Why Calgary’s Kris Russell Could Be a Fit in L.A.

With the trade deadline a week away in the NHL, Kings GM Dean Lombardi is still looking to enhance his roster, with the ultimate hope of securing a third Stanley Cup in just six years.  The team’s front office largely believes that in order to accomplish that, they will need to bolster their defense.  With the loss of Matt Greene earlier this season, it created a hole in the roster that wasn’t adequately filled by: Christian Ehrhoff, Jaime McBain, Derek Forbort, or Kevin Gravel.  Luke Schenn has proven to be a much needed addition, yet more is still needed.

Last year couldn’t have gone better for the Calgary Flames, as they went to the second round of the playoffs before getting beaten by the Anaheim Ducks.  Considering that many did not predict the Flames even making the playoffs, it was a success  This year, the Flames have regressed which has them several games back from even a wild card spot and a handful of teams ahead of them.  For Brian Burke and Brad Treliving, it might be best for them to get what they can before the trade deadline for three players who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season in David Jones, Jiri Hudler, and Kris Russell.  With Lombardi looking for a defenseman, Russell fits the mold of what the Kings would need on their blueline come playoff time.

When people think about Calgary’s defensive core, it’s the big guys who come to mind first — names like, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, and Dougie Hamilton, who are eating up big minutes. Yet, Russell holds his own when it comes to his time on ice.  This season, Russell is third on the Flames in ice time, trailing only Giordano and Brodie; plus he has actually played more minutes in fewer games than Hamilton.  On the penalty kill, Russell is also third in time spent on the ice, again, only behind Giordano and Brodie.  Still, it is worth noting that the Flames penalty killing unit is actually the worst in the NHL, successfully killing off only 73.2% of all of their opportunities.  What makes that number even worse is they’ve had the third least amount of penalty kill opportunities in the NHL.  The hope would be that Russell would be able to fit into the penalty kill and help the Kings, as they have been shorthanded the second most in the NHL.  Acquiring him before the trade deadline would give the Kings another option when one of their current defensemen takes a penalty.  For a brief look at how coach Darryl Sutter uses his lineup, McBain and Ehrhoff have only played a combined 21:15 all season on the kill.

Another asset that Russell brings is his ability to block shots.  Currently, he is second in the league in blocked shots with 173, only trailing Francois Beauchamin.  Last season, Russell blocked 283 shots during the regular season, tops in the league.  Of course, there is something that stat geeks will mention immediately when you bring up a player is blocking that many shots during the course of a season… What is his Corsi? Well, it’s not good.  Russell’s Corsi this season in Calgary is an abysmal 43.6% percent. To compare, the often maligned Jaime McBain has a Corsi this season of 56%.  A counter-point to that argument is that Russell has been on the ice for 301 defensive zone draws this season compared to McBain’s 85 (We’d also like to note, that Russell has played more games this season than McBain).  Russell hasn’t had a plus 50% Corsi rating since he was with the St. Louis Blues three seasons ago (and he maintained a plus-50 each of the two seasons prior). You’d have to make the assumption that if the Kings do acquire Russell, his possession numbers would go up on a team that prides itself on being a possessive team.

Finally, there is some familiarity with Russell when it comes to players on the Kings.  In 2011, Russell and Jeff Carter played together briefly on the Columbus Blue Jackets (Carter was hurt in the fourth game against Dallas).  Also, during the 2012 NHL Lockout, Russell went to play in Finland with TPS Turku.  During his time there he was joined by Alec Martinez, until Martinez had an unfortunate injury and returned home from Europe.

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