The first question I have is why didn’t the Kings keep Michal Handzus? There was that thing about not being able to guarantee him enough minutes but that sounds a lot like a weather prediction: probably only half right.
With Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards centering the top two lines, the choice was between Jarret Stoll and Handzus for the third line. Stoll has another year on his deal and is invaluable on face-offs. In past years, Handzus has been looked to as the shut-down center. With the addition of Richards, the idea is (sort of) that he and, to a lesser extent, Kopitar, will function as offensive/shut-down hybrids, leaving the third line to be more offensive. Even though Handzus has been no slouch offensively, Stoll is faster and younger, so is (hopefully) a better fit in that role.
He wasn’t supposed to get so many minutes last year either, but look how that worked out. If I had a player slated for lower line minutes who wound up playing top six minutes in the playoffs I don’t think he’d be high on my let go list. Yes, the Kings recently picked up some skilled forwards, and presumably will have most of their injured top line back this season, but it still seems like a disconnect.Maybe Handzus was tired of LA.
GIven how much he was counted on by Terry Murray, and how successful the Kings were with Handzus bearing so much responsibility -- not to mention what a great guy Handzus seems to be -- I find it hard to believe he wanted to leave the Kings, all things being equal.
Handzus was my personal pick for MVP two years ago, and was frequently the best player on the ice last season. He was the hub of Terry Murray's defensive system. It would be hard to overstate his importance. There were long stretches of each of the past two seasons in which Kopitar, Brown and company disappeared and, without Handzus and others (e.g. Wayne Simmonds, Brad Richardson, Scott Parse), the Kings would have missed the playoffs.
Strangely, I think it's fair to say the Kings loved Handzus and letting him walk had to be a painful decision. It's also a decision that could easily backfire. Handzus is older, and will not have many more years of playing at his recent level. But he could easily have two or three more great or at least very good years.
When you think of the Kings' maneuver as upgrading Handzus with Richards, it makes a lot more sense, and it's a decision that I think you would make every time. It's not done without regret, though.
[...] Jonathan Quick promises us that Handzus can block a lot of shots: "...I think Zus blocked more shots than I did this year, best of luck…" [...] Handzus is one reason I’m looking forward to games against the Kings this season. I don’t expect bitterness or old team rivalry, but they picked up some fairly clever players this summer and I deeply want to see them thwarted anyway, yet again.