Winning the Pacific Division means a top three seed for the Kings, Sharks, Coyotes or Stars in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As all four teams enter the mid-way point of their season schedules, can you handicap how you think the division will look on April 7 (end of the regular season)?
I think the Sharks will win the Pacific once again this season. They have more depth up front than any other club in the division and they've been the more consistent club over the past few years and understand what it takes to win a division title. I do believe the Kings will push them hard and finish second in the division. I see the Stars finishing third in the division, followed by the Coyotes in fourth. If the Kings can continue to stay close to the Sharks, they've got a golden opportunity late in the season to decide their own fate. They play San Jose March 20 at home and close out the regular season with a home-and-home set with the Sharks. But staying close to San Jose won't be easy; the Sharks have games in hand and are beginning to roll. Goaltending and defense have been cornerstones for the Kings this season while putting the puck in the net has been a challenge at times for this team. How do the Kings increase their offensive chances without sacrificing on the defensive side of the game?
When a new coach takes over, traditionally the most impact he can bring is on special teams. The Kings are bottom third in the league on the power play and this is the area where they need to find goals. All the pieces are there for a decent power play. My expectation is that under Darryl Sutter this is an area that will improve quickly and by doing so the Kings will be able to generate that extra goal a night that will make all the difference. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is having an all-star season. In your mind, where does he rank among the elite goaltenders in the NHL?
I have already written this but I believe Quick is top-five in the world among netminders. He certainly does not get the league-wide credit he deserves in that regard, but that's where I rank him. The NHL's 30 GMs vote on the Vezina Trophy. Last season a GM told me he didn't think Quick was among the elite netminders in the league so he didn't put him on his ballot. My guess is that Quick is slowly changing some minds this season. In your opinion, which (Kings) player doesn’t get the national attention he deserves?
Well I think I answered that above, Quick certainly deserves more recognition. Another player I like a lot is veteran blue-liner Rob Scuderi
. He does all the little things, the dirty work, that good, solid, defensive blue-liners have to do. I know the Penguins miss him and he also deserves more national recognition for his work. The Kings are one of several teams to make a coaching change this season. For the Kings specifically, what have you noticed since the change?
I wrote it at the time but I applauded Dean Lombardi's decision to hire Darryl Sutter. If you look at Sutter's track record as a coach in Calgary and San Jose, especially, he traditionally maximizes the talent he's given on his roster. That's exactly what the Kings needed. They were underachieving and needed a man that would find a way to bring that talent to the fore front. So far he's done that. The one player I find especially has more jump since Sutter took over is Drew Doughty
. After a slow start to the season following his contract squabble, Doughty to me is playing the best hockey of his season. Editor's Note: This is the third edition of "View from the Press Box." Here are the first two editions, in case you missed them.