Los Angeles Kings' Player Grades for 2013-14 Regular Season
The Los Angeles Kings wrapped up their regular season with a 4-3 shootout loss against the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday. They’re set to face the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs in what should be a tightly contested series.
Before we get into the postseason, though, let’s take a look back at L.A.’s past 82 games.
Many Kings revealed themselves as pleasant surprises over the course of the year while a few higher-profile names struggled through disappointing campaigns.
Here are the Los Angeles Kings’ player grades for the 2013-14 regular season.
Only current L.A. players who appeared in at least 25 games for the Kings in 2013-14 find themselves in this slideshow—thus disqualifying Marian Gaborik, Martin Jones, Linden Vey, Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin.
Grades were handed out relative to player expectations and the list is ordered from worst to best full-season performances.
L.A.’s captain suffered through a wretched year: 27 points in 79 games (0.34 points per game compared to his career average of 0.61 PPG prior to 2013-14) and a drop in ice time of almost four minutes per game.
Brown simply could not find his game for much of the year, bogging down whichever line on which he was placed with ill-advised turnovers and hopeless plays through the middle of the ice. He was a complete albatross who seemingly no longer fit anywhere on the roster.
Those are harsh words for a player who should ostensibly be leading the way.
He’s fared better since a humiliating benching at the Sochi Olympics, registering 11 points in 21 games and returning to his effective crash-and-bang style on the third line with Jarret Stoll.
When he’s moving his feet and throwing his body around, he’s far more useful.
For much of the season, he was letting his teammates down with poor puck management and ending up on the wrong side of hits all too frequently.
Jordan Nolan boasts good size (6'3", 225 lbs) and great physicality.
That’s the extent of his NHL-caliber assets. Awful decisions with the puck and lousy discipline make him a liability more often than not, as he appears severely lacking in hockey sense.
On a Sutter-helmed team, the bottom six must be smart and remain within the team’s overarching structure. Nolan, for his part, frequently tries to filter passes through traffic or loses the puck cheaply along the boards.
Despite his frame, his cycle game leaves much to be desired and he’s easily bumped off possession.
There’s no debating whether or not he hits hard. However, he isn’t anywhere near consistent enough in this department to compensate for his shortcomings. Nolan was a minus player who barely saw nine minutes of ice time per game this season.
He should not be on the pro club next year.
Slava Voynov’s production (34 points in 82 games) was solid for a defenseman, but his puck-moving was atrocious. The third-year blueliner routinely held on to the puck way too long and continually fumbled it when finally making up his mind.
Instead of relying on his instincts, it seemed as though the 24-year-old was thinking too much on the ice, which slowed his decision-making to a halt.
As a result of his clumsy play, the Kings’ breakout was stifled and they were forced to defend more than they should have.
His relative Corsi of minus-6.1 suggests that the team’s possession game was much better when he wasn’t on the ice. This should not be the case for an offensive defenseman with Voynov's talent.
Strictly in terms of defensive coverage, he’s improved over the last five games or so, but was spotty on the whole.
2013-14 was a massive letdown after what appeared to be a breakout playoff campaign in 2013.
As I’ve already noted, Willie Mitchell doesn’t have much left in the tank. His defensive awareness still seems sharp enough, but his body has given up on him.
This is evidenced by a greater number of lost net-front battles than in previous years and the team’s worst penalty differential (penalties drawn minus penalties taken).
His issues are easier to cover up at even strength, when L.A.’s brilliant defense by committee reigns supreme, but his slower pace and weaker coverage have been exposed on the penalty kill. No Kings blueliner has allowed more power-play goals and he’s conceded the second-highest goals against per 60 four-on-five minutes among regular defensemen (over 2.00 TOI/60).
Furthermore, his execution with the puck has been abhorrent, failing to pull off simple plays such as zone clearances and dump-ins.
At this point, he’s more of a mentor than a key cog on the back end.
He and Matt Greene are also unrestricted free agents at season’s end. Management simply cannot afford to bring both back—in terms of salary-cap space and in-game contribution.
Though the outcome of games didn’t hinge on Colin Fraser’s performance, he could have been much better this season.
His grit is commendable, but he just wasn’t effective enough in important bottom-six facets such as cycling and defense. A minus player for the third straight year in L.A., Fraser does not possess the offensive upside to excuse such a pattern.
However, his faceoff percentage was on the right side of 50 and he offered decent penalty-killing in spot duty.
Nevertheless, he’s a UFA and isn’t sound enough in all three zones to be worth bringing back.
Richards’ struggles aren't exactly a secret. The two-way center is one of the Kings’ most pivotal figures, yet he was one of their greatest disappointments this season.
Despite a pass-first mentality, he hasn’t registered an assist in 22 games. Overall, he hasn’t notched a point in nine contests and finished with a modest 41 points in 82 games.
Sure, L.A.’s system isn’t offense-friendly (ranked 26th in goals per game), but a top-six center of Richards' quality should be closer to 50-55 points than 40 in a single season.
He’s clearly lost a step and is no longer a punishing hitter, either—at least in the regular season.
Richards’ great start to the year (27 points in 32 games, plus-six) was followed by a pitiful stretch that saw him muster a paltry 14 points in 50 games along with a minus-12 rating. He was also on the ice for the most even-strength goals against among Kings forwards while receiving favorable zone starts.
When he’s engaged and has a spring in his step, he’s still a terror on the ice. That’s just a much rarer sight these days.
He’ll have to prove his value in the playoffs to not write the entire year off as a flop. Thankfully, his impressive postseason history suggests he may elevate his game when it matters most.
Matt Greene’s situation isn’t far removed from Mitchell’s. They’re a pair of aging UFA blueliners who are now burdened by physical limitations.
This is especially concerning for Greene, who is typically the most intimidating Kings defenseman, licking his chops at the opportunity to bury opposing forwards along the boards and in front of his net.
That’s not as easy when your body won’t let you get there.
Now less mobile, Greene has been getting caught in no man’s land—neither close enough to smother the opposition at the source nor far back enough to defend the slot.
However, his win-at-all-costs mentality remains very palpable in the Kings’ game when he’s around. He forces the opposition to earn its ice and is always willing to pinch at the offensive blue line in order to extend shifts in the offensive zone.
This active, bracing approach to the game explains his high on-ice Corsi in spite of mediocre skill—he ensures that the puck doesn’t leave the opposition’s end, granting his teammates further chances to make plays.
There’s no glossing over his regressing overall performance, though. He’s not as effective with or without the puck and likely only has one good playoff run left in him.
Jake Muzzin is the picture of inconsistency.
One night, he’ll dominate opponents physically, put forth stout defense and appear threatening on the attack. The next night, he’ll panic due to the opposition’s forecheck, lose his man in coverage and have every shot he attempts blocked.
The ceiling is very high here, but it’s not clear whether he’ll ever reach it.
Muzzin sports a solid frame (6’3”, 215 lbs) and his possession stats are incredible. He also wasn’t a complete disaster on the top pair next to Drew Doughty, who saw the toughest quality of competition among Kings defensemen.
However, the 25-year-old still suffers from unforced turnovers and has trouble getting his shot by blockers.
If Muzzin can display a steadier game and develop a smarter shot selection, he’ll become a staple on L.A.’s back end.
In terms of pure offensive instincts, Tyler Toffoli might be third on the team behind Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik.
Sure, he looks to shoot quite often, but his vision and passing are criminally underrated.
Unfortunately, the other areas of his game need work. Though the effort’s there, the freshman is easily muscled off the puck and is too weak along the wall to clear the zone with opponents on his back.
As an offense-first player, he doesn’t need to be a two-way force, but he does need to pay attention to the details of the game to thrive in Sutter’s system.
Moreover, he’s going through an extended slump (12 points in his last 40 games), and with his drop in confidence have come a slew of poor, risky decisions that run counter to L.A.’s puck possession.
The 21-year-old will need to tighten up his game to see a decent amount of action in the playoffs. His current play has pushed him down from the second to the fourth line.
Showing improvement on defense and the forecheck, Kyle Clifford had a solid year.
His goals-against average per 60 minutes ranked second among Kings forwards and he passed the eye test by keeping a tight gap on his assignment for much of the season.
He was also solid in his minutes on the penalty kill.
Despite reaching and hitting the opposition on the forecheck with great frequency, though, he wasn’t effective enough on the cycle when he did retrieve the puck. He doesn’t seem to understand leverage, often leaving the puck exposed or his body in a position to get knocked off possession.
Also, he’s four years into his NHL career and his single-season high is seven goals. He notched three goals and five assists in 2013-14. It doesn’t appear as though he’ll blossom into anything more than a nice energy-line player.
Another promising rookie, Pearson struggled mightily during his first call-up. He managed only two points and a minus-two rating in his first 18 regular-season contests and appeared lost from a positioning standpoint.
