Week one is in the books, and the week ended without a win, but not at all without the small victories. The Kings got a point in a game in which they were down by three goals twice to an elite team. The Kings were never out of the game vs Colorado and got a massive performance from Quinton Byfield. The Kings outplayed and out-chanced what is considered the favorite team to win the East in the Carolina Hurricanes. They just couldn’t get the saves and had some brutal individual flops.
In the Colorado game, the Kings were beaten by excellent performances from their elite players. They didn’t receive great performances from their third defensive pair and were forced to rely heavily on their top four, who struggled against some of the league’s best. Tobias Bjornfot has had ample time in the NHL, and the smooth-skating defenseman has yet to leave his mark on the roster. He has struggled in a third-pairing role, and there are legitimate questions about whether he can be relied upon against heavier teams. Pairing him with Andreas Englund did not do him any favors as a partner, as Englund has found himself in a fortunate position, making the roster out of a pure grit necessity.
Waivers have become a massive indicator of how the early season will play out. Bjornfot and Englund would have to pass through waivers. Jared Anderson-Dolan has already passed through waivers, clearing to become a viable option. Alex Turcotte and Alex Laferriere are not waiver-eligible, and Turcotte will likely act as the second wave of reinforcements down the road. As noted in previous reports, Turcotte, Laferriere, Clarke, and Spence had NHL-caliber training camps. Waivers and the Cap manipulation in the early stages of the season already at play.
With his sound play and shooting ability, Laferriere looks here to stay a welcome presence on a line with two elite and established players. Laferriere had an excellent appearance in his first pro game in the NHL, taking down Logan O’Connor. With his presence in the lineup, The Kings still insulate youth with established NHL players. This is an excellent recipe to season these players to succeed. Quinton Byfield lines up with Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar. Alex Laferriere with Pierre Luc Dubois, and Kevin Fiala. Arthur Kaliyev with Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore. Three bright young players with NHL-established talent. Would you argue Carl Grundstrom on the fourth line counts as well?
Where is Viktor Arvidsson?
To clarify, Arvidsson remains a crucial figure in the lineup. He backs defenders up with his skating and attacking-style shooting ability. He is a responsible player on both ends of the ice, and his ability to find his teammates through primary assists is excellent. He is, however, hurt again. He missed the seven-game series against Edmonton, acting as leverage in the argument for losing the series, that and without Doughty. He is now being gauged as month to month. His absence does create some cap room via LTIR, but it also hurts the Kings in terms of his overall play. Last year, when healthy Arvidsson was dynamite for the Kings. He is now in a contract year, and that could propel him to new heights. The Kings aren’t going to see that on the scoresheet for, let’s just say, months to months. He is going to have surgery. If he misses, let’s say, two months or more? How does this affect his next contract? The Kings can’t afford to lose his abilities, but do you offer the same contract if he was healthy and putting up points? I don’t think so.
The Elephants in the Room
Goaltending was going to be an issue; that’s well documented. Talbot was much sharper than Copley, but timely and back-breaking goals considered saveable will put the team in a position, much like last year, where they will need to outscore opponents. The concern is that McLellan mentioned that the team will outscore opponents this year. That’s great news; however, the identity was based on structure and defensive sound play. Does that get thrown out the window when your goaltending is treading water? Are the Kings going to get better performances from their goaltending? Of Course. But the first week has clear-cut implications for their goaltending duo. By the way, David Rittich cleared waivers. Could he be the Copley version for this year?
He’s just an insurance policy… for now.