Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kings Cuts Part V

So the final set of cuts has come down, and there are no big surprises (yet again). A few demotions do deserve comment however.

Jonathan Bernier (Goalie) - Manchester, AHL
- No real surprise here. Murray has been vocal in stating that Quick is the #1 keeper in Los Angeles this year. Add that to the fact that Bernier can go to Manchester without clearing waivers (Ersberg can not), and the fact that Bernier will be better served playing regularly as opposed to sitting on the bench, this demotion was as close to a foregone conclusion as I can imagine. That said, this will be an interesting spot to watch. If Bernier can become one of the best keepers in AHL (he's shown flashes of brilliance over the past couple years), he'll continue to push Quick for the starting job even from Manchester. And you can bet if Quick falters, Bernier will be all too ready to jump in and take his spot.

Thomas Hickey (Defense) - Manchester, AHL
- Again, not a big surprise to me. Coming into camp, Hickey was a bit of a long-shot to make the team, and it's perhaps a mild surprise that he's going back down to Manchester while Alec Martinez remains up with the big club, but in general this should be expected. I'd imagine Martinez is going to be heading back down to Manchester when O'Donnell's suspension is over two games into the season. As both Martinez and Hickey are talented youngsters, they're in the same position as Bernier. Significant playing time in Manchester will be more valuable to his development than being the 7th defensement on the Kings.

Kevin Westgarth (Center) - Manchester, AHL
- Easily the most obvious of the demotions. Westgarth played well in general this pre-season, and in my mind pretty well cemented his position as the heir apparent to Raitis. My guess is that Ratty has no more than a season or two left with the Kings, and as long as Westgarth doesn't regress, he'll be ready to take the spot at that time. It would be great if while working on his game in Manchester he's able to add an additional physical defensive aspect to his game, as well as better discipline.

Brayden Schenn (Center) - Brandon, WHL
- Schenn might be the player that most people were excited to see at Prospect camp earlier this summer, and has been a pleasant surprise for the Kings this pre-season. He's played a strong two-way game, and has managed to put a couple points on the board. While the team is pretty deep at Center, there is just no room for Schenn this season. Like Hickey and Bernier, the time spent playing at a high level will be more valuable than he would get if he stuck with the Kings. There's no question in my mind that if it were possible, Schenn would see time in Manchester. Since rules prevent it, we obviously won't see him until his junior season is over, and even then possibly only for a handful of games. Schenn's camp has solidified his position as a dominant prospect for the Kings, and justified why he's the #3 prospect on our list.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kings Cuts Part IV

More cuts. Technically I'm a bit behind on this "breaking news" but, since it's not terribly surprising I won't sweat it too much. Anyway, the following players have be reassigned:

Andrew Campbell (Defense) - Manchester, AHL
Marc-Andre Cliche (Center) - Manchester, AHL
Kyle Clifford (Left Wing) - Barrie, OHL

Anyone with half a brain could figure out who that leaves left to fight out the last few spots on the team:
Richard Clune
Peter Harrold
Raitis Ivanans
Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson
Brayden Schenn
Kevin Westgarth

It's probably a stretch to say that Harrold is legitimately fighting for a spot, since his versatility as a player who can play forward or defense makes him a good bet to make the team, even if it's just as an auxiliary player. I'm still skeptical that Schenn makes the team this year, but hopefully he'll get a couple games at the NHL level to get used to the speed and energy necessary before he heads back to lead his Junior team. Anyone have predictions on who will be the starters on the fourth line on Opening Night?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Preseason Review - Halfway Through

Here's a halfway through preseason review. With eight total games on the schedule for the preseason, the Kings have now played five. I realize the math is a little off, and we're a bit further than halfway through, but "Preseason Review - 5/8th way Through" didn't have quite the same ring to it. Anyway, here's how the games have gone so far:

Kings 2 - Coyotes 4
Kings Scorers: Wayne Simmonds (2)
Coyotes Scorers: J. Vandermeer (1), V. Fiddler (1), J. Hoggan (1), D. Spina (1)
Recap - With a few notable exceptions, the Kings played a reserve squad in this game, fielding a number of players looking to make an impact on the Kings this season. Simmonds made a big statement, coming on the back of a solid if unspectacular rookie season, he demonstrated an increasing ability to put the puck in the net. This developing ability can only be a boon to the Kings offensive firepower if he's able to build on it going forward.

