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Kings Off-Season Preview

Here are the people with set roles next season:

Brown-Kopitar-[ ]
Frolov-[ ]-[ ]
[ ]-Handzus-[ ]
Ivanans-[ ]-[ ]

Johnson-Blake
Visnovsky-[ ]
Preissing-Harrold

Labarbera
[ ]

Yikes. One of the good (or bad) things about Marc Crawford is that players on the team get very diverse. Brown was a right wing but I'm pretty sure he's been on Kopitar's left side for most of the season, O'Sullivan played all 3 offensive positions and 3 different offensive roles (scorer, playmaker and shutdown wing). This is good because it makes the team flexible, but it's annoying because it means I have no idea what the team will look like next season. I'm not going to try to project what Lombardi is going to do next season, because he's a tricky bastard. Instead, I'm just going to say what I'd like to see for next year. And away we go...

Disclaimer: I'm assuming 3 things. 1, that the Kings won't make very many free agent signings, because Dean Lombardi said he didn't like that. 2, about 4 or 5 guys from the minor league ranks will make the team because he said that in this weekend's LA Times. And 3, I'm not assuming trades (so you'll have to deal with Cammalleri on the team for a little while longer).

The Kings were not good this year. Everyone knows that. Our biggest problem was that we allowed too many shots and didn't score enough. (Other than that, we were fine.) I would like the Kings to shore things up on defense (which I actually don't think will be very hard) and

The Kings are actually pretty set on defense; there's really only 2 spots up for grabs. The first is on a line with Lubo. Ideally that player would be bigger (to cover the front of the net) and be solid enough defensively to allow Lubo to do his thing. I'd like that player to be Mike Commodore. He's 27, could probably be had for around $3-4 million a year, and I don't think Ottawa has been too happy with his play so I think he'd be available. If we couldn't get him, I'd be happy with Jason Smith (assuming we could sign him for just 2 years). I don't really want anyone else and would rather go with someone from Manchester or even Thomas Hickey.

On offense, I'd like to build the team from the 3rd line out. Our biggest problem this season was the fact that other teams could basically set up at will in our own zone and we had no line that could do anything about it. To fix this, I'd like to assemble this line:

Cliche-Handzus-O'Sullivan

Handzus should be better next year with an off-season to rebuild his knee and O'Sullivan could provide offense and defense from the right side. Marc-Andre Cliche is the wild card, but he's been playing outstanding lately since coming back from an injury down in Manchester and I think he could really help this team next year. If for some reason he's not ready, then I guess either Matt Moulson or Matt Ellis could take his place.

With O'Sullivan on the third line, Cammalleri would take his place with Brown and Kopitar. I like that line; it's one you would build in NHL '08 because it gives you a power forward, playmaket and sniper all on the same line. Cammalleri will be playing for a contract next year and since he was injured twice this year (remember, he pulled his groin but didn't sit any games in December), I think he'll be much better.

The 2nd line is the tricky one. O'Sullivan would have to be replaced, either as a center or a wing. The person I'd like to replace him with? Pavol Demitra. I know, he's injury-prone, but I think we could replace him because of our depth next year. Plus, he's good friends with Lubo, he gels extremely well with Frolov, and he can play either right wing or center. If he's a wing, you could probably slot Brian Boyle in the center and not worry about him being out of place. If Demitra plays center, you can put Purcell on that line and tell him to shoot.

The 4th line will have Ivanans on it, but hopefully he won't play every game. I like the guy a lot and he's not a bad player, but he takes too many hooking penalties for my taste. Of course, when he's not in the line-up that means Zeiler probably will be, so God help us. If Boyle plays on the second line, then I'd probably settle for Armstrong as a 4th line center, a role he's perfect for. Either Matt Ellis or Zeiler could be on his right wing. If Purcell takes that 2nd line job, then I'd like to see a line like Ivanans-Boyle-Armstrong. That's an outstanding 4th line, if I do say so myself.

Goaltending-wise, the Kings are in good shape. Labarbera is probably not a clear-cut #1 goaltender, but he proved enough this season to start there next year. Ersberg also proved he deserves consideration, so I imagine he'll push his way into around 20-25 games next year. Jonathan Bernier is the wild card; hopefully the Kings can break him in like the Canadians did with Carey Price this season.

To recap, in case you just skimmed all that other shit:

Brown-Kopitar-Cammalleri
Frolov-Demitra-Purcell
Cliche-Handzus-O'Sullivan
Ivanans-Boyle-Armstrong

Johnson-Blake
Visnovsky-Commodore
Preissing-Harrold (or other defenseman from Manchester

Zeiler, Dallman in the press box

Labarbera/Ersberg/Bernier

Any questions? Leave them in the comments. Or, ridicule me because it's April and I'm already looking ahead to next season.