[UPDATE: Rob Scuderi was sent back to Ontario this morning. Stand down, everyone. We’ll leave our analysis up though! Here’s what we wrote:]
With Brayden McNabb leaving Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury and no immediate return expected, the Los Angeles Kings had a big hole to fill on defense. We thought we knew how they’d fill it.
McNabb injured on the play. Paging Kevin Gravel to the Kings ...— Don Perez (@dsperez) October 30, 2016
Blues score moments later, 1-0 STL takes the lead in early 3rd period.
Kevin Gravel on speed dial ...— lisa dillman (@reallisa) October 30, 2016
Paging Kevin Gravel— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) October 30, 2016
They did not do that.
The Kings have recalled Rob Scuderi from AHL-Ontario.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) October 31, 2016
Our followers (and Jon’s, for that matter) did not react very well upon hearing this news, so let’s try to come up with three reasons why the Kings might have chosen a 37-year-old veteran whose quality of play has plummeted in recent seasons, instead of a 24-year-old who might well have made the team out of camp if he wasn’t waiver-exempt.
Possibility #1: Brayden McNabb’s injury isn’t as bad as we thought.
This is the most hopeful way of viewing the news. If McNabb’s x-rays on Friday and evaluation over the weekend provided better news than expected, LA might find it a lot easier to promote a veteran who knows the room, could swap in for Greene a couple times if needed, and can drive right down the freeway when he’s done. It’s not like Scuderi’s been out of the league for years; he played on April 22 and went through camp.
Possibility #2: Kevin Gravel’s playing in Ontario and Scuderi wasn’t gonna.
This is the “maybe we won’t even notice he’s here” take. A move doesn’t necessarily indicate that Scuderi is going to play in Los Angeles. Matt Greene beat out Scuderi and a number of others for a roster spot out of camp, and LA only has two sets of back-to-back games in November. So LA doesn’t need to rotate guys, and if they’re comfortable with Greene playing 10-12 minutes a night, why uproot Ontario’s top blueliner for a spot in the press box? Or, at best, a couple of games with limited ice time?
Possibility #3: LA wants a call-up that can handle top-four minutes.
This is the possibility that is scaring us on Halloween night. Scuderi averaged over nineteen minutes per game in the Kings’ first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks last season. AVERAGED. The last time Matt Greene played more than nineteen minutes in a game? February 18, 2015. He only did it eight times in 2014-15, and that was in an injury-free season before shoulder surgery. So he’s not about to take McNabb’s minutes. If the Kings are looking to directly plug someone in for McNabb, and they don’t think Tom Gilbert is capable of pulling 21 minutes regularly (as he did on Sunday), they aren’t going to call up Kevin Gravel. They’re going to call up the guy who played a whole lot (albeit ineffectively) last spring.
So what do you think this move signifies? I’ll end with one thought... there have been articles written about how Kings fans shouldn’t worry about getting off to a slow start, even with Jonathan Quick injured, because they’re still playing solid hockey despite early results. If the Kings replace Brayden McNabb in their lineup with Rob Scuderi, you should absolutely worry.