Let’s Do Lines

I promised I wouldn’t do this anymore. I quit for an entire year. I resisted temptation though it was all around me. All my friends were doing it. Surly was doing it for a while…daily. This morning, I finally broke. I am off the wagon. Let’s do some lines, LA style.

The additions of Mike Richards and Simone Gagne, coupled with the subtraction of Michael Handzus, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Wayne Simmonds mandate a fresh look at our top six and depth at the forward positions.

WITH A HEALTHY TEAM:

Who are the top six? As of this minute and until Kyle Clifford shows otherwise, they are Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Dustin Penner, and Simone Gagne. What to do, what to do…there is no first or second line center between Kopitar and Richards. They are both first line centers. Some of the same holds true with Justin Williams and Dustin Brown. You could place them on the first or second line. They are interchangeable. Dustin Penner and Simone Gagne is easier. Gagne is clearly the more skilled left wing. So, the only division we have between a purported first or second line player is Gagne and Penner. Does that mean Gagne goes on the alleged first line? I don’t think so and the reason is, there is no first line. Stay with me…

Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards are different kinds of centers. Kopitar is not a banger. He is not a physical presence. He uses his size and reach well and is very difficult to knock off the puck but nobody will mistake him for a freight train. Kopitar will need a physical presence on his line, someone willing to go to the net. While Gagne does check, that is not his primary game and Richards isn’t going on Anze’s left or right. As such, Dustin Brown moves to Kopitar’s right. Now, who goes left? Dustin Penner.  He plays a game that compliments Kopitar, as we already saw for the short time Penner was successful last season. If Dustin Brown wills his way to the front of the net (where he has been the recipient of many of his rebound and/or garbage goals that pad rightfully boost his stats) and Penner can rediscover his soft hands, Kopitar and the defensemen can fire at will while Penner and Brown pick up the garbage. Thus, we have big play making center (Kopitar), sniper (Penner), physical presence (Brown).

That leaves Richards centering Justin Williams and Simone Gagne. Why do I love this line? I love it because it brings the same balanced element (physical presence in Richards, playmaker in Justin Williams, and sniper in Simone Gagne) but with one critical piece missing from the other line – speed through all three forwards. This is a line that can wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Each of these players can skate with the puck, stick handle, pass and bury the biscuit. A final element this line brings is inherent chemistry. We already know Mike Richards and Simone Gagne played well together in Philadelphia. The fact Justin Williams’ game compliments each of them should bring a renewed enthusiasm, especially playing with his good friend (Gagne). I see this line as the more consistent of the top two lines. I see three 25-35 goal scorers on this line. I see two first lines or, if you must, a 1a and 1b.

The third line has even more options but, for me, it’s easy. Andrei Loktionov and Jarret Stoll take the center and/or right wing positions. I can play with this line to see who plays the center role. Remember, that a center has to cover more ice than the other forward positions and must possess speed, superior on ice vision and be an excellent passer. I can hear you say, “Lokti!” Size and strength matter of course but if you get the prior three attributes + size and strength, then you have a top 6 center and, right now, we are talking about the third line. The left wing is Kyle Clifford although, as written earlier, I expect Clifford to have a break out season. More on this below.

Fourth line is Trevor Lewis centering Brad Richardson on the right and Scott Parse on the left. Lewis took his game up a notch but he isn’t quite ready for prime time. Ideally however, playing on a line with Richie and Parse will have the elements of a pseudo top 6 line. Nobody will mistake those three for bruisers. Each brings speed and a fair degree of offensive skill. Lewis has proven himself defensively responsible, as has Scott Parse. Richardson’s production and contribution on both ends of the ice has been inconsistent.

Remember, this is my fourth line, not that of Terry Murray.

Where is Kevin Westgarth? When we play a team that requires Kevin’s presence, he can substitute in for Parse. When is that? Er…

That is four lines that bring speed, offensive skill (each, in its own right), a physical game and are defensively responsible.

BREAK OUT SEASONS

If the lines remain consistent and Terry Murray doesn’t go ape with the line shuffling, three forwards I expect to have break out years are Clifford, Brown and Williams.

