Kings Season In Flux

By Michael Harbison

Well lets take a look first at the offense, when the
Kings had their playoff run last spring they had 3
lines that were putting up offense, Jozef Stumpel was
centering Ziggy Palffy and Adam Deadmarsh, Bryan
Smolinski was on a “stopper unit” 2nd line with Nelson
Emerson and Glen Murray, and rookie Eric Belanger was
centering Luc Robitaille and Ian Laperriere to form an
all French-Canadian 3rd line. Right now three of those
guys (Robitaille, Stumpel and Murray) are no longer
with the club and Emerson is out indefinitely with a
head injury. Once Jason Allison gets his legs back and
gets used to this team the Kings will boast one of the
deadliest 1st lines in the NHL with Allison between
Palffy and Deadmarsh, the problem lies in the 2nd and
3rd lines. Bryan Smolinski and Steve Heinze are
quality 2nd line forwards, the problem is they have
yet to find a consistent linemate since Murray was
dealt. Jaroslav Bednar an overage Czech who lead the
Finnish League in goals has been a bust with only 1
assist in 10 games, journeyman Randy Robitaille can
fill in when called upon but cannot be expected to be
a regular scoring line contributor. The Kings need to
address this problem shortly, they are clearly a 2nd
line LW short of 2 full scoring lines, which you need
to have to win in the NHL.

On the blueline the Kings have been strong for the
most part, keeping the shot totals down and playing a
sound positional game. Aaron Miller returned last
night vs. Detroit and his strong defensive play will
help even more. Offensively its been the Mathieu
Schneider show, I’ve been a huge Schneider supporter
ever since he got here, Mathieu is playing as well on
the blueline this year as anyone in the NHL. The
problem is Schneider is getting little support,
Phillipe Boucher has stepped up and played well, he
gets a lot of shots off but has yet to score a goal
through 17 games. Lubomir Visnovsky and Jaroslav Modry
are both talented 3rd pair guys who can move the puck
and generate offense, one of them has to start doing
it.

Between the pipes, Felix Potvin has been a problem.
Maybe we were spoiled last spring with the way Felix
played, because shots he stopped last season he isn’t
stopping right now. Potvin is giving up soft goals
and is again being beat glove-side high, a weakness
the Avalanche exploited in last years playoffs. Potvin
and the lack of consistent offense are killing the
Kings early on in the 2002 season.

Prospect News

Alexander Frolov continues to shine in the Russian
Super League and has clearly established himself as
the Crown Jewel of the farm system. The 19 year old
leads the league in goals and reports say he has
established himself as one of the go to guys on his
team. Boy wouldn’t Frolov fill that huge hole on the
LW right now?

Yanick Lehoux is tough to get a read on, he has 21G
and 34pts and 19 games. By no means are these bad
numbers but some expected even more from Lehoux. With
Stephen Weiss being allowed to tryout for the WJC team
it could hurt Yanic’s chances of making the team.

Tomas Zizka is a team best +6 for the Manchester
Monarch’s, and is really the Kings only legit prospect
down there right now. With another defense injury we
could see Zizka up.

Jen Karlsson’s scoring struggles have to be worrying
Kings management, the Kings took a chance that last
year was just a bad year for the tough Swedish winger,
but its looking more and more like Jens lacks a
consistent scoring touch.