What line-up the LA Kings should use, not what it will be

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

Jonathan Quick
Ben Scrivens

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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  1. LomitaKingsFan says

    I’d swap King and Clifford. But other than that this would be a strong line up to roll out.

  2. I dunno John, leaving Nolan on the pine.

    Every game he laced up in the preseason he punished the opposition and directly drew penalties that resulted in goals. Kid should have gotten assists for that.

    Fras is holding his job based on experience alone and a perception that he will be less of a liability than any of the young kids. His “agitator” role is really not required when we have punishing hitters on the roster.

    I’d much rather see Lewis center the fourth line with Nolan plowing the field.

  3. Great stuff, Mayor. I’ve been shouting Muzzin-Doughty from the mountaintops, too. Plus, if Pickles gets the all clear, the Kings can put Regehr on waivers & free up $3M to sign a LW, right?

    One Q: I remember Stoll struggling in the past when the Kings played him at RW. Why do you think LW will be different?

    My “crazy idea” is:

    A playmaker, sniper, bruiser/hustle guy on each line. Now all of a sudden the Kings have depth. No team can matchup against all 3 of those lines.

    • John Hoven says

      Regehr would get traded before waived, but you have the right idea on defense.

      Stoll was just an idea. He has more offensive upside in him than any other player on the roster who isn’t already in a top-6 role. Another way to accomplish the same thing is to let Richards slide over and play LW (which he did on occasion last year) and put Stoll as the second line center, giving you a line of Richards-Stoll-Carter. Again, just an idea to jump start some offense.

      As for you crazy idea… that’s crazy on steroids. WOW!

  4. DesertKing says

    The best thing about this whole article is that it displays how deep the Kings are since they have so many available options that are workable. DS will need to determine what are the best “chemistry” moves he can make since the Kings win when they play “team” hockey. The only negative I can see reference the Williams’ move to 3rd line is that JW and Kopi seem to have a great chemistry on that line, as evidence by the brilliant passes we have seen JW feed to Kopi. Williams has great vision on the ice and an extremely high hockey IQ, which corresponds to a higher CORSI number and a great line partner for Kopi.

  5. The whole Toffoli on the top line sounds good in theory but he is not a proven 20 goal scorer and he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to win a spot in camp. I don’t think he is ready to hold down a top 6 spot yet. maybe getting sent down will be his motivation to prove he belongs when he gets teh call up next time.

    • John Hoven says

      Toffoli was NOT sent down because he didn’t earn a spot in camp. He was sent down for reasons explained here http://mayorsmanor.com/2013/09/prediction-time-la-kings-2013-14-opening-night-roster/

      As for not being a proven 20-goal scorer, you have to give him the chance to do it before you say he hasn’t done it.

      His numbers from last season project to 16 goals…and that’s in a limited role. Put him with Kopitar and Brown and we predict 30 goals over a full season.

      • If he had performed well in camp, they could have fit him in under the cap by carrying 7 defenseman instead

        You don’t give a young player a chance by starting him on the first line. He has to earn that. Ideally he should have been the temporary option instead of King, but King outperformed Toffoli in camp. This was not about the cap. had Toffoli come out and scored a bunch in the pre-season, he would still be with the team.

        • John Hoven says

          As we reported early on from camp, the decision to carry eight dmen at the start of the season was already made – long before there was any discussion about which players will make the final roster. Thus, there really wasn’t a spot for him to earn. They weren’t going to waive/trade a roster player before Game 1 when they could simply wait a few weeks and do it down the road. We’ve said it many times before, will say it again, there’s really little point in keeping Toffoli in LA unless he’s going to get top-6 minutes. That’s his role, he’s a sniper.

          Finally, if you’re looking to see what Toffoli can do when he’s in the line-up, go back and watch the 2013 playoffs. Ignore pre-season.

          • He performed inconsistently but held his own. He certainly didn’t make up for the lack of production from Brown and Kopitar. But we aren’t looking for someone to be a space filler. We need production from that spot.

            I agree, he has to play top 6. If the organization felt he was ready to play top 6 minutes and be consistently productive, I think he would be there. But what you are suggesting, while interesting in theory, is just fantasy speculation. He has not shown that he can produce at this level on a consistent basis. He has had some good games and some not so good games. Don’t get me wrong, I like the kid, but he doesn’t become a first line player just because you put him there. He is still young and developing.

  6. Great stuff as always John.

    It does seem somewhat comical that in most of the discussion centering around what the Kings should do with their young talent and how best to bring it into the fold in LA that the top line is rarely discussed. We talk about how to squeeze Toffoli into that 2nd line with Richards and Carter all day long but rarely get into how it might just be that the 1st line is the most logical place for him to land. I understand it don’t get me wrong. How many years have we been able to pencil 23-11-14 into that top line? Further more, how many years have we as Kings fans longed for a “true” top line? It’s scary to break up a good thing.

    Premium talent (and in my mind you have to think of Toffoli in that fashion) is especially difficult to promote to the NHL under normal circumstances, let alone when discussing one of the NHL’s best rosters. There is no organic way to let him grow into his role on the team. The truth is he will eventually be thrown in, and he will have to sink or swim immediately to stay up. But that’s what makes elite talent so elite. Those are the moments they thrive in.

    This roster has been built in such an intentional way over the last 5 plus years with the goal of creating a winner. That is tough to accomplish, but I think it’s fair to say we are there. The next task for DL is a much different one. How do you maintain a winner in the salary cap era? How do you determine which players you let walk and when? It seems like the Kings have 3-4 players playing in Manchester that will be deserving of a shot in the NHL in the next 1-2 years. It’s a great problem to have (the first in Kings history in all seriousness) but it is still a problem. Stoll and Williams are on the books for two more years. Under the above roster, that is $8 Million in cap space going to 2/3rd of your 3rd line. That’s a lot. And both of those guys have been absolutely crucial to the Kings recent success. So which is it? Because it probably can’t be both. We know the future. We know the present. What we don’t know is how to bridge the two while trying to win a Stanley Cup.

  7. Crown Royal says

    I always doubted TT would make the opening night line-up as it seemed he was earmarked for Manchester because of the current Kings contracts and Cap. However, if he had right been lighting it up he might have stayed. He’s good enough to play in the NHL right now but not good enough to be a difference maker. He needs more time in the AHL.

    Nolan is barely the only heavyweight the Kings have. He struggles a bit in fighting the really big boys but can generally keep from being injured doing while doing so unlike Clifford who is totally overmatched in those situations. The Kings probably need Nolan in the line-up for that reason.

    If Stoll goes to the wing his value crashes. He has very limited offensive upside and has no business playing in the two top lines. It can be argued the Kings don’t even need a third line-checking line as Kopi and Richards are often times matched against the other team’s top lines anyway. In today’s NHL it’s more about matching certain D-men against forwards. Stoll is fine as a fourth liner and top penalty killer-face off man but probably shouldn’t even be playing in the third line.

    If Lewis plays fourth line center then the Kings would lose most face-offs when he’s on the ice. His value sinks also as it’s more important to have speed on the wings that at center.

    Martinez should be in the line-up but is just a less than perfect fit with DD and it’s not realistic to play him with Voynov.

    • DesertKing says

      How many other teams in the NHL would want to have TT available as their first call up.

  8. DesertKing says

    Toronto war room already back in anti-King form.

  9. DesertKing says

    Its a 3-2 league and champions always find a way to win games where they were actually outplayed for most of the game (and hosed by Toronto). Big 2 points to start the season.

  10. I never put too much thought into swapping Muzzin and Regehr. Is Muzzin really ready to be paired with Doughty at even strength though? I’m not so sure Muzzin is strong enough defensively yet to start playing that many minutes.

    Not a fan of stoll playing wing. he’s always ends up with one of the highest faceoff %s on the team. The loss defensively isn’t worth the gain offensively on that one.

    My question would be, do you really see the kings finishing this season with both Dwight King and Kyle Clifford on the roster? Personally, I liked the way carcillo played in the preseason; minus the penalties. Once he gets a couple games in with Sutter I could see him being a fixture at the 4LW spot. If he does, Clifford and King end up battling for the 3LW spot which it seems King would win. as much as I’m a fan of the guy the more I think about it it seems like one of King or Clifford need to go by the end of the year imo.

    • Crown Royal says

      Like you, not sure Muzzin is ready for top pairing duties with DD (or that he ever will be). Like all coaches Sutter has his favorites, Regeher who played for him, and well, in Calgary, Stoll who is tenacious defensively but is challenged offensively, and especially King who is neither bad or good.

      I think the Kings will stick with King as he doesn’t make as many mistakes as Clifford or Carcillo plus Sutter likes him. Pearson will be a regular in the line-up by at next season, if not sooner. Clifford is difficult to figure going forward. He skates fairly well, works hard, stands up for his teammates, and is still young. He also takes too many penalties, and unfortunately doesn’t seem to have improved much offensively this year. Carcillo is an alternative to Clifford but both he and Frazier figure to be gone by next season.

      The jury is still out on Frattin playing on the second line but he’s doing fine so far. If he doesn’t work out there it appears he would be a very good third line winger.

      The Kings have four forwards who should be ready for the big club next year and be an upgrade over the present group of forwards. Pearson, Toffoli, Shore, and Andreoff. will bring more talent and depth up front. I have a difficult time seeing DL and DS promoting all four next season and cutting ties with four current forwards although Frazier and Carcillo are mostly likely gone next season. Pearson, Toffoli and Shore all have top six talent and Pearson and Shore could both play effectively in the bottom six as well.

      • John Hoven says

        Many valid points in there. One question though… You know that Muzzin was Doughty’s regular partner for more than half of last season, right?

        • Crown Royal says

          Muzzin showed some potential early but after a poor game against Anaheim Sutter spoke about how he possibly wasn’t ready for the NHL but circumstances were keeping him in L.A.

          By the time the playoffs rolled around Muzzin completely fell apart. Yeah, it was tough being thrown in there to sink or swim but my biggest disappointment about him was his lack of hockey sense. He’s not big but has decent size, is pretty mobile though not excessively so, does have a hard shot and moves the puck reasonably well. He seems to lack hockey sense, and has some difficulty handling passes despite his ability to pass well enough himself.

          DD obviously doesn’t like playing with RR as it throws his game off offensively. RR is terrible with the puck. Can’t handle passes, can’t stick handle, passes poorly and is late making passes which throws DD’s offensive game rhythm off which also keeps the Kings in their own zone too much.

          Muzzin’s best asset may be his sense of timing. He’s the guy with some of the necessary attributes at a time when the Kings are in need of a left shooting D-man to play with Doughty.