2010-11 YEAR IN REVIEW: Part 2 of a series.
LOS ANGELES — Although their offense left much to be desired during the 2010-11 season, the Los Angeles Kings were one of the best defensive teams in the league.
Solid goaltending from Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier, strong play on the blue line by their defensemen most of the time, and contributions by the forwards to the defensive effort combined to put in the Kings among the top ten defensive teams in the National Hockey League, ranking sixth, allowing an average of 2.39 goals per game.
Indeed, defense is a team effort, but in Part 2 of Frozen Royalty’s look back at the players, coaches and front office during the 2010-11 season, it’s time to focus on the defensemen and goaltenders.
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
2010-11 Regular Season: 82 GP, 5 G, 37 A, 42 P, -21, 44 PIM, 3 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 153 S, 23:11 TOI, 25.9 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 80 GP, 8 G, 28 A, 36 P, -15, 48 PIM, 3 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 130 S, 22:36 TOI, 24.4 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P, -2, 0 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 16 S, 22:48 TOI, 28.5 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 0 G, 7 A, 7 P, -5, 6 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 15 S, 23:41 TOI, 25.5 SFT
Jack Johnson got off to a solid start this season, taking up the slack from Drew Doughty (see below) during the early going. His skating and puck-handling abilities shined through often, even though he was never the key guy you wanted on the ice in key defensive situations, as his team-worst -21 rating indicates.
But after February 2, Johnson would not score again during the regular season, going thirty games without scoring a goal, and adding just five assists during that span.
Head coach Terry Murray noted the decline in Johnson’s play during the second half of the season several times during press conferences following games and after practices.
Even worse, Johnson scored just one goal with ten assists after he signed a seven-year, $30.5 million contract extension on January 8.
That is certainly not the kind of play expected from someone earning an average of $4.36 million per year.
With Johnson’s skill, speed, and athletic ability, what he needs to improve on is all between his ears, in terms of attitude and in his decision-making, with and without the puck. This is where he needs to take big strides forward heading into 2011-12.
2010-11 Regular Season: 76 GP, 11 G, 29 A, 40 P, +13, 68 PIM, 5 PP, 0 SH, 3 GW, 0 OT, 139 S, 25:38 TOI, 28.0 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 82 GP, 16 G, 43 A, 59 P, +20, 54 PIM, 9 PP, 0 SH, 5 GW, 1 OT, 142 S, 24:58 TOI, 26.4 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 P, even, 8 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 12 S, 27:08 TOI, 31.3 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 P, -5, 4 PIM, 2 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 13 S, 27:25 TOI, 30.3 SFT
Although most would probably point to left wing Dustin Penner as the Kings’ biggest disappointment this season, one could also make a strong case for Drew Doughty, whose play took at least a couple of giant steps backwards this season from his 2009-10 performance, one that made him a finalist for the James Norris Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL’s best defenseman.
Doughty came into training camp in relatively poor condition, scoring so poorly on his V02 Max test that he had to take it again. That was a contributing factor to a very slow start this season, in addition to a concussion that forced him out of the lineup for about a week in early November. But Doughty never really got on track until near the midpoint of the season, and, even then, we only saw glimpses of the player who often left jaws agape last season because of his stellar play.
Also expected to contribute on the offensive end, Doughty disappointed mightily there as well, coming up 19 points short of his 2009-10 totals. Although much of that came from assists, and, as such, is not entirely his responsibility, the fact remains that there were considerable declines in all of his offensive numbers.
The power play is where Doughty’s problems were most evident this season, as he struggled to get pucks to the net from the point, with penalty-killers consistently challenging him whenever he had the puck. But Doughty did himself no favors this season by adding a super-high wind-up to his slap shot, bringing his stick almost past his ear, nearly perpendicular to the ice, before letting go with his shot.
With that high, slow, show-off wind-up, a turtle would have enough time to get in front of that shot to block it. Of course, that is an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
And then there were the fancy plays or the big hits he often tried this season. A lot of them worked, but just about as many resulted in a turnover, or it took him out of defensive position. Often times, the puck wound up in the back of the Kings’ net, as a result.
In fact, Doughty had 77 giveaways this season, leading Kings defensemen.
Although taking away his creativity and unique ability to make plays would be foolish, Doughty needs to learn to pick his spots much better.
But when you look at that show-off wind-up on his slap shot, which was not part of Doughty’s game in 2009-10, along with the all the flashy plays he attempted this season, all this raises questions about what impact being a Norris Trophy finalist last season had on him heading into this season.
