The Los Angeles Kings have struggled recently, going 1-6-2 following their big seven-game win streak, leaving them sixth in the Pacific Division and quickly falling away from any playoff hopes. The team’s biggest issue so far has been finishing, as they sit sixth-worst in the league for goals for above expected, with seven goals below expected, and must find a way to improve their goal output. I think one option is to move Trevor Moore down the lineup. After having a breakout season in 2020-21 and signing a contract extension in the offseason, he has struggled to replicate his play this season.
Moore’s Season So Far
Moore was supposed to start the season on the fourth line but was moved up the lineup quickly after Lias Andersson was hurt. He then retained that spot after Gabe Vilardi and Vladimir Tkachev failed to impress early on. Through 22 games, he has just one goal and one assist, and when speaking about a lack of finishing, Moore leads the pack. His four goals below expected are the lowest on the team, and his 2.3 shooting percentage is the lowest among forwards with more than 10 games played. He’s also posting less than stellar possession numbers, something he has struggled with throughout his career, hovering at right about 50 percent for both Corsi and Fenwick for ratings. He’s been a black hole offensively so far and should move down the lineup in favor of someone else.
Now, it hasn’t been all bad for Moore this season. He’s still provided some value to the team this season. He’s been one of their best transition players and is the team’s most effective player at recovering dump-ins. He’s also still posted solid defensive numbers and has been one of the team’s best penalty killers. His contributions away from the scoreboard should be enough to keep him in the lineup, specifically his ability on the penalty kill, considering the team’s issues in that department. But he needs to be moved down onto the fourth line to try and inject some more offense into this Kings lineup.
Who Replaces Moore
The question then becomes, who replaces Moore in the lineup? The team has a few options, some already on the roster and some playing in Ontario.
The easiest option is to simply swap Moore with Arthur Kaliyev in the lineup, moving Kaliyev back onto the third line, where he started the season. He was initially moved down because of concerns surrounding his 200-foot game, but he has done a great job cleaning this area up, posting solid defensive metrics this season. If you’re trying to add goals, moving your best shooter into a more elevated role is often a good idea.
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The question with Kaliyev then becomes linemates. While his defensive numbers are solid, he’s still a subpar skater, meaning you have to be careful who you put on his line, as you don’t want two poor skaters on the same line. I think reuniting him with Rasmus Kupari could help both players, as I thought they looked good together earlier in the season, with Kupari having good enough skating to help cover some of Kaliyev’s deficiencies. It’s then down to finding a third player for this line, something I won’t go too in-depth on because the makeup of this line could be an article of its own. A natural playmaker would be a great fit on this line, and there might be a perfect fit in a player I’ll get to later.
It seems so long ago when Martin Frk strung together an impressive 17 games at the end of the 2019-20 season, with this stretch causing most people to view him as a lock for the 2020-21 roster. Injuries killed those plans, with him playing just 15 games of total hockey last season, and he was unable to regain a spot on the roster this summer. Moore was a key factor in keeping Frk off the roster, with most people viewing him as a player that excelled in the spot Frk left behind. It might be time to give him another shot, though, as the team desperately searches for goals.
Frk’s having a great season in the American Hockey League (AHL), as he’s third in the league for points and tied for second in goals. His ability to produce at the AHL level has never been a question, but his ability to play an effective, complete game in the NHL certainly has been. He doesn’t have the 200-foot prowess that Moore possesses, but if you need goals, he can provide them. He also comes with the added benefit of being a power-play specialist. The Kings’ power play is in desperate need of help, and Frk could provide it. I think he’s the least likely player to be called up, not without reason, but he should be considered for this spot.
During the offseason, the Kings signed Russian forward Vladimir Tkachev from the KHL; they were hoping that he could add some high-end skill to the roster. Things looked promising after preseason, but he was sent down to the AHL after four less than stellar games to start the season. Since joining the Reign, he’s grabbed 11 points, 10 assists, and one goal, impressing during his time with Ontario. With the team desperate for some offense, now might be the time to recall the slick forward. As I mentioned when discussing Kaliyev, a natural playmaker could do wonders for the young sharpshooter, and Tkachev might be the perfect fit.
The concerns surrounding his 200-foot game still exist, but the Kings need to try something to get the offense going, and adding someone with his skill might be the answer. Like Frk, Tkachev is also a power-play specialist, an area the team needs serious help. Considering his European reassignment clause, Tkachev’s time with the organization might be coming to a premature end if he can’t make the team soon.
The fifth overall pick in 2019, Alex Turcotte is another great candidate to take Moore’s spot on the third line. He’s put together a solid campaign so far, grabbing 10 points in 16 games so far while also being defensively solid. During T.J. Tynan’s brief spell on the Kings’ roster, Turcotte took on the first line center role and thrived with it as well. It might be time to give him an NHL debut as the team looks for more production.
A natural center, he wouldn’t be an exact replacement for Moore, but his introduction would facilitate a move to the wing for Kupari, which I think benefits everyone involved. I would love a third line of Kaliyev-Turcotte-Kupari. Some people might be worried about icing such a young and inexperienced line, but the Kings need to change something up, and a mini youth revolution might be the right move. Turcotte also plays a very mature game, and there would be no concerns of defensive issues with him on the ice. Many people want him to replace Kupari in the lineup right now, which I understand, considering Kupari has struggled lately, but I’d rather see them on a line together with Kupari and Kaliyev on the wing.
To be clear, I hope Gabe Vilardi is not called up, as I think he should be given at least 10 games in the AHL, but he is still an option. With five points in four games, he’s rediscovering his offense in Ontario, but I think he needs a bit more time down in the minors before getting a call-up. But a player with his skill level, who also has more NHL experience than most of the players I listed, is always an option.
Kings Need to Make a Change
It would be unfair to pin too much blame on Moore for the team’s offensive struggles. But his lack of production is an issue, so something needs to change quickly if the team hopes to remain in the playoff hunt. Adding any of the above-mentioned players to the third line would give the team an offensive boost. Of course, this wouldn’t solve all the team’s issues, but it would help. Moore would still have an important role to play on the fourth line and penalty kill, but his lack of production should see him taken off the third line.