The 2010-11 season for the Los Angeles Kings saw them qualify for post-season play for a second consecutive season. It was a season of highs and lows.
The highs included: an eight-game home winning streak to start the season; a 6-1-3 mark during February’s disjointed 10-game stretch away from home; the first-ever four-game road trip sweep in franchise history March 9-15; and 46 victories overall, which tied the franchise record.
The lows included one forgettable stretch in late December/early-mid January in which the Kings lost five straight, seven of eight, and ten of twelve. And the regrettable injury in late March which cost Anzke Kopitar the rest of the season.
In the end, they wound up with the same result as last season, losing in six games in the opening round of the playoffs. But just like last season, they were extremely and surprisingly (to some) competitive in the series, and easily could have won the series. So as they head into the off-season, they again have placed themselves in an enviable position to infuse the roster with more young talent while using free agency and trades to supplement and enhance the current roster.
They also figure to be a big player for several big name free agents, most logically Brad Richards. While it shouldn’t provide the month-long drawn-out drama of the failed Ilya Kovalchuk courtship, they still figure to be involved in the process.
Over the next few days, we will review the previous season, and look ahead to an intriguing summer. For the second straight season, one of the things we’ve done in helping to evaluate the season was to create a statistic based upon the old adage of the importance of goals scored in the first or final minute of play in a given period, as well as the final five minutes of regulation or in overtime.
We’re calling these ‘clutch goals’, ‘clutch assists’, ‘clutch points’, and ‘clutch plus/minus rating’. For these purposes, we’re crediting a plus to any goal scored during these times for or against, which makes it a slightly different number than regular plus/minus where power play goals for and short-handed goals against don’t count.
In this article, we will review the play of the goaltenders and the defensemen. The next articles in this series will review the forwards, and the coaching staff and other management.
Name: Jonathan Quick
Once again, Quick was the starting goaltender for the entirety of the season for the Kings, and delivered some impressive numbers. He won 35 games, becoming the only netminder in franchise history to do so in consecutive seasons. His .918 save percentage established a new single-season franchise record, and his six shutouts were the second most in team history.
Quick had a fantastic start to the season, posting an 11-2-0 mark with a 1.82 GAA in his first 13 contests. He was much better in terms of the economy of his goal movements, not chasing the puck and feeling more secure about the positioning of the defense in front of him to maintain the proper positioning.
Still, every time he wanders out of the crease to handle the puck is like watching a five-year old trying to cross the street without a grown-up. He still tends to make the spectacular saves look even more amazing, yet as regularly tends to give up goals that are way too soft.
At the end of the day, we must remember that he has just completed his third season playing at the NHL level. This means next season should be the one we see all of the same-old-mistakes start to disappear. It’s time for Quick to step up and take control of this team. It’s time for Quick to drive the proverbial team bus and not just be a passenger on it.
Name: Jonathan Bernier
He improved as the season went along, playing with a lot more confidence in the second half of the season as opposed to early on. He registered three shutouts this season, and between January 15 through March 29, Bernier posted a 7-1-3 mark in 12 contests with a .939 save percentage.
Now that he understands the level of play, he will come to training camp this fall with an even greater mindset of what it will take to succeed at this level. What remains interesting is whether or not he or Quick will be dealt during the off-season. It’s clear that both have the talent to be the starter and to be the goaltender the organization can lean on for the next decade.
They were good teammates for each other this season, and that shouldn’t change for next season if they both return. Still, the market for a top goaltender could dictate a move. If Quick goes, Bernier has the right temperament and abilities to be the man between the pipes.
Name: Drew Doughty
Overall Stats: 11 goals, 29 assists, 40 points, +13
“Clutch” Stats: 3 goals, 3 assists, 6 points, +1
It was bound to happen that Doughty would have a season in which he didn’t live up to (some would say unrealistic) expectations and have a season in which he had more inconsistency as opposed to his first two seasons.
Doughty came off a season in which he was a Norris Trophy finalist, but he seemed to struggle with the attention paid him by other clubs early in the season.
Part of that had to do with him missing several games due to the effects of a concussion, and perhaps he returned from the injury too soon, as he struggled in the first few games following his return.
The second half of the season was a much more productive one for Doughty. He finished the season with eleven goals, topping double digits for the second straight season in that statistic, and he was a +13 for the season. He seemed very comfortable with Willie Mitchell as his playing partner.
If Doughty comes to training camp this fall determined to show that the first half of this season was just a fluke, if he comes to camp in the best shape of his career and determined to be driving force on the blue line, he will easily return to Norris Trophy conversations around the league.
Name: Jack Johnson
Overall Stats: 5 goals, 37 assists, 42 points, -21
“Clutch” Stats: 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, +1
Once again, when evaluating the just completed season of Johnson, people can be impressed in some areas, and disappointed in others.
At times during the season, Johnson showed the brilliance in his play which made him such a high draft choice. He scored big goals early in the campaign, was solid in his own end, and was a big part of the club’s success. He actually wound up leading the team in blocked shots with 133.
Then he signed the contract extension in early January, and he seemed to drift through the rest of the season. The proof is in the numbers: before the deal, he scored four goals and added 27 assists for 31 points through 41 games; after the deal, in the final 41 games of the season, he scored just one goal and ten assists.
The length and amount of the contract will make many suggest his name in possible trades during the off-season, as the terms are certainly cap-friendly. Johnson did play 82 games this season, and was better defensively at times. Now, he needs to continue to work on his defensive game if he is to be a big part of the team taking the next step next season.