When he returned, however, he brought with him the speed and peskiness that make him such an intriguing prospect.
By pressuring opponents with his pace and working hard in the corners, he turned his campaign around in March, registering five points and a plus-four rating in his last seven outings. His shot is also deceptively strong, surprising a couple of netminders when the puck would fly off his stick.
Alas, he dealt with inconsistency as well, alternating between real-deal top-sixer and confused youngster.
If he can polish off the rawness to his game while maintaining his emphasis on pure speed, he might be the long-term left-wing solution on the second line.
Many Kings could stand to take after Jarret Stoll’s tireless work ethic. His motor never stops running at any stage of a game and he finishes every check that’s within reach.
Granted, this incessant drive has led to more than a few boneheaded penalties, but his savvy defensive play and tenacious penalty-killing are invaluable. Based on this slideshow's 25-game minimum, he saw the second-toughest zone starts and the highest short-handed time on ice among Kings forwards this year.
Furthermore, his faceoff ability is critical, leading the team by winning 54.7 percent of his draws.
Even though he doesn’t put up as many points as fans would like (27 in 78 games this year), Stoll is one of the league’s finest third-line pivots and a vital defensive presence in L.A.
From January 11 to February 6, Justin Williams was limited to one point and a minus-five rating over 14 games. This dry spell coincided with his demotion to a lower line when Jeff Carter was promoted to the top unit in his place.
The veteran winger needs Anze Kopitar to produce.
Thankfully, Kopitar is also better with Williams to his right, as the pair of puck-possession monsters work off each other very well.
His on-ice Corsi ranked second on the club and in the entire league, and he battled as fiercely as he ever has in the corners to both retrieve and retain possession. His diligent work yielded 43 points and a plus-14 rating over 82 games, which amounts to a decent year for the 32-year-old.
His play has taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks, though. He’s still all over the puck, but he’s also giving it away at an alarming rate and in dangerous positions.
Williams will need to keep puck management in mind in the postseason.
Jeff Carter is the toughest nut to crack among Kings forwards.
His greatest strengths are his speed and shot, so it would appear he should be a winger. However, his play along the wall when trying to clear the puck can border on inexcusable, which suggests he should be lined up elsewhere.
At center, with the head of steam he’s capable of generating and his deadly wrister, he’s awfully dangerous. Conversely, he doesn’t possess the two-way instincts to hold opponents off the scoreboard as a pivot.
From March 22 to April 9—his longest stretch without Kopitar or Richards as his center—Time on Ice indicates that no forward was on the ice for more even-strength goals against than Carter.
He isn’t nearly as sound defensively as his improving reputation suggests. Pairing him with another natural center in Richards has led to many instances of miscommunication and blown coverage.
With all that said, he’s perhaps the King likeliest to make something out of nothing with his rocket shot and continually—as well as mystifyingly—underrated skating ability. On the season, he managed 27 goals and 50 points in 72 games.
Moreover, he’s terrific on the backcheck and the penalty kill due to his mobility and reach.
At 33, Robyn Regehr can’t hang with the opposition’s stars anymore. That much was evident early on in the year, as he was flustered on the top pair alongside Drew Doughty.
Once Sutter moved him to the second unit, where he would face easier competition, his play rapidly improved. He’ll never be a strong possession defenseman, but he keeps the game simple and his body between his assignment and L.A.’s net.
When he can get there, he’s still very physical and probably the only blueliner on the team who can manhandle the Pacific Division’s mammoth forwards (Brent Burns, Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry). That kind of bone-jarring play will be crucial in the playoffs.
A smaller role has paid big dividends.
Following a Hart Trophy-worthy and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning campaign in 2011-12, Jonathan Quick has maintained a sterling playoff record while seeing his play sag a bit in consecutive regular seasons.
His astounding flexibility and knack for highlight-reel saves remain intact, but he’s allowing a greater number of soft goals.
Behind the top defense in the league, Quick posted a solid .915 save percentage this year. With the very same roster, rookie Martin Jones registered a .934. Ben Scrivens, now of the Edmonton Oilers, boasted a .931 in 19 games with the Kings.
In terms of goals-against average, Quick’s 2.07 was also worse than Jones (1.81) and Scrivens’ (1.97) numbers.
Though he wasn’t poor by any means, L.A.’s starter was occasionally done in by his relentlessly aggressive style in 2013-14, ending up out of position and surrendering an open-net goal when most netminders would have merely stayed square to the shooter.
