Before anything else - please pardon the awful title.
Yesterday, while dwelling in the dog days of summer, I was attempting to cheer myself up. I finally got everything arranged for Frozen Fury XIII and looked at the date- hey, we are into August. So I tweeted (because I am a moron):
Frozen Fury is less than one month away. This is the best news of the summer. Need to get liver into shape.
Yes, I thought I was witty. I thought I was looking on the bright side. Most importantly, I thought I was right. I was not.
@reedkaufman Actually, it's less than TWO months away. I think you skipped a month there... It's only August. Frozen Fury is October 2nd.
And I crashed back to an August 4th reality.
Yet, the fact that it is ONLY August ironically does not quell the concerns about the current status of the Kings' roster.
Here's a little recap of the summer thus far:
- July 1: The Kings MIGHT get Ilya Kovalchuk.
- July 19: The Kings will not get Ilya Kovalchuk.
- July 21: The Kings can maybe get Kovalchuk again but everyone west of Moscow hates him.
- July 27: Alexander Frolov signs a 1 year deal with the Rangers.
- July 27: The Kings sign Alexei Ponikarovsky to a 1 year deal.
- August 2: The Ducks sign Andy Sutton to an affordable 2 year deal.
- August 4: Frozen Fury has always been on Oct 2, which is really 2 months away.
Back to the current status of the Kings' roster. Here is how I see the lines breaking down:
Line 1: Center Kopitar Left Wing Smyth Right Wing Williams
Line 2: Center Stoll LW Ponikarovsky RW Brown
Line 3: Center Handzus LW Parse RW Simmonds
Line 4: Center Richardson LW Clune RW ???
D1: Doughty / Scuderi
D2: Johnson / ???
D3: Greene (INJ) / Drewiske
So.. the forward lineup doesn't have too many holes, except for that sniper at left wing (which will now never arrive via anything but a trade that can disrupt the future), and someone to fill out the fourth line. Reports are that players like Kyle Clifford and Kevin Westgarth will get a shot, and you can count on Oscar Moller and Trevor Lewis to keep getting their chances as well.
The intriguing unmentioned possibility is Brayden Schenn, because his current development as it relates to NHL ability is unknown yet potentially significant, and where he would fit in on the depth chart is somewhat of a wild card. Most likely, IF he gets a shot on the big club, he'd start on the fourth line, but he is projected to become more of a top 6 forward, or a third-liner at worst. Let's hope that he will not be rushed into the lineup due to lack of scoring punch. Thankfully, in this manner management has been careful with most of the current prospects.
The goaltending situation is defined and sound. Quick will begin the season as the starter, with Bernier as backup or possibly a '1b' tandem type supplement. The names filling out this position make it the most appealing one the roster.
Defense. There are problems. Aside from having perhaps the best young defenseman in the league in Doughty, a great athlete in Johnson, and a top shelf defensive skater in Scuderi, Greene is on the shelf to start the year and no one else is experienced. This predicament is causing Kings fans to scream bloody murder, especially when cross town rivals the Ducks, sign perhaps one of the top two free agent defenseman available in Andy Sutton. So, unless management had already been in talks with the other, Willie Mitchell, the loss of Sutton for a meager 2 year $4.25MM contract is heart-breaking.
The upside is that the defensive prospect pool is quite deep. Thomas Hickey, Jake Muzzin, and Viatcheslav Voynov could potentially be ready to make the jump, but doing so out of necessity would, again, be a mistake. Even if, hypothetically, they are all ready to play at the NHL level, having more than one of them getting significant minutes could mean trouble. Young defensemen take a long time to adjust to the pace and skill in the NHL, and the Drew Doughty's of the world only come along but once a decade or so.
Of course, if I know this, the Kings front office knows this. The fact that the defensive roster is thin is not news to anyone, especially Dean Lombardi.
Though I am sure there is a plan to be enacted before the start of the season, that does not change the fact that we as Kings fans are justifiably nervous.
Think of it as anticipating your first day back at school, even when it's a school that you've attended before.
Sure, you'll see some familiar faces that will make you feel comfortable, but there are always some unknown variables that can cause a little uneasiness:
There is a new math teacher who comes highly recommended, what will the new text book be like?
There is a big new kid enrolling as well, and he's replacing the charismatic special Ed student that everyone liked but was an occasional nuisance.
The principal, however, is the same, and amidst any challenges and complications which may arise, he always proves to be clear-headed and methodical, even if it seems like he is doing so in a leisurely manner.
It's August 5th.
◊ Reed Kaufman