Indeed, receiving that kind of honor at such a young age—remember, Doughty is only 21 years old—might not have had the desired effect. In any case, Doughty needs to get into the gym with a lot more dedication this summer, as his conditioning was a huge factor in his performance this season.
But Doughty should also take a step back and think about his attitude. At 21 years of age, no one should be expecting him to be a sage veteran. However, it does not take a genius to figure out that he still has some growing up to do, and that he must make some progress in this aspect of his game heading into next season.
2010-11 Regular Season: 60 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 P, +11, 18 PIM, 1 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 74 S, 15:16 TOI, 20.6 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 4 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, -2, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 6 S, 15:24 TOI, 18.5 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, -1, 2 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 5 S, 13:29 TOI, 20.0 SFT
Martinez started the season with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League, the Kings’ primary minor league affiliate, but was recalled on November 23, and immediately began to turn heads with his offensive skill, his skating ability, the ability to move the puck, and his improved defensive and physical play.
Indeed, Martinez was not on anyone’s radar, and was believed to be on the outside looking in, with other defensemen prospects ahead of him on the depth chart. But his strong play at Manchester earned him the recall, and has become a fixture on the Kings’ blue line.
Martinez gave the Kings far more than anyone could have possibly expected this past season. It remains to be seen if there is much potential for increased offensive output, but next season will tell us much more about his potential for further growth in his game.
2010-11 Regular Season: 82 GP, 2 G, 13 A, 15 P, +1, 16 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 46 S, 20:17 TOI, 26.0 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 73 GP, 0 G, 11 A, 11 P, +16, 21 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 38 S, 19:16 TOI, 23.6 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P, -1, 0 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 3 S, 20:49 TOI, 29.5 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, -4, 6 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 4 S, 20:39 TOI, 28.8 SFT
Rob Scuderi has been a model for consistency, year-to-year, a stay-at-home, get-the-job-done defenseman who is solid on the ice and off. The only statistic that might be suspect is the -15 difference in his plus/minus numbers from 2009-10, but that is likely due to the fact that he was often paired with the -21 Jack Johnson.
As an older, grizzled veteran, Scuderi is a well-known commodity. More of the same will be needed from him next season, and it would be unrealistic to expect more.
2010-11 Regular Season: 71 GP, 2 G, 9 A, 11 P, +3, 70 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 50 S, 16:58 TOI, 22.8 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 75 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 P, +4, 83 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 57 S, 17:28 TOI, 22.0 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, -3, 14 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 6 S, 16:44 TOI, 25.5 SFT
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 P, -4, 0 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 4 S, 18:45 TOI, 27.0 SFT
Matt Greene will never be the mobile, skilled, athletically-gifted defenseman that NHL teams covet. Sometimes, those weaknesses are exposed by the opposition, occasionally, glaringly so. But what he lacks, he makes up for with determination and heart, qualities that some of his teammates would do well to emulate.
Greene has been a fine number five or six defenseman, and he did nothing to tarnish that reputation this season. He is a leader who is looked up to by the younger players and respected by all, and is a valuable asset heading into 2011-12.
2010-11 Regular Season: 57 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, +4, 21 PIM, 0 PP, 1 SH, 1 GW, 0 OT, 59 S, 21:48 TOI, 25.4 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, +1, 4 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 8 S, 24:17 TOI, 30.5 SFT
Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi took a big gamble by signing unrestricted free agent defenseman Willie Mitchell to a two-year contract that will pay him $3.5 million per season. Mitchell, 32, has suffered from three concussions in his career, with the latest forcing him to miss much of the latter half of the 2009-10 season (34 games) and the playoffs, while he was with the Vancouver Canucks.
Mitchell did not yet feel like himself by the time the July 1 free agent frenzy began, and was not signed until August 25. But he went the extra mile to get healthy and made the signing pay off, as he was the Kings’ best defenseman this season, despite missing 25 games due to injury.
Indeed, Mitchell was the rock back there on the blue line for the Kings this season, not Doughty. Although he was not on the Kings’ power play units, during critical defensive situations, Mitchell was on the ice, more often than not, to shut down the opposition’s best players.
Mitchell was also an outspoken leader off the ice, always willing to talk about what was going well and what was going badly. He is well-respected by his teammates and will be an important cog in the Kings’ machine next season.
