Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to read the article put up over the weekend predicting what moves the Kings would be making to get down to the maximum roster size of 23 players. Perhaps the most common question asked this week is how/why Tyler Toffoli didn’t make the final list.
It’s explained in that article, but the simple answer is he was the only player from last year’s Kings playoff squad that could be sent to Manchester without having to first pass through waivers. In essence, the move also prevented them from having to make at least one other roster move (i.e. waive/trade a player they kept instead of Toffoli).
With that said, the following opinion piece looks at how the Kings line-up should be constructed, not what coach Darryl Sutter will actually be using vs. the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of the 2013-14 season.
For the short-attention span crew, here’s the proposed line-up… with the explanations to follow:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Tyler Toffoli
Matt Frattin – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Kyle Clifford – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Dwight King – Colin Fraser – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell – Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez – Matt Greene
Three healthy scratches:
– Dan Carcillo, Jordan Nolan, Robyn Regehr
Key points to think about…
- Top Line: To the people who think that Dustin Brown isn’t a top line player, just stop. You’re making yourself look bad with your ridiculous attempt to grasp at straws. He’s earned his keep there and is the Kings best option at left wing. Did you notice he tied for the team lead in goals and points during the 2012 Cup run? Or that the only LA player who scored more goals than Brown last season was Carter? So, just stop it already.
- Replacing Williams with Toffoli: We’ll get to the former next, first the latter. One of the reasons everybody is enamored with the ‘White Line’ in Manchester (Tanner Pearson – Linden Vey – Toffoli) is because of the mix of players. In fact, Ron Hextall once called it the perfect line – a power forward, a play-making center and a sniper. Put Toffoli with Brown and Kopitar and that’s exactly what you would have in LA. It’s also important to note that Toffoli is a natural right wing, who belongs in the top-6…and with Jeff Carter being more valuable at RW than center, that also only leaves ones line for Toffoli, the top line.
- Putting Williams on the third line: Some people will scoff at the idea and want to point to his CORSI numbers and argue how he’s such a great puck-possession player that he deserves to be on the top line. But, if your third line is typically your ‘stopper’ line and is the group you put out there against the other team’s top players, wouldn’t those advanced statistics actually support having Williams in the role suggested here? Next, look at Williams’ goal output the last three years – 22, 22 and 11. Toffoli can replace that on the top line. Now, if Williams can produce more than Trevor Lewis has as the third-line RW (three goals in 2011-12 and five goals last season), you just increased the team’s goal totals. Think the Kings could use more offense?
- The Fourth Line: Look, the least interesting argument is what to do here. If you think Carcillo should replace King, fine. If you think Linden Vey should replace Fraser, fine. There are so many different combinations that could be used here – and that’s great – but, it’s not likely to have a major impact on the team’s overall success. That’s not a knock on any individual player or the collective group. The Kings are blessed with an abundance of bottom-6 role players. The guys all grind, they know their role and they’re comfortable with it. Thus, any mix of the five forwards left on the roster could help you on any given night. That said, the wild card here might be Trevor Lewis. I’d probably test him out as the fourth line center. Sure, he’s good along the boards, and that’s why he’s been solid at RW, however he’s a natural center. Getting a little more creativity from the pivot could give a new dimension to the fourth line. It’s worth a try. If it doesn’t work, slot him back in at RW4.
- Andy Andreoff: He has a future with the Kings, no doubt. The question is, should it be right now? Probably not. Using the above line-up, Sutter would already be working in Toffoli on the top line Frattin into the Kings system, Williams on the third line and using Carcillo some nights on the fourth line. That’s a lot to deal with to start the season. Let all of those pieces gel and then – provided he continues to progress in Manchester – look to add Andreoff during the second half of the season. That would be the smarter roster play.
- Crazy idea: You want something crazy to think about? What if Frattin doesn’t work out as the left wing with Richards and Carter? What options do the Kings have – Clifford? King? The same ones they had last year essentially. So, how about this one for all you out-of-the-box thinkers… put Stoll there. What, you say? Well, he might have more offensive upside than any of the others used there last season. He’s played top-6 minutes most of his career. It’s easier for a center to move to wing than a winger to slide over to the middle. He can do it. You could then slide Lewis over to be the third line center – and if he’s playing with Frattin and Williams on that third line, they just might give you some goals. Hey, it’s an idea. And the more you think about it, it’s not as crazy as you probably first thought.
- Doughty’s partner: Doughty was practically lobbying to be paired with Muzzin during the pre-season. Yes, Muzzin needs to shore up some holes in his defensive game. However, the experience gained last year was invaluable and with another year under assistant coach John Stevens, he should take noticeable steps forward. Doughty and Muzzin played well together last season and would be a much more dynamic pair than going the safe route with Regehr.
- Greene’s partner: Martinez deserves to be on that third pairing. He and Greene were a very effective unit in the 2012 playoff run. Martinez essentially lost his spot due to injury last year and was never really given the opportunity to reclaim it. He’s healed, he’s healthy, he has a new two-year contract – put the pairing back together and get on with it.
- Healthy Scratches: Part of this goes back to the fourth line notes above. If you want to swap out King with Carcillo or find a way to get Nolan into the line-up, that’s OK. The most noteworthy point here is that to achieve this 23-man roster, Keaton Ellerby would have to be put on waivers (or traded for a draft pick). Keeping him with the Kings to start the year – while everybody waits for more concrete assurances that Mitchell’s knee is 100% – was a smart move. However, at some point, the Kings are expected to go with the more traditional 14 forwards and seven defensemen set-up. When they do, Ellerby should be the guy to go, especially over Martinez.
- Goaltender: You know that Sutter coaches this team, right? So, expecting Quick to start 70 games isn’t unthinkable. Scrivens seems to have won the back-up job by default, as Kings management was high on the idea of adding Mathieu Garon, an experienced, veteran goalie. It didn’t work out…for now. With Quick in net nearly every night anyway, there isn’t much to discuss here.
If you’d like some predictions regarding where the Kings will finish in the Pacific Division, plus thoughts on the NHL’s 29 other clubs, be sure to tune into West Coast Bias this Sunday on NHL Network Radio. We’ll lay out a ton of predictions, including the four division winners and which teams are primed for deep playoff runs in 2014. For more info on the show, click here.
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