COMMENTARY | Thursday, October 3 appears to be a Los Angeles sports lovers' dream. I, for one, plan on parking myself in my seat of choice, ordering some wings, and watching: Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the National League Division Series; the number 12 ranked UCLA Bruins take on the Utah Utes; and, most importantly, catching the Los Angeles Kings in their opening night matchup against their not-so-heated rivals, the Minnesota Wild.
After months of speculation, we'll finally get a chance to see what that, well, speculation was really for. In short, defenseman Willie Mitchell's surgically repaired knee has been deemed healthy enough to play on, Ben Scrivens has beaten out former Kings goalie Mathieu Garon for the backup spot, 6-foot-6 defenseman Jeff Schultz has already cleared waivers and been sent down, and dynamic forward, Tyler Toffoli, along with prospects Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson, have been loaned to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
Aside from loaning Toffoli to the Monarchs, who we'll get to more on later, these were the standard moves that were expected. Although I would have liked to have seen what the former plus-50 defenseman Schultz could have added over someone like defenseman Keaton Ellerby, his absence probably won't be felt whatsoever. More so, after missing all of last season with complications from knee surgery, it is excellent news to hear that Mitchell will be available to play, especially considering the Kings lost their former defensive stud, Rob Scuderi, during the offseason to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, it is most likely Mitchell's uncertain health that has led the Kings to send Toffoli down and stick with an extra defenseman in the meantime.
Although it would be great to see Toffoli begin the season on the roster, it certainly makes sense that he would be the player to be cut, for now, given that he doesn't have to clear any waivers to be sent to the Monarchs. Once Mitchell's health becomes more certain, I would expect the Kings to go with the usual 14 forwards/7 defenseman/2 goalie roster and bring Toffoli back up whilst cutting either Ellerby or defenseman Alec Martinez.
With general manager Dean Lombardi finalizing these roster moves and getting under the salary cap, these are the lines that are to be expected against the Minnesota Wild:
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Jeff Carter - Mike Richards - Matt Frattin
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan/Dan Carcillo
Drew Doughty - Willie Mitchell
Slava Voynov - Robyn Regehr
Matt Greene - Jake Muzzin
Jonathan Quick and Ben Scrivens
Healthy scratches: Jordan Nolan/Dan Carcillo, Keaton Ellerby, and Alec Martinez
A couple things immediately stand out to me from looking at this roster: this team is absolutely rock solid down the middle and I absolutely cannot wait to see what newcomer Matt Frattin will be able to do on a line with Richards and Jeff Carter. If the forwards can stay healthy, and that's definitely going to be a concern for guys who got banged up last season like Brown, Williams, and Stoll, then potting goals will come as natural as Los Angeles traffic.
With Jonathan Quick in net, goaltending is of course not a concern; however, he may see a few more pucks come his way with the departure of Scuderi, Mitchell's health concerns, and the growing pains of defenseman Jake Muzzin. Until Mitchell can show he is capable of playing at the highest level while staying healthy, the Kings will have to keep an extra defenseman around, which wouldn't hurt given that the Kings need Muzzin, who looked lost at times last season, to progress as well.
Although the Minnesota Wild, who are talented in their own right, aren't exactly the marquee matchup most Kings fans would look forward to on opening night, it should still mark the beginning of what could be another special season for the Los Angeles Kings. Personally, I'm just excited to sit down, watch some hockey, and digest the Las Vegas buffets from Frozen Fury XV.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- Los Angeles Kings
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Los Angeles
- Keaton Ellerby
- Minnesota Wild