Anze Kopitar is at the head of the class halfway through the year. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Anze Kopitar
A look at how the Kings have done in the first half of the season.
Good morning, class. I know you're excited and you all want to know what your mid-term grades are, but first I want to speak to you as a class about what I've seen this semester. You're a hard-working, talented group, but I feel you're not working quite hard enough. These grades aren't nearly high enough and I know you can do better. All those easy assignments I gave you in January? Half of you didn't even turn them in! Our lessons and work is going to get a lot harder from here on out and we shouldn't have some of these grades. Some of you, not going to name names, are coasting by on your past accomplishments an- hey! Who threw that? Was that you, Drew?!? You just bought yourself detention, young man!
Anyway, your grades are up on the wall. Check them on the way out.
(Note: These grades aren't absolute values because in order to judge Anze Kopitar's season in the same spectrum as Peter Harrold's they'd have to invent something higher than an A. These are relative to these player's expectations going into the season.)
Jonathan Bernier: D+
|2010 - Jonathan Bernier||12||662||4||7||36||3.26||320||284||.888||0|
The boy who would be king of the net for the Kings has struggled to find his place in the NHL. Relegated to the back-up role from the beginning of training camp, Bernier has faltered in his ability to play maybe once a week, posting the worst numbers of his career at any level. Bernier similarly struggled when sent to the AHL two years ago before dominating that level last season, so hope is not lost for him; still, he needs to show improvement and let the Kings know that they don't have to rely on only Jonathan Quick.
Dustin Brown: A-
|2010 - Dustin Brown||42||17||17||34||13||39||3||0||1||120|
The Kings' captain is on pace to set career highs in goals and points. Paired with Anze Kopitar for the entire season, Brown has learned how to defer to Kopitar, getting the puck to Anze in the neutral zone before making himself open for a pass. Brown has a minus because the team has been inconsistent and, fair or not, that falls on the captain. Brown is a very efficient player but he needs to do more to lead the team on the ice, not just in front of the microphones.
Kyle Clifford: B
|2010 - Kyle Clifford||38||3||4||7||-9||67||0||0||0||35|
In Kyle Clifford's first year as a pro and his first year as an NHLer, he has shown pretty much what we all expected: grit, fighting and a touch of offense here and there. Clifford can get confused on his assignments in the defensive zone, and he's still working to keep the cycle going in the offensive zone, but overall he's been a breath of fresh air for a Kings team that has missed a hard-nosed grinder since Ian Lapperierre left. Hopefully Clifford can develop the defensive side of his game and turn himself into a 30-point player in the future.
Drew Doughty: B-
|2010 - Drew Doughty||36||2||20||22||13||30||1||0||0||65|
I think every teacher has a kid like Drew in one of their classes. He's the most talented defenseman the Kings have and yet... it just hasn't been there for him this season. It's a testament to his talent that he can have a down year by his standards and still have 20 points halfway through the season. Teams have been shading Doughty pretty hard, jumping on him as soon as he gets the puck, which in turn has led to a downswing in his shooting percentage and an uptick in his number of shots blocked. He's suffered a little bit of bad luck and a concussion but his defense has been mostly excellent and his offense has to come around some time. At least, I think.
Davis Drewiske: C
|2010 - Davis Drewiske||36||0||5||5||-1||19||0||0||0||27|
Hasn't messed up, hasn't excelled, Drewiske's moseying along as a seventh defenseman. He'll probably mosey along to another team next season.
Matt Greene: C
|2010 - Matt Greene||31||0||2||2||-2||36||0||0||0||21|
The Kings' locker room leader and resident defensive specialist has been pretty much the same as he was last season, which is kind of a problem. Greene missed the beginning of the season with a shoulder injury, then assumed his usual role in the line-up: about 16-17 minutes a game, penalty kill time, bottom-pairing even strength minutes. Greene got a little time in a top-four role and was not very good. He's much better suited to play mentor to a young player in the bottom role and that's great, but it's probably a role the Kings could fill for less than $3 million a season. By 27, I think the Kings were hoping Greene would be ready for more.
Michal Handzus: C-
|2010 - Michal Handzus||42||6||11||17||0||14||2||0||1||50|
Michal Handzus is only 33 years old but you wouldn't think it by watching him skate. Zeus has had an up-and-down career with the Kings; he was pretty mediocre his first season (when he was coming off major knee surgery), better the next year, fantastic last year, and now pretty much where he was 2 years ago. When Handzus is on his game he's a shutdown center with the length and intelligence to blanket his opposing center; he can still do that occasionally but all too often he's too far behind the play to do anything. A big part of Handzus' diminished production this season is the loss of Alexander Frolov; Frolov was excellent at holding the puck for 5-10 seconds in the offensive zone, allowing Handzus time to get into the zone and get in front of the net. Handzus is still a relatively productive defensive center, but his years shutting down top opposition has probably passed.
Peter Harrold: A
|2010 - Peter Harrold||18||1||3||4||3||4||0||0||0||12|
Peter Harrold is not very good at hockey. He's not strong, he's pretty small, he doesn't have much skill. Still, he does everything he's asked and he's never once complained for ice time. Screw it, I'm giving him an A. Teachers do that sometimes, right?
Jack Johnson: B
|2010 - Jack Johnson||42||4||27||31||-5||34||3||0||0||81|
In his fouth year, Jack's finally begun to figure it out. He's 6th in the league for points among defensemen and he's tied for second in power play points by defensemen. He's also leading the Kings in blocked shots and has improved his defensive game from the last few seasons. The only reason he doesn't have an A is because he still needs to improve on the defensive side of the puck just a little bit more. ...Ahh what the hell, the guy signed a sweetheart extension, I'll give him some extra credit.
Jack Johnson: B+
Anze Kopitar: A
|2010 - Anze Kopitar||42||15||30||45||11||12||5||0||5||147|
Anze's the Kings' best player, on-ice leader, and main goal producer. He's on pace for 90 points this season and has so far been able to carry the load as one of the few offensive players with flair on the Kings. Can he keep it up? The Kings better hope so.
Trevor Lewis: B
|2010 - Trevor Lewis||32||2||3||5||-5||4||0||0||2||48|
The former 1st round pick finally cracked the NHL at the age of 23 and doesn't look like he's headed back to the AHL anytime soon. Lewis never did find his offensive touch and he's most likely going to be a bottom-six grinder in his career, but his quickness and defensive ability will get him a job for years to come. Lewis does have an abnormally low shooting percentage and I wouldn't be surprised if he pots a few more goals in the weeks to come. He just needs to continue to adapt to the NHL level and I think the Kings will have found their new fourth-line center.
Best Forward: Anze Kopitar (HM: Justin Williams)
Best Defenseman: Drew Doughty (HM: Jack Johnson)
Unsung Hero: Rob Scuderi (HM: No one, everyone else is pretty sung)
M-Z and more awards tomorrow...