The Kings are about to end a nightmarish season. Here’s a look at the highs and lows so far this season:
Alexander Frolov’s development has been encouraging. He has shown that when he is on a scoring line, he can score. This guy is destined for great things.
Joe Corvo has shown that he can be a top offensive defenseman. Corvo will undoubtedly take the reigns as the power play pointman for the Kings next season. It’s hard to believe he was out of hockey a few years ago.
Lubomir Visnovsky has had a solid season for the most part. Lubo played solidly when healthy this season.
Ziggy Palffy has stepped up his play and will only be better for it next season when his linemates return.
Kip Brennan, Brad Norton and Ryan Flinn all benefited from increased ice time and saw their games evolve. Norton was particularly impressive and has a bright future as a fourth line enforcer who can take a regular shift.
Jerrod Smithson and Chris Schmidt both played well during their turns with the Kings. While the fourth line is not the problem, both of these players have potentially worked their way back into the Kings’ future plans.
Prospects Denis Grebeshov, Petr Kanko and Greg Hogeboom have all had solid seasons. Noah Clarke had a huge year for Colorado College and Jens Karlsson has looked like the player the Kings thought they drafted during his league playoffs.
Cristobel Huet has at worst shown that he is an option at goalie for the future. That future is likely as a backup, but he has shown flashes of greatness this season.
Derek Armstrong had a solid season and seems to have moved into the Kings’ future plans.
Dave Taylor’s trading deadline performance was nothing short of amazing. He dealt Schneider at his maximum value and received a king’s ransom in return. Smolinski’s value was high, but Tim Gleason or a second round pick are more than adequate compensation. Smolinski’s value was much higher at the trading deadline than it will be during the free agency period, so he could be back. Three draft picks should make for an interesting offseason for the Kings.
Where do you start?
The injuries passed the amusing point several months ago. The Kings took a huge step back due to these injuries because they not only lost their top line; they lost the chance to look at two key future components in Mike Cammalleri and Jared Aulin- also due to injury. The Kings had some momentum heading into this season, but injuries have put the Kings back as a question mark. If Deadmarsh and Allison cannot fully recover from their injuries, this season may become the trend rather than the exception.
The Kings’ tenuous goaltending situation has become a major, major concern. Felix Potvin had a poor season and Jamie Storr’s ineffective tenure as the #1 goalie has likely signaled the end of his tenure as the King’s goalie of the future. Add to that fact that Alexey Volkov appears to have moved out of the Kings’ plans and you have no future options at the position. The Kings will have to make a move via trade or free agency to solidify this key position.
Jaroslov Modry has taken a step back this season. After an all-star campaign a year ago, Modry has regressed and is not moving the puck with confidence. This has resulted in countless turnovers.
Yannick Lehoux and Pavel Rosa have done nothing to shed their labels as questionable pro prospects. Rosa had a great season in Manchester but was invisible during his NHL stints. Lehoux has shown nothing but a lack of willingness to learn the NHL game.
The Kings now have an abundance of fourth line forwards. Even the bright spots this season only project as checking forwards. The Kings played most of the season with three “fourth lines”.
David Steckel, Jens Karlsson, and the previously mentioned Yannick Lehoux and Alexey Volkov did not have the type of regular seasons that were expected of them. These are four of what the Kings had hoped were their higher-end prospects.
Deadmarsh came to the Kings with the “injury-prone” label. He has been spectacular when he is in, but has been injured for the majority of his stay as a King. The Kings are forced to have him as a building block for the future, but his injuries, particularly his second lengthy battle with concussions in three years, are a major concern.
The Kings have no goaltending in their system or on the NHL level, with the potential exception of Huet.
The Kings ravaged their minor league system. Manchester and Reading were scraping for players for most of the season.
Aulin and Cammalleri both showed signs of their potential, but they enter 2003 as they entered 2002- as unknown commodities on the NHL level.
Bottom line- the Kings were in year 5 of a five-year plan. The question heading into next season will be this; Did they only lost one?