Unexpected positive playoff performance often becomes a catalyst to a young player taking the “next step.” It infuses confidence (“I belong here”) and maturity. Kyle should come into the season with both. That coupled with an inherent intensity and well-adjusted hostility toward everything that doesn’t wear the crown should prove my prediction of a young Adam Graves with fists as progressing toward its potential.

Dustin Brown no longer has to be the man. He will wear the C of course and he should but the burden of carrying the team is no longer on his shoulders. The additions of Mike Richards and, to some extent, even Simone Gagne, ensures that. Look for Brown to keep his game simple, force far less plays (for the love of God) and, something he must do more to be effective, pass the puck and look to get it back around the net.

Justin Williams’ breakout year should come from playing with the skill set of Richards and Gagne. Williams is rarely the weak link on any line. He has shown flashes of brilliance the past two seasons before injuries derailed him. Give him consistent line mates that can bury the puck and you may see Justin’s assist totals reach 45 while his goals climb to 25-30.

THE TERRY MURRAY FACTOR

It’s a new season and everyone gets a fresh start, including Terry Murray with me. Dean Lombardi has given him the gift of offense. This is now coach Murray’s chance to show all of us his system can produce consistently on both ends of the ice when he has the necessary talent. Lack of depth, lack of skill, lack of “finishers”, whatever the excuses were last season no longer apply. I am rooting for Terry Murray to show I was wrong about him and also show all others who have called him a “bridge” coach that he is far more and better.

GO KINGS!



Categories: L.A. Kings News

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50 replies

  1. Woooh!! This gets me all excited for October!!

    I know D is fairly easy (assuming Drew signs) but what do you think of Martinez staying up in the NHL, or do you see someone else taking his spot? Me personally, I would like to see him stay.

    • Martinez will show this season if he is a keeper. Many players have one good season and then fall off. If Alec can elevate his game so we start looking at him as a top 4, verses a 5 or 6, look out. We would have a defense worth envying. I actually think, brace yourself, Matt Greene is our weakest link on D.

      • Greene is most assuredly the weakest link on D. He was exposed badly when he was forced into a top-4 role when Mitchell was injured. Greene is a warrior and has the heart, but the talent just isn’t there. His cap hit is also way too much for a 5/6 defenseman.

      • Jack MF Johnson is by far our weakest D-Man in the all important Defense catagory.

        Career Minus player!!!!!!! with all that TM offense, he gets the puck ALOT in the offensive zone, to shoot or pass OR miss the net entirely. Consider all the times he’s on the plus side, to be minus more games than not!!…….

        When Jack does not have the puck, lets just say he’s weaker than the other 5 or maybe 6 guys, FAR>>>>to many young guys coming up

        I see a deal to get him with Sid in the next year or so, I prefer Martinez over Jack, Cheaper, Smarter, and gets the puck to the net.

  2. Saying Greener is the weakest link on the blue line kinda blue my mind, but thinking about it, it’s actually true if Martinez continues to grow. I am glad there wasn’t any changes to our D/Goalie situation.

  3. My healthy lineup and maybe 1 period for Terry Murray:

    Penner-Kopitar-Williams
    Gagne-Richards-Brown
    Parse-Stoll-Lewis
    Clifford-Richardson-Westgarth
    Fraser

    Doughty-Mitchell
    Scuderi-Johnson
    Martinez-Greene
    Drewiske

    Quick/Bernier

    • Fraser ain’t cracking our lineup

      • I kinda get that feeling. If he wasn’t hurt, he’d probably be let go after camp. Maybe in Manch, but not on our bottom 6 in LA. Maybe it helps him to be injured right now.

  4. I am in agreement on your 1a, 1b thoery.

    I just have one assanine question on that.
    When we 1rst got Penner, I screamed bloody murder that Brown should be on that line, and it fell on def ears.

    Question: Where the F**K was all this wisdom then? LOL

    On the 3rd
    Stolls on ice vision is better than Lokti’s at the current momment. Stolls TOI was as a 2nd line Center last season. This season his TOI will go down slightly playing 3rd line minutes, so he’ll have more focused energy per shift this season than he ever did before. I don’t see Lokti unseating him as a Center at all. Your point on covering more ice with speed won’t matter because Stoll will be far better rested, has far more experience, and already has enough speed to burn there. It’s not Lokti speed, but Lokti hasn’t got Stoll know how either.

