Come time for puck drop in early October, most Kings fans will find themselves watching a team they are not too familiar with. Looking down the bench as Bob Miller and Jim Fox go over this year’s Los Angeles Kings roster they will find the bench is missing a few well known faces, along with having a few new faces inserted into the mix.
This is due to the fact that the Kings front office has revamped the look of the Kings, primarily the front end, moving three Kings from last years active roster and one highly valuable prospect.
However, along with shipping people out of Los Angeles, comes bringing new faces into the organization. While the Kings moved four players they brought in two star players that could help the Kings take that next step in their attempts to win the Stanley Cup.
First lets look at the losses.Wayne Simmonds, who was traded to Philadelphia, was a fan favorite and solid depth forward, playing for the Kings since coming into the league in ’08. He has had a respectable turnout, producing 93 points in the three seasons since being drafted.However, him being a third fourth line player may have held him back from really flourishing.
Micahl Handzus‘ departure will hurt Kings fans dearly. A big factor in that hurt will be the fact the Kings get to play him six times a year since he moved up north to Pacific Division rival San Jose Sharks. The spot Handzus will be missed the most will be on the penalty kill, he blocked a total of 48 shots last season.
Losing top prospect Brayden Schenn may come back to bite GM Dean Lombardi depending on how well Schenn does when he does make a permanent stay up in the NHL. Schenn played just eight games with the Kings early in the season acquiring two points, both assists. Schenn was considered to be the next big thing in Los Angeles, which is why it came as a shock to most when Lombardi shipped him out to Philadelphia along with Simmonds.
Alexi Ponikarovski, your 15 points will be dearly missed. That is all…. Just kidding, Poni was a big body that was used well from time to time. He definately has had better years back when he was a Maple Leaf. But has been lack luster of late, only turning out 24 points in his last two seasons. Maybe Carolina will bring out the old Poni.
Now the additions. Prior to this year’s NHL Entry Draft the Kings grabbed Philadephia Flyers captain Mike Richards. Along with Richards comes a tremendous amount of experience, he came within two games of winning the cup two years ago against the Blackhawks. Which is a lot deeper than any King has gone into the playoffs.
Also he has just as much if not more physical presence than both Poni and Handzus put together, and can produce more than 15 points on the season while doing so. With the addition of Richards the Kings will have one of the strongest groups of center man in the league.
Richards will find himself reunited with former teammate Simon Gagne, being he was signed as well. Gagne is a two time 40 goal scorer, with 47 being his career high, and will fill that gaping hole the Kings had at left wing. Gagne also played a pivotal roll on the 2010 Flyers who came oh so close to winning the cup, along with Richards. However, Gagne has had several injuries in the past which may effect his game played totals, but when healthy he can be a major offensive threat.
Overall the Kings will be a lot faster next season with the removal of big, but slow, footed Handzus and Ponikarovski and adding Gagne and Richards. Along with their offensive capabilities, Gagne and Richards combine for a total of 168 playoff games played. If that’s not veteran leadership then I don’t know what is.