Los Angeles Kings: 2011-12 Season Grades for Bottom-6 Forwards
I think in more ways than one, after reviewing the Kings' bottom-six in the postseason, they were responsible for a huge number of victories.
However, during the regular season, they were responsible for headaches, losses, and a lack of production on multiple occasions.
Depth ultimately dictates a lot of teams playoffs runs and regular season successes. When the scoring doesn't come from the top, it is picked up from other areas.
There were some guys in the bottom-six this year that played very well and filled that role. Then there are others who would probably like to forget this season of their career...aside from winning the Stanley Cup that is.
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Regular Season: 78 GP, 6 G, 15 A, 21 P, +2, 60 PIM
Postseason: 20 GP, 2 G, 3 A, 5 P, +5, 18 PIM
Let's just start with what is likely the most disappointing player in the bottom set of forwards.
Jarret Stoll had a very weak year. How weak? 21 points was less than half of his point total last season. Six goals was almost a fourth of his goal production from the previous season. He led the team with an unprecedented 30 minor penalties.
So what went right?
Stoll had a ton of hits this season, he was a plus-2, played very valuable penalty killing minutes and, as usual, led the team in faceoffs for a third consecutive season.
Stoll does the little things right. He always has and probably always will. However, it seemed he only did the little things right this season.
I don't think anyone expects Stoll to be a 20-30-goal guy every year. But you do expect him to get north of ten goals. You could also expect a little more discipline from a veteran. It's hard for the Kings to use their best faceoff man on big penalty killing draws when he is consistently in the box.
Nonetheless, Stoll came around during the playoffs. He and linemates Trevor Lewis and Dwight King terrorized a lot of teams. Oh, and he also played a part in maybe one of the biggest 5-on-3 penalty kills in the team's history early on in Game Three of the Finals.
Regardless, a decent stretch of twenty games doesn't, at least in my eyes, make up for a really rough regular season.
Final Grade: D
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Regular Season: 27 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 P, +3, 10 PIM
Postseason: 20 GP, 5 G, 3 A, 8 P, +3, 13 PIM
We go from disappointment to a very nice surprise.
Did anyone see Dwight King coming? Yes, we had a look at him last year, in eight relatively unremarkable games.
But there we were, a year later, and Dwight King was reinventing what the words "power forward" meant for the Kings' lineup.
It's hard to judge King on the whole given his relatively small sample size of 47 total games. What we can do, however, is realize that in 47 games, 20 of which were postseason on a cup-winning team, he did one hell of a job.
At a pace of nearly .5 points-per-game in his rookie season, King eased the ache of an unproductive regular season Dustin Penner. When the playoff games came and King was relegated to the 3rd line, he became a nasty, physical forechecker that was nearly impossible to knock off the puck.
It never was about being fancy this season with the 22-year-old. It was about dirty, gritty, and hard-working goals. He got ten of them, which is a good start.
King has likely played himself into full-time NHL duty for next season with his solid effort and simple, yet effective game.
A good all-round, albeit abbreviated season from the big man.
Final Grade: B+
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Regular Season: 72 GP, 3 G, 4 A, 7 P, -3, 26 PIM
Postseason: 20 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 P, +7, 2 PIM
When Trevor Lewis was drafted in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft he was billed as a poor man's Rod Brind'Amour. Unfortunately, Lewis more or less has the hands of Rod Langway.
I think one word sums up the season of Lewis under Terry Murray: frustration.
He was unproductive, a healthy scratch at times, and seemingly had no role on the team.
Enter Darryl Sutter. Lewis went from a fourth-line bounce-around jack-of-all-trades forward to a third-line right wing.
He stayed there almost the whole time from the hiring of Sutter to the raising of the cup.
Lewis has never been a real scoring threat, as you can see from his point totals. However, after last season a lot of people were hoping for more. Lewis is another guy who does the little things right, and he lost his way a little bit this year.
The sophomore slump was clearly evident with the 25-year-old Lewis. But come postseason he was a great asset. His speed, physicality, and defensive responsibility were key to his success.
He didn't have a good regular season, but he had a fantastic playoffs. With nine points, Lewis was actually the leading scorer for the Kings outside of the top two lines.
