The Los Angeles Kings have been plastered across the news over the last few days. Unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. There’s the Mike Richards saga, the Slava Voynov drama, the Jarett Stoll incident and the loss of Andrej Sekara and Justin Williams via free agency. But somewhere in the midst of all that negative is a positive, the acquisition of Milan Lucic.
The Kings traded for Lucic at the Draft. Los Angeles gave up the 13th pick in the Draft, 25-year-old goalie Martin Jones and prospect Colin Miller in order to bring Lucic to the Kings. Boston also retained $2.75 million of Lucic’s salary.
This has been the move for the Kings so far. Los Angeles has made no other trades, no big signing. The Kings did sign Jhonas Enroth to a one year deal to fill the hole left by trading Jones, but nothing of major significance. This lack of movement has fans grasping at the news they can. Which makes it no surprise that Lucic is a hot topic right now.
Kings message boards and comment threads are littered with questions like; where will Lucic play? What can we expect from Lucic in Los Angeles? Will Lucic work in the locker room?
What better way to get to know a player and what he brings to a new team than to ask those who followed him during his time in Boston. I was able to grab The Hockey Writers’ Bruins correspondents between articles going over the madness that has been Don Sweeney and the 2015 offseason and was able to ask them a few questions about Lucic and what to expect when he throws on that Kings sweater.
[ Mike Miccoli has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years and has contributed to THW since 2009, Kirk Vance has covered the Bruins for THW since 2013 and Joe Marraccino has been writing for THW for nearly five months]
How would you describe Lucic as a player and what will he bring to Los Angeles?
Miccoli: Lucic is a passionate player who could be a game-changer if highly motivated.
Marraccino: Lucic is a big body at 6’3 and will bring an element of toughness to the Kings. He was wildly popular for the way he played in Boston and will be a force with a new team.
Vance: Lucic is a physically imposing player with a nose for the net.
Obviously Lucic is a very physical presence on the ice, and with physicality and grit comes a lot of haters. What is your point of view on the accusations of Lucic being a dirty player? Is it warranted, or is it more of a, “Hey don’t hit my team,” situation?
Miccoli: Lucic gets frustrated. I don’t think he’s necessarily a dirty player but he does need to better control his emotions when on the ice. He’s one of those guys you love when on your team but hate when he’s playing against them. If he keeps his emotions in check and is able to walk a line, I seriously believe he can still be one of the NHL’s elite power forwards.
Marraccino: Lucic is not a dirty player but his emotions can get the best of him sometimes. He is not afraid to protect his teammates and will throw his weight around the ice. He will have to keep his emotions in check in big games against LA’s rivals.
Vance: I don’t Lucic is a dirty player, he’s just a physical player in a league that is trending towards skill and finesse and away from hitting and toughness. As such, it stands out. Since entering the league, he’s transitioned into a role where the emphasis is on offense, which, in my opinion, has contributed to a decline in his physical play. I would think that that would continue a team like the Kings, who will ask him to play a similar role.
Early projections have Lucic playing on the Kings’ top line, on the left wing with Anze Kopitar in the middle and Marian Gaborik on the right side. How do you think Lucic will fit with the play making skills of Kopitar and goal scoring ability of Gaborik?
Miccoli: I think Lucic will be good for about 20 goals, give or take. He’s notorious for scoring empty netters, but Lucic is definitely a player who benefits from being on a line with skaters better than him. He did a pretty good job towards the end in Boston playing a mentor-type role on a line with Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak, but I can see him doing well with Kopitar.
Marraccino: Lucic will play the role of personal protector against two valuable Kings commodities in Kopitar and Gaborik. Teams will have to respect Lucic’s presence and can chip in offensively by parking his frame in front and scoring the dirty goals off rebounds.
Vance: Kopitar will shield Lucic defensively, while Gaborik will carry more of the goal scoring duties than most of the RWs Lucic has played with recently. His size and strength are big assets in terms of maintaining puck position and in the cycle game.
Do you see Lucic rebounding from two sub par seasons with top line minutes in LA?
Miccoli: He mostly played top line minutes in Boston, so I think it will be more of the same. It’s not necessarily two sub-par seasons, but rather that’s who he is as a player.
Marraccino: This is the ultimate “change of scenery” move. This is a contract year for Lucic, so it’s a huge season to revive a career that was stagnant last season. He will have extra motivation to prove his former employers wrong.
Vance: Yes, both because of the change of scenery and the contract year status.
Over your time covering the Bruins, is there any personal Lucic moments or interactions that stand out to you?
Miccoli: He’s a great guy in the locker room who is always willing to chat. Personally when covering the team, I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with him. He’s a stat junkie so he’ll definitely know more about where the team and his teammate stands than anyone else in the locker room.
The Kings visit Boston on Feb. 9th, what will Lucic’s reception be like?
Miccoli: Overwhelmingly positive. Lucic loved Boston and the community and they loved him, too. It was time for the Bruins to move on and most rational fans understood that. You can’t talk about the successes of the Bruins from 2008-2015 without Lucic. He played a big role in this current team’s identity.
Vance: A very warm welcome. Fans still love him and everything he has contributed to the team and the city will not soon be forgotten.