He’s a stellar goaltender nonetheless and perhaps the league’s preeminent big-game stopper. The postseason will be his time to shine once more.
Trevor Lewis does his job, and he does it well.
He’ll never rack up points or wow the crowd with a display of pure talent, but he fits the Kings’ disciplined and physical game to a tee.
As noted last week, Sutter trusts him in key defensive situations. LA Kings Insider reported on Saturday that Lewis was also voted the club’s “unsung hero” by the players, which speaks to the respect his teammates have for his contributions.
He’s a hockey player’s hockey player, taking care of the little things—defensive coverage, penalty-killing, managing the puck intelligently, finishing checks—that build up and help a team win in the long run.
He didn't take a single shift off in 2013-14, flying up and down the ice to pester the opposition and keep his end clean.
Some fans might not agree, but Lewis earned every dollar of his two-year, $3.05 million extension.
Given his three-zone responsibilities and how well the Kings performed on the whole, Doughty’s grade could have been much higher.
However, he was a different and significantly worse player when he returned from the Sochi Olympics. Gone was the team-first approach. The oft-electrifying blueliner was trying way too hard to beat the opposition on his own toward season’s end, trying to pull off spin moves and toe drags when a simple pass or shot would have sufficed.
Before that ugly stretch, he was borderline dominant. Few defensemen in the world—arguably none—are capable of driving possession while assuming shutdown responsibilities the way Doughty is.
His on-ice Corsi was tremendous and he finished the year with 37 points in 78 games as well as a plus-18 rating despite matching up against the other team’s stars on a nightly basis.
Fortunately for the Kings, Doughty tends to save his best for the highest level of competition. If he’s healthy, he’ll be a force in the playoffs.
Dwight King has developed nicely from a fourth-round pick in 2007 to a big, reliable winger who can be played up and down the lineup.
The 24-year-old has long been adept at staying on the right side of the puck, but the 6’4”, 232-pound mountain of a man has finally succumbed to the urge to own it. While he isn’t likely to bowl over opponents, he leans on them with his massive frame and leaves most puck battles with clean possession.
King went from killing plays in his two previous years to keeping them alive over and over again this season—a remarkable puck-possession turnaround.
His offensive instincts are also better than expected, with King potting 15 goals and posting 30 points this season. He did suffer an 18-game dry spell during which he only mustered two points, but he’s consistently playing smart, heavy, fundamental hockey.
The importance of confidence cannot be overstated.
Prior to the Olympic break, Alec Martinez was an occasional healthy scratch who appeared to be stuck in a rut.
When NHL play resumed, the puck-moving blueliner was granted a starting spot and ran with it, netting a remarkable 15 points in 22 games. He had only managed seven points in the 39 previous games.
This production dovetailed with a newfound jump to his game, utilizing his pace and skill to escape forecheckers, make a crisp first pass and fire shots on goal. His possession numbers are strong and his direct approach has been a godsend on the back end—especially on the power play.
Moreover, he hasn’t sacrificed defense for flashier stats. He’s taken care of his end with a plus-17 rating, generally solid positioning and deceptive physicality.
With this sound play and career highs in goals as well as points, Martinez has shifted from a question mark to a viable top-four defenseman in the Kings’ future.
Head coach Darryl Sutter makes a lot of questionable lineup decisions, but there’s no doubting his ability to motivate his players.
After a dismal effort by Anze Kopitar on Buffalo’s go-ahead goal on November 12, Sutter sent bottom-six grinder Trevor Lewis out in the shootout ahead of his star two-way center. The big Slovenian received the message loud and clear.
His production has remained steady, but his all-around game has risen to new heights since the snub. Including the contest against the Sabres, Kopitar had sleepwalked his way to a plus-five rating. In the next 64 games, he registered a brilliant plus-29 rating by leading his club’s offensive and defensive charge.
Few pivots carry as much all-around responsibility and even fewer can tack on an elite puck-possession game to the mix.
Kopitar may be unparalleled in his ability to direct the flow of the game. His size, strength and puck skills are nearly impossible to defend, and he complements those traits with remarkable consistency. Furthermore, he’s become even more confident on the attack since the arrival of Marian Gaborik.
Following a slow start, Kopitar has put together a sterling campaign that will likely be accompanied by a Selke Trophy nomination.
2013-14 wasn’t his sexiest campaign from a statistical perspective (70 points compared to his career average of 74 per season), but with down years from a number of key cogs, Kopitar was at his most valuable.