Kings took a massive hit two nights ago losing, perhaps, their best performing defenseman on the season. No, Drew Doughty isn't out injured, it's 25-year old Brayden McNabb who is the most recent King to head to IR with a worrying injury.
McNabb took a spill in Saturday night's 0-1 contest against the St. Louis Blues that saw big defenseman Colton Parayko fall awkwardly onto McNabb's upper shoulder/collarbone area. McNabb immediately cried out in pain before heading off the ice with his rightarm almost entirely immobile at his side. He was reevaluated Sunday and placed on IR shortly thereafter.
McNabb had been playing arguably his best hockey of his career through the first games of the 2016-17, and had surpassed Drew Doughty in icetime on at least one occasion this season. The young Dman had been averaging just over 20 minutes a night paired up with Doughty, and has a whopping 63.7% corsi for %, which is 2nd overall on the team behind Alec Martinez by a mere .2 %. McNabb also already has two goals on the season, a mark he has not surpassed ever in his career and has hit exactly his last two years with the Kings. While everyone had questions regarding McNabb's role as a No. 3 defenseman on the roster this coming season, he had at least temporarily put to rest those questions with his performances early on. Nevertheless, when it rains it pours for the LA Kings, as McNabb now joins, Zatkoff, Teddy Purcell, Jonathan Quick, Marian Gaborik, and Andy Andreoff (severity unknown), on the list of walking wounded.
The Kings, with need of a left shooting defenseman, recalled Rob Scuderi from Ontario. It seemed a rather interesting move given that Scuderi had an extremely difficult preseason for the Los Angeles Kings that precipitated his move through waivers and into the AHL. Scuderi has also not played any competitive games yet this season, having not reported to the Reign til a bit later and only practicing with the team. Scuderi, 37, has one year left with the Kings on his contract, and posted team low advanced stats in corsi, fenwick, and expected goals amongst defenseman after coming across from Chicago at the trade deadline. However, the move made sense the next day as the team re-assigned Scuderi. The move was apparently used in an effort to maximize cap space and LTIR benefits, Scuderi was sent back down the following day. While curious at first, it turned out to be just a clever bit of cap navigation from the Kings front office. Lower the pitchforks!
Kings announce Scuderi has been assigned back to AHL-Ontario. This was a move designed to maximize benefits of LTIR'ing a player.
The strangeness of it was warranted, nevertheless, since the Kings are relatively deep in terms of left handed defensive prospects in the minor league and Scuderi seems like the least viable option at the moment. Big Kevin Gravel is the most obvious candidate here, but was not called up despite rave reviews from his four game call-up stint last season and his altogether impressive training camp and 2015-16 season. The rough and tumble Kurtis MacDermid is another left-handed option that the Kings have in their back pocket in the moment, and he has looked outstanding to start the year with Ontario after being a star performer last season and one of the last cut from training camp. While many would consider Paul LaDue a viable option for call up, LaDue is a righty, and has also just recently returned from injury that saw him miss the first three games of the AHL season.
Moving forward the Kings have to try and replace a massive 20 minutes vacated by McNabb. While Muzzin, Doughty, and Martinez are certainly ready, willing, and able to take on some extra minutes here and there, the brunt of this is going to fall on the Kings 4-7 corps. A group that is now Tom Gilbert, Derek Forbort, Matt Greene, and Rob Scuderi. If that group worries you a touch, do not feel bad, it likely worries a lot of people in King land. Forbort has struggled to get off the blocks with good advanced metrics so far despite a seemingly improved presence on the puck. Greene essentially played his way out of the lineup in the first two games. However, Tom Gilbert has been a pretty solid add-in to the defensive mix so far, with a noteworthy calm and cool on-puck demeanor.
(One of my favorite Gilbert highlights so far on this season exemplifying that)
Either way, the injuries are piling up on what was already perceived as a season of potential struggle for the Kings. Someone is going to have to step up on the back line to ease the loss of McNabb, and who it will be remains to be seen. With Scuderi out, the Kings still need to call up someone to run in at 7th D. Who gets the chance?
Who would you have called up?
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