5 Los Angeles Kings Who Must Improve in 2013-14
It's easy to pick out the Los Angeles Kings' flaws of late, as they've lost seven of their last 10 games.
Something has to change. And if the Kings hope to have any chance of passing the Anaheim Ducks in the Central Division, that change must happen immediately.
The Kings rely on defense—allowing only one or two goals per game—to win. But, if their offense can't score two or three times, that strong defensive effort has obviously gone to waste.
With that in mind, here are the five Kings who must improve as the second half of the 2013-14 season continues.
It's been a tough season for defenseman Matt Greene.
The strong shutdown blueliner, who missed time because of a concussion early in the season, has been a healthy scratch as of late, and when he did play against Vancouver on Monday, he left the game with an upper-body injury after fighting Kevin Bieksa in the second period.
According to Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times, Dean Lombardi has stated Greene won't join the team on its four-game road trip.
Greene is not the type of defenseman who will contribute offensively. Instead, he needs to show he can be significantly better in the defensive zone than Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez. If he can do that and prove he's still a solid penalty-killer, he should earn more playing time down the stretch.
That is, if he's healthy.
Surprised? Yes, Mike Richards, who is second on the Kings with 30 points, is a player that needs to improve.
It's not that Richards is one of the Kings' worst players as of late, it's the fact that he's not playing to his potential. Richards was never in the Olympic conversation. Not even as a long shot. This is a player who played a key role in Canada's gold medal run in 2010 and has been a dynamic, two-way forward for L.A. since joining the team.
He's on pace to score just eight goals, which would tie a career low. And, Jeff Carter, who's appeared in 10 fewer games and rarely plays a physical game, has four more hits than Richards this season.
Richards needs to get back to doing what he does best: playing a smart two-way game, making big hits and getting pucks to the net.
Kyle Clifford has been flying under the radar for most of this season, and that's not a good thing.
He's in the first year of a two-year contract that comes with a cap hit of just over $1 million. And yet, his numbers are down from last season.
He notched seven goals and seven assists for 14 points while appearing in all 48 games in 2012-13. This season he's recorded just five points through 38 games.
At 6'2", 211 pounds, Clifford plays an important physical role for the Kings, but he still needs to work on staying out of the penalty box. Taking fewer minor penalties while continuing to make good, hard hits—like Dustin Brown—should allow Clifford to thrive.
In other words, limit turnovers and play a simple, physical game, and the offensive chances will come.
Dustin Brown will be the first to tell you he needs to be better.
The L.A. captain started off the season slow both offensively and physically. He's picked up the hitting lately but continues to struggle to produce points.
Brown had 29 points in 46 games last season. Through 46 games in 2013-14, he has recorded just 16 points.
Brown has looked better as of late, playing on a line with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams. The trio has controlled possession of the puck and created a number of good chances. Brown's biggest area to focus on improving should be the man advantage. He hasn't had fewer than seven power-play goals in a season dating back to 2006-07, but he has just one this year.
If he wants to play a big role for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics, the pesky power forward needs to turn things around in a hurry.
It's been said throughout the season and will continue to be said until there is a major change in his game: Matt Frattin has not been the player the Kings expected when they acquired him from the Maple Leafs.
Frattin has spent a few games in the press box as a healthy scratch and ranks 15th on the team with just six points in 32 games.
The 26-year-old needs to be a more consistent player and have an impact in all three zones. Doing the little things well—like outworking opponents along the boards or driving hard to the net—is a must each game. This should lead to more ice time and more scoring chances for both Frattin and his linemates.