Coyotes 3 - Kings 4
Kings Scorers: Jack Johnson (2), Teddy Purcell (1), Justin Williams (1)
Coyotes Scorers: M. Boedker (1), K. Yandle (1), P. Mueller (1)
Recap - A good result. The first good result of the preseason happened on the same day as the first loss. In an interesting scheduling decision, the Coyotes and Kings scheduled two matches on the same day. In this match the Kings started many of the players expected to make the team and be impact players, and just as in the previous game, somebody stepped up. Jack Johnson netted two goals, including the game-winner, and an assist. The three point game is a good total for anyone, let alone the fact that he's a defender. Johnson has spent the previous two seasons working on fitting into the roster, and focusing on his defensive game. While obviously he can't let up on the defense, this game may be a sign that he's ready to start moving forward and adding the offensive potential that made him a huge prospect to his game. Only time will tell.

Sharks 2 - Kings 1 (SO)
Kings Scorers: Dustin Brown (1)
Sharks Scorers: B. Ferriero (1)
Recap - I admit I missed this game. From the scorecard it looks to have been a tightly fought battle, and the fact that the Kings held the Sharks to only one goal is a good sign. Of course the fact that they were only able to put one goal past rookie Sharks keeper Greiss is not the most uplifting of signs...

Ducks 1 - Kings 4
Kings Scorers: Brayden Schenn (2), Ryan Smyth (1), Anze Kopitar (1)
Ducks Scorers: Saku Koivu (1)
Recap - It's always good to get a result against the hated cross-town rival Ducks. In addition to the satisfaction of getting one over (resoundingly I might add) on the Ducks, Brayden Schenn couldn't have picked a better time to get started scoring. With the first set of cuts coming shortly after this game, it's entirely possible that without his offensive outburst he would have been sent back to juniors early. However, the outburst came, and Schenn stuck with the team. Will it be for the long-term? I doubt it, but potting four goals against Jonas Hiller is always satisfying, even in the pre-season. A strong performance by Jonathan Bernier was only the topper to an impressive win. Here's hoping it starts a pattern heading into the regular season.

Islanders 2 - Kings 4
Kings Scorers: Teddy Purcell (1), Wayne Simmonds (2), Drew Doughty (1)
Islanders Scorers: A. Sutton (1), J. Bailey (1)
Recap - Simmonds is the hero again. In five games, Simmonds has netted four goals, an excellent start for a player expected to increase his totals from the 9G, 14A, 23P of last season. If the preseason so far is any predictions, there's no doubt Simmonds will top those numbers, and may make the substantial step forward that the Kings will need if they are looking to make the playoffs this season. Jonathan Quick had what appears to be a solid, if unspectacular, game in goal, and is off to a good start this preseason.

The one thing that can be said so far, is that the Kings have not had a lot of players under-performing this pre-season. With any luck, they will be able to keep this string of strong play going into the regular season when it debuts on October 3rd.

Upcoming Preseason Games:
September 23rd, 2009 - Kings v. Avalanche
September 26th, 2009 - Avalanche v. Kings
September 27th, 2009 - Kings v. Ducks

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kings Cuts Part III

A few more cuts today:

Drew Bagnall (Defense) - Manchester, AHL
Gabe Gauthier (Center) - Manchester, AHL
Brandon Segal (Right Wing) - Manchester, AHL
John Zeiler (Right Wing) - Manchester, AHL

Nothing surprising, except to say that Manchester is getting even better... Zeiler is a bit of a surprise, although nothing shocking. As we discussed previously, this means that the Kings have a fourth line that's a bit more up in the air. Many analysts (myself included) assumed Zeiler would make the team as either a fourth-line player, or perhaps even as an extra forward. By my count that leaves the following players as options:

Marc-Andre Cliche
Kyle Clifford
Richard Clune
Peter Harrold
Raitis Ivanans
Trevor Lewis
Brad Richardson
Brayden Schenn
Kevin Westgarth

I'd be surprised if Schenn made the team playing on the fourth line, only because he needs significant minutes to develop and he's unlikely to get them on this line. The loss of Zeiler does make Richardson's place on the Kings somewhat more likely. If I were to predict at the moment the line, I'm thinking it will include Ivanans, Richardson and Harrold. I'd like to see Lewis, and that's certainly a possibility, but for the moment I'm holding strong with my predictions. What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kings Cuts Part II

New changes are a-comin' for the Los Angeles Kings. Pre-season camp players have suffered through the next set of cuts, although no terrible surprises have been forthcoming, with one possible exception. Without further ado, here are the players the Los Angeles Kings have cut from camp, along with the team they're heading to for the upcoming season:

Justin Azevedo (Center) - Manchester, AHL
Corey Elkins (Center) - Manchester, AHL
Bud Holloway (Left Wing) - Manchester, AHL
Dwight King (Left Wing) - Manchester, AHL
Andrei Loktionov (Center) - Manchester, AHL
David Meckler (Left Wing) - Manchester, AHL
Juraj Mikus (Center) - Manchester, AHL
Oscar Moller (Center) - Manchester, AHL
Patrick Mullen (Defense) - Manchester, AHL
Jordan Nolan (Center) - Manchester, AHL
Scott Parse (Right Wing) - Manchester, AHL
Michael Pelech (Forward) - Manchester, AHL
Viatcheslav Voynov (Defense) - Manchester, AHL
Geoff Walker (Right Wing) - Manchester, AHL
Jeff Zatkoff (Goalie) - Manchester, AHL
Colten Teubert (Defense) - Regina, WHL

With these cuts, the Kings are that much closer to their start of season roster, taking the total in camp down to 35, with some fairly painful cuts yet to make. Of those that have left, there is perhaps only one "surprise." Oscar Moller, who played the bulk of last season with the Kings, has been sent down to Manchester. While it might seem that this is a slight, for a small player who has done everything asked of him to be sent to the AHL, in reality this is a prudent move for the Kings, who just don't have a spot open for him at the moment. Frankly, it's a statement on the depth of the Kings organization that they have the luxury of sending a highly skilled player down to get minutes in the AHL.

Look at it this way, with the first three lines effectively locked (specific pairs may not be, but the top three lines are clearly including Kopitar, Williams, Smyth, Brown, Stoll, Purcell, Frolov, Handzus, and Simmonds), Moller would either play on the fourth line with limited minutes, or be a regular scratch if he were to stick with the Kings. Neither option is appealing, and he's better off getting real minutes in the AHL for the time being. If Purcell or Simmonds struggle early, it's entirely possible that we see Moller brought up, and I'd be surprised if he didn't see some NHL action this season. That said, sending him to the AHL is the right move at this moment.

Any other surprises? Not to me. Loktionov, Voynov, Tuebert all were long shots at best to make the squad, and will be better served with some time playing at a lower level. There's just no room for them on the roster at the moment. Besides, better to bring them along slowly, and allow them to grow into the talented players they may yet become. The rest of the chaff had a fine camp, but are for the most part bit players (with a few exceptions) that are hit or miss projects. For the time being, there's no place for them. However, there is plenty of opportunity for a mid-season call-up if they set the AHL on fire. In the meantime, Manchester looks stacked, and ready to make some real waves in the AHL!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Training Camp - September 18th

So today I finally made it down to pre-season camp, something I had been intending to do for several weeks now. In fact, I was hoping to make it to Rookie camp a while back, but real life interfered. Nonetheless, I made it to the Toyota Sports Center today to check out how some of the Kings are playing.