Hopefully next year Lewis has a regular season that is more like his playoff performances.
Final Grade: C
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Regular Season: 67 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 P, -2, 67 PIM
Postseason: 18 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, -1, 4 PIM
It's really easy to overlook Colin Fraser. However, he is exactly what you want from a fourth line center.
He was in and out of the lineup, normally centering younger players, and was playing limited minutes.
But let's go back to June of last season. Colin Fraser was part of a very controversial trade involving unhappy veteran forward Ryan Smyth, whose wish to go to Edmonton and only Edmonton put the organization in a very difficult position.
In return, the Kings received an injured Gilbert Brule. The deal was nixed by the NHL. Then the Oilers offered up Colin Fraser, who was also injured, but it was only discovered after the Kings had received him.
Regardless of the finger-pointing and blame-laying of the circumstance, Fraser came here in a whirlwind of controversy, with a broken bone in his foot.
But he did a more than admirable job stabilizing the Kings' fourth line when he finally did get in the lineup.
Fraser is a guy that every team needs. While he doesn't provide flashy offensive plays or a world of goals and points, he's a reliable player and a favorite in the locker room.
Just recently he earned himself another two years with the organization. I say job well done, and reward well earned, Colin.
Final Grade: B
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Regular Season: 22 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 P, +2, 28 PIM
Postseason: 20 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, +1, 21 PIM
Another huge surprise this season was the emergence of former seventh-round draft pick Jordan Nolan.
Nolan, who fancies to be a tough guy/power forward-type, was brought up mid-year after a series of failed experiments with Trent Hunter, Ethan Moreau, and Andrei Loktionov.
Nolan instantly became a favorite with his enthusiasm, physical play, and extremely good hands. Nolan sees the ice very well, and has an incredible amount of patience with the puck.
If there was a player in recent memory who he reminds me of I would have to say Wayne Simmonds.
The 22-year-old Nolan didn't have a full year to impact the team, and like King, it's tough to grade him based on the small sample size.
But he was a shot in the arm to a team that was struggling. His role on the team was energy, and the Kings definitely got it.
He fits the team's system very well, and plays a pretty smart game, aside from the occasional bad penalty.
Nolan has also likely played himself into a full-time gig as a reliable NHL role player.
The rookie season was good, now let's see where it goes from here.
Final Grade: B
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Regular Season: 81 GP, 5 G, 7 A, 12 P, -5, 123 PIM
Postseason: 3 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, -1, 2 PIM
On the whole, it was a really rough second season for young Kyle Clifford.
Still just 21, Clifford has a lot to look forward to, but the struggles of being a consistent impact player in the NHL really weighed on him.
If you remember from last season, in two consecutive fights Clifford took a rather sound beating from St. Louis forward Ryan Reeves, and was then ripped open by Anaheim's Sheldon Brookbank. After that, Clifford was never really the same.
He fought less, fought worse, and was a little more tentative with his physical play. It's hard to fault a guy for that.
But, in the NHL, when you play tentatively it shows. Clifford was tentative for a good majority of the season. His decision-making with the puck was sketchy, he took a lot of undisciplined penalties, and was less of a physical presence.
At this point, it might be a good idea for Kyle Clifford to spend a year in the AHL rekindling his confidence. He is still very young and has a bright future, but he needs to get confident in his game and pick up the swagger he had in his rookie season.
Final Grade: D-
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Regular Season: 59 GP, 5 G, 3 A, 8 P, -6, 30 PIM
Postseason: 13 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 P, Even, 4 PIM
I think it's easy to misunderstand Brad Richardson.
Sometimes you think he has the capability of being a 20-point player and dynamic role player. But like most of the Kings' team this season, he was streaky, and had trouble finding the net.
For what it's worth, Richardson was a solid role player, and a useful utility man. He played any and all forward positions, and played on practically every line. He even played time on the first and second line in a goalscoring role under Terry Murray.
You can't fault the player for coach mismanagement.
Richardson struggled. But he also did very well with the time on ice, and situations he was given. He never really had consistent linemates, nor did he ever have a very defined role under Terry Murray.
He found himself during stints of the season, but it really wasn't much to write home about.
He was average. And an average season yields an average grade.
Final Grade: C