Say goodbye to Oscar Moller, and say goodbye to his potential 20 goals for next season. The talented, but admittedly small forward is going to be peddling his wares elsewhere next season. According to numerous reports, Oscar Moller is heading back home to Sweden next season to play in the Elite League. While the Kings will retain his rights, I’m betting it’s unlikely he makes a triumphant return to the Los Angeles roster in the future. Which frankly is a little bit sad. Moller is a talented scorer, and I still think he has some real ability to offer to an offensively challenged team like the Kings. As they’ve detailed over at Jewels From The Crown, Moller is becoming productive faster than many other “small forwards” in the NHL have, including some stars like Brett Hull. Brian Gionta, Pavel Datsyuk, Martin St. Louis and others, who weren’t even in the NHL by the time Moller is getting ready to leave it.
Listed at 5’10” and 189 pounds, Moller is nobody’s definition of a power forward. He’s not going to be able to throw the body around terribly effectively, and making sure that he’s strong enough to resist getting pushed off the puck is a challenge. That said, Moller plays with some real heart and desire. He performed quite well last season, despite never really being given a chance to get into a rhythm or develop some chemistry with linemates. He added some useful spark to the Kings in game 2 of the playoff series this season, but failed to make the roster again for the next four games. Unfortunately he just doesn’t seem to fit into the system that Murray has established, and although he is easily talented enough to fill a spot on the bottom-6, he’s just not built for that kind of game. It’s top-6 or bust for the small guy, but it’s a role that Murray doesn’t seem to want to give him.
Although it’s certainly still possible that Moller makes a successful return to the National Hockey League, I don’t think it’s going to be with the Kings. As we’ve established, Moller is not going to be a bottom-6 player, and his size does make it somewhat less likely that he’ll be a center in the league. So he’s looking to fill a winger spot on the top 2 lines. That means he’s going to have to out battle Brown, Williams, Penner, Toffoli, as well as any additions that the Kings make between now and his return. While the fight for a roster spot is going to be more difficult in the coming seasons, the loss of Moller is a depth hit for the Kings. Certainly injuries will come up during the season, as they always do, and the Kings will miss the ability to bring up an offensive, talented winger like Moller. There’s really nobody else on the team that can fill just the same role.
While it’s disappointing for Kings fans that Moller is heading out, it’s also understandable from his perspective. Moller has never really had a great chance to make the roster, and though he played a full 40 games in his rookie season, he’s been given fewer and fewer chances to find his game at the NHL level. Clearly Murray’s system is one that does not value what Moller brings to the table, and Moller made the choice that is arguably the best for himself and his career. If he’s able to return to Sweden and prove his offensive ability, he may have enough value to justify other teams to bring him back and give him a chance to blossom, a la Moulson in another NHL city. It’s far from a long-shot, but it looks like unless Murray is out, he’s not coming back to Los Angeles.
So goodbye Moller. You brought us some swell times, and we’ll likely miss you this season. Hopefully this doesn’t come back to bite us in the future.