Whither Clifford?

Surly Jacob considers whether Kyle Clifford has been edged out by Jordan Nolan and Dwight King:

 What Does The Future Hold For Kyle Clifford? – Surly & Scribe

[…] In his two seasons with the team he has given us thrills, commitment and the occasional goal. He has size, hockey sense, no fear and everything that makes him the prototypical player all NHL teams strive to have policing the ice from their fourth line He’s a fan favorite. […] During the 2010-2011 playoffs against San Jose he not only scored big goals, but scored as many of them than as any other King. […] Up until Kyle suffered a concussion in game two of the first round against Vancouver this year, taking him out of the lineup would have seemed utterly foolish. However, once he was healthy, he was unable to make it way back into the lineup save for a single game.

Why? Dwight Kings and Jordan Nolan.

Or: he was still concussed.

Has the emergence of [King and Nolan] nudged Kyle Clifford out of the picture? LA fans are salivating at the idea that they have their Cup team intact for next season and beyond, but despite what the Stanley Cup ring with the 2011-2012 season engraved on it will read, Kyle Clifford was not really a part of that Cup team.

If you mean cup run, I mostly agree. He’s certainly a part of the cup team.

King and Nolan have put the Kings in a position they haven’t known in recent or long term memory. The once bereft left side in now stacked with five players who naturally align there and that is without considering Dustin Brown for the wing where he has had the most success.

Simon Gagne, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan, Kyle Clifford, Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown.

Of those six, Brown, Gagne and Nolan are the only ones I believed I’ve ever seen play on the right side and I’m only half-sure I’ve seen Nolan play the right.

He did, when he first arrived, with Richards and King on the second line, and then on the fourth line, when Gagne came back.

Clifford, once a staple of the fourth line, will find himself battling for his Kings life come training camp. The guy who just a year ago made us calmer that Wayne Simmonds was traded away is now seemingly the odd man out for consistent duty.

Of the six left wings mentioned — Brown, Penner, Gagne, King, Nolan and Clifford — one of them (Gagne) is almost certain to leave after next season (if he can even make it through 2012-13 healthy), and another (Penner) is not any kind of lock to return after next year either. I would say, actually, that since neither Clifford or Nolan ought to be considered top-six forwards (you can make an argument for King, though he fits anywhere), really we’re talking about whether there’s room for all three of Clifford, Nolan and King in the bottom six. We can just remove Brown, Gagne and Penner from the equation.

[…] If Clifford doesn’t crack the top 23, then what? He certainly has no business playing in Manchester. […] [Kevin] Westgarth has no place on a Darryl Sutter coached team, particularly one with King and Nolan, both big enough to be considered heavy weights and willing to take on the necessary fisticuffs. I also think Brad Richardson will be traded before too long. There are also injuries to consider. There’s the chance King or Nolan regress. […] I also find myself wishing Gagne weren’t on a two year contract. […]

This is a great problem to have. […] Damn it all though, I want to see Kyle Clifford 41 times at Staples next season. Then again I wanted to see Wayne Simmonds play for years with a crown on his chest, and it’s amazing what a Stanley Cup can make you forget you ever wanted.

[…] What do you see happening? Put together some mock lineups. Is Kyle Clifford on yours?

Jarret Stoll, Trevor Lewis, Colin Fraser and Brad Richardson (and Marc-Andre Cliche) are one category of bottom six player. Clifford, Nolan, King and Westgarth (and Clune) are another. (You could make your own categories with different results; these are mine.) There is even a third category, given that our top-six forwards play huge defensive minutes; call it “alt. top six”: Andrei Loktionov, Tyler Toffoli (and Oscar Moller and Bud Holloway).

Because of Gagne and Stoll, there are four spots left in the bottom six. Plus one or two in the press box. Pick two or three from the Clifford group, two or three from the Lewis group, and one or two from the Loktionov group, as space allows.

I assume Westgarth is done. I agree with Surly that there’s no room and little point. Brad Richardson is a useful spare part though, and could be used as the Davis Drewiske of forwards, spending the year in the press box until inj****s occur. So let’s start by saying Fraser, Lewis and Richardson take up three of the six roster spots (four plus two press box).

That leaves three spots for Clifford, Nolan, King and Loktionov. All four still have waiver-exemption left, though in Clifford’s case I believe he has only three or four NHL games until his exemption runs out.

UPDATE: as was pointed out in the comments, Clifford’s waiver exemption expired six games ago. Nolan, King and Loktionov are still exempt. UPDATE-UPDATE: as was further pointed out in subsequent comments, King is no longer exempt either. As of last week. UPDATE-UPDATE-UPDATE: I think this is decaf.

Gagne – Stoll – Lewis

King – Fraser – Nolan

(Clifford, Richardson)

or

King – Stoll – Lewis

Clifford – Fraser – Nolan

(Gagne, Richardson)

or

Gagne – Loktionov – Toffoli

King – Fraser – Lewis

(Clifford, Richardson)

(trade Stoll, send Nