LA Kings: Back to basics for defenseman Olli Maatta

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /

LA Kings defenseman Olli Maatta spoke with the media on Monday, indicating a more simplistic approach has helped him become more comfortable.

On Sunday, Austin Strand touched on his working relationship with him. On Monday, it was Olli Maatta who returned the favor, speaking of said relationship with Strand. Overall, though, the veteran defenseman is still trying to find his way as a veteran working with a young defensive corps for the LA Kings.

The first four games of the season posed a rough start for Maatta, which the 26-year-old was extremely transparent about. Barely effective on the ice — or, rather, not as effective as expected — the Jyvaskyla, Finland native became a healthy scratch for a few games before being reinserted into the lineup. Like his current linemate, the aforementioned Austin Strand, Maatta was put into the lineup largely due to the voids left by Matt Roy and Sean Walker — both of whom remained injured and unable to play — but, also like Strand, it’s about making the most of his opportunity while in the lineup.

Following practice on Monday, Maatta spoke with the media about his relationship with Strand, working with LA Kings assistant coach — and defensive specialist — Trent Yawney, as well as what changes he has made since returning to the lineup.

“I think it’s just playing more simple,” Maatta said of his recent changes. “I think it’s going back to basics.

“That’s just the way you build your confidence up. I think it’s been working. Been playing with [Austin Strand]. He– we both kind of feed off each other. He talks a lot out there, I talk a lot out there and it feels pretty good.”

Needless to say, Maatta’s comfort level has elevated since returning to the lineup for the past five games.

“Time, too,” the blueliner continued, pointing out another reason for his increased comfort. “I think more time just getting used to the systems. Just getting that to your backbone so you don’t have to [over]think out there.”

Speaking of Austin Strand, Maatta was asked to elaborate on his relationship with the rookie, whom he has been paired with for the past four games.

“First of all, he works hard,” the 26-year-old noted. “He practices on the ice, off the ice. I think that’s a good sign and he just wants to get better every day. I think that’s a big thing. As a player, I think he has a lot of the weapons: he’s a fluent skater, he thinks the game the right way. He has some offense but he doesn’t cheat the game. So, I think he’s going to be a really good player.”

Maatta can also attribute his overall improvement to the aforementioned Trent Yawney, who has been helping the veteran fit into the lineup.

“I think Yawn’s been a big part of it,” the two-time Stanley Cup winner said of his recent improvement. “Well, first of all, when I came [to Los Angeles], we were talking about just trying to get me into the systems. It obviously takes some time. I had to struggle a little bit at the beginning there but he’s always been talking to me, showing me some clips, talking to me about my game and trying to get me going. I think he’s helped a lot in that way and just the basics things like how you make the game easier for yourself.”

Some can look at the two Stanley Cups he helped win with the Pittsburgh Penguins and come to the conclusion that he will turn everything around for his new team. That was not the case for Olli Maatta, although, in fairness, that is quite a lot to ask of just about anyone.

The first four games of his LA Kings career may not have been anything to write home about, but Maatta has been patient, as have his coaches. As a result, the past five games have been a different story for the Finn. Now, the 26-year-old is not only helping himself but offering a hand in the development of younger blueliners such as the aforementioned Austin Strand, who has been a great success for the silver-and-black thus far.

We are still fairly early in the season, so let us not jump to any conclusions surrounding Olli Maatta and his game just yet. Little by little, though, the blueliner is easing into the Kings lineup and getting more familiar with the LA Kings systems. At this juncture, that’s really all that you can ask for from any newcomer.

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Let us see what the next few games, and few weeks, hold for Olli Maatta. But, after a slow start, it’s been so far, so good. Let us hope that this will be a promising sign of things to come.