Monday, November 7, 2011

October Review: Forwards

Top-10 Player in the NHL?

Anze Kopitar (6 G, 8 A, 14 PTS, +2, 0 PIM) Grade: A

Lady Byng? Selke? Hart?  The sky is the limit for Kopitar.  No one has benefited more from Mike Richards than Kopi.  Like Jim Fox enjoys pointing out every game, Kopi is looking to shoot from all over the ice more than he ever has in his career.  He’s playing like a true #1 center.  He’s leading the Kings forwards in PP, PK, ES, and overall ice-time right now.  His faceoff % is up too.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Gagne and Williams will stay relatively healthy all year, if so, Kopi should set career-high’s across the board.  The only thing holding him back from a perfect score from me is the blatant turnover he had against NJ at home that led directly to a goal.  Can’t get that one out of my head.

Trevor Lewis (0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS, +0, 2 PIM) Grade: B

I really like what I’ve seen from Lewis this season especially on the penalty kill.  He’s seems stronger on his edges this season, last year, it seemed he’d always be falling down.   He’s never going to light it up but with his skating ability, Lewis should be able to chip in 10-12 goals as a bottom-six forward.  While his defensive awareness makes him valuable as a center his 39% in the faceoff circle again this season may mean an eventual move to the wing (wrote this before his move to RW tonight vs SJ).

Mike Richards (2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS, -1, 7 PIM) Grade: A

As good as advertised.  His on-ice vision and playmaking ability brings me off the couch every night.  His presence on the man-advantage may be the sole reason for the huge improvement this season.  His combination of grit, toughness, and pure skill seem to compliment Dustin Brown’s similar game.  Still not really sure what Philadelphia was thinking trading this guy but thank you so much for the gift.  At a $5.75 million cap hit, he’s worth every penny.

Brad Richardson (0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS, +/- 0, 4 PIM) Grade: B

Richie had himself a breakout performance in last year’s playoff series vs. San Jose, registering 5 points in the six-game series.  And while he hasn’t come close to those numbers in October, he’s become a nice bottom-six forward who provides some speed and grit.  He seems to have a lot more confidence this season carrying the puck and isn’t afraid to try and create on his own.

Jarret Stoll (1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, +/- 0, 4 PIM) Grade: B

The acquisition of Mike Richards sent Stoll down to the third line and good on him for stepping aside.  Third line center is a much better spot for Stoll.  He can focus on keeping the game simple by winning faceoffs  and playing a strong defensive game.  Hopefully in time, he can find chemistry with Penner as #25 continues to freefall down the depth chart.

Dustin Brown (3 G, 6 A, 9 PTS, +/-0, 10 PIM) Grade: B

Brownie is being more careful this year than he’s ever been out on the ice.  Whether he’s afraid of getting fined or suspending, Brownie isn’t throwing his weight around like in year’s past.  His 22 hits in October were third among Kings forwards.  Even with Brownie pulling back on the hitting, he clicked early with Mike Richards who really makes all of his linemates better.  Hopefully, Brown can find a compromise and ratchet up the physical play in November.

Trent Hunter (0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS, -1, 0 PIM) Grade: C

I predicted Hunter would make this team and beat Scott Parse out of a job.  Hunter appeared in 5 of the 11 October games.  It’s doubtful that he’ll ever reach the 20-25 goal mark like he did on the Isle playing 4th line minutes this season.  He and Brad Richardson actually lead the team in Relative Corsi at +19. A nice complimentary bottom-six forward, I’d really like to see Hunter use his big frame and play the physical game more.

Scott Parse (2 G, 0 A, 2 PTS, +1, 12 PIM) Grade: C

Call me crazy but I think this is Teddy Purcell all over again.  The Kings are giving him every opportunity to prove himself even after failing to grab his spot in training camp but I just don’t see what all the hype is about.  I think he’s waived/traded before the New Year.  He’s got two goals in five games and that’s great but he’s got six minor penalties (the hat-trick in Dallas).   He looks to be a one-dimensional player that doesn’t have enough grit to play a bottom-six role and doesn’t create enough offense to play a top-six role.  His Relative Corsi is 2nd worse to Westgarth at a -10.9.  This is Parse’s last real opportunity to show something (he was drafted all the way back in 2004!) before he’s passed up by the depth of the Kings farm system.  If Oscar Moller were given this many second chances…don’t get me started…

Kevin Westgarth (0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS, -1, 19 PIM) Grade: C+

I respect Westgarth for the job he has to do but I’m just not a fan of the guy that sits on the end of the bench and can’t contribute to the game other than with his fists.  He’s improved his skating and continues to improve all aspects of his game. His assist on Clifford’s goal in Phoenix was a thing of beauty but his Relative Corsi of -30.4 is 20 points lower than anybody on the roster.  For a team looking for offense, sitting Westgarth and starting anyon else would be a start.