As we know, the following players had already been sent back to their Junior teams:
Jean-Francois Berube (Goalie) - Montreal, QMJHL
Nicolas Deslauriers (Defense) - Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL
Martin Jones (Goalie) - Calgary, WHL
Brandon Kozun (Right Wing) - Calgary, WHL
Linden Vey (Right Wing) - Medicine Hat, WHL

No big surprises there, although Martin Jones might be the closest. Still, with Ersberg, Bernier, Quick and Zatkoff still fighting it out for the two NHL spots this season, Jones had no realistic chance, and might as well get back to getting in sync with his junior team.

The first thing I noticed at camp was the Smyth-Kopitar-Williams line. Unlike in previous years with Andy Murray and Marc Crawford, Terry Murray seems to be trying to generate some serious chemistry in the pre-season, and has done substantially less shifting of players. It's an interesting technique, and certainly if he finds some magic, it'll be considered a resounding success. For now, the jury is still out, and it's possible he'll miss out on a great combination for lack of trying a variety of pairings.

That said, the Smyth-Kopitar-Williams line was fairly impressive. They seemed to be one of the most confident lines on the ice, and certainly had a significant amount of talent. The passing was crisp, shots on target, and they seemed to be communicating well. For what it's worth, Smyth seems like a big talker. He was chatting with just about everyone on the ice, including his linemates, something that can only help integrate himself into the Kings lockerroom sooner rather than later. I'm hoping he is able to capitalize on coming to the young, energetic Kings, and make for a huge season.

Thomas Hickey also seemed to be impressive. He was making some solid passes, and most impressively really demonstrated significant vision. Although the drills were fairly rigid, he was on target with his moves, and as indicated, is a gifted skater. His shots from the blueline were not bad, though nothing booming or particularly impressive. I'd imagine any role he plays offensively is going to center more around moving the puck and getting solid, on-target shots at the net, more similar to Lubomir Visnovsky's offensive game, and less like Rob Blake's.

Another surprise at camp was Peter Harrold. He fired a couple impressive shots past both goalies, and in general seemed very in sync with the entire team. His versitility as a defenseman or winger makes him a very likely pick to make the team this season. How much he'll play is another matter entirely, and something that will be interesting to monitor. Regardless, it's never a problem to have too many talented, versitile players.

Finally, the keepers. Jonathan Bernier and Jonathan Quick were out there today, and both put on solid, if unspectacular performances. If I were to pick one of the on the basis of this single preseason session, I'd have to lean toward Bernier, although it would be a very close call to be sure. There's no question that both have the quality to play in the NHL today, and it's the first time in a very long while (ever?) that the Kings have had at least two solid NHL-caliber keepers ready to step in. Although Murray has gone on record as saying that Quick is the #1 keeper, it can only help the Kings to have Bernier constantly pushing him for playing time. If Bernier isn't able to unseat Quick for the starting job, I'd like to see him get a few games early in the season and then get sent down to Manchester to work on his game. Backing up Quick isn't going to be as helpful as playing 65-70 games in the AHL this season, and significant playing time will only make Bernier that much better going into next season.

In general, I'm very optomistic about this season. The team looks solid, Scuderi and Smyth look like solid additions, and there have been little substantial subtractions. In addition, with a team as young as the Kings, they're only going to get better with age. Quick has another year under his belt, Kopitar, Doughty, Johnson, Moller, Simmonds, Purcell, all the youngsters can be expected to be that much better this year. I think this team can make the playoffs this season, but only if things fall into place. Here's hoping they do, but even if not, the next couple seasons are going to be a delight for Kings fans!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Top Ten Prospects (Cont'd)

Up next, the top 5 Kings prospects in the system. We should point out that as a general rule we use Hockey's Future criteria in deciding what made a prospect. Of course there could be an exception in the future, but there aren't any at the moment. Now, on to the ratings:

5. Colten Teubert
(Defense) - Drafted 1st Round, 13th Overall - 2008
Colten Teubert is the perfect fit for this spot on the list. Is he going to be an offensive superstar? No chance. He's probably not going to win the Norris at any point (unless they start rewarding defensive defensemen the same as offensive defensemen, a point best saved for another day). He's 6'4", and uses his size to the best of his ability. He's a strong stay-at-home defensemen with a solid positional game. By all accounts Teubert is a huge competitor, with a bit of an edge to his game. Critics have even gone so far as to say the emotion he plays with could be a detriment. While I wouldn't go so far as to dismiss that point of view, if he harnesses that heart, he could be precisely the heart-and-soul, shutdown defensemen that any Stanley Cup team needs.

4. Vyacheslav Voinov (Defense) - Drafted 2nd Round, 32nd Overall - 2008
Vyacheslav Voinov could be a real gem in the making for the Kings. As a talented defensemen, he couples strong defensive skills with impressive explosive offensive abilities. With a solid, if unspectacular shot from the blue line, Voinov will only get better as he develops the confidence necessary to let it fly from the top of the offensive zone. As an 18 year old in the AHL (a rare occurance), he lead all Manchester Monarchs last year with 8G, 15A, 23P. Not a bad point total, and in all likelihood he will increase that total this year. Although he's not a huge player (6'0") he is strong positionally, and has the ability to play well under pressure, the kind of mindset necessary for a smaller player to thrive in the NHL. Voinov would be a legitimate contender for some real playing time in the NHL this season, except that he's a bit behind on the depth chart. With Hickey, Doughty, Drewiske and Johnson all ahead of him, the Kings are pretty well stacked with young defensemen. Not a bad place to be, but it may slow Voinov's ascendence to the big league. Still, at only 19 years old, he's got plenty of time.

3. Brayden Schenn (Center) - Drafted 1st Round, 5th Overall - 2009
Obviously hasn't been a lot of development in Schenn's play since he was drafted, but the future upside for Schenn is impressive. I'll say now that I would be very surprised if Schenn makes the team this season, although that's hardly an indictment of his talent. Lombardi has repeatedly spoken about his emphasis on players paying their dues, and the importance of playing in critical games at any level of hockey. His Junior team, the Brandon Wheat Kings will host the 2010 Memorial Cup tournament, and thus get an automatic bid. With the Wheat Kings as a legitimate contender for the title, Schenn will no question be one of the keys to their success. It's safe to say that if Schenn does not pan out to be a top 6 forward, the Kings (and I) will be disappointed. With his brother already playing for the Maple Leafs, he certainly knows what will be expected of him, which may give him a leg up in the long run. As a strong, physical forward, he may take somewhat more time to develop then an otherwise skilled forward. Some have compared Schenn to a young Pat Verbeek or Brendan Shanahan. Since Verbeek ended up with 522 goals and 1,063 points, and Shanahan topped out at 656 goals and 1,354 points, certainly either result would be... acceptable.

2. Jonathan Bernier (Goalie) - Drafted 1st Round, 11th Overall - 2006
Goalies take a long time to get to the NHL. It is exceedingly rare that a goalie would make the NHL in the first couple seasons after being drafted. In that regard, the fact that Bernier won the starting job in the 2007-2008 season can be considered somewhat shocking. However Bernier plays an impressive positional game, as a combination stand-up/butterfly keeper with impressive reflexes. Unfortunately, the 2007-2008 season is one Kings fans may like to forget, and after being completely abandoned in net for a few games, Bernier was sent back to Juniors for some less traumatizing playing time. Nonetheless he seemed poised for a significant push in the next couple years. Lombardi has made it clear that he prefers his goalies to play at least two seasons in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL, and this preference, combined with extraordinarily strong play from Jonathan Quick saw Bernier passed over when the Kings called up a goalie last season. As we know, Quick played very well, and enters this years training camp with the edge in the starting goalie competition. Two things are clear, Bernier still has sky-high potential, and he has a very real opportunity to beat out Quick and/or Ersberg for a role with the Kings this season.

