Saturday, August 23, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Los Angeles Kings

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Dustin Brown is six feet tall, two hundred pounds and hits like a Mac Truck, Patrick O'Sullivan has some serious skills and Anze Kopitar is growing into the roll of a NHL superstar. Oh yeah, and they have the next generation's Scott Stevens in Jack Johnson.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? You know, I think they got better. Sure they shed proven scorers Mike Cammalleri and Lubomir Visnovsky but they brought in decent young talents Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll as well as solid defenseman Denis Gauthier. They also sucked bad enough to get Drew Doughty in the draft, who scouts have raved about and expect to contribute immediately alongside '07 pick Thomas Hickey.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? If you play in a league that has plus/minus, you might want to look elsewhere - even though Kopitar put up 77 points, he was -15. You can expect him to top 80 this year while Brown and O'Sullivan will come in around 70. Alexander Frolov was shockingly +1 while putting up 67 points in 71 games so he is the closest thing to a safe bet on this squad. While it would seem like common sense to avoid their goaltenders at all costs, Swedish netminder Erik Ersberg showed up late last season and played in 14 games. I watched several of them and can say that he played even better than his impressive numbers showed - two shutouts, a 2.48 g.a.a. and a .927 save percentage. If he can bring back the same poise and maintain it over 45 or 50 games, than the Kings won't suck as bad as everyone is saying they will.

4 - How can the Kings become relevant again? Let's face it, falling short to the Habs in '93 signaled the downfall of this franchise. John LeClair's overtime heroics helped get the ball rolling that ended up in Wayne Gretzky and Barry Melrose leaving a few years later. Once Luc Robitaille retired, this team hit rock bottom. Having a terrible team in a major market like LA hurts the NHL as a whole so what can be done? They are on a good track with solid young talent coming through the system but that doesn't mean fans will come. So how to make them relevant? Play 10, 20 regular season games in Las Vegas. They have played preseason games at the MGM Grand for years, so it isn't like they are unfamiliar with the town. Less games in L.A. should result in higher demand for the ones still there and the team expands their fanbase to another big city. Offer free bus service to Vegas for season ticket holders or just cut those games off of their packages. The NHL has flirted with the idea of a Vegas franchise for years, so why not?

No comments: