Los Angeles Kings: Midseason Player Grades

Jason LewisCorrespondent IIJanuary 13, 2012

Los Angeles Kings: Midseason Player Grades

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    We're 44 games in now, and the Western Conference is as heated as ever.

    The Kings have been up and down this season, suffered through goal-less droughts to multiple stars, a coach firing, and a dead last ranked offense.

    As we enter the second half of the 82-game season, let's look back at who was an A, who was an F, and everything in between.

Jonathan Bernier

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    You've got to really feel for Jonathan Bernier. 

    The infrequently used Kings back up is trying to gain starts over All-star and projected Vezina finalist Jonathan Quick.

    Bernier hasn't exactly helped himself out, though in the eight games he has started. He carries a 3-4-1 record, a 2.73 GAA, and a save percentage of .895.

    But along with Bernier not helping himself out, neither has his team. With Bernier in net, the Kings offense has mustered little in goal support, giving him on average, only 1.33 goals per games.

    Bernier has performed admirably when he has been called on and he still has a lot of potential, but this season he has been nothing more then an average back up.

    Mid-Season Grade: C

Dustin Brown

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    The Kings captain has truly played like one this season.

    On a team that lacks offense and has players heading in to double-digit game streaks without goals, Brown has quietly averaged a .5 point per game pace and has never gone more then seven games without finding twine.

    Now, it's not exactly Ovechkin PPG numbers, but it's a little consistency on an inconsistent team. 

    Brown also leads the team with five game winning goals and 156 hits.

    At this current rate, he is on pace for a 45 to 46 point season, which would be a career low. However, the contributions from Brown have been about more than just numbers in a stat column this year with so many struggles team wide.

     

    Mid-Season Grade: A-

Kyle Clifford

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    The Gritty, now 21 year old (January 13th, Happy birthday Cliffy), impressed a lot of people last year with his tenacious style.

    But if the sophomore slump needs evidence of being real, Clifford is a player to look at. 

    For 30 to 35 games, Clifford looked like he had lost that edge that people loved so much in him. There was talk amongst many fans that Clifford might be better served in the AHL.

    Thankfully, under gritty coach Daryl Sutter, he has picked his game up considerably. With Clifford it's never about the points, but he is on pace to finish under last season's rookie performance of 14. 

    The old Clifford is coming back around and looks to have a big second 41. But for the first half of this season, he looked like a puppy rather then a big red dog.

    Mid-Season Grade: D+


Drew Doughty

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    This is a tough one. I know a lot of people are still peeved about this offseason and will likely yell "F!" the minute they hit this slide.

    You're justified. Doughty has been extremely frustrating all around this year. Let's, for the sake of this grade though, judge him just for his on-ice play.

    And it really hasn't been any less frustrating. Battling through an early injury, Doughty sincerely looked like he missed training camp. Many a night he has looked a massive step behind attacking forwards, and his decision making has been less than sharp.

    Again, a common trend, he has started to find his game under Darryl Sutter. But Doughty, who has just three goals in 39 games and one on the powerplay, needs to step up. He's on pace for a career worst 36-38 points. 

    If he and the Kings want to succeed, there needs to be more flashes of consistent brilliance which garnered his lofty price tag and less flashes of utter bonehead.

     

    Mid-Season Grade: D

Davis Drewiske

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    That's right, I am going to give a little love to Davis Drewiske.

    Let's keep this short and sweet. He has played only seven games. But he's played a pretty solid seven games. For a while, he was actually outscoring several Kings forwards with his two goals.

    Drewiske comes of the bench infrequently, and when he does I usually cringe. However, this season, I haven't had a problem seeing him in the line up. Responsible 7/8th defensemen are hard to come by sometimes.

    Mid-Season Grade: B

Colin Fraser

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    Colin Fraser's circumstances upon arriving to L.A. were not in any way shape or form, prime. 

    He was the return in a highly controversial trade with Edmonton for aging vet, Ryan Smyth. A trade that left a bitter taste in a lot of folks' mouths. 

    Fraser, though, has lessened that bitter taste just a touch.

    Fraser is what he is, a gritty 4th line player. He isn't going to get more then five goals in a season and he isn't going to play more than probably seven or eight minutes a night.

    But Fraser has brought a huge effort centering the Kings 4th line and has even contributed on the penalty kill. Given his role on the team, I have been pleasantly surprised with his performance this season.

    Mid-Season Grade: B

Simon Gagne

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    I have been holding my breath all season whenever Gagne stepped onto the ice. I can finally exhale though, because yes, he is hurt. And likely he is done for the season with a concussion.

    No surprise, really, given his history. But while Gagne was healthy, he was a bit of a mixed bag of inconsistency. Much like the team.

    Before going on IR, Gagne was on his 17th game without a goal. But in the prior 17, he had seven. 

    Bouncing around from line to line, Gagne never quite found his feet, although there were games when he played with Kopitar where he looked to take hold of his former 30 goal self.

