The staff here at RinkRoyalty.com would like to assess player performance through the first 50 games so far. We isolated one player who is playing sub par and a player who is a pleasant surprise. We all knew that coming in to this season the Los Angeles Kings are a talent laden (heavy loaded) team looking to make a statement in the 2011-12 NHL Season, but they are taking “laden” (heavy, weighed down) too seriously. Here are the staffs points of views of who is hot and who is not in a segment we like to call, “Off The Bench, In To The Stands”
it’s hard for me to criticize the Kings because they are my favorite team. Although it can be easy to get frustrated with them, I have always loved them and always will. I hate to pick on any one member of the team because the entire offense has been lacking this season. I guess in terms of total points, I would choose Jarret Stoll. Looking at his points so far this season he has only had 5 goals and 9 assists, equaling 14 points. At the end of the season last year, Stoll had 20 goals and 23 assists, which comes to 43 points. That’s significantly different from last year. The Kings offense has been a subject of disappointment this entire season. I have to say if it weren’t for our All Star goalie Jonathan Quick, the Kings would be seriously struggling.
I think there have been a few surprises this season. I definitely did NOT see Darryl Sutter becoming the Kings head coach. Nor did I see 17 overtimes and shoot outs happening. I swear I get a grey hair every time the 3rd period ends in a tie! With 50 games down and only 32 to go, I’m having a hard time finding anyone who has improved dramatically since last season. Slava Voynov, the young Russian who the LA Kings called up from the Manchester Monarchs, has had 4 goals and 7 assists. Jack Johnson has had 8 goals this season opposed to 5 goals last year, but his assists are only at 13 right now compared to a high 37 at the end of the last season. But I’m happily surprised that the Kings acquired Center Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Flyers who has contributed 14 goals and 12 assists so far this season. And although Drew Doughty and I do miss Wayne Simmonds, I am oh so pleased the Kings have acquired Richards who has really helped with their offense.
I was extremely hopeful for the “dream team” the Kings were expected to have this season. Although its already over halfway over, I still hold some hope for them to end stronger then they started. The Cup needs to come to LA!
Before I answer this, I want to make it clear that I think this guy is probably one of the hardest working guys on the team, but my disappointment comes from the sheer lack of points. I had hoped that it would only be a matter of time before Jarret Stoll got back on top of his game, but it’s now more than halfway through the season and he is on pace for recording half as many points as he did last year. He has been shuffled around with various linemates all season long, none of whom he has really found any consistent chemistry with. He is incredibly talented in so many areas, but the Kings could definitely benefit from a boost in points on his end. Had he not been such a huge asset to this team in prior years, I wouldn’t dare call him a disappointment, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I had expected to see more goals.
I’ve got to give this one to Kyle Clifford. Not that I didn’t already love him before this season, but lately he has proven to be the type of player that the Kings can’t afford to lose. Not only is he a complete beast when it comes to standing up for himself and his teammates, but he stepped up tremendously during a time when his team was struggling to score goals. I’ve said this before, but I think Coach Sutter deserves a lot of credit for Clifford’s success. We’ve seen an increase in his ice time, even including some time on the power play. I think the confidence that Sutter has shown in him has in turn boosted his own confidence…and now he’s playing some pretty good hockey. If you look up Clifford’s stats, you aren’t going to be blown away by any means, but to think about how far he has come in terms of pure skill is very impressive to me. I think we will continue to watch him grow throughout the season and hopefully keep scoring goals.
For me, the biggest disappointment of the season, hands-down, is Ethan Moreau. Dean Lombardi brought a guy like that in for one reason: Lead By Example. If his veteran presence had an impact in any way, it was purely detrimental. This team is in dire need of someone with his resume. Gritty, chip in a goal here and there, stand up for teammates, etc. What Moreau provided was frequent penalties at the most inopportune times during games, to the point of actually costing games when the opponent scored while he was in the box. Add to that the fact that he was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs and still has yet to play a game with the team without any public explanation, this move sends a message to the younger guys that some players are exceptions to the rules.
This one has to go to Colin Fraser. I had no idea what to expect from this guy. I think we all assumed that, once he was healthy, he would be put on waivers for a small cap relief. What he did was come in and provide some much needed grit for an otherwise, at most times, stagnant team. Energy, fight, a goal or two. Hey, it’s almost what we expected from Ethan Moreau… Except that Fraser is about 12 years younger. I would love to see this guy center a line with a guy like Travis Moen (a versatile player who can switch to the right and I hear he may be available, hint hint). Put Kyle Clifford on the left side of that line and there’s your shutdown, feisty, get the other team absolutely pissed off group which is exactly what a team needs to go deep in the playoffs.
Jarret Stoll… you had 20 goals last season and current have one fourth of that (5). Your face-off percentage has decreased slightly and in shootouts you just aren’t the same. You have the same penalties in minutes as you did all of last season in 50 games (42). Although it pains me to point these out, I know you are a phenomenal player and with 32 games left in the 2011-12 season, I hope you can average a point at least every other game.
Simon Gagne.. you get a shout out too. Why do you have to be concussed right now…
Most people would stand on a soapbox shouting for Dustin Penner’s helmet but, personally, I have no expectations from him any further. All he can do is go up in my book. That’s a good thing.
Darryl Sutter has been a complete surprise. Every Kings fan would light up my twitter feed, bloggers would smirk, and other critics in NHL would note that Sutter was just another Terry Murray. We know the facts about TM and DS and know that Sutter holds players accountable for their duties and guides them literally hands over shoulders. Kyle Clifford is a good case for the aggressive responsibility that Coach Sutter expects for his players. If he can continue to mentor his players and preach expectations and hold them accountable, while being realistic, and limiting constant line recalibrations, always wearing that ugly brown sports coat then the Kings continue to be competitive.
At the end of it all that’s:
Disappointment: 3 Stolls and a Moreau
Surprises: 2 Cliffords, 1 Colin Fraser and a Darryl Sutter
We leave the question for you to answer below the bench.
Which player is a disappointment and which player is a pleasant surprise so far this 2011-12 season? @LAKings
Topics: Dean Lombardi, Drew Doughty, Dustin Penner, Jack Johnson, Jarret Stoll, Jonathan Quick, Kyle Clifford, Los Angeles Kings, Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers, Slava Voynov, Terry Murray, Wayne Simmonds