1. Thomas Hickey (Defense) - Drafted 1st Round, 4th Overall - 2007
Perhaps the strongest statement about the Kings prospects is the fact that they have three solid future starters in the top 5 prospects. This is on top of recently "graduated" prospects, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Davis Drewiske. With the possible exception of Drew Doughty, Hickey may have the highest potential. First things first, he is an AMAZING skater. At only 5'11", it's perhaps no surprise that he's refined his skating ability, but the sheer grace of his stride as well as impressive on-ice vision make him a force to be reckoned with. When Hickey was picked out of the blue at #4 in 2007, Lombardi had more than his share of nay-sayers. Going off the board so dramatically was a risky manuever to be sure. However in this case, the gamble looks like it may be paying off. After moving to the AHL at the completion of his junior season, Hickey rattled off seven points, in seven games. Impressive numbers for any rookie, let alone a defenseman. It's also worth noting Hickey's leadership capabilities. Serving as capitan on the 2009 WJC Canada team that won the gold. The development of Hickey's skills is something to watch closely in the very near future.

So that's it. Got any opinions? Thoughts? It looks to me that the Kings have one of the strongest prospect groups in the NHL, do you agree? Who's your favorite prospect? The best? Leave your comments below and let's have a discussion!

Hickey's strong suit is his skating ability, a skill that has enabled him to excel in the WHL at a young age. Another product of the successful Hockey Canada programs, Hickey exudes confidence on and off the ice. He plays bigger than his 5'11, 185-pound frame might suggest. A well-spoken player with great on-ice vision. Uses his skating ability to move the puck out of the zone and pressure the opposition's forwards up-ice. Might develop into a future powerplay quarterback.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Top Ten Prospects

In the excitement leading up to the start of the 2009-2010 Season, we'll take a look at the top ten prospects in the Los Angeles Kings system, to see what we've got to look forward to for the future. As always these are my opinions, and you're welcome and encourage to provide your own feedback in the comments section. We'll start with 6-10 and continue with the top 5 in the next post.

10. Justin Azevedo (Center) - Drafted 6th Round, 153rd Overall - 2008
Might as well start with a bang, this may be the biggest reach of the top ten. Azevedo was selected late in the 2008 draft in what appeared to be more of a flyer on behalf of the Los Angeles Kings management. In his draft year, he led the entire Ontario Hockey League with 124 points in only 67 games, and was named the CHL Player of the Year. He also won the Memorial Cup with the Kitchener Rangers. He's got all the skills to be a strong sniper in the NHL, the question is if he can put it all together. At only 5'7", he's even smaller than the already diminutive Michael Cammalleri, but if he can put his speed together with a deft scoring touch, he may be something special. While no question he'd be on the outside looking in at the pre-lockout NHL, there's a real chance that with some high-scoring years in the AHL, he could be ready to slot in a play the role of a Brian Gionta (5'7"). No question he's got an uphill battle, but he's got real potential.

9. Trevor Lewis (Center) - Drafted 1st Round, 17th Overall - 2006
As the second half of Dean Lombardi's first draft at the helm of the Los Angeles Kings (and major factor in the trade that took Pavol Demitra to Minnesota) there have been expectations on Lewis since the start. Although not the scoring force that some might have hoped, Lewis has a strong combination of speed, skill and toughness that make him a real threat to crack the lineup as soon as this season. Most likely Lewis is destined for a solid role as a third line center, though his upside may allow him to crack the second line on some teams.

8. Andrei Loktionov (Center) - Drafted 5th Round, 123rd Overall - 2008
Loktionov is the kind of player the Kings need to develop if they are going to have any chance of replicating the success the Red Wings have had in developing late picks into central figures on their Cup-winning squads. As another Kings prospect who has lifted the Memorial Cup, there's no question that he's coming up in a system that has taught him to expect success - an attitude that can't hurt in the Kings locker room. He does tend to have a bit of Frolov disease, in that he prefers to pass over shooting, but in general is a skillful playmaker who has the potential to be a strong second-line center in the future.

