and what have we learned from the 2-3-0 Kings?
That this is a team that will not quit.
That this is a team that will not win, because of below NHL standard goaltending.
That this is a team that will play in front of sparse crowds.
That this is a team that is perhaps the most likeable Kings team in at least 5 years.
Yes, I'm turning towards cheering for the Kings for the first time in many years. There's something about most of these guys I find compelling. They work hard. They have upside. They don't seem to care that no one (myself included)gives them a chance to win games. Results have been mixed so far. Four home games, two wins, two losses, and an opening night road loss. Let's just zip down the roster and discuss the five game pole:
Matt Greene has looked good for the most part. There was one shift where I wasn't sure if he was auditioning for a ballet troupe, or just skating on butter, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and cheer his efforts through the first five games. The Kings gave him a nice five year extension, which felt a tad premature, and a tad rich, but unlike contracts that had the names Cloutier, MacCauley, Willsie, Nagy, Bure and the like on them, this one is at least attached to a young, strong body that seems to really care about his play on the defensive side of the ice.
Jack Johnson is hurt. Three month hurt. Shoulder hurt. I'm not hurt. While I have no doubt he's going to be a good player in the league, I'm not wow-ed, and I'm not ready to annoint him as the second coming of James Norris. I've seen more from a couple of the other young King defensemen in a handful of games than I have in a year of JJ (Insert other letters with thought and care.) He'll be back, and he'll be welcome, but he's just one piece of the team, and it's the team that comes first.
Sean O'Donnell is the stopgap guy. 37 years old, and a veteran of many battles, Odie is glue, and we can overlook limitations put on him by age and agility, and thank the heavens that he's here to teach, and to eat up some minutes while the kids learn the drill. So far he's been terrific, and based on his play in Anaheim for the past couple of seasons, he's smart enough to overcome his limitations and provide the Kings with quality play in PK and ES situations.
Drew Doughty has been a revelation. Oh to be 18 and that talented. I'm a big believer that the Kings screwed up royally by not staying the course and finishing in a position to get Stamkos, and I'd still rather have Stamkos over the long haul, but accepting the things I can not change means allowing Doughty to stake his place on this team, and when he's on the ice it's hard not to notice how good he is. I have no doubt that between now and April there will be enough Doughty highlight clips to make a nice afternoon of YouTube viewing.
Denis Gauthier is probably a candidate for waivers or a trade prior to the end of the season, but while he's here, he will dish out the occasional punishing hit, as well as be the guy you see turning his back and banging his stick in disgust while a prone LaBarbera lay on the ice with the puck being fished out of the back of the Kings net. Personally, I could do without him more often than not, but until Johnson is healthy, it is doubtful he goes anywhere. His minutes are usually going to be watched carefully by the coaching staff, as he can be the biggest liability the team has on the blueline.
Kyle Quincey has only been on the scene for two games, but he's been terrific at both ends of the ice. I knew that he could hit, and stay fundamentally sound on the defensive side of the puck, but his ability to jump into the play and move the puck towards the net has been excellent in the limited time I have seen him with the Kings. I can already say that this no-risk pickup was a steal for Lombardi, but of course, over the course of time deficiencies could pop up, and I reserve the right to don my Maxim Kuznetsov game worn, and say "oops..." once again. I'm pretty sure that's not gonna be the case.
Tom Preissing was a big ol' minus three last night, and the bloom came off the rose after four games that made me feel like he'd escape whipping boy status in the early going. I like Preissing's game, and would like to think he's going to have less nights like last night as the season progresses, but since I think the Kings will eventually land in suckitude, then SOMEONE has to be shouldering the blame on the blueline, and if Johnson is injured, and Harrold is in a suit... well, it might just be TP.
Peter Harrold is the spare. There's a zillion kids on the blue line in Manchester, and at some point that needs to shake out, so for that reason alone I don't expect to see Harrold sent down soon, but you gotta feel for a guy who needs some ice to keep any part of his game in shape. The upside for Harrold? His paycheck.
Forwards and Goaltenders will be up next.