The Kings season has been a mystery. Poor goaltending, an unresolved Blake situation and home losses to the worst team in hockey have clouded what seemed to be a breakthrough season. Despite all of this, the Kings can see the future right now in the play of Steve Reinprecht, Lubomir Visnovsky and Eric Belanger.
Eric Belanger came out of nowhere to claim a roster spot and has adjusted his game to fit the NHL style of play. Belanger has always had tremendous skill. He has shown his playmaking ability when filling in for Josef Stumpel and the start of the season. But when Stumpie returned, Belanger was returned to Lowell. Injuries lead to his recall and his centering the fourth line, flanked by tough guys Stu Grimson and Ian Lapperierre. Belanger has shown some solid defensive play and the grit that Kings management thought he lacked. Granted, he gets alot more room on the ice because of his linemates, but Belanger has shown that he can adapt his game to whatever situation is needed. After being labeled a flop last season, Belanger’s development may move him into a second or third line center for years to come.
Steve Reinprecht has fooled this fan. Rhino has emerged as a second line center and is among the leaders in rookie scoring. I for one thought he would struggle this season, but his amazing hands and playmaking ability have lead to unexpected scoring chances. He has the ability to dig the puck out of the corners, make moves on a dime, and find the open skater. Rhino is solid on both sides of the ice and is a playmaking center that the Read more»
It is a situation that seems to be accepted as commonplace. A star player approaches the end of his contract and the former team is poised to trade him before he leaves for nothing. Ray Borque, Mark McGwire, Wayne Gretzky and Mike Piazza are a few of the sports legends that have been in this situation and now Rob Blake of the Los Angeles Kings is the latest player to join the list. Like the others, Blake has postured himself as caring so much about the organization that he is going to sacrifice himself by taking a trade to another team so the Kings will have something to show for all his years of service. Blake’s cavalier act will not include signing an extension though, virtually eliminating any chance of acquiring any quality players in return. I for one am tired of this trend that holds franchises hostage for the wishes of one player. Despite these feelings, history has shown that the Kings need to sign Rob Blake.
Los Angeles has seen two of these exact situations. Wayne Gretzky left the Kings for St. Louis and the Kings made what was considered a blockbuster trade for his services. Prospects Roman Vopat, Craig Johnson, Patrice Tardif and a first round pick, who became Matt Zhultek, came to the Kings for the Great One. Only third line winger Craig Johnson remains, with no remaining compensation for any of the other players. A third line center for the greatest player in NHL history is not what franchises are built on. The Los Angeles Dodgers also traded Mike Piazza and have seen the franchise stagger ever since.
The Kings claim the mone Read more»
When Dave Taylor took over as the Kings GM, the job ahead of him seemed daunting to say the least. He had a terrible product on the ice, nominal fan interest, and a struggling farm system that he would likely have to rebuild twice to make the Kings better. His first rebuilding project was easier- the Kings had some prospects from the Sam McMaster era and some top draft picks. These factors allowed the Kings to make the Ziggy Palffy deal, one that looks brilliant right now, but one that left the Kings with virtually nothing. Combine that with the Scott Barney back saga and the stagnant development of Pavel Rosa, and the Kings officially had nothing in the cupboard.
The Palffy trade has helped the Kings right the ship- they are now offensively potent, have some depth at forward, and finally have the power play that seemed to have left with the great one. The Kings seemed poised to go to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons. Perhaps the best news is that the Kings are starting to find some depth in their system and next season, they will have their own AHL team to develop them.
The Kings have NHL caliber talent on the AHL level. They have players they can call up in the event of injury and still not damage their development. They have what could be considered potential superstars who are still very young and have time to develop. They have quality goaltending depth (Volkov, Campbell, Yeats), potentially solid defensemen (Rullier, Seeley, Crain) and some players who know how to find the net (McGratten, Lehoux, Frolov, Shefer.
Power forward is a key position for any NHL team and one that the Kings have needed for some time. With the emergence of Steve Reinprecht, the Kings seems happy with their centermen, but a strong power forward still eludes the Kings wishes.
As most NHL teams know, the power forward with grit and scoring ability is paramount to achieving success in the pro game. With the emphasis moving away from the “goon” and to the power forward, players like Tie Domi, Chris Simon and Darren McCarty are the envy of the league. The Kings have no one in that mold, or at least until this season.
Kings prospect Brian McGratten is making a new name for himself. The former enforcer seemed more likely to punch a face than punch one past a goalie. This season however is another story. McGratten is still one tough hombre. His 57 PIM’s are still impressive, but not as much as his scoring line. McGratten has 17 goals and 6 assists for Missisauga this season. While the team is not what anyone would call a great one, Brian is the leading goal scorer. Perhaps most impressive is the 10 power play goals McGratten has posted.
Going into the season, McGratten seemed to be battling Kip Brennan for the right to be the next enforcer. With Brennan in Lowell still finding his game, McGratten has turned his game into something that the Kings need- a powerful game with a scoring touch around the net. Make no mistake, McGratten is not NHL ready, but the Kings have to be elated with his progress. He has the size and the grit to match this newfound scoring touch and the Kings will g Read more»
The Los Angeles Kings have has a pretty solid beginning to the new millennium. They have shown some flashed of brilliance, particularly on the offensive end. But with poor goaltending, a rookie on the top line, a top defensemen not getting playing time and a holdout, the season’s prospects are far from clear.
Aki Berg has already been scratched more than he has played this season. Granted, all the other defensemen are playing well, but aren’t the Kings better served to develop Aki and sit the older Modry? With Berg signing another one year contract, look for a trade soon.
The Kings are getting some solid play from their younger skaters like Lubomir Visnovsky. He is extremely slight in build, but skates like the wind and positions himself in a manner which allows him to play against bigger forwards. He is also a smart passer and seems to have a knack for knowing when to activate and when to stay back. Eric Belanger has shown some solid play. But he has not shaken the knock against him – he has an amazing game then disappears for the next couple games. If he can stay consistent, he may be a point-a-game player.
Down on the Farm—
Kip Brennan has adapted to the AHL – he has 29 PIM’s in 5 games.
Brian McGratten already has a two-goal game and a date with the AHL. He manhandled a linesman during a fight.
Alexey Volkov lost his first game in Lowell, allowing three goals in the defeat.