Saturday, April 30, 2011

2010-11 Season Review: Davis Drewiske

Davis Drewiske & Marek Svatos

Davis Drewiske 
2010-11 Stats: 38 GP, 0 G, 5 A, 5 PTS, -1, 0 PPP, 18 PIM 
Signed through 2012-13; $616,667

Davis Drewiske's 2011 season went much the same way his 2010 season did.  Drewiske appeared in 36 of the first 38 games last season  then suffered an upper-body injury in January and failed to claim his spot in the top-6 back; only appearing in two games for the rest of the season.  In 2011, Drewiske played in 33 of the first 37 games of the season but only appeared in 5 games for the rest of the season and was a healthy scratch for the last two months.  He had an opportunity to fill-in for Willie Mitchell but was passed on the depth chart by the emerging Alec Martinez.  

Drewiske's role on the blueline is a bit undefined and in a sense he is the perfect 'extra' d-man to have on a roster.  The Kings have three defined puck-moving defenseman: Doughty, Johnson, and Martinez.  Those puck-movers are each paired with a stay-at-home presence: Mitchell, Scuderi, and Greene.  Drewiske's game has always been low-risk and making the safe play.  DD possesses good size at 6'2 and TM would love to see him get more physical but that part of his game hasn't developed.  TM was so desperate to get DD into the lineup that he tried him as a 4th line right wing in December but that didn't work out for anyone involved.

FINAL GRADE: B-; My expectations for Drewiske were as the Kings 6th/7th defenseman.  In that sense, he's done fine.  He's been passed on the depth chart by Martinez but in a sense it comes down to what each defenseman brings to the backend.  TM and DL love the traditional 3 puck-movers and 3 stay-at-home defensemen on the blueline.  Unfortunately, Drewiske's offensive game is limited and he'll always be buried behind Mitchell, Scuderi, and Greene as a defensive-defenseman.  He'll return next year in a similar role as the team's extra d-man but will probably be facing stiff competition from Jake Muzzin, Viatcheslav Voynov, and Thomas Hickey (hopefully). 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

2010-11 Season Review: Drew Doughty

Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty
2010-11 Stats: 76 GP, 11 G, 29 A, 40 PTS, +13, 15 PPP, 68 PIM
RFA this Summer

Plain & Simple: Drew Doughty letdown this year.  Following a breakout campaign last season that included a 59 point regular season, Olympic Gold medal, and Norris Trophy nomination; expectations couldn't have been any higher for the 21-year old.  After his sluggish start, his work ethic and off-season conditioning were called into question.  The explosiveness and puck control that drew comparisons to Ray Bourque and Paul Coffey last season seemed to abandon Doughty at times.

His production was down across the board.  He put up 40 points following a 59-point campaign last season.  Whether Doughty's struggles were indicative of the power play's struggles or vice versa; his numbers were cut in half.  From 31 points (9G, 22A) on the man-advantage to just 15 points (5G,10A) this season.

2010-11 Season Review: Goaltending

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick Is A #1 Whether You Like It Or Not
 About a year ago to the day, I wrote the following in my 2009-10 Season Review: Goaltending post.
The Kings may start out with a Nashville-type split in goal to start next season but it’ll be Bernier’s net by the All-Star break. 
So that didn't quite happen.  Jonathan Quick proved that last year was no fluke.  Jonathan Bernier finally stepped into the NHL full-time as Quick's backup.  The tandem provided the most solid goaltending the franchise has seen in decades.  They combined for another 46 wins, .914 SV % (10th), 2.39 GAA (6th), and 9 shutouts on the season.

2010-11 Stats: 61 GP, 35 Wins, 2.24 GAA, .918 SV%, 6 Shutouts
Signed thru 2012-13; $1.8M

Whether it was the embarrassment of his performance down the stretch and in the first round against Vancouver last season or the footsteps of Jonathan Bernier behind him; Jonathan Quick arrived to training camp on a mission.  Quick came into this season in the best shape of his life. TM finally had a backup he could trust in Bernier and was able to cut Quick's games 'down' to 61 from a ridiculous 72 games last season.

The results were astounding.  Quick improved his regular season SV% from .907 to .918 and his GAA from 2.54 to 2.24 (5th NHL) while recording six shutouts (6th NHL).  And Quick was easily the Kings MVP in the first-round of the playoffs.  After the Kings defensive system left Quick out to dry in Games 3 & 4 at Staples Center; he single-handedly won Game with a 51-save performance to give the Kings a fighting chance in the series.  

FINAL GRADE: A-; There should be no doubt who the Kings #1 goaltender is going forward but you can almost bet that TM will have to answer all the same questions regarding which goaltender will be the Kings #1 next season.  While Quick's stickhandling is still suspect and he is still susceptible to giving up a 'soft' goal every once in a while, his improved conditioning has allowed his athleticism to really shine through.  If he continues to improve, 40 wins aren't out of the question next season.

Jonathan Bernier
2010-11 Stats: 25 GP, 11 Wins, 2.48 GAA, .913 SV%, 3 Shutouts
Signed thru 2012-13; $1.25M

After absolutely dominating the AHL last season, Bernier finally arrived in the NHL full-time for the 2010-11 season.  Whether it was TM learning from last season that he needed to trust his backup more or just Bernier getting accustomed to the NHL grind; Bernier's game improved as the season progressed.  His splits tell the story.

