 G, 22 A, 42 P, +4, 38 PIM, 5 PP, 1 SH, 6 GW, 1 OT, 117 S, 18:18 TOI, 24.9 SFT, 50.9 FO%
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, 4 PIM, -4, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 7 S, 20:21 TOI, 28.8 SFT, 41.8 FO%
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 P, -5, 4 PIM, 3 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 17 S, 19:31 TOI, 29.7 SFT, 41.7 FO%
Like Smyth, at this point in his career, everyone knows what Michal Handzus is going to bring to a team: hard work on every shift, strong defensive play, the ability to use his size and strength in all situations, being good in the face-off circle and chip in offensively here and there.
Like the other forwards, Handzus’ numbers were down compared to 2009-10. And although he is not the fleetest of foot (and never was), nor is he a goal-scoring machine (to expect that would be foolish), his ability to play in all situations, not to mention the fact that he is well-respected by the younger players, and is like a coach on the bench and in the dressing room, Handzus’ contributions, both on and off the ice, have been invaluable.
As such, do not be surprised to see Handzus, who will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, back in a Kings’ jersey next season, assuming he is willing to accept a one-year deal at a lower salary. He would be valuable as a safety valve in case younger players who might be given a shot with the big club to start the season are unable to make the jump.
Brad Richardson, Center/Left Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 68 GP, 7 G, 12 A, 19 P, -13, 47 PIM, 0 PP, 1 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 103 S, 11:45 TOI, 16.8 SFT, 50.8 FO%
2009-10 Regular Season: 81 GP, 11 G, 16 A, 27 P, +1, 37 PIM, 0 PP, 1 SH, 4 GW, 0 OT, 148 S, 12:50 TOI, 18.6 SFT, 48.1 FO%
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 P, -4, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 17 S, 15:37 TOI, 22.8 SFT, 42.9 FO%
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, -7, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 12 S, 14:40 TOI, 22.5 SFT, 26.7 FO%
Brad Richardson brings speed and plays bigger than his relatively small stature. But, like the Kings, he had his share of ups and down this season, and spent a good number of games in the press box while enforcer Kevin Westgarth dressed instead.
Murray wanted more intensity and stronger overall play from Richardson, who was generally limited to third and fourth line duties, even though he bounced around between the center and left wing positions on the first and second lines on occasion.
Where Richardson’s game dropped off a bit this season was on the defensive end and with his decisions with the puck, especially near the blue lines, and in the neutral zone. His -12 drop off in plus/minus is, at least, somewhat indicative of that.
Richardson earned some time in the spotlight with a strong performance in the playoffs against San Jose as the team’s third-leading scorer. But third line players can only get you so far against an elite team like the Sharks, and the line of Richardson, Simmonds and Kyle Clifford was badly exposed by San Jose’s top lines, combining for a -10 rating in Game 6 of their first round series, with Richardson getting caught on the ice for all four San Jose goals in that game.
Under normal circumstances, Kopitar and Handzus would have matched up against Sharks centers Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. But without Kopitar, Murray was forced to put Richardson’s line out there, and they were eventually overmatched. In fact, the Kings missed Kopitar’s presence on the defensive side of the puck far more than they did in the attacking zone.
As for Richardson, his position on the team is likely safe. However, more is needed from him in terms of playing his role—providing energy, being solid on the forecheck and on defense, and to chip in here and there on the offensive side of the ledger.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, Left Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 61 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 P, +1, 36 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 94 S, 12:35 TOI, 18.2 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 4 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P, +1, 0 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 5 S, 10:10 TOI, 16.5 FO%
As stated in Frozen Royalty’s Year-In-Review story, (see 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Were Reminiscent Of A Roller Coaster Ride), Ponikarovsky was signed by the Kings after they missed out on signing star left wing Ilya Kovalchuk during the off-season, and had no other plan to bring in the scoring talent they so desperately needed. Ponikarovsky was not going to be that player, nor was he expected to be. However, he had been a twenty-goal scorer in the past, and was expected to be considerably better than his five goals and ten assists for 15 points indicate.
Although he was often very solid, both on the forecheck and in the defensive zone, Ponikarovsky, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, missed some time due to injury, but also spent a few stints in the press box after some uninspired performances. In the end, he was back to being a healthy scratch for the Kings’ final two playoff games, and is not likely to be back in a Kings jersey next season.
Kyle Clifford, Left Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 76 GP, 7 G, 7 A, 14 P, -10, 141 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 69 S, 9:30 TOI, 13.4 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 P, -2, 7 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 9 S, 13:17 TOI, 20.5 SFT
Clifford surprised just about everyone when he made the big club roster to start the season, and surprised everyone even more when he was still with the team after his first nine games (his entry-level contract started once he played ten games with the Kings), as the expectations were that he would be returned to his junior team, the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League for the rest of the season.
