The Kings were the Stanley Cup champions in 2012 thanks to a solid defensive core, and an unbelievable display of goaltending. With a perfect mix of young two-way blueliners, and veteran stay-at-home defenseman, the Kings' resistance suffocated opponents, helping lead the team to hockey's promise land. The Kings had a tough time scoring the puck in 2011-12, ranking 29th out of 30 teams in offense, scoring a measly 2.29 goals per game. It was the defense and goaltending that stayed consistent on a nightly basis, keeping the team around long enough to claim the eighth and final playoff spot. The defense ranked second in the NHL in 2011-12 in terms of goals against, allowing just 2.07 goals per game.
Doughty is easily the defenseman with the most potential on the team, so naturally the high expectations continue to grow with each passing year. The Kings' second overall pick in 2008 posted good offensive numbers in 2011-12, totaling 36 points (10 goals, 26 assists) in the regular-season. But with all the talent he possesses, the offensive numbers could be even better. Doughty saved the best performance of his young career for the 2012 postseason, tallying four goals, and 12 assists in 20 playoff games last year. He not only provided a spark offensively, but his defense seemed to develop game by game. His end to end goal in game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals was a perfect display of his gifted offensive ability.
Doughty has always had tremendous offensive ability, and his speed as a skater enables him to play both ends of the ice. He is extremely smart and creative with the puck and has decent size at 6-0, 205 pounds. His work ethic has been questioned at times in the past, but he seems to have maintained his playing weight from the end of last season, making it tempting to predict a possible Norris Trophy (given to the best all-around defenseman during the regular season) winning season for the 23-year-old defenseman.
Scuderi is a stay-at-home defenseman with good leadership abilities, and a willingness to sacrifice his body. Even during the worst of the Kings' struggles during the 2011-12 regular season, Scuderi was always prepared to take questions from the media and answer for his teammates.
The 6-0, 218 pound defenseman has never been shy about taking contact, or diving in front of the net to block a shot. The eight year veteran withstood 116 blocked shots last season, playing in all 82 games for the Kings. At 34 years of age, Scuderi plays an important role on the Kings' blue line. The native of Syosset, NY not only performs at a high level on a nightly basis, but also provides wisdom and leadership to his blue line partner, up-and-coming star Drew Doughty.
Mitchell had a career high in points last season with 24 (5 goals, 19 assists), but his commitment to playing shutdown defense is what stands out the most. He recorded 139 blocked shots in 2011-12, proving his willingness to sacrifice. Mitchell has played in the NHL for 12 seasons now, and brings a veteran leadership to the blueline, and specifically his partner Slava Voynov. Voynov will be entering his sophomore season this year, and surly has already learned a tremendous amount about the game while playing alongside the veteran Mitchell. Before coming to Los Angeles in 2010, he served as an assistant captain for the Vancouver Canucks.
At 35, Mitchell has been around the league for a long time, and it shows. He is another leader on this team, and backs it up with hard play. He uses a league maximum length stick of 63" to help him defend effectively.
Mitchell will be out to start the season, as he continues to recover after having surgery to remove cartilage from his knee during the lockout. He was expected to be back at this point, but after suffering a setback, the defenseman was forced to stop skating again. It is unclear exactly when Mitchell will be ready to return to the ice.
As a result of the Kings' offensive struggles last season, the team traded away defenseman Jack Johnson at the trade deadline, in return for a much needed goal scorer in Jeff Carter. The only reason the team was comfortable in making that trade to give away a good defenseman like Johnson, was because they had an even younger one waiting in the wings. Voynov didn't disappoint. The 23-year-old tallied 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 54 games last season, after earning himself a stay with the pro team. He was paired on defense with veteran Willie Mitchell, who has surely been a positive influence for a young kid entering the NHL. The two became a solid pairing, and began to show good chemistry with one another during the Kings' title run. Mitchell will start the season on the shelf, so it will be interesting to see how Voynov will respond to the absence of his blue line partner.