Name: Willie Mitchell
Overall Stats: 5 goals, 5 assists, 10 points, +4
“Clutch” Stats: 0 goals, 1 assist, 5 points, -1
Mitchell was signed late in the summer to a two-year contract, and was coming off a season that was shortened by a head injury. Mitchell did miss a significant portion of the season early on with other injuries.
When he was healthy enough to play, he was a main reason for the club’s success, especially on the road. He played in 57 games this season, but he played in every game in the second half of the season, only dipping below 19 minutes of ice time during that stretch just twice. The increase in second-half productivity of Doughty can be directly attributed to Mitchell riding shotgun with him during that time.
Mitchell played appropriately physical, and was a big part of the penalty killing unit which finished with the fourth best percentage in the entire league. His veteran leadership will be a driving force for the defensive crops again next season.
Name: Rob Scuderi
Overall Stats: 2 goals, 13 assists, 15 points, +1
“Clutch” Stats: 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, -4
For the second straight season, Scuderi was a defensive stalwart for the Kings. He was significantly impressive, as usual, on the penalty killing unit.
Scuderi is a no-nonsense kind of player that understands his role as a defensive defenseman and plays it well. Scuderi finished second on the club in blocked shots with 122, and was one of six players to play in all 82 regular season games for the Kings this season.
His play was not limited to just defense either. His two goals established a career best, and his 16 PIM were the fewest he’s ever posted in a full season.
You know what you get out of Scuderi, and for the second straight season, his quiet leadership and professionalism were major reasons for the Kings appearing in the post-season.
Name: Matt Greene
Overall Stats: 2 goals, 9 assists, 11 points, +3
“Clutch” Stats: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -6
Some consider Greene to be nothing more than a merry prankster, the guy that keeps the other guys loose on the team. But Matt Greene is another solid defensive player and has been a main reason why the Kings penalty killing unit is among the best in the league.
Greene was supposed to miss the first month of the season recovering from shoulder surgery. Instead, he made his way into the lineup having missed only the first six contests. He suffered another upper body injury which kept him out for five contests in December, but he played every game from his December 26 return through season’s end.
Like Scuderi, you know what you will get from Greene: solid defensive zone play, excellent penalty killing expertise, and marginal offensive options. He registered 243 hits, second most on the team, and blocked 105 shots by opponents.
Greene is a solid citizen in the room and the community, and should continue to be a major contributor for many seasons to come.
Name: Alec Martinez
Overall Stats: 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points, +11
“Clutch” Stats: 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, +2
Martinez has shown a great deal of promise this season. He was called up in late November from Manchester, and right away showed an ability to be smart with the puck while also having a solid foundation defensively.
As the season progressed, the coaching staff began to show more confidence in Martinez, putting on the second power-play unit. He rewarded the organization with five goals in just 60 games, and has perhaps secured the sixth defensive spot for himself moving forward.
Martinez needs to get a little bit stronger in the off-season in terms of body strength, as he seemed to get knocked off the puck at inopportune times. Still, his decision making showed vast improvement as the season went along, and his confidence level will certainly be at a different place when training camp commences this fall.
His play this season might just have shown enough to Dean Lombardi that the Kings GM can entertain dangling Johnson in trade talks this summer. Martinez was a pleasant surprise this season.
Name: Davis Drewiske
Overall Stats: 0 goals, 5 assists, 5 points, -1
“Clutch” Stats: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, Even
Drewiske had another non-descript season and seems to have settled into a role as the seventh defenseman for the Kings. He was the sixth d-man early in the season, but the emergence of Martinez meant that he was a healthy scratch for all but two of the final 42 contests.
His low contract through next season allows him to be a solid option should injuries occur during the season. But the likelihood is that he will enter next season in the same role he finished this season, as the seventh defenseman.
Name: Peter Harrold
Overall Stats: 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, +3
“Clutch” Stats: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -1
Like Drewiske, Harrold was healthy all season long, but the Kings seldom needed to insert him into the lineup. Harrold played in just 19 contests this season, and enters this summer as an unrestricted free agent.
He is a great teammate, and the coaching staff always talks appreciatively about his professionalism and his work ethic, as well as his ability to play up front in a pinch on the fourth line.
Still, if another organization offers him the chance to play more regularly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he takes the chance to go elsewhere. With the young group of defensemen in the system such as Viacheslav Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Thomas Hickey, and Derek Forbort all wanting their shot in the next year or two, Harrold likely sees the handwriting on the wall and will opt to go elsewhere.
Name: Jake Muzzin
Overall Stats: 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -2
“Clutch” Stats: 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, None
Muzzin showed enough in training camp to earn not only a spot on the season-opening roster, but in the opening night lineup. In fact, he played in 11 of the first 17 games for the Kings, and showed a great deal of promise.
Then he was a healthy scratch for three games before being sent down to Manchester for the rest of the season. With the Monarchs, he played in 45 games and scored three goals and added 15 assists while posting a +20 plus/minus rating.
Muzzin figures to be a big part of the conversation for making the club next season, especially if Johnson is moved in a deal for a top-line forward.
Once again, the Kings showed a great deal of strength in the defensive end of the rink. John Stevens took over control of the d-men from Mark Hardy, and the club didn’t miss a beat. The Kings continue to see quality play from their goaltending unit, and the foundation is there for the team to move along further in the post-season with more goal scoring.
The future is bright on the back end for the Kings.
Wednesday, we’ll have our report card for the forwards. Friday, we’ll look at the coaches and front office, and Sunday we’ll conclude our look back at the season by looking ahead to the summer.
Jon Moncrief has just completed his third season covering the Los Angeles Kings for icedjamb.com, and he also covers the NHL and the Los Angeles Dodgers for Examiner as well. Jon is also co-host of the weekly web-TV sports series INSIDE SPORTS.