    4rth I agree.

    On the subject of TM. My only real concern is on wether he opens it up, or not. If the 1rst 2 lines spend most of their time grinding along the boards, all bets are off. Those 2 lines should be dictating play, not being forced to play a certain style. So Murray has no excuses to force the boards in the offensive zone, unless that’s where he really wants them. I won’t care if that’s good enough to get us in the playoffs. It was good enough before we got Richards, and Gagne. I want to go farther now, and see this team evolve in other areas other than defense.

    PP must show some flow, and be able to open up options also. Not just pass around the perimeter, then fire from the point.

  5. Regarding the 3rd line, I imagine that TM will continue to want this line to be a strong “checking” line. If so, the only way Loktionov makes sense to me is at center. He could play wing on the top 2 lines (although I think that’s a bad idea), but on the checking line he’s gonna have to channel his inner Igor Larionov.

    • I am not sure Lokti makes much sense on any checking line but I also don’t believe in such a thing as a checking line. I like Detroit’s model and that of San Jose (the latter, last season). Give me three scoring lines but, in our case, with a solid 2 way game and I give you a team that is going to the Cup finals. San Jose, if they had our D and goaltending, wins the Cup. I think they took a big step backward in the offseason. They are going to miss Seto something fierce. Back to us, I want to see Lokti and Stoll with Clifford because that brings the same model as the top 2 lines. Playmaker, sniper and physical presence.

      • Sounds good to me!

      • I know you are speaking in abstracts, but Terry Murray is way too old school (same with Dean) to go with 3 scoring lines. He will have his “checking” line and that will have Stoll at center. Loktionov will be the #1 center in Manchester. He’s still only 21 years old and is waiver exempt, he can be recalled for injuries.

        • I think Loki, Kozun, Vey and Toffoli are going to be so lights out in camp that they are going to make the choice VERY tough on the coaching staff.

          As much as it pains me to say, i think Richardson might need to get traded or used as the spare forward. He is almost a carbon copy of Lewis in so many ways with less upside. I knd of would rather have a different type of forward like Loki or in the bottom six than two of the same guy.

          • Just play Richardson against Colorado…

          • I also agree that Richardson/Lewis are the same type of player but I feel Richardson gets the short end of the stick. I think he’s been one of the unsung hero’s of our beloved team. I don’t argue Lewis has more upside, I just really like and appreciate what Richardson does. He’s one of my favorates.

          • … Richardson is a better player than Lewis and centered the most effective line that the Kings had in the playoffs. I can’t believe I’m reading things like “trade him” or “bench him”. How quickly things are forgotten. Lewis had 4 goals in 78 games last season. Richardson had half of that total in a six-game series.

            Lewis shouldn’t even skate a regular shift. He has no hands for scoring and is brutal on the draw. He should be an occasional 4th line winger and PK specialist.

          • Hey, I love Richardson. I think he has topped out though. I think Lewis is going to get better and better. I don’t like the idea of trading him or otherwise, but I think eventually one of the two has to go. Lewis is better defensively and on my bottom 6, I prefer that skill. His PK prowess is top notch and is needed now that Zus is gone.

            Don’t misconstrue my comments as a slight against Richardson because it is not. Richardson is awesome and steps into the top 6 better than Lewis, but at the end of the day if you make me choose,I choose Lewis.

          • I think he has topped out though. I think Lewis is going to get better and better.

            … Wait a second, now. Richardson is the same age as Mike Richards. Has Richards topped out? I distinctly remember you posting something to the effect that Mike has not. Yet Richardson has?

            And Lewis, who’s almost two years younger than Richardson, certainly might get better with experience. But at his current level of play, he doesn’t really belong on a regular shift – if this is truly the season that this team will be suddenly “elite” or whatever, if the time is truly now, they can’t afford to have Lewis in anything more than a PK specialist’s role. If he shows that he’s capable of more than that as the season goes along, then that’s one thing. But he certainly needs to show it first. Otherwise, he’s taking up room that could be occupied by someone who’s better.

