In 2011-12, the Los Angeles Kings got the gift of health. That gift was huge in the team making a postseason push that saw the franchise earn its first Stanley Cup.
It's not question that remaining injury free is huge in the NHL. If you look at the top teams in the league—Montreal, Chicago, Anaheim, Boston, Minnesota, etc.—MOST have stayed injury free. With a full roster and no nagging health issues in major names, postseason success is that much more attainable.
In 2013, the Los Angeles Kings haven't had the same pleasure of being injury free. While the losses of Matt Greene for nearly 80 to 90 percent of the regular season and Willie Mitchell now for the entire season don't seem like the most massive of losses, it has pushed the Kings in adding to their depth on the blue line.
The Kings system is ripe with puck-moving defenders and gritty two-way forwards, but the amount of stay-at-home defensemen who are ready and able to make the jump to the NHL just isn't there. Earlier in the season the Kings made a minor deal to pick up Keaton Ellerby. They also pushed young Jake Muzzin into the NHL full-time.
Now they have gone a step further in adding to that depth at the deadline by picking up veteren presence Robyn Regehr.
It's a minor move on the surface, but it brings the Kings something that has been missing from the blueline this season—stability.
Regehr is a hard-nosed player who won't contribute much in the way of offense, but his physical presence in his own zone and his sheer size in front of the King's net is something that the team has sorely missed since the departure of Matt Greene.
Last year the Kings' goals against per game and penalty kill were both Top Five. This year the team has floundered around 10th in the league in both categories, which is still very good. However, it was that sturdy, hard-nosed defending of the unsung heroes like Mitchell and Greene that won the Kings more games than you would expect and pushed the team up into the top echelon of defensive categories.
While Robyn Regehr is a simple addition to the team, he is bringing that element back into the lineup. Matt Greene is nearing a return apparently, and with a defensive lineup of Matt Greene, Rob Scuderi and Robyn Regehr, the Kings might be on par to match the talent of the 2011-12 defensive lineup that won them a cup.
New faces like Ellerby and Muzzin have made a world of difference to the team after a shaky start, but the playoffs are a different animal and one that the youngsters might struggle to handle.
Regehr brings 41 games of playoff experience, including a Stanley Cup finals run with the Flames under Darryl Sutter back in 2003-04. All credit to the aforementioned Ellerby and Muzzin, but between the two, they provide just a solitary game of playoff experience. The insurance policy on the younger players is worth its weight in gold, as the Kings' only option for defensive replacement before the Regehr trade was Davis Drewiske, who also has no playoff experience.
Whether it is Ellerby, Martinez or Muzzin who is rotated out for Regehr (Currently Martinez is listed as the odd man out for Regehr's first game with the team), it's nice to have the problem of too many options rather than too few.
Does Robyn Regehr give the Kings a decisive edge in defending their cup? Does he make that big of a difference? The postseason will certainly write its own story and answer these questions in due time, but from a "played on paper" sort of perspective, Regehr gives the Kings a better chance than they had before. Whether that turns out to be reality or not will be discovered in June.
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