When the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014, they had four defensemen that coach Darryl Sutter felt comfortable sending over the boards for at least 20 minutes a game.
Two of them — Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin — are still with the club.
But with Willie Mitchell in Florida now and Slava Voynov in the KHL, it will be interesting to see how Sutter doles out the ice time in the playoffs.
Alec Martinez, of course, has since graduated to receiving top-four minutes. He’s earned Sutter’s trust, based on the career-high 21:15 he’s averaged this season.
So, that’s three guys — Doughty, Muzzin, and Martinez.
Well, the coach is still getting a read on trade-deadline acquisition Rob Scuderi, the 37-year-old who played top-four minutes during the Kings’ first Stanley Cup run in 2012.
Scuderi logged 15:10 in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim.
“I mean, you want guys who are consistent,” Sutter told LA Kings Insider. “That’s what we want from Scuds. Scuds is clearly a guy that the less you notice him, the better he is, clearly. That hasn’t changed. He can still play. There were some talking about that he couldn’t play the minutes, or he couldn’t play, well, he played every game last year, he played 19 minutes and he was on a good hockey team and a plus player, and he played every playoff game.”
The counterpoint is that Scuderi has already been traded twice this year, first by Pittsburgh, then by Chicago. At some point in every athlete’s career, getting older becomes got too old.
The hope in bringing Scuderi back is that the Kings’ system will be a better match for his “smart, dependable” style, just like the hope for the Blackhawks is that Christian Ehrhoff will be a better fit for their system. Both Los Angeles and Chicago will enter the playoffs with question marks beyond their first three d-men.
Sutter’s other options beyond his Big Three are Brayden McNabb, Luke Schenn, and Jamie McBain. While Matt Greene skated the other day, there’s no timetable for his return following shoulder surgery.