          • I Don’t recall saying Richards was going to get better. Maybe what you are thinking of is me saying That he is in his prime, or that he will be better than he was the last two seasons (returning to his ppg form). Either way, its not Just an age thing. Its witnessing Lewis and Richardson play. I’ve watched Richie for three years now and he has pretty much been what he is the whole time. Good, not great. The occassional scoring touch, mediocre defensively but fast and working his ass off every shift.

            Lewis on the other hand has demonstrated a learning curve. Shit maybe that will stop. I didn’t mean for this to explode into some argument were there is a huge difference between the two guys. However I TOTALLY disagree with your assessment that Lewis hasn’t earned a regular shift. I just can’t wrap my head around that one because Lewis has shown to be a very smart, hard working and useful player. Not just on the PK, though that is his strength. Why exactly is it that you have this notion That Lewis isn’t worth a regular shift?

          • However I TOTALLY disagree with your assessment that Lewis hasn’t earned a regular shift. I just can’t wrap my head around that one because Lewis has shown to be a very smart, hard working and useful player. Not just on the PK, though that is his strength. Why exactly is it that you have this notion That Lewis isn’t worth a regular shift?

            … Oh come on, Jacob. We covered this. I said that Lewis had no hands for scoring and is brutal on the draw. That about covers it. He’s good on the PK. That’s about it. If he was any worse offensively, he’d be John Zeiler.

          • J.T., you are right about Richardson, however your analysis of Trevor Lewis assumes that his development curve is over. I don’t care if he is a late bloomer, there was a massive jump that took place at the end of last season (and honestly, even before that he earned a regular shift). He hasn’t demonstrated a scoring touch yet and needs a lot of work on faceoffs (so does Kopitar), that doesn’t mean he’s any less of a keeper.

          • Bang on about Lewis taking the jump in the playoffs. If you’d asked me to choose halfway through the season I probably would have said Lewis, but something clicked in Lewis that tells me he finally ‘got it’ in the d zone. His PK abilities were outright monstrous and I don’t think that was a fluke. I fully expect him to get even better.

            As for his offense, we’ll see. We know he has some offensive talent in him. Whether it clicks like his d, only time will tell.

        • I agree, Stoll is the perfect 3rd line center. Lokti will be waiting a year or two. Even after Stoll’s contract expires is Lokti really going to uproot Richards? This is an interesting scenario.

  6. I’m still nervous about Doughty signing up.

  7. These are always fun.

    First, I completely agree, Williams should break his personal best in assists and possibly points. Brown, also will have his best year point wise because he will become what he really is, a power forward that crashes the net (and people) and gets those ugly rebounds and loose pucks. I also agree Clifford will continue to get better, but if everyone stays healthy and Penner brings the game I’m expecting, Clifford doesn’t smell the top two lines. This new team has skill we haven’t seen in awhile. If Clifford finds himself on one of the top two lines…. that’s bad news for us.

    I differ on the top two lines. As you know, I have the opinion Kopitar hasn’t reach his mental peak yet. He is great when open ice is available to him, but he does not fight for space or create space for others. Penner is much the same in style, as Kopitar. So that leaves someone who has to retrieve pucks, create space and make plays for Kopitar and Penner to look like hero’s. That player is Williams. Williams stick-handling is better, his decision making is more defined, his vision of the ice is much more vast and his patients with the puck will give Kopitar and Penner time to find open areas Not that Brown isn’t good, I just feel Williams is a better fit

    On the other hand, Richards and Gagne have the ability to create their own space. Richards play-maker, Gagne sniper and Brown a true power forward, creating havoc. A perfect combo on paper. With this trio, I feel Brown will have a career year.

    3rd and 4th are tough. I feel Parse will be a pleasant surprise. So it would depend on the opponent and the need for skill or toughness. I’d go with Parse/Clifford-Stoll-Richardson as my 3rd line.

    Parse/Clifford-Lewis-???/Westy

    • Kopi and Brown were very productive and even one of the hottest lines in the NHL last season, without a left winger. They were one of the last pairings to be split up during “the SLUMP”, before we traded for Penner. Once we traded for Penner, TM never even tried to put those 2 back together with Penner as their left winger for 1 single shift. Kopi got hurt, and the rest went up in flames.

