You love Wayne Simmonds. I love Wayne Simmonds. I love him more than you. Nope, sorry, I do. I love him. I love his wry smile, his surprisingly deep voice, his little shimmy shake when he jumped around a defenseman... oh God, Wayne!
Anyway, Wayne was important not just because I loved him but also because he was a very good hockey player. For the last 3 years, Wayne had been an integral part of the Kings' shutdown line. He was amazing (so amazing...) but now he's gone. Simmonds was the only King from last season that doesn't have an obvious replacement this season: Michal Handzus was replaced by Mike Richards, Ryan Smyth was replaced by Simon Gagne, Simmonds was replaced by... ?
Here's a look at how the Kings' top 3 right wingers played last season (number in parentheses represents rank):
|Minutes Played/60||CORSI Rel QoC
|Brown||14.52 (1)||.553 (2)||51% (1)|
|Williams||14.08 (2)||.133 (3)||50.9% (2)|
|Simmonds||12.32 (3)||.622 (1)||49.3% (3)|
As you can see, Simmonds played the fewest minutes of the 3 but those minutes were tough; he played the toughest competition and started in the Kings' zone more often than not. Brown played the most and he played with Kopitar so he was usually in tough minutes, but those minutes were in offensive situations. Williams had the easiest job of the 3 and did a very good job taking advantage of it.
So what do the Kings do now that Simmonds is gone? Who is going to take those tough minutes?
Well, if one assumes that Mike Richards will be taking Michal Handzus' minutes (high quality of competition, low zone start), the simple answer is that Dustin Brown will now be taking Simmonds' minutes. The more complicated answer is that Brown will be taking Simmonds' role while getting Williams' minutes, while Williams takes Brown's role and minutes and the new 3rd line right winger gets Simmonds' minutes and Williams' role. ...Wait, what?
Here, have a chart of what I think the Kings will end up looking like next season by rank:
|Minutes Played/60||CORSI Rel QoC||Zone Start|
Next year, I expect Williams will be taking Brown's role riding shotgun with Kopitar. Brown will play tough minutes and a lot of them, which is fine because it's pretty much the role he was born to play. The new 3rd line winger, whether it's Brad Richardson or Scott Parse or Kyle Wellwood (just saying), will be playing the least amount of minutes in the easiest situations. Those minutes are probably the easiest to fill in the NHL. Simmonds was great in his role last season, but Brown in that role (while playing more minutes on top of that) is probably better. Last season, the Kings played pretty much 3 right wingers exclusively; this season, I think they'll play 2 right wingers a ton and another one a little. If that's the situation, I don't think the Kings will miss Simmonds quite as much as you'd think.
...Unless Justin Williams gets hurt. Then they're pretty boned. But what are the chances of that happening, right?
P.S. Where will the Kings miss Simmonds? Right after a power play, when the Kings often threw Lewis & Simmonds out there with either Alexei Ponikarovsky or Kyle Clifford. With every member of the top-six plus Jarret Stoll potentially on the power play, the Kings are going to be really weak when the game goes back to 5-on-5.