Justin Williams (3 G, 5 A, 8 PTS, +2, 0 PIM) Grade: A-

I really enjoy watching J-Dub play.  His finesse with the puck on his stick is unmatched on this team.  I’m glad TM was smart enough to start Kopi off with Gagne and Williams because they all compliment eachother’s games nicely.  Hopefully (knock on wood) this is the year that Williams can stay healthy.  I’d consider another 73 games a healthy season for Williams.

Kyle Clifford (1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS, -1, 5 PIM) Grade: C

Whether it’s the pressure ‘The Colonel’ is putting on himself to fill the void left by Wayne Simmonds departure or the fact that he wasn’t playing to make the team this year, Clifford’s game has been missing that bite that we saw from him last season.  Expectations were high for Clifford after his breakout performance in last year’s postseason in which he had five points (3 G, 2 A).  We forget that he’s only 20 years old so there’s still some growing pains to go thru with Clifford.  I’d really like to see TM use Clifford on the man-advantage every once in a while and be that front of the net presence.  I really think he would thrive in that role. 

Simon Gagne (3 G, 4 A, 7 PTS, +4, 8 PIM) Grade: A-

My choice for surprise player of the year, Gagne has been everything I expected.  Crafty in the offensive zone, strong defensively, and bound to miss a few games because of maintenance.  You hope like Williams, Gagne can stay relatively healthy this season and if that means missing a few games here and there to keep the legs fresh so be it.  Gagne is the first left wing that could keep up with Kopitar since Michael Cammalleri back in Kopi’s first two NHL seasons; these two should play together all season long. 

Ethan Moreau (0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS, +/- 0, 6 PIM) Grade: B+

I really like Moreau’s game.  At 36, I thought he’d be hesitant to throw his body around.  Boy, was I wrong.  28 hits in October were only 2nd to defenseman Matt Greene.  I don’t know about all the off-ice politics but on-the-ice he’s the perfect bottom-six forward.  Great skater who sacrifices his body on every shift.  He welcomed Colten Teubert to the NHL with a nice cheapshot in his NHL debut…I love it!

Dustin Penner (0 G, 1 A, -1, +/-1, 21 PIM) Grade: D+ (+ for that fight he had in Philly)

It’s hard to feel bad for anyone who makes millions of dollars playing sports but I’m really starting to feel bad for Penner.  He’s become the whipping boy for everything that’s wrong in the world.  Unemployment, Earthquakes, Traffic…all Dustin Penner’s fault.  I blame TM and DL for making this guy out to be a top-line player.  Yes, he’s being paid like one but there’s a reason everyone called Kevin Lowe crazy for giving up that much to acquire Penner and then paying him that much money.  Fans need to temper their expectations a bit. 

The guy worked hard this offseason so you can’t question his work ethic anymore.  He’s throwing his body around and while some say he doesn’t look like he’s trying; please checkout his highlights from Anaheim and Edmonton; he looks exactly the same. 

He wants this to work more than anyone else and I think it wll.  Right now, Penner is stationary for too long during his shifts.  It takes him twice as long to get his feet moving so he should always be skating.  He was never known to create much offense on his own so don’t expect him to carry guys on his back to the net like Jason Allison use to.  He needs to play with a guy willing to do work in the corners to get him the puck.  And Penner needs to work harder to get open in the slot.  If you watch his goals in Edmonton, 90% of his goals are scored from 15 feet and in around the slot. Pairing him with Mike Richards, who can win puck battles in the corner and dish out front to Penner might just get this guy going.  Or hell, go trade for Ales Hemsky who always seemed to find chemistry playing alongside Penner in Edmonton.  

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