Wednesday, May 5, 2010

2009-10 Season Review: Defense

The Kings defense was average this year.  The top-four of Doughty, Johnson, Scuderi and Greene were outstanding but the bottom-pairing struggled.  Whether it was O'Donnell, Jones or Harrold; the Kings couldn't ever find the right mix.  The Kings will definitely need to address their bottom-pairing this season.  Whether Davis Drewiske, Alec Martinez, Thomas Hickey or Viacheslav Voynov are ready to step-in will be a huge question mark going into camp.  The Kings need one more offensive-minded puck moving defenseman to step-in and another shutdown defenseman that plays a similar style to Matt Greene to really round out their defense.  With so many prospects knocking on the door; the Kings blueline is definitely becoming a little crowded.  Read the player profiles after the jump...

Drew Doughty
Projection: 82 GP, 10 G, 32 A, 42 PTS, 21 PPP, 62 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 16 G, 43 A, 59 PTS, 31 PPP, 54 PIM
Canada loves Drew.   I love Drew.  L.A. loves Drew.  He was the Kings most consistent player all season long.  He earned a spot on Canada’s Olympic roster and instantly became a fixture on their top D-pairing.  His game fell of a bit as did all the Canadian Olympians but he finished strong and was the best defenseman on any team during the first-round.  And he was nominated for the Norris trophy.  Oh. And he’s only 20!

FINAL GRADE: A+; He was the Kings top offensive threat from the blueline and also their top shutdown d-man.  He led all Kings in ice-time; averaging just under 25 minutes a game.  As a Kings fan, it’s exciting to see a top-three pick excel so early.  Doughty's almost done enough to make me forget all about Aki-Petteri Berg.  Oh yeah.  I said it.

Jack Johnson
Projection: 82 GP, 8 G, 27 A, 35 PTS, 15 PPP, 95 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 8 G, 28 A, 36 PTS, 13 PPP, 48 PIM
JJ was terribly inconsistent over the first-half of the season.  But Jack made some huge strides during the Olympics and his confidence carried over into the postseason.  He still struggled with decisions in his own end at times but he progressed as the season went on.  When the Kings coaching staff finally realized it might be a good idea to start Johnson with Doughty on the first PP unit; the PP took off and never looked back.

FINAL GRADE: B; JJ still has a lot of work to do but Kings fans have to like what they saw from Jack this season.   As he matures; I expect his physical game to continue develop much in the same way his offensive game did this season.  I still wonder sometimes what life with Chris Pronger would be like though…

Sean O’Donnell
Projection: 79 GP, 1 G, 13 A, 14 PTS, 0 PPP, 88 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 3 G, 12 A, 15 PTS, 0 PPP, 70 PIM
OD is what he is.   A veteran defenseman who’s value to the team is more in his leadership and teaching than his performance on the ice.  With that said, OD didn’t play all that bad this year.  His ice-time was cut down by about two minutes from last season which actually limited his giveaways a bit.  He was still the Kings top D-man penalty killer; which probably speaks more about the Kings need for another shutdown D-man than it does OD’s skills at this point.

FINAL GRADE: B-; At 38, O’Donnell has been more than serviceable.  His willingness to protect the young core and help them grow has been valuable to this franchise going forward.  It was obvious at times this season; OD couldn’t keep up with the speed of the game.  Especially, when assigned to stop the Sedin twins.  I could see the Kings bringing him back for one more season as a 7th defenseman but the Kings will need to add a shutdown d-man whether it be via free agency or trade.

Matt Greene
Projection: 80 GP, 3 G, 11 A, 14 PTS, 2 PPP, 114 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 75 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 PTS, 0 PPP, 83 PIM
Whether it’s appearing in a cheap Kings promo or working hard along the boards for a loose puck. Greener is awesome.  I love his effort on every shift.  He takes the body, makes the smart play and is always in good defensive position.  His willingness to lay down and block shots is something special too; his 126 blocked shots led the team.  He’s not much of a fighter but he’ll do that too.  He does everything necessary to help his team win games.  He absolutely stepped up his game in the playoffs.

FINAL GRADE: B; Greener is the type of defenseman that every team needs; he’s willing to do all the hardwork in the corners and in-front of the net that doesn’t make the highlight films so the team can have success.  I love his game and his attitude.  He’s been a perfect fit in LA.

Rob Scuderi
Projection: 80 GP, 1 G, 14 A, 15 PTS, 0 PPP, 32 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 73 GP, 0 G, 11 A, 11 PTS, 0 PPP, 21 PIM
Scuds is an interesting one; $3.4 million for 0 goals and 11 assists sounds crazy but that’s the price the market dictated last July.  Scuds was as-advertised.  A solid stay-at-home defenseman.  Nothing more. Nothing Less.  He's just a hard-working minutes cruncher that won’t put your team in danger.  He’s pretty much Sean O’Donnell seven years younger.

FINAL GRADE: B; Scuds was good for us.  Got a lot of ice-time.  Was a valuable penalty killer.  He’s someone that a lot of teams might take for granted during a season.  He’s beeen the perfect compliment to Doughty’s offensive game.

 Randy Jones
Projection: N/A
2009-10 Stats: 48 GP, 5 G, 16 A, 21 PTS, 8 PPP, 28 PIM
Where’s Short Round to help Mr. Jones.  Seriously, I didn’t think Jones was that bad this season.  Kings fans have been very outspoken about their displeasure for Jonesy all season long.  In Jonesey's defense; Kings fans always need to pick on someone.  Last year it was Denis Gauther; this year it was him.  But he actually had a decent offensive season; racking up 21 points in 48 games.  He’s an offensive-minded defenseman who sometimes didn’t play up to par in his own end.  Some untimely turnovers and misqueues are what Kings fans will remember most about his time in LA.

FINAL GRADE: C; The Kings brought him in as a ‘bridge’ defenseman and I think he played exactly the way the Kings expected him too.  If he were a top-4 defenseman; the Flyers would have found a way to get him on their own NHL roster instead of putting him on waivers.  With blueline prospects like Hickey, Martinez and Voynov all looking to make a push for a spot; it’s a longshot to see Jonesy back next season.  He may go the way of Denis The Goat.  Never to be heard from again…

 Davis Drewiske
Projection: 62 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS, 5 PPP, 48 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 42 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 8 PTS, 0 PPP, 14 PIM
I thought Drewiske had finally found his place on the Kings this season.  He seemed to be playing with more confidence than we saw in 2008. He got off to a great start but a Juanuary shoulder injury derailed his season.  Terry Murray must have not liked what he saw from Drewiske at practice; because DD only saw four games worth of action after his return on February 8th.

FINAL GRADE: C; I think if Drewiske can return next season with the same confidence; he’s a lock for the bottom-pairing.  At 6’2, I wish he would play a bit more physical but he’s a decent skater and puck-mover; something the Kings desperately need on their backend to compliment Doughty and Johnson.

Peter Harrold
Projection: 68 GP, 4 G, 14 A, 18 PTS, 4 PPP, 22 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 39 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, 0 PPP, 8 PIM
Lil’ Petey.  You’ve got to love the effort he brings every night.  Terry Murray only played him in 39 games this year but Harrold played both center, winger and defense.  He’s a smooth-skater that didn’t look out of place at all on the forecheck as a forward.  Murray really didn’t show much faith in Harrold until the postseason when Jones played himself out of the lineup.  You kind of wish he were a few inches taller.

FINAL GRADE: C; His 77 points in 111 career AHL games shows there still might be some untapped offensive potential there but it’ll be hard if he continues to average less than ten minutes of ice-time next season.  He may need to transform his game into being a defense-first defenseman.  Similar to undersized blueliners Greg Zanon and Mike Weaver; both of whom were late-bloomers but have found their niche.  With so many prospects; Harrold's time to prove himself is quickly coming to an end.

Alec Martinez
Projection: 65 GP, 3 G, 9 A, 12 PTS, 5 PPP, 38 PIM
2009-10 Stats: 4 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS, 0 PPP, 2 PIM
First off, Alec won me a Free Lunch.  I bet a buddy on who would make the team out of camp.  I took Martinez. My buddy took Hickey. In his first four NHL games, Martinez looked tentative.  He reminded me very much of Drewiske last season when he debuted.  Martinez seemed so worried about making a mistake that the pace of the NHL game just ate him up.

FINAL GRADE: INCOMPLETE; He had a tough go of it in L.A. but you could see the tools were there.  He’s a good skater with good offensive instincts.  His 30 points in 55 games led all Monarchs defenseman.  If he can learn to just make the simple plays in his own end; he could easily battle for a permanent spot on the Kings blueline next season.

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