The Los Angeles Kings have now edged just beyond the halfway point of this condensed season, and currently reside in a tie for fourth place within the Western Conference. Their overall record of 14-9-2 has also enabled them to secure the second best record inside the Pacific Division. However, they remain tightly bunched with their collection of rivals, as the majority of teams in the conference routinely oscillate throughout the standings on a nightly basis. Still, the team should be commended for their sustained effort and frequent success that has been attained since February 10, after a disturbingly sluggish start left the Kings with a paltry three wins in their initial 10 games of the season. Any examination of the Kings’ offensive and defensive deficiencies during that span was certainly a massive undertaking. But now it is comparative nitpicking, because the team’s performance has improved significantly. LA has captured 11 of their last 15 games, including eight of the last nine contests at the Staples Center.
Which adds an additional layer of intrigue to the March 10 call up of forward Tyler Toffoli from the Manchester Monarchs. Initially, there had been sizable conjecture that his ascension to the parent club was a result of a heavy hit that Mike Richards was forced to absorb during the second period of LA’s 6-2 victory over Calgary on March 9. However, Richards’ TOI of 15:15 on March 11, and 18:28 on March 12, has put that theory to rest.
If the decision was based upon a desire to insert additional scoring, then Toffoli has demonstrated the potential to do so. He had been the second leading scorer in the American Hockey League, while amassing 28 goals and 48 points in 55 games with the Monarchs this season. All while attaining a plus 20 rating as a right winger on the team’s top line. His performance is consistent with the output that he has achieved since being originally drafted by the Kings in 2010. He generated 107 points with the Ottawa 67’s during the 2010-211 season, while tying for the Ontario Hockey League scoring title. He also led the league with 57 goals.
Then in 2011-2012, he paced the league in scoring (100 points) and goals (52) once again.
Therefore he is clearly with the Kings in order to bolster their scoring… right?
Not necessarily. One can produce numbers that would support or counter that belief. The team has generated 72 goals in their first 25 contests. That is the league’s 12th highest total, even though the Kings have played in fewer games than 16 other teams. Which can make it appear that the addition of another goal scorer would not be a major priority. However, the overall scoring throughout the Kings’ lineup has not been excessively balanced. Jeff Carter’s success has been well chronicled in recent weeks, but his 17 comprises nearly 25% of LA’s total output this season. No other King has managed to reach double figures, and only three of Carter’s teammates have exceeded five. Captain Dustin Brown is second on the team with nine goals, including three that he generated since March 11.
It is also highly possible that Toffoli was promoted simply because the team possessed an extra roster spot, which has been the case since Simon Gagne was traded to the Flyers on February 26. Which would mean that Toffoli’s excellent production in Manchester might have propelled him into a call up, without the intent of thrusting him into a consistent spot within the lineup. The fact that he did not skate during his initial two games with the club tends to support that theory.
After all possibilities have been examined, it is my belief that Toffoli will be given the opportunity to slowly acclimate himself into the day-to-day life of an NHL player. Then, he will be blended into the lineup on a gradual basis. Particularly when the Kings encounter back to back contests on their schedule. The amount of ice time, and the duration of his tenure in LA will be dependent upon how quickly and effectively he makes the adjustment, and contributes to the team’s success. And to take the forecast one step further… I believe that if he is provided with enough opportunities, then his production will be sufficient. Which will enable him to remain with the Kings for the remainder of the year.