But the big, strong rookie fought and played his way into securing a spot on the Kings’ fourth line. He was always hard on the forecheck, usually managed to avoid being a defensive liability, and chipped in more offensively than anyone could have possibly hoped.
But if you think all that was surprising, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Clifford wound up being the team’s leading scorer in the playoffs, and, outside of goaltender Jonathan Quick, was, arguably, their best player. Look for Clifford to become an even more well-rounded player in his sophomore season and be able to move up to third-line duties.
Trevor Lewis, Center
2010-11 Regular Season: 72 GP, 3 G, 10 A, 13 P, -11, 6 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 2 GW, 0 OT, 105 S, 11:29 TOT, 17.1 SFT, 39.2 FO%
2009-10 Regular Season: 5 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, -3, 0 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 4 S, 9:07 TOI, 12.4 SFT, 0.0 FO%
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P, even, 2 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 11 S, 16:39 TOI, 23.5 SFT, 40.0 FO%
2009-10 Playoffs: Did not play
Although he was not much of a contributor offensively, Lewis took huge strides forward this year, in what was likely his last chance to crack the Kings’ lineup. He started the season as a healthy scratch, but after ten games, he got himself into the lineup and never looked back. He finally proved that he belonged in the lineup, using his speed and skating ability, along with added strength and greater intensity. That made him more effective in loose puck battles, on the forecheck, and in the defensive zone. Those attributes also helped Lewis become a stalwart defender on the penalty-killing unit, where he made his biggest contributions.
Someday, if his hands ever catch up to his feet, as Murray has often said, Lewis just might become a solid third line center.
Andrei Loktionov, Center
2010-11 Regular Season: 19 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 P, +2, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 2 GW, 0 OT, 26 S, , 14:45 TOI, 18.4 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, even, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 1 S, 11:52 TOI, 15.0 SFT, 12.5 FO%
Although he started on left wing after being called up to the Kings, Loktionov showed what he can do when he was moved to center, displaying skill, playmaking ability and a scoring touch—all the skills that Kings scouts saw before they selected him in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Loktionov might have finished the season with the Kings, but a shoulder injury in mid-February that required surgery ended his season prematurely.
Aside from rehabilitating his shoulder, Loktionov needs to get into the gym this summer and add muscle to his 5-10, 180-pound frame, as the biggest knock on his game is that he needs to be stronger on the puck.
Dustin Penner, Left Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 19 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 P, even, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 36 S, 17:00 TOI, 21.4 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, -3, 4 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 10 S, 14:32 TOI, 21.3 SFT
It did not take long for Penner, who was acquired in a deadline day trade from the Edmonton Oilers, to become public enemy number one among Kings fans…and with good reason.
Although one can point to the fact that the Kings lost Kopitar, who was supposed to play on a line with him, the fact remains that Penner has a lot of skill and talent, but displayed little heart, or anything else, for that matter.
The only thing Penner showed was how badly out of shape he was, physically, and that the knock on him that has followed him since his days with the Anaheim Ducks is still a problem—motivation and intensity seems to be an issue.
Indeed, you know a player is a big, big problem when a team’s broadcasters are calling him out, both on the air (radio post-game show) and during interviews with the head coach at practice.
The big, skilled left winger has one year remaining on his contract, and, barring a trade, will be with the Kings next season. Penner needs to get serious about his conditioning during the off-season and get with the program in other ways as well, or he is going to find himself at odds, not just with Murray and Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi, but with his teammates as well.
Oscar Moller, Center/Right Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 13 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 P, -1, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 27 S, 14:35 TOI, 19.0 SFT, 80.0 FO%
2009-10 Regular Season: 34 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 7 P, -6, 4 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 42 S, 8:35 TOI, 12.3 SFT, 30.8 FO%
2010-11 Playoffs: 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, +1, 0 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 0 S, 10:37 TOI, 17.0 SFT, 33.3 FO%
2009-10 Playoffs: Did not play
Oscar Moller is a skilled player, but gets bounced around like a rag doll in physical battles at the NHL level, severely hampering his effectiveness, even though he always seems to bounce right back up after taking a hit.
Moller is going to have to add more muscle during the off-season if he hopes to get another chance with the Kings next season, unless, as rumored, he winds up playing in Sweden.
Kevin Westgarth, Right Wing
2010-11 Regular Season: 56 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P, -6, 105 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 20 S, 5:26 TOI, 8.3 SFT, 41.8 FO%
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P, +2, 14 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 3 S, 6:15 TOI, 10.0 SFT
As the team’s enforcer, Westgarth was not expected to contribute offensively. But he needed to at least hold his own on the forecheck, and in the defensive zone. However, his limited skating ability, sub-par puck handling skills, and poor decisions with and without the puck often outweighed his contributions as a physical deterrent.