    But all in all, it's been an inconsistent season that has likely ended in what many probably foresaw back in July when he signed here. And you really didn't need to be Nostradamus to predict it that way either.

    Mid-Season Grade: C+

Matt Greene

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    Greene is a worker. He's one of those guys that you'd never know was on the ice until he wasn't.

    He does his job and he does it well. Plain and simple. 

    Greene has also had to take reigns in the locker room this season with fellow captain Dustin Brown when the team was floundering.

    While he has sometimes been victim in making foolish mistakes, Greene has been invaluable. As have all the Kings shutdown men for that matter. They aren't in the top five in penalty killing and team defense for nothing.

    Mid-Season Grade: B+

Trent Hunter

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    Hunter was brought here to help with depth on the bottom six. While he hasn't been bad by any means, he hasn't been great.

    I can think of one simple statement that really sums up Trent Hunter best:

    An average player on a below average bottom six.

    Mid-Season Grade: C 

Jack Johnson

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    Ah, the much debated Jack Johnson.

    Let's just get it out of the way right now, he's not very good in his own zone. Period. He makes some smart heads up plays but that +/- is not some mystical number that doesn't tell a story. Jack gets burned, a lot, in his own zone.

    But, where he makes it up is his keen offensive zone ability. He has 20 points through 44 games and is on pace to have a career year in goals.

    He also has four game winning goals and has been a key player on the Kings powerplay.

    If you are judging Jack Johnson based on an all-around game, you'd almost have to say it evens out. I don't think he has been bad by any means. I'll take his - play if he can keep contributing to a stagnant offense, and an uncreative powerplay.

    And let's face it, he's cheaper and playing better then Drew Doughty.

    Mid-Season Grade: B-

Anze Kopitar

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    The Kings main man. 40 points in 44 games. An all-star? uuuuh....well....uuuh...that's a different debate for a different day I suppose.

    Kopitar has been good. He hasn't avoided the plague of the goal-less streak though, which at one time was 17 games.

    But Kopitar still was contributing to the team. During said streak, he had 11 assists. So honestly it's hard to complain about the play of Kopitar too much. Yeah, I would really like it if he took over games ala Malkin, or Crosby. But that's just not him.

    He's having a great year; he's on pace for almost 80 points and he has been a big difference maker this season.

    Mid-Season Grade: A

Trevor Lewis

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    I like Trevor Lewis. I like his game. I like his work ethic. But my god he doesn't have any finishing skills at all.

    It's been tough for Lewis to find the net. He scored his first goal, 43 games later, last night. And it's really not for lack of trying. Lewis has really been part of a bottom six that hasn't been good almost all year. And yes he has to take some blame for that.

    Scoring one goal in 34 games played isn't going to get you nods. Like I said before, he brings a great element of speed to the Kings lineup and he is a hard worker. But you gotta start finding the net Lewy.

    Mid-Season Grade: D+

     

Andrei Loktionov

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    Loktionov has suffered a similar goal-less fate as Trevor Lewis. He has yet to register a goal in his 23 games this season.

    However, when you watch Loktionov play, especially since Sutter has taken over, it's been REAL good. He isn't a goal scorer; Loktionov is a pass first player. And watching his patience on the puck and his heads up presence this year for an extended amount of time has been a joy.

    The points will come eventually, but you can really see Loktionov developing his calling at the NHL level. This is something that he has struggled to do the past two seasons.

    A gifted and nifty puck mover, I feel like these 23 games, albeit underwhelming in the stat column, have been very fruitful in Loktionov's development.

    Mid-Season Grade: B

Alec Martinez

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    Alec Martinez, the big surprise of the Kings defensive corps last season, has really fallen as quickly as he rose.

    A lot of that I think has to do with the ascension of Slava Voynov. Something is missing from A-Marts game. And it's confidence. There was a swagger to him last season that has really been curtailed this year.

    Maybe it's because the new young gun on defense is Voynov? I think it definitely has played a part. Martinez, a defender counted on for his offensive contribution, has just two goals and as many points in 23 games. His -5 also doesn't look so appealing.

    I seriously wonder if he can win the starting job back from Voynov in both the short term and the long term.

    Mid-season Grade: D+

Willie Mitchell

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    Just like Matt Greene, I don't know where the Kings would be without Willie Mitchell. Just another member of the trio of shut down veterans who have carried the Kings defense first mentality to a fantastic level.

    Mitchell has a great presence about his game, and has really helped out rookie Slava Voynov with his calming presence on the ice as well.

    Mitchell has been huge in all defensive categories and has played a great season so far. And even though I look away when he gets in a fight for fear of injury, you have to love that he does that for his teammates every so often.

    Mid-Season Grade: A

Dustin Penner

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    When the most notable thing you have done in the last 30 games or so is hurt yourself eating pancakes, it hasn't been a good season.