Pre All-Star: 14 GP, 5 Wins, .893 SV%, 3.08 GAA, 0 Shutouts
Post All-Star: 11 GP, 6 Wins, .939 SV%, 1.70 GAA, 3 Shutouts

In 23 starts, Bernier posted an 11-8-3 record with a 2.43 GAA and .912 SV%.  Funny stat line: In the seven games that last year's backup Erik Ersberg started: 3-3-1 record with a 2.43 GAA and .911 SV%.  Obviously the sample sizes differ and the similarities in numbers may be more a reflection of the Kings defensive system than anything elise but it's interesting none the less.  It's all relative...I guess.  Two goaltenders in completely different stages of their careers.  Bernier still only 21 years old has his best years ahead of him and is regarded as one of the top goaltending prospects in the world.  Erik Ersberg, a 27-year old NHL backup that garnered no interest around the league when he was placed on waivers by the Kings went to the KHL's Salvat Yulaev.  EE backstopped Yulaev to the KHL Championship posting a 1.93 GAA, 93.3 SV%, and 3 Shutouts.

FINAL GRADE: B; Bernier provided a backup option that TM trusted which allowed Quick some much needed rest during the regular season.  Had Quick suffered through any prolonged slumps Bernier may have had a chance to run with the job but it just didn't happen.  Bernier will continue to knock on the door next season and may eventually become the Kings #1 option.  But with Martin Jones impressive debut season with the Monarchs and Quick's improving game; don't be surprised if you hear Bernier's name discussed in possible trades going forward.  Anyway you slice it, having two proven NHL goaltenders now and possibly a third on the way is a good problem to have.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Curious Case Of Dustin Penner

Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner shares a word with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa prior to a first period faceoff on April 8, 2011 at Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.  The Ducks beat the Kings 2-1 to clinch a playoff spot.  (Inside Hockey/Chasen
Dustin Penner: L.A.'s Newest Whipping Boy
Dustin Penner isn't the devil but he has quickly become the newest whipping boy amongst Los Angeles Kings fans.  His lack of production, intensity, and perceived lack of caring on the ice are just a few of the reasons why the Kings faithful have turned on Dean Lombardi's most recent acquisition.  He joins the likes of Randy Jones, Denis Gauthier, Dan Cloutier, and countless others who have faced the wrath of Kings fans' venom.  But let's take a closer look at who Dustin Penner really is...

Penner never played major junior hockey.  He was cut three times by his local junior team.  He nearly gave up on playing hockey and then decided to continue his playing career for a junior college team in North Dakota.  Spotted at an evaluation camp, Penner was offered a scholarship to the University of Maine, where he helped lead the Black Bears to the National Championship Game.  After one year of college, he signed as a free-agent with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.  He spent two years in the AHL and then was a member of the Ducks 2007 Stanley Cup squad.

In the offseason following the Cup win, Penner signed a 5-year, $21.25 million offer sheet with the Edmonton Oilers that went unmatched by Anaheim.  Penner instantly became the whipping boy of then Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish.
"When we signed Dustin we thought he'd be a top-two-line player.  We thought the contract ($4.25 million average for five years) was a starting point for him but he views it as a finish line. I can't watch it, certainly not for another 21/2 years."
Now, it's early on but can't you see Terry Murray and Dean Lombardi saying those same words right about now.  2 goals in 22 games for the Kings. 

Penner's response to MacT's criticism back in 2008.
"It's time for me to bring that part of my game (competitiveness) up ... that's a part of my game that's always been harder for me to attain.."
Three years later, Penner hasn't been able to 'attain' it.  Fans want to remember Dustin Penner as the emerging power forward that complimented the finesse and skill of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on 'The Kid Line' for the Ducks.  He played his best hockey then.  His most well-rounded game.  He was getting 13:59 of ice-time in the regular season and 14:05 of ice-time in the playoffs.  Eight other Ducks forwards averaged more ice-time than Penner in the postseason.

That's just about right for Penner.  He's a solid third-line player that needs good playmaking forwards around him to produce.  If Kings fans expected anything more from Penner...well shame on us.

He's not your classic big body forward.  He shys away from the physical game but has a gifted set of hands when he has the puck on his tape.  The problem for him is getting the puck.  You'd think a guy that's 6'4, 245 would dominate along the boards.  Protecting the puck.  Driving the net.  Sort of like...Alexander Frolov.

But Penner stays away from the boards.  He does his best work from the hash-marks in.  Watch him.  He'll coast into the offensive zone and then just camp out about 15-20 feet in front of the net hoping a teammate finds him in the slot for a one-timer.

His biggest issue is his lack of foot speed and skating ability.  He's been extremely exposed in this series by San Jose's transition game and the speed of their forwards.  He can't keep up.  He can't even hustle to the bench to get a change.  His lack of foot speed was none more evident than on Devin Setoguchi's OT Winner in Game Three.  The puck is in the net and the Sharks are in the locker room celebrating by the time Penner even enters the zone.

The fans and media continue to blame his conditioning for the reason he looks so lackadaisical out on the ice.  At first, I wasn't buying it but after watching numerous Youtube clips; I think Penner is definitely out of shape (even by Penner standards).  The Dustin Penner Kings fans are seeing this season is the same player that debuted in Edmonton after signing his 5-year deal.

Watch these highlights from the 2009-10 season when Penner netted a career-high 32 goals and you won't recognize him.  A season ago Penner was driving the net, parking his big frame in front of the net, deflecting shots, engaging in physical play, etc.

What's the immediate solution?  Drop Penner down into the bottom six.  His best performance came in Game Two when he saw 14:35 of ice-time; his worst performance obviously came last night when he played 19:36.  Move Alexei Ponikarovsky up to the top line.  Poni's game has improved over the last month.  He uses his big frame.  He plays the body, drives the net, and skates well.  Everything Penner is lacking from his game right now.