Although there is still a role for the heavyweight enforcer in today’s NHL, it has become more and more limited as the years have gone by, probably far more than Murray realizes—he is a firm believer in having that big, bruising heavyweight in the lineup.
Some argue that one of the reasons the Kings were not as productive in the offensive zone this season compared to last year was that Murray played Westgarth way too much. However, given that Westgarth plays on the fourth line, and would have been replaced by another role player who would also not be known for his scoring prowess, that argument holds no water at all. Nevertheless, as big a detriment as Westgarth was when he was not dropping the gloves, Murray should take a long hard look at his beliefs about the role of the enforcer for next season—physical, checking forwards with just a bit more skill than Westgarth are not difficult to come by.
NOT EVALUATED (either did not play a significant role or did not play enough games with the Kings this season): Dwight King, Scott Parse, Brayden Schenn, Marco Sturm, John Zeiler.
In the next installment of this year-end evaluation of the 2010-11 Los Angeles Kings, Frozen Royalty will take a close look at the defensemen and goaltenders…stay tuned…
2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Were Reminiscent Of A Roller Coaster Ride
2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Year-In-Review: Defense And Goaltending Was Their Strength
2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Year-In-Review: Coaches And Front Office Had Their Ups and Downs, Too
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Kopitar-Penner-Williams. It would work, if Murray puts these guys on the first line. If he sticks Penner on the third or fourth line, he’s gonna be a bust. Then he’ll leave as a free agent and sign with a team which has a more flexible coach and become another Purcell, Moulson or Cammaleri.
I think Gann’s comments are mostly on the money. However, I disagree about Stoll. I think he is a strong skater and like Ryan Smyth is crafty with the puck behind the net. I think a lot was asked from him by Kopi’s absence. He is usually very good on face-offs. Maybe the best one we ever had was Belanger on faceoffs. Lewis, Moller and Loktionov all suffer from a smaller frame–however look at players like Martin St. Louis and back in the day….Butch Goring, Marcel Dionne, and more recently Cammallari…they find a way to battle off checks, find open spaces and fire away blistering shots. I agree that all three players need to build upper body strength–as does Doughty (who I expect you’ll discuss in your next segment) needs to really get into the gym. Strong puck control and winning battles in the corners is vitally important for success and that will take more upper body heft. Time to let Penner, Poni, and Westgarth go. Poni has potential but isn’t consistent, Westgarth lacks real hockey skills, and Penner lacks motivation/heart, whatever you want to call it. He lacks the desire necessary to compete. Unfortunately we gave away too much talent in the exchange. I am missing Teddy Purcell, who may be on his way to a Stanley Cup!
Not only will Penner not be a star with the Kings, we have no fear he won’t turn in to a better player on a different team. He is a shining example of a lazy professional athlete, and his time in the NHL is quickly coming to an end. I saw every shift Penner played, and I would say he deserved to be there in maybe 4 shifts. The Kings are fortunate enough to be in a position to tell Penner shape up or ship out. Unless he goes through a drastic attitude change and shows up to training camp a monster, I don’t see Penner starting for the Kings next season.
Lazy? Doughty was in terrible shape at the start of the season. Would you call him lazy too? And his constant bickering with the refs. Annoying and childish. Grow up, Drew. Pony scored over 20 goals in 4 of the last 5 seasons before he came to LA. Murray played him as a defensive forward most of the season because of his size and grit. And a Dwight King played left wing on the Kopitar line ???
I know Pony didn’t play well for the most of the year but I found TM’s criticism about his lack of scoring very hypocritical. You don’t expect too many goals from a defensive forward playing a defense first system.
Its easy to hate Penner for his play with the Kings, but unless Lombardi finds another scoring winger in the offseason, he is still the best option to fill that hole on the left wing side. With a clear head, a different attitude and better shape. My concern is that, even if Penner does all that, he still won’t be able to play the game he can play best, because Murray is going to try changing him into a checking forward due to his size and strength. Purcell didn’t play well while he was in LA. He seems to be doing just fine under coach Boucher and GM Yzerman. And so are a few other LA Kings’ castaways.
I like Smyth, yeah he’s slow but he is willing to get in front of the net and do the dirty work. Poni needs to go get a heart transplant. Brown had a very solid year, it looked like he added some offensive moves to his game. Williams was solid and consistent the whole year, when he’s healthy he’s fine. I am not a big Stoll fan. The only thing i think we would miss if we lost him is faceoffs. Simmonds, Lewis and Clifford make me think the future is bright.
My biggest complaint with Westgarth has more to do with the Kings pushing everything to the boards in the offensive zone, to slow the game down, and manage the puck. If the Kings played a more posession game, the tempo to the game would open up, and expose a player like Westy for what he really is (player wise).
Westy playing 62 games this season, and not really hurting us, says a lot about how slow the Kings game (not just a few players) really is.