    Let's say one thing though, the effort of Penner compared to last season has been much improved. I can't stress that enough. He isn't coasting or looking gassed after a 30 second shift. His effort looks better.

    But the bottom line is: Penner is not scoring. And that is precisely why he was brought to L.A. 

    He has two goals in 32 games. That's just not enough. I hate to be harsh with this grade because like I said before, he's been better. But if you buy a car with the intent to use it for transportation, and it doesn't run...that's a pretty bad car.

    Mid-Season Grade: F 

Mike Richards

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    A lot of people will argue that Mike Richards has been the Kings' best skater this season.

    I will say that Richards has been great, and you could very much toss his hat into that ring, but he hasn't been the best on the team.

    That being said, Richards has been a big contributor this year. He is second on the team in scoring, and is tied for the team lead in goals with 13.

    It's been rough for him with the transition out west, then dealing with a concussion. But he has been a consistent player who brings a ton of effort every night.

    Until recently, I think it's easily debatable that he has been the Kings' best skater. I would toss my vote to Brown for multiple reasons, but Richards is certainly right there.

    Mid-Season Grade: A-

Brad Richardson

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    Another one of those bottom six effort players that hasn't really been finding the net.

    Richardson, like Lewis, brings a fantastic element of speed and effort to the lineup. And while he does have three goals (woo woo), he hasn't put up quite the numbers many were expecting.

    However, one thing Richardson does bring is a nasty edge to his game that often can get players on the other team frustrated. 

    The line of Lewis - Loktionov - Richardson has been a real fun one to watch under Sutter, and a lot of it has to do with the tenacity that Richardson brings.

    Again, like Lewis, his hands haven't been there for most of the season. But Richardson always brings 110%.

    Mid-Season Grade: C

Rob Scuderi

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    The final of the three shut down men. He too deserves a lot of praise for his level of defensive responsibility this season.

    While Scuderi's numbers might be the weakest of the three, he plays the most minutes of any of the shut down pairings and has the joy of matching up with other teams' best forwards.

    If you need an example of what Scuderi means to the team, go watch the replay of the Kings and the Capitals. Ovechkin was hounded by Scuderi every time he was on the ice.

    Mid-Season Grade: B+

Jarret Stoll

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    Where do you start with Jarret Stoll? When Handzus left, Stoll was expected to pick up the bottom six centering the third line.

    It has been a real rocky first 40 some odd games to say the least.

    In a common theme, Stoll has had trouble scoring. Until recently (the last 10 games), he had just two goals in 31 games. He also leads the team in minor penalties which also adds to the frustration fans have.

    However, there are always the faceoffs, which again, Stoll sits among the league's best. But given the team's scoring woes, having a pace of 9 goals over 82 games just isn't where it needs to be.

    Mid-Season Grade: D

Slava Voynov

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    Like Alec Martinez last season, Voynov has ascended to the ranks of the NHL and cracked into a Kings D-group that is probably one of the hardest to crack into.

    Voynon has been a great addition to the Kings blue line, and at the age of 21, the sky's the limit with him.

    He's shown some very solid, skilled play so far this season, but the truly impressive aspect of Voynov is the way he thinks the game.

    His 25 game NHL career so far has earned him 10 points and a +1 with just three minor penalties. He's had a very nice coming of age party this year and hopefully it's onwards and upwards.

    Mid-Season Grade: B+


Kevin Westgarth

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    Westgarth is the Kings' token enforcer. And really, he hasn't been a bad one either.

    He comes in, plays his six minutes of ice time, doesn't get in TOO much penalty trouble, and isn't a liability defensively.

    And look at that, he does have a goal this season, his first ever.

    Mid-Season Grade: C

Justin Williams

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    Justin Williams tries. He tries hard. Sometimes too hard.

    That's been the case a lot this season. Williams is always out there every shift trying to make something happen. Sometimes forcing the plays too often, sometimes getting frustrated and taking penalties.

    But Williams does show some emotion, which is nice. He has a rather low seven goals and 27 points. But I think it's fair to say Williams' contribution isn't always going to show up in the stat column. He'll win a battle in the corner but not necessarily get the assist. He'll screen a goalie but not get a tip.

    It's been an up and down season so far for him. But you can never question Williams' passion. Even if sometimes it seems like his brain is moving a lot faster then his body is capable of.

    Mid-Season Grade: C- 

Jonathan Quick

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    I saved Quick for last because I wanted to walk away from this article feeling good.

    All-Star: Yes

    Team MVP: Yes

    Vezina Candidate: Yes (as of right now)

    League MVP?: There have been murmurings.

    He leads the league in shutouts, and sports a .932 save percentage, a 1.98 GAA and an 18-11-7 record on a team with the worst ranked offense in the league.

    Safe to say this team would be well out of the playoffs if it weren't for the heroics of Jonathan Quick. He deserves all the praise he can get. Hopefully he can maintain this level of play for the rest of the season and playoffs (crosses fingers). 

    Mid-Season Rank: A+