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Kings Gameday: Mishandling your D

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Hey look another dick joke

Jamie McBain is such a slack jaw looking hillbilly
Jamie McBain is such a slack jaw looking hillbilly
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

I'm not going to spend time trashing on Rob Scuderi in this post. We know he's bad. We know he's dragging down Drew Doughty. We know he's going to hold down a roster spot for the remainder of the year, and probably next year too. What I want to go over is:

How has it come to this?

The Kings defense has been all over the damn place since 2012. That's not to say it's bad. They've had one of the best groups over the past several seasons. Part of that is because the Kings play in a very defensive system to begin with, and have solid two-way forwards throughout the roster as well. But on their own, the defensemen the Kings have employed over the years have been pretty good to say the least. However, as mentioned it's been a really crazy mix over the last few seasons despite the success the team has had.

Since the 2011-2012 season:

Drew Doughty (good)

Willie Mitchell (goodish)

Rob Scuderi (was ok, got bad, now is a malignant tumor)

Matt Greene (dead)

Alec Martinez (good)

Slava Voynov (no comment)

Jack Johnson (lolz)

Jake Muzzin (good)

Robyn Regehr (BAD)

Brayden McNabb (might be good?)

Jamie McBain (Jamie McBain)

Andrej Sekera (good but short lived)

Jeff Schultz (the Ducks series guy)

Luke Schenn (sorta bad)

Christian Ehrhoff (also sorta bad)

Derek Forbort (never seen)

Kevin Gravel (seen even less)

Keaton Ellerby (christ, what a dark point)

Davis Drewiske (remember him?)

Andrew Campbell (who?)

2013, 2014, 2015, and the current season here in 2016 has been a definite hodgepodge group. Ellerby was a crappy stopgap, and Campbell/Schultz/Drewiske were all guys that barely saw time if ever. Jamie McBain remains Jamie McBain.

The 2012 year was by far the most consistent bunch the Kings had. Only eight guys, and Drewiske saw a total of nine games total. Slava Voynov was given a long look by then coach, Terry Murray. He had a chance to see a lot of games consistently, and developed. Jake Muzzin the following year in 2013 got a lot of games in for his first looks, but was also living in Darryl Sutter's doghouse for third periods at a time. At least Muzzin got games to develop in though, even if it was largely due to injuries to Mitchell and Greene. 2014 and 2015 basically saw the end of "young" defensemen, with the exception being McNabb, who already saw a ton of time in Buffalo.

Which brings us to 2016. The Kings are tight against the cap and budget guys were clearly going to be called in. Still, the Kings had a good group with Muzzin, Doughty, Martinez, and developing McNabb some more. Greene is declining, and Ehrhoff was a guy that, well, he was a budget guy.

Except Greene got hurt and Ehrhoff wasn't too great. So now the Kings have used twelve different defensemen this year. For two spots that were clearly up for grabs. Once Schenn got added to pretty much replace Greene there was only one spot. And yet it's been a damn carousel for it.

Jamie McBain has seen forty(?!) games this year but barely any time. Ehrhoff wound up even less trusted by management. Kevin Gravel and Derek Forbort, the clear cut options in the AHL weren't given much of a look. And now we have Rob Scuderi seeing over twenty minutes a game.

Why?

Even though he was getting benched for stretches at a time, Muzzin still saw a lot of games when he first joined the Kings. It was largely due to necessity. Terry Murray, despite all his other shortcomings, let Voynov see NHL competition. By the time Sutter showed up, Voynov was clearly proven ready. Martinez, despite being a regular following his official rookie year in 2011, fell ridiculously far with Sutter after 2012, and wound up having to score a Cup clinching overtime goal to avoid being a healthy scratch anymore. It's safe to say, Sutter doesn't trust young players entirely. And this year it's been a detriment.

Forbort and Gravel have seen barely any time, and none of it was consistently. It's obviously entirely hypothetical, but hey maybe if they see over twenty games they might develop a bit more. The two of them clearly can handle their shit in the AHL, but neither can stick here with Darryl. Unlike with Muzzin and Voynov (and Martinez before that) they aren't getting the games in.

They are getting stuffed back in the minors where they are playing pretty well, but are blocked by the likes of a veteran defenseman who can't stick with defensively depleted teams. It's been the most effective shutdown play Scuderi has ran in years. But it was going on before that trade too. McBain and Schenn saw sizable minutes, when both are at best a 6D option. For Sutter it was preferable to having one of the kids play. Now as the season winds down, and neither Forbort or Gravel is a viable option (realistically) for the playoffs, and are arguably stymied from taking the next step progressing as a player.

It's hard to imagine that if Forbort saw 40-50 games this year  that he couldn't have been able to hang around even in a third pair role, rather than what is he now: An AHLer with confidence shot to hell. Gravel was given a look probably far too late for Sutter to start trusting him more now, but maybe he should have been getting some games in earlier anyways ahead of Jamie McBain. Hindsight is 20/20 but still.

No risk, no reward.

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Prediction: Rob Scuderi scores a goal, and we all ignore the fact he allowed five against. Kings lose 5-2.