The Weakest Link at Every Position for the Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings made a few minor roster changes this offseason, but nothing that altered the core of the team.
General manager Dean Lombardi is clearly happy with his club, which, barring injuries, should make a deep playoff run again next season. The Kings lineup is littered with determined, physical, two-way hockey players.
But, for a team that boasts great depth, there are still a few weak links at each position.
Here is a closer look at those players.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
Salary information courtesy of Capgeek.com.
Goaltender: Ben Scrivens
One of the newest members of the Kings is goaltender Ben Scrivens. He and Matt Frattin were acquired from Toronto in the trade that sent Jonathan Bernier to the Maple Leafs.
Scrivens is the weakest link in goal by default, as just about any netminder on a team with Jonathan Quick would be.
Scrivens appeared in 20 games during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, compiling a 7-9 record. He finished with a .915 save percentage, 2.69 goals-against average and two shutouts. It was a noteworthy campaign for the 26-year-old, who seemed confident in goal and appeared to deal well with the pressures of playing in Toronto.
Scrivens made significant progress from first NHL season in 2012, where he appeared in 12 games going 4-5-2 with a .903 save percentage, 3.13 GAA and no shutouts.
Quick is well suited to play in over 60 games, meaning Scrivens shouldn’t see much game time. But, if Quick were to miss extensive time due to an injury, would Scrivens be good enough to keep the Kings alive?
He did jump in for James Reimer at times in Toronto, but never for a long period of time. In fact, Scrivens has just 32 games of NHL experience and has never played more than 39 games in an AHL season. On top of that, the Kings are heavily dependent on their goaltending, as they often have trouble scoring.
For the Kings to reach their ultimate goal, Quick will have to be playing consistently and at an elite level.
Defense: Willie Mitchell
Willie Mitchell has had a great career in the NHL, highlighted by a Stanley Cup win in 2012 with the Kings. When healthy, he’s a smart, physical and highly effective stay-at-home defenseman.
Unfortunately for the Kings, Mitchell’s future is still in doubt because of ongoing knee problems, which caused him to miss all of last season. That alone makes him the team’s weakest link on the blue line at this point in time.
Mitchell had surgery on the knee in December and again early in April to clean up debris. And between surgeries he underwent “platelet-rich plasma therapy,” according to NHL.com.
The 36-year-old is working toward a return, but there is no guarantee he will start, or play at all in the 2013-14 season.
General manager Dean Lombardi commented on Mitchell’s status in mid June, via NBCSports.com’s Pro Hockey Talk.
I mean, we all know how good a player this guy is, how instrumental he is, his fit with his partner there, Voynov. And now, like I said, all the indications are positive in terms of his health. But that could change tomorrow. I can’t give you a definitive answer; it’s a moving target.
What makes the situation worse for Lombardi and the Kings is that Mitchell’s contract carries an annual cap hit of $3.5 million. That’s a significant chunk of change for a team with little cap space and a few restricted free agents to sign.
Left Wing: Dwight King
Dwight King typically finds himself on LA’s third line, usually alongside Jarret Stoll and Trevor Lewis.
However, despite missing just one game all season, King managed just four goals and six assists for 10 points and was a minus-three. What makes that point total more disappointing is the fact that King put up 14 points in just 27 games the year before.
At 6'4", 232 pounds, King has tremendous size, but hasn’t yet developed into a feared power forward. He needs to use his bulky frame to his advantage by being more physical below the red line and along the boards. King also needs to find a way to have a more consistent impact on offense.
There is no reason King can’t take these strides to become a more well-rounded player, not unlike Kyle Clifford.
King is set to enter the second year of a two-year, $1.5 million contract and will become a restricted free agent in the offseason.
Center: Colin Fraser
The Kings have a group of strong, skilled players down the middle including Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and at times, Jeff Carter.
That leaves Colin Fraser to take a spot at the bottom of the depth chart.
The 28-year-old has won Stanley Cups with both the Blackhawks (2010) and Kings (2012). But, he played a very limited role in both victories.
Fraser is a typical fourth-line center in that he offers little offensively. He had just two goals and five assists in 34 games last season and was second-to-last on the Kings in average ice time. He also struggles in the faceoff circle and won just 46.4 percent of his draws last season. At 6’1”, 189 pounds, Fraser doesn’t have good size, which can make play along the boards or in corners all the more difficult.
For Fraser to earn more ice time, he will have to be more disciplined and limit the number of trips he makes to the penalty box. That said, Fraser must continue to be physical, especially on the forecheck, but avoid crossing the line.
Right Wing: Jordan Nolan
The Kings are short on right wingers, and although often listed as a center, Jordan Nolan has spent considerable time playing the right side on the fourth line.
Currently a restricted free agent, we will assume Nolan is with the Kings to start next season. The 24-year-old son of former NHL player and head coach Ted Nolan, should be signed to an easily affordable contract given his performance last year.
Nolan averaged just 8:28 in ice time, the lowest of any player on the Kings. He appeared in all but four games, scoring two goals and four assists. Although he’s better at drawing penalties than linemate Colin Fraser, the risk still outweighs the reward when Nolan takes to the ice.
He is tough and plays a gritty style, but still has trouble helping the Kings maintain pressure in the offensive zone. Too often Nolan ends up spending most of his shifts in his own end.
Another issue is Nolan’s lack of improvement from one season to the next. He appeared in all 20 playoff games en route to the Stanley Cup in 2012, but was in and out of the lineup this year, playing just seven of the Kings' 18 playoff games after appearing in 44 regular-season contests.
Nolan must become a more effective player 2013, or he may end up spending time in the press box.