2010-11 Regular Season: 38 GP, 0 G, 5 A, 5 P, -1, 19 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 27 S, 14:21 TOI, 19.6 SFT
2009-10 Regular Season: 42 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 8 P, -4, 14 PIM, 0 PP, 0 SH, 0 GW, 0 OT, 32 S, 15:14 TOI, 19.0 SFT
2010-11 Playoffs: Did not play
2009-10 Playoffs: Did not play
With Greene out of the lineup to start the season due to off-season shoulder surgery, Davis Drewiske got some fairly regular playing time during the early going. Even when Greene returned, Drewiske managed to remain in the lineup. But after Martinez was recalled in late November, Drewiske’s fate was sealed. By early January, he was back to being the all-too-familiar healthy scratch, playing just two games after January 6. He never dressed again after playing on February 24 against the Minnesota Wild.
Drewiske’s challenge is that he has Johnson, Martinez, Mitchell and Scuderi ahead of him on the left side of the Kings’ blue line corps.
Drewiske’s days with the Kings are likely numbered with left shot defenseman prospects Jake Muzzin and Thomas Hickey coming up behind him…and perhaps already ahead of him on the Kings’ organizational depth chart.
NOT EVALUATED (either did not play a significant role or did not play enough games with the Kings this season): Peter Harrold, Jake Muzzin.
GOALTENDER STATISTICS LEGEND: GP = Games Played; GS = Games Started; SA = Shots Against; GA = Goals Against; GAA = Goals Against Average; SV = Saves; SV% = Save Percentage; SO = Shutouts; G = Goals; A = Assists; PIM = Penalty Minutes; TOI = Time On Ice
2010-11 Regular Season: 61 GP, 60 GS, 35-22-3 record, 1,631 SA, 134 GA, 2.24 GAA, 1,497 SV, .918 SV%, 6 SO, 0 G, 2 A, 0 PIM, 3,590:34 TOI
2009-10 Regular Season: 72 GP, 72 GS, 39-24-7, 1,927 SA, 180 GA, 2.54 GAA, 1,747 SV, .907 SV%, 4 SO, 0 G, 1 A, 2 PIM, 4,258:27 TOI
2010-11 Playoffs: 6 GP, 6 GS, 2-4-0, 229 SA, 20 GA, 3.16 GAA, 209 SV, .913 SV%, 1 SO, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PIM, 380:15 TOI
2009-10 Playoffs: 6 GP, 6 GS, 2-4-0, 181 SA, 21 GS, 3.50 GAA, 160 SV, .884 SV%, 0 SO, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PIM, 360:27 TOI
Although center Anze Kopitar proved to be the Kings’ most valuable player this season, much of that having to do with his emergence as one of the top defensive forwards in the NHL, Quick was right there with him, using his quickness and athletic ability to keep his team in just about every game.
Quick’s outstanding play put him into the upper echelon of goaltenders this season, and he improved significantly upon his 2009-10 performance.
Contributing to Quick’s success was that Murray started him in twelve fewer games this season, compared to 2009-10, allowing him to get the rest he needed to remain fresh throughout.
Having already proven that he has the skills to become an elite-level netminder, Quick needs to continue to grow and mature as an NHL goaltender to reach the next level.
2010-11 Regular Season: 25 GP, 22 GS, 11-8-3, 652 SA, 57 GA, 2.48 GAA, 595 SV, .913 SV%, 3 SO, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PIM, 1,378:15 TOI
2009-10 Regular Season: 3 GP, 3 GS, 3-0-0, 94 SA, 4 GA, 1.30 GAA, 90 SV, .957 SV%, 1 SO, 0 G, 1 A, 0 PIM, 185:00 TOI
2010-11 Playoffs: Did not play
2009-1 Playoffs: Did not play
Despite getting off to a slow start, goaltender Jonathan Bernier gave the Kings just about everything they could have hoped for from a rookie backup goaltender, putting up outstanding numbers after he made the adjustment from being a starting goaltender throughout his career prior to making it to the NHL this year.
Indeed, when you consider the fact that five of his eight losses came during the Kings’ atrocious November and January nose dives when they completely abandoned their system and structure and forgot how to play defense, Bernier’s numbers are even more impressive.
Bernier, who is just 22 years old, said that he grew up a lot and learned a lot last year and this season. If he can further advance that maturation process going into the 2011-12 season, the Kings will have an even stronger one-two punch in goal.
That said, there is a small chance that Bernier could find himself being dangled out there as trade bait, as there are several teams in dire need of quality goaltending. Bernier could be included in a package deal to bring in the top line winger the Kings so desperately need.
In the next installment of this 2010-11 Year-In-Review, Frozen Royalty will look at the Los Angeles Kings’ coaching staff and front office.
2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Were Reminiscent Of A Roller Coaster Ride
2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Year-In-Review: Evaluating The Forwards
2010-11 Los Angeles Kings Year-In-Review: Coaches And Front Office Had Their Ups and Downs, Too
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