THE ROYAL REPORT CARD, PART I – THE GOALIES AND DEFENSE
Harry Halkidis is a knowledgeable LA Kings’ and hockey fan, an excellent writer and an all around good guy. I have been courting him for nearly a year to join us at Surly & Scribe and he finally honored us with his puck wisdom and written words. Surly thinks of Harry as S&S’s third jersey and we hope to see much more of him going forward. Here is part I of his Royal Report Card. First up, the goalies and defense…
The Kings season concluded in April and the organization is currently in the process of conducting exit interviews. Exit interviews are an opportunity for the coaches, management and players to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and what could be better as they gear up for the 2011-12 season. This time of year also enables fans, observers, critics, purists and experts to chime in with their year-end reviews on individual and team performances. To start, I will focus on the team’s strengths. Every player will be graded solely on their performance this season; no past accomplishments or what may or may not happen in the future. In the first installment, the focus will be on goaltending and defense
Jonathan Quick (A-): Quick was the Kings’ most valuable player. The first goalie in Kings’ history to register back-to-back 30-plus wins, Quick finished 4th in the NHL with a 2.24 GAA (among goalies that started a minimum of 30 games), and ranked 11th with a .918 save percentage (also among goalies with a minimum of 30 starts). The goalie is the backbone of any defense, and Quick was a significant reason why the Kings finished 6th in goals against. Although Quick has been faulted for allowing a questionable goal every now and then (something every goalie could be faulted for), but Quick stood out as the most consistent performer on the Kings throughout the 2010-11 season. The most you can ask for from a goaltender is consistency, and Quick delivered with above average consistency.
Jonathan Bernier (B+): The promising young Bernier had an up-and-down start to the season with some inconsistent performances due to sporadic starts. Bernier struggled seeing through traffic in front of him and had difficulty tracking the puck, but after a rocky start to 2010, Bernier cleaned up his game and finished 2011 with a 7-2-3 record.
Drew Doughty (B-): Doughty had a seesaw 2010-11 season, both offensively and defensively. From the start of the preseason, Doughty was showing some uncharacteristic behavior on the ice that was not prevalent in his first two seasons as a King. He was playing undisciplined hockey, taking lazy or needless penalties. He was also reckless and at times careless in his own end, either being out of position, or haphazardly defending against an attacking player. Although some credited Doughty’s struggles from his concussion following a collision with Erik Cole in a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on October 20, 2010 at Staples Center, there was speculation that Doughty showed up to camp out of shape. To add fuel to the fire, Doughty reportedly finished last in conditioning scores among all Kings players during training camp. Despite the scrutiny and pressure to exceed his monumental sophomore season that earned him Norris Trophy consideration as the best defenseman in the NHL, Doughty was able to turn his play around and prove just why he is considered one of the league’s top young defensemen at 21.
Jack Johnson (B): For a period of time, Jack Johnson was unquestionably the best defenseman on the Kings’ roster. Similar to Doughty, Johnson experienced erratic play throughout the 2010-11 season. Despite finishing third among defensemen in power play assists and fifth among defensemen with 28 power play points, Johnson found himself on the bottom of the barrel in plus/minus, finishing the season as a -21. Only six others finished the season with a worse plus/minus. Call it dumb luck or missed assignments, Johnson often finds himself on the ice when a goal is scored against the Kings. But despite his struggles with consistency, Johnson did display progression in all areas of the game, leading Kings defensemen with 42 points and leading the team with 133 blocked shots.
Willie Mitchell (A): When Dean Lombardi signed Willie Mitchell to a two-year contract in the summer of 2010, there were some questions raised on the health and durability of a 33-year old defenseman coming off a concussion that curtailed his 2009-10 season. Mitchell’s play in 2010-11 put those questions to rest as Mitchell proved to be the glue that held the defense together. Despite missing 25 games due to a broken wrist and a lower body injury, Mitchell’s contributions had a significant impact on the Kings’ improved defense. He also established a new career high by scoring five goals, tied with Jack Johnson for second most goals by a defenseman on the Kings.
Rob Scuderi (B+): For a second consecutive season, Scuderi was a stalwart inside his own blueline. The veteran defenseman is a quiet leader who is always counted on to play a shutdown role. While his game is not glamorous, Scuderi’s active stick and strong positional play helped reduce LA’s shots against average to 27.9 shots per game, good for third best in the NHL. Scuderi can be counted on as the Kings’ most dependable defenseman.
Matt Greene (B-): The heart and soul of the Kings’ defense, Matt Greene is always sacrificing himself and laying his body on the line to block a shot, defend a teammate and to protect a lead. Greene led Kings defensemen with 243 hits, good for ninth overall in the NHL. However, Greene was also prone to making some mistakes, committing errant penalties or at times getting caught out of position. Greene is a player who wears his heart on his sleeve and brings his lunch pail to work; he will never be faulted for a lack of work ethic. Although Greene struggled at times against faster forwards and occasionally was caught out of position due to overzealousness to finish a check, Greene consistently provides the most physical presence on defense.
Alec Martinez (B+): The most surprising performance of the season came from Alec Martinez. Coming out of camp with little to no expectations, Martinez beat out a number of highly touted prospects in Voynov, Hickey and Muzzin to secure a spot on the Kings’ blueline. Martinez displayed a lot of poise in controlling the puck, becoming a regular fixture on the second power play unit. The emergence of Martinez as a puck-moving defenseman helped solidify LA’s top six defense. Martinez’s play will likely sign a one-way contract this summer, a reward that he is deserving of.
Davis Drewiske (C): It wasn’t that long ago when Davis Drewiske was in Alec Martinez’s place, having earned a one-way contract due to his impressive play, forming a solid pairing with Matt Greene on the Kings’ third defensive pair. After earning a one-way contract, Drewiske has played himself out of a regular rotation and found himself as a healthy scratch for 44 games. Drewiske has size, but never uses it to his advantage and often times was rattled from physical play. He may have found comfort in being the seventh defenseman on the Kings roster, but the 26-year old defenseman has regressed since his impressive showing as a rookie two seasons ago.
Peter Harrold (C+): Peter Harrold has been a jack of all trades for the Kings, having been used as a winger, center and defenseman. He has done an admirable job in his spot duty and does whatever is asked of him by his coaches. While his versatility is valued by the organization, Harrold does not necessarily excel at any aspect of the game. Harrold was a healthy scratch for 63 games and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
In the second installment, the Kings’ forwards will be analyzed.