Weekly Discussion: Who/What Are LA's Biggest Surprises and Disappointments Thus Far?
We're two weeks into the season, which is enough time to notice some differences from last year's team. We take a look at some players who have excelled, and we take note of some worrying trends.
(Every week or two, some of the Jewels from the Crown front-pagers will give their opinions on a key question or an interesting topic surrounding the Kings. Here's the first weekly discussion!)
Hardly any analysis of the NHL season so far can be written without a disclaimer: It's early. So keep that in mind. But not everything has gone as planned for LA so far in 2013-14. Some players have exceeded expectations; others are struggling. Which begs a couple questions...
Who has been the biggest surprise for the Los Angeles Kings so far?
Nick (nickc79): Jordan Nolan. I've praised him plenty in my analysis of each game, and it's with good reason. He looks like a different player this year as opposed to last. He has issues with the puck still, but his mistakes have been limited and his skill has been more apparent.
Robert (Robert_P.): Mike Richards. Since coming over from the Flyers, Richards has been a solid 2nd line center for the Kings. At the same time, it also has looked as though his career may be on a downward slope as both his offensive and underlying numbers have sagged. Six games into this season, Richards looks revitalized. He currently owns a stellar 57% Corsi percentage and showed off some outstanding playmaking skills in Sunday's game against the Panthers.
Eric (HailRover): Daniel Carcillo. Dean Lombardi isn't in the habit of trading for players, only to deposit them on the bench. So Carcillo getting a chance early isn't a shock; what is surprising is how well he's fitting in his Sutter-quoted "10 to 12 minute role." His play has ranged from effectively annoying to just plain effective, and though he's not locked into the lineup by any means, I can think of 4-5 players who would see the bench before Carcillo right now.
What has been the biggest disappointment for the Los Angeles Kings so far?
Nick: Neutral zone play prior to the Hurricanes game. They turned it on against Carolina, but before that they were merely an average team in the neutral zone. The breakout was poor at times and they had serious trouble entering the zone with speed or control. However, as I said, it was much better against Carolina and Florida. Here's to hoping that's the new trend.
Robert: The bottom 6 has been not-so-hot so far this year. They weren't expected to be stellar, but thus far they have been a big drag on the team at even strength. Stoll has fallen to a fourth line center role and is getting killed in possession. He has a team worst (nearly league worst) 35% Corsi percentage.
Eric: The play of the second defensive pairing, especially Slava Voynov, was a major concern in the first couple weeks. Voynov excelled in his first full season, but turnovers and inconsistency have plagued the young defenseman so far in 2013-14. Meanwhile, Willie Mitchell also started off slowly... literally and figuratively. After Darryl Sutter cut their ice time, both players (especially Mitchell) have responded well.
Share your thoughts in the comments. What are your surprises and disappointments? And remember...
... it's early.