The Los Angeles Kings have arrived at the All-Star break with a better record than last year, but still leaving many wanting for even more improvement. There is a plan we are told, but faith is hard to hold on to when the team has dropped 11 out of the last 17 games.
Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty have been dispatched to Montreal for the festivities; hopefully they will cover the Crown Jersey's with glory while among the league's best.
Grades and comments on the players for their work to date this season, presented here in alphabetical order, skaters first:
Stats key: goals+assists=points, plus/minus, penalty minutes
D- If being a good guy and oozing veteran leadership in the locker room were measurable commodities, he would have headed to Montreal with Brown and Doughty. Instead, this slow checker with questionable hands and a collection of termite riddled sticks needs to understand his time has passed and coaching is the way for him to best make a contribution to the game. Stats: 23 games 3+1=4, -9, 21.
F Now at the age of 24, is he a first round bust or just around the corner from showing what he can really do. He needs to play better defensively and not take foolish penalties. At 6'7" and 252 pounds, you don't want to give up on a specimen like this too soon. The question is what is going on between his ears. Stats: 20 games 1+1=2, -11, 18 with Kings. 13 games 4+7=11 , 4, 35 at Manchester.
A The captain's "C" has fit nicely on his jersey. He does not seem to try and too much to justify the role, which is a trap many younger players can fall into. He leads the team with 168 hits which comes as no surprise, but there is no rest for the wicked as he logs about four minutes on the power play and two minutes killing penalties. His five game winning goals leads the team as does his average of over four shots per game and is 3+2=7 on the power play. Stats: 46 games 17+16=33, -3, 42
C- Hot as of late to lift his numbers slightly, but has disappeared in large stretches. He's very replaceable, but holding his spot due to many of the kids not being ready for prime time. Bouncing around can't help get him in sync with linemates either. A defensive assist, could be moved in the next few months. Stats: 41 games 6+10=16, 3, 27
A+ Came to town highly praised and has justified every accolade. He is a natural defenseman who is not fazed by the speed of the game. Reminds one of Alexi Zhitnik with his cool under pressure in his own zone at this tender age. Has shown offensive flashes while keeping faith with Coach Terry Murray's defensive first strategy. He leads team with around 24 minutes a game ice time, four on power play and 2:30 shorthanded. His points are almost evenly split between even and power play. Stats: 45 games 3+12=15, -2, 36
B+ The Kings leading scorer, has struggled early on with his defense but may have recently turned the corner with that part of his game. He sees over two minutes shorthanded and three minutes on the power play per game. Leads team with eight power play goals and has one of the Kings two shorthanded tallies. His grade is lower as he has always shown flashes of brilliance over his career mixed with episodes of disappearance. Could be dealt if Kings try to obtain a higher end player. Stats: 46 games 20+11=31, -1, 18
D A troglodyte, viciously inept defensively and clueless on the offensive end. He ranks second on the team with 120 hits and 65 blocked shots. Often enjoys front row seating for opposing goals, his presence is even more vile when you consider all Kings GM Lombardi had to do was pick up the phone and tell Rob Blake to come on back. Instead King fans have to suffer with dreck like this. Stats: 42 games 0+2=2, -9, 39
B- Came to town as part of the Lubomir Visnovsky deal, then given a long contract and tabbed as an alternate captain at the end of training camp. Has given the Kings fairly solid defensive effort, leading team with 101 blocked shots and is third with 113 hits. Offense is wanting as he seems to have half of his shots blocked before reaching the faceoff dots. Stats: 46 games 1+7=8, 5, 65
B A vast improvement over last season, has already matched previous year's goal total and shy by only one assist. A key contributor both shorthanded at about 3:30 and power play at almost 3:00 a game, he has won 51.6 percent of faceoffs while taking the second most on the team. This is the player Kings thought they were getting last year. Stats: 46 games 7+13=20, -3, 18
D Listed at 5'11" but plays much smaller, he is miscast as an NHL defenseman, getting worked over by many forwards down low. Has some offensive skill, and he should be moved up as a winger to take advantage of his tools. Seeing over three minutes per game on power play, has almost same numbers even strength and with the man advantage. Stats: 38 games 3+8=11, -7, 18
D Resident tough guy, he often loses to other teams goons and too often taken by lighter players as well. It's sad to think Kings kept him over George Parros. Playing only 6:30 a game, is on roster only due to lack of better alternative. Stats: 45 games 2+0=2, -7, 93
INC Just coming back from shoulder surgery, has only played in five games. Last year's top rookie, should make a nice combination with Doughty for years to come if he can stay healthy. Scored sweet goal in last game against Colorado. Stats: 5 games 1+0=1, -1, 10