Greene serves as an alternate captain for the Kings, playing a tough style of defense that wears opponents down. He collected 241 hits in 82 regular-season games, and 77 hits in 20 playoff games in 2012. Although he has never been known for producing any offense, the seven-year veteran had career-highs with 4 goals and 15 total points last season, and scored an infamous short-handed goal in game 1 of the Conference Semifinal against the St. Louis Blues in last year's playoffs.
This Kings team has quite a few quality leaders on its roster, and Greene is certainly one of them. He does most of his leading by example, employing a physical style of play, and at 6-4, 235 pounds, is a relatively giant wall defensively to compete against.
The American-born Martinez had six goals with six assists (12 points) in 51 games, while being rotating in and out of the lineup last season. After Jack Johnson was traded in Feb. 2012, Martinez got an opportunity to begin playing everyday.
At 25-years-of age, Martinez is a quick skater with very good speed. He isn't the biggest or strongest of blueliners at 6-1, 215 pounds, but he uses his great skating ability to keep up with quicker players, and to jump in on the offensive attack when sensible.
The 28-year-old appeared in only 9 games for the Kings last season, scoring two goals, in back to back games in Dec. 2011. Drewiske is a decent two-way defenseman, but the depth the Kings already have at the position have made it difficult for him to crack the roster permanently. Drewiske will have the opportunity to earn some time on the blue line at the start of the season, while veteran Willie Mitchell continues to recover from surgery. He and Jake Muzzin will likely battle for the open roster spot.
Muzzin has potential at both ends of the ice, and has good size for a defender at 6-2, 215 pounds. He tallied 22 hits in 11 games played with the Kings during the 2010-11 season, but failed to get any time with the pro club last season. He will look to win the open roster spot left by Mitchell for the start of the 2013 shortened-season.
The Kings locked up their young American goaltending hero , Quick, to a 10-year $58 million contract extension this past offseason. Quick was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner (given to the most valuable player during the Stanley Cup Playoffs) in 2012, after posting an incredible 1.41 goals against average, and a .946 save percentage, while going 16-4 in the 2012 postseason. He accomplished all that while playing with a herniated disc. Quick underwent back surgery in August to remove herniated disc material, and also to clean up inflammation. While that may be some cause for concern, the 26-year-old goalie recently received medical clearance to play, and says he is ready to start the season, reports Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times.
"I feel great. I do. It's the best I've felt probably since last February," said Quick. "There's no pain, and i get to just play."
The American born goaltender was amazing in last years regular-season as well, setting a franchise record in shutouts, with 10, to go along with a 1.95 goals against average, and a .929 save percentage. Although he certainly has the potential and the ability to exceed those numbers, it would be asking a lot of him to repeat the same performance again this season. As Quick returns to action just about five months removed from surgery, the team will gladly take a performance slightly short of last years.
Jonathan Bernier G
Bernier plays a backup role for the Kings' number one goalie Jonathan Quick, although he probably does have the potential to be a starter in the NHL. The 6-0, 185 pound native of Laval, Quebec requested a trade, likely seeking more playing time, following the 2011-12 season, yet he remains on the roster as the team heads into 2013. It is possible that the Kings shopped him around over the summer, but the looming lockout made it impossible to make a move. Having him behind Quick adds to the teams' depth, and will give coach Sutter the option of resting Quick more often if he needs to, after the starting goalie underwent a surgical procedure on his back in August. Bernier did not play in a single game during the team's playoff run in 2012, but did appear in 16 regular season games, posting a 2.36 goals against average, and .909 save percentage.
Defense will again be the backbone of this team heading into the 2013 season, as it is with most great teams. The hope is that the offense will continue to succeed the way it did during last years playoffs, alleviating the defense of extra pressure. As long as Quick is healthy and can return to the similar form he showed last season, the Kings will be a tough out for any team.
"Sifting Through The Kingdom" is a mini-series of articles that will, in parts, examine the depth of the Los Angeles Kings' 2013 roster.
Tags: Alec Martinez, Drew Doughty, Hockey, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Kings, Matt Greene, NHL, Rob Scuderi, Slava Voynov, Willie Mitchell
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