Back when this season started, I was skeptical of three things:
- Dustin Brown being a top line threat.
- Kurtis MacDermid.
- Any sort of reliability outside of the Kings top flight forwards.
So far, Dustin Brown has enjoyed a nice start to the season, largely because he is just standing in front of the net and is being a pain in the ass. Kurtis MacDermid has been not a nightmare. The depth up front though...
To start off, the Kings rolled with Michael Cammalleri (since traded), Adrian Kempe (playing a huge role now due to the loss of Jeff Carter), and Jonny Brodzinski (demoted and back again). At the time, Carter and Tanner Pearson had trouble getting it going but were controlling the run of play, Alex Iafallo was exactly what the top line needed, and the fourth line was taking advantage of other teams depth. That third line, in layman’s terms, SUCKED BAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLS.
Brodzinski couldn’t establish any sort of presence. Kempe was looking lost at center. Cammalleri was isolated. Then of course, Cammalleri scored two goals and Kempe a hat-trick in the same game. Problem solved.
Not really. Cammalleri remained isolated, Brodzinski’s struggles resulted in a bus ride to Ontario, and Kempe still bounced around at wing due to his adjustments of being an NHL center. The fourth line featuring Kyle Clifford, Nick Shore, and Trevor Lewis got bumped up to bigger and tougher minutes, where they no longer tormented other teams in a limited role. Then Carter got his leg chopped off, and Clifford had his arm explode.
At that point the Kings really only had three lines. Since then...they’ve really only had three lines. Michael Amadio, Andrew Crescenzi, Brooks Laich, Nic Dowd, and Jussi Jokinen have ventured into a fourth line blender. Nothing has really clicked. The Shore, Lewis, Clifford/Andreoff unit remains incredibly exposed as a third line.
On the plus side, Adrian Kempe seems to have found some great chemistry at times with Toffoli and Pearson. The problem there remains consistency, and the loss of Jeff Carter as a more natural center hampers more creativity with the personnel. Marian Gaborik is on his way back, but being anything more than a expensive yet now ineffective winger remains to be seen.
Depth was an issue going into the season, and even with the emergence of Iafallo it was still a large concern. Rob Blake mentioned going to the AHL guys repeatedly to see who could possibly fit in, and while there have been plenty of call-ups, the fitting in part has been more troublesome.
It’s not solely Blake’s fault, as the mess he inherited is George Bushian in scope, with an aging expensive roster and a depleted farm. But it’s his problem to fix. Los Angeles has cap space to play with for the first time in forever, and Blake has also proven to be crafty with some less known prospects like Iafallo and Oscar Fantenberg. And while you can’t always foresee injuries, you have to know they are going to happen sometime with someone. The issue again was the depth even before injuries rocked the lineup.
As it happens, Blake has toyed with dealing a defender for a forward, if the Kings needed it. They needed it a little while ago, and more so now. Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue aren’t even in L.A. yet.
I would prefer John Stevens mess with the lineup more, which appears likely for the Florida game. Though is has Lewis in a second line role, Andy Andreoff on the third line still (instead of on the surface of Mercury), and the fourth line blender special-of-the-day of Jokinen-Dowd-Brodzinski.
I SAY GO FULL CRAZY
You leave the top line alone though. Don’t go too crazy.
The Kings win because I complained about how bad they are.