7. Ted Purcell (Right Wing) - Signed as Free Agent
Another example of the kind of player the Kings need to find success will. Signed out of the University of Maine, Purcell snuck up on most people, including the majority of GM's in the NHL. Having cracked the lineup last year on a semi-regular basis (40 GP, 16P) the 2009-2010 season is his opportunity to take the next step. At 24 years old, he's not as young as some of the others on this list, and progress should be expected. Purcell is a talented play-making winger, and has the ability to add serious scoring threat to a team that sometimes struggles to put the puck in the net. Although some have speculated that Purcell could play as high as the 1st line this year, more realistic projections have him lining up on the 2nd or even 3rd line in '09-'10. Purcell is precisely the kind of player that needs to step his game up if the Kings are going to take the next step.

6. Oscar Moller (Right Wing) - Drafted 2nd Round, 52nd Overall - 2007
Moller is another player that has a wide range of projections for where he might end up. As another smallish prospect (5'10") the Kings are very deep in the small, skilled player pool. The likelihood that all of them will make an impact with the Kings is... well... small. Moller made the team after an impressive (and surprising) camp last season, and despite suffering from a shoulder injury during the World Junior Championship, made a significant impact. As a player who needs to perform on the 1st or 2nd line, he will obviously be expected to increase his production from the 7G, 8A in 40 games last season. It's worth mentioning his time spent as Capitain of Team Sweden at the World Junior Championships, something that provides a not insignificant amount of leadership potential for the Kings.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Marleau to the Kings?

ESPN is reporting that Patrick Marleau is heading to the Los Angeles Kings in a three-team deal between San Jose, Ottawa and Los Angeles.

This significant shakeup would look like this:

Heatley to San Jose
Frolov and Stoll to Ottawa
Marleau to Los Angeles

Reaction? I'm not pleased. Alex Frolov has been a key member of the Los Angeles Kings almost since he's been drafted, and while Stoll is expendable this deal looks like a dramatic overpayment for a player who has repeatedly underperformed, if not outright disappeared in the NHL Playoffs.

Here how the stats break down:
To Ottawa:
50G, 50A (32/27 from Frolov; 18/23 from Stoll)

To San Jose:
39G, 33A

To Los Angeles:
38G, 33A

Let's keep a few things in mind.
  1. Stats don't tell the whole story. No question Heatley brings... something to the table that Marleau and Frolov (the Kings key in this deal) does not. Similarly, some have argued that Marleau has character perks that make him more valuable that the statistics would indicate.
  2. Age. Of the three teams, there's no question the Los Angeles Kings are in the most intense rebuilding. Why trade away the two youngest players in the deal (Frolov and Stoll are both from '82) in exchange for the oldest? Leadership? Frolov already has six full years in the NHL, not including the year of the lock out. Stoll has another five. While not exactly grizzled veterans, they provide the stability of a veteran presence. Besides, it's not like Marleau "knows how to win in the playoffs." Anyone seen the Sharks lately?
  3. Projections. Heatley moves to San Jose where he has Thornton dishing him passes. So Heatley's numbers go up (almost certainly). Frolov gets another year of experience under his belt and moves to a team with more pure offensive threats (Spezza, Alfredsson) than he's ever played with. Frolov's numbers go up. Marleau goes to a rebuilding team, which will be relying on him producing for them, so opposing defenses can key in on him. Marleau's numbers... don't go up. Anyone doing the math here? And that's leaving Stoll out of the deal entirely.
In all though, Ottawa makes out like a bandit in this deal.The Sharks get a cancer in the locker room, which can't POSSIBLY make their team perform better when the chips are down. The Senators get an emerging stud power winger in Frolov and a serviceable role player in Stolls. The Kings get an aging Marleau, who will be in his mid-30's, if around at all, by the time the Kings are serious Cup challengers.

UPDATE: According to Rich Hammond, Dean Lombardi is denying the deal. Here's hoping that's the truth!