B The Kings top player by far, encountered some difficulty this year adjusting to Coach Murray's defensive style as well as being the shut down target of opposing teams. Defensive play is improving but scoring has been erratic. Leads team with 52.8 percent on face-offs and over four minutes of power play time a game, also sees almost two minutes on penalty kill. Often passes up his shot to try and bring others into the offense. He needs to be a bit more selfish with the puck. Has the other King short handed goal. Frequent target of trade rumors, if dealt should result in the termination of GM Lombardi. Stats: 46 games 12+25=37, -8, 16
C+ Injury while playing for Sweden has sidelined Moller for now. Has shown some offensive flair, but is still learning about life in the NHL at the ripe age of 20. Has done most of his damage on the power play with five goals, seeing about three minutes a game. Also used often to kill penalties, clocking in at about 2:30 per match. Kings look forward to offensive boost when he returns from injured reserve. Stats: 30 games 6+7=13, -2, 14
B- Returns to Los Angeles from the feathered fowls of O.C., brought back to help nurture Doughty and Johnson. Now in his 14th season, provides key defensive minutes, leading team with almost four minutes per game while shorthanded. Never a major offensive force, he fits well with the Kings new defensive minded approach. Stats: 46 games 0+6=6, 5, 46
B- Missed most of training camp with contract holdout, has not provided the hoped for offense so far, though his defensive presence has picked up. Sees over three minutes a game on the power play and more than two minutes per shorthanded. Leads team with three shootout goals, only player with more than one. Needs to turn it on in second half or could become trade bait. Stats: 45 games 10+16=26, 2, 8
F Firmly entrenched in Coach Murray's doghouse for perceived lack of effort, he is only let of his leash lately when Kings need an extra body on the blue line. More of an offensive defenseman, with the Kings struggles to score, his not being motivated is a bitter pill for the team and it's fans. When active, sees almost four minutes on the power play. Trade fodder for a desperate team. Stats: 22 games 3+4=7, -7, 6
D Splitting time with the Kings and at Manchester, another example of a youngster who has not taken advantage of his chances. Good size at 6'3" but not able to use it wisely. Has split his points between even strength and man advantage, seeing over two minutes per game power play time. At 23, he's another player too young to give up on yet. Stats: 17 games 1+6=7, -1, 2 with Kings. 23 games 9+10=19, 0, 6 at Manchester.
A- Outstanding waiver pickup from Detroit, is the Kings top scoring defenseman. Started slow on the defensive side after coming over, but play in his own end has improved during the season. Seeing over three minutes on the power play and almost two minutes shorthanded per game, total ice time is second only to Doughty. Good size at 6'2" and only 23, has laid out 70 hits but needs to cut back on occasional foolish penalties. Could be a King cornerstone for many years. Stats: 43 games 3+22=25, -2, 32
B- Another youngster with good size and offensive skill. 85 hits says he likes to take the body and doesn't tolerate foolishness from the opponents. Limited to even strength ice time so far. An exciting player who can develop into a solid second line winger. Needs to continue working of the defensive side of his game. Stats: 46 games 4+5=9, -4, 34
B+ The other player brought over from Edmonton in the Visnovsky trade, has provided quality in many areas. Sees almost three minutes of power play time and over two on the penalty kill per game. Has split his points between even strength and man advantage where he often plays the point. Solid in the defensive end, has laid out 92 hits, and has won 56.5 percent of faceoffs. He's a six footer who is entering his prime at the age of 26. Stats: 46 games 10+14=24, 7, 34
F A true cement head, he has yet to show the ability to play with any thought or understanding. About as rational as a rabid pitbull. Amazing he is allowed to collect a paycheck and wear an NHL sweater. He has 30 hits delivered and most likely as many misses leading to breakouts for the opposition. Specializes in delivering cheap shots to agitate the opposition. Stats: 20 games 0+0=0, -3, 37
B Has continued his fine netminding from the end of last season. Missed much of training camp to illness which lead to his waiting 10 games before seeing action. While small in stature, quick reflexes and catlike glove have led to many saves. Absorbs most shots, leaving few rebounds. Has ability to stick handle the puck, a rarity among recent King goalies. Questions about injury susceptibility of late. Stats: 8-7-3, 2.44 GAA, .901 save percentage
B+ Jumped line ahead of Jonathan Bernier, the fair-haired kid among King goalie prospects. Brought up when Ersberg was injured and wrestled the job away from the since traded Jason LaBarbera. Good size in the net, doesn't seem to panic when shots start ringing from all around. Great glove, doesn't give up many rebounds, not as skilled of a stick handler as Ersberg. Stats: 6-5-0, 2.45 GAA, .916 save percentage.
Is this a playoff team? Not the way it is presently structured. Major moves seem unlikely and a couple of nice but less valuable parts may be dealt around the trading deadline for more draft picks next year.
Ah yes, next year. That's when some hefty bills will be coming due. Otherwise it will be villagers with pitchfork time around the Staples Center.