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.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

October Review: Goaltenders & Defense

The $56-million man?!?!

Terry Murray (6-3-2, 2.36 GF/G, 1.91 GA/G, 22.5 PP%, 86.1 PK%) Grade: C
I only grade TM because I hated his decision to start Bernier vs. New Jersey.  I heard his explanation and still disagree.  I understand that he wanted Quick against the two division rivals but Quick and the Kings were on an absolute roll.  I’m a big believer in momentum and without a doubt the Kings had it.  The Kings played their worst game of the season in front of Bernier and got shutout by New Jersey.

Jonathan Quick (6-1-2, 1.52 GAA, .947 SV%, 3 SO) Grade: A
Quick has been outstanding for the Kings in the first month of the season.  Three consecutive shutouts earned him a Player of The Week honor already.  But don’t get too excited yet because Quick started off hot last October (7-1-0, 1.84 GAA, .936) only to never reach those numbers again for the rest of the season. 

Jonathan Bernier (0-2-0, 3.55 GAA, .857 SV%, 0 SO) Grade: C
I thought Bernier looked shaky during training camp but how much can you rely on practice drills.  The defense hasn’t done much to help Bernier in his two losses but there’s really no excuse for giving up seven goals on 49 shots. 

Drew Doughty (0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS, -2, 4 PIM) Grade: C-
The $56-million man was my pick for this season’s whippingboy.  When I saw him get hit by Zac Rinaldo in the open-ice, I immediately said that Doughty rolls/spins off that check in the past.  He sat out all of training camp and the pre-season and his timing hasn’t been there and he got hammered.  No doubt he's playing big minutes for the Kings but for $7-million a season I want to see a Bobby Orr like performance every night.  I can only cross my fingers and hope Doughty catches up sooner than later.

Davis Drewiske (0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS, +0, 0 PIM) Grade: Inc.
Drewiske dressed for one game this season vs. Philadelphia.  A nice fit as a 7th depth defenseman, there’s no doubt he was feeling the heat during Voynov’s brief stint.

Matt Greene (0 G, 0 A, 2 PTS, -3, 10 PIM) Grade: B+
Greener trails only Mitchell in penalty kill ice-time.  He continues to play the tough and physical game that’s made him a fan-favorite in L.A.  With that said, I always hold my breath when he steps up on a forward who’s dumped the puck in but surprisingly, Greener has been yet to be called for interference this season.  Oh and he took another puck to the face.  Warrior!

Jack Johnson (3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS, +2, 4 PIM) Grade: A-
Nobody was tougher on JJ than me last season.  But at 24, his game is still evolving.  While he’s made some blatant turnovers this season, Quick has bailed him out.  What excites me the most about the JJ this season is his play on the man-advantage.  His insistence on going to the net on the man-advantage is something I’ve been asking for ever since our power play went into the dumps.  His three game winning goals is a nice reward for a strong start.

Alec Martinez (0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS, -4, 0 PIM) Grade: B-
Alec was a pleasant surprise last season mostly for his ability to get shots to the net.  His 19 shots on goal this season are tied with JJ for most from the blueline through the first month of the season.  With that said, his defensive zone play has struggled at times this season.  The emergence of Voynov could bump Martinez down into a depth role sooner rather than later.

Willie Mitchell (0 G, 3 A, 3 PTS, +2, 2 PIM) Grade: B
Mitchell has been steady again this season.  Nothing flashy but continues to play tough minutes against other team’s top lines.  Once again, he leads the team in ice-time on the penalty kill, averaging 3:24 a game.

Rob Scuderi (0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS, +4, 2 PIM) Grade: B
I tend to write the same thing about Scuds.  He doesn’t do anything that stands out but he’s about as consistent as they come.  The ideal stay-at-home defenseman, Scuds is absolutely no threat on offense.

Slava Voynov ( 2 G, 1 A, 3 PTS, +3, 0 PIM) Grade: A
Voynov’s status with the Kings has been of the most debated topics over the past couple of seasons.  After two all-star seasons in the AHL, the looming threat of Voynov heading for the KHL, Voynov finally got his chance in the NHL.  Terry Murray gave him every chance to succeed, VV averaging over 20 minutes of ice-time and over three minutes on the man-advantage during his five games.  A very special-talent, it’s a guarantee we’ll be seeing more of him before the season’s over.