      Ironic that during that whole time I was screaming for TM to at least try it, and got stiff resistance from alot of fans. Now it’s projected to be that way by many next season, and everybodies fine with it, and even excited about it.

      • You’re just ahead of your time, Dominick

      • Brown was even more and has always been more productive when he plays on the left side, he seems to gravitate there.

        Question??? With DB/ AK / DP on the 1st line, does that make JW / MR / SG on the second line, another 1st line????

  8. Here is my only comment:

  9. I had Sydor’s lineup penciled in, but I know that Coach Murray will show us every possible combination by the end of the third period. Agree also that Murray will give us only the most
    old-school looks and that Loktionov will pretty much stay in Man. That disappoints, but I’m hanging with the Coach (I still shudder when I think of Marc Crawford). But then, being
    a Chicago Bears supporter, I do love scoring first and then slowly choking the life out of ‘em…
    (esp. the Van. idiots.).

    Don’t believe in Penner – prove me wrong. Gagne or Parse end up on that line, meaning Clifford moves up. Hate that trade and begrudge the man that part of his paycheck which exceeds minumum wage (playing for the Cup is an honor, not a J-O-B, Penner. If you don’t think so,then I’ll send you an application from my employer) – thank God Simmonds didn’t go in that trade.

    • playing for the Cup is an honor, not a J-O-B, Penner.

      … Now, THERE’s a quote. Who knows more about playing for the Stanley Cup – Dustin Penner, someone who has his name already etched on said Cup; or random internet guy?

  10. Dear Other Random Internet Guy, every one here and every other fan of all teams everywhere suffers from the defect you correctly point to in my remarks and in myself…not least of all yourself. Pleased however that you found my rhetoric provacative – flattered to be quoted.

    I’m either right to say what I did or I am not – we will see. The reasons for thinking it are obvious enough. As for the names on the cup, there are a lot of interesting names etched
    on it – some truly comical. And that is as it should be. But even the most ridiculous of those names knows more about playing for the Cup than all the rest of us put together – again, yourself included. So, shall we stop offering arguments? (I didn’t hear you say I was wrong – only that I had no right/standing to say it).

    As for my own particular randomness, the ’67 refers to the year I started watching the Kings and going to games when I can and when I have the money. I’ve seen Billy Smith and Butch Goring win the Cup somewhere else. And that was just the start of it…too many horrible trades to even remember. Point is, I’ve earned the right to say what I will about the Kings – take it or leave it. The rest hardly matters. As you more or less say, I am a nobody. I have no status. Like yourself, I’m just not all that special. Just call me:

    “fan”.

    • JT can be a bit thorny…not in a bad way, but like a cactus you accidentally brush up against and utter a “ow!” or “f***”. He can take it as much as he gives it though. Feel free to lay into him. I do on occasion :) I did laugh at this post though. I have to remember, “Dear Other Random Internet Guy” as a salutation. May have to borrow that sometime.

  11. Good enough – if we weren’t willing to go to the boards then we’d be…from San Jose. Enjoy
    your site quite a lot – none better, cheers and thanks for that. Very informed readership – careful observers with good arguments.

    To paraphrase Orr to Schultz, J.T., I’ll be waiting for you at center ice at the first stoppage after 17:00.

  12. (I didn’t hear you say I was wrong – only that I had no right/standing to say it)

    … Actually, I didn’t post anything of that sort. Please read that post again and get it down if you’re going to claim that I said something.

    I just found it strange/amusing that you were informing Dustin Penner, in effect, what playing for the Cup was about, when in fact he knows far more about it than you do. You have every right to post whatever you want, though; no matter how strange or amusing it happens to be.

  13. JT,

    Implied by: 1. Your scorn, combined with: 2. Your failure to address my argument. Beyond that, you plainly say that I have no standing to address Penner as I did – read your own post, lad – saying I am a bad boy for lecturing Penner because I haven’t played for the Cup is to say I have no standing to do so. Alright then – let’ not hear you question any player however plainly lacking his effort. Or is it ok as long as we don’t call them out, but only talk about it with other fans (i.e. out of earshot)?

    Maybe your man will turn out to be the second coming of the Big M (sorry – Frank Mahovlich), but I don’t believe it. I say he lacks heart and was on a Cup-winning team because of the commitment of others. I say he was along for the ride, and that his lack of commitment makes him into a marginal player on a contending team. Again, Cup-winning teams have had plenty of role players, clowns, the giftless and indifferent who hoist the Cup only because others were champions. Same in all sports – some guys are just happy to be playing and earning. Just like some cities/teams are just thrilled to make the playoffs. If I’m proven wrong, I’ll eat my words and compliment the chef. And you can swear that you also saw shit on the plate. Knock yourself out.

    As for talking at Penner as I did, I plainly see that I’ve hurt your feelings. In Chicago there would be hundreds of us shouting it at him from the stands – (come out to Soldier Field this Fall – on second thought, you probably shouldn’t) as in Philly, Boston,
    and NY (don’t bother to say that you’ve sat in the stands in any of those places – you plainly haven’t – or was that you wearing the teal shirt and drinking Sprite in the visitor’s section?). No guy like him would ever get the kind of pass you are offering – especially with his cap hit.
    Maybe that’s why the first thing out of Richards’ mouth when he heard of the trade was that
    he was shocked that he wouldn’t be playing in a hockey city. I’d like to believe that he’ll
    change his mind about that, or at least about us (forget the city) but its not like he hasn’t played games here, in our building. Apparently he wasn’t as impressed as we would like. We have some winning to do to change that (here is where the Lakers are instructive – free agents want to come here, travel or no travel).

    Again, thank you for quoting me correctly – I’ll settle for that from you. But you’d better get to the locker room and get cleaned and stitched up – you’re not looking too good, and I’ll be circling center ice to start the third. If you want to sit on the bench and shout that I have no right to be out there, go to it. Doesn’t change what is.

    Cordially,

    • Wait, did you mean to post under the name J.T. Dutch while addressing JT or was that a mistake?

    • … Wow. You are totally reading a lot more into my posts to you than what’s there. Since you seem to want to go off on a rant based on stuff you’re making up, I’m just gonna leave you to it. Have fun!

      Cordially,

      The REAL J.T. Dutch

  14. Sybil had 11 female personalities, and 2 male personalities. Maybe the JT’s are talking to each other. LOL

  15. Weird – don’t know how that happened. I know he likes to quote me, but… And I certainly wouldn’t want to throw punches at myself when he is as game as he is.

    Looking below, I see his byline and e-mail address (2d and 3d lines) under my e-mail address. Looks like – hopefully – a minor I.T. issue.

    • The only way I am aware that happens is if you input the information. Regardless, keep on eye on your input line items next time you reply to him (and you will reply to him ;) ) to see if it shows up like that again and let me know. You can email me – lakingsnews@gmail.com – and I will look into it

  16. I knew you’d find a way to cut and run – classic Canucks fan – in drag.

    • I knew you’d find a way to cut and run – classic Canucks fan – in drag.

      … Awwww, so adorable. I actually have a Tiger Williams Canucks’ jersey, so you may not be far off. It is a mystery …

      Look, much respect to you for being a fan since the beginning, but honestly you’re just going on and on about stuff I didn’t post about. Penner’s not “my guy”, he’s not my favorite player or anything (that guy was traded to Philly). I was just pointing out that Dustin has a ring. If you want my opinion about how he will do, I think he’ll do well, given playing time. He’ll work harder in the off-season this year than he did last, and Lombardi I’m sure will get all the credit for “motivating” Penner, when in fact Dean just shot off his mouth.

  17. Fair enough, and I hope you’re right. If he can even score 15 goals on the third line I’ll call
    it good work – and even I believe he can do that.

    I did ramble at that – Ever since Cooke chased out Pulford I’ve been mumbling “Vietnam” under my breath, and watching Bolland smack Sedin and then watching Bobby Orr wave the bloody shirt gave me flashbacks and made me start muttering in my sleep: why the f*** not us?

    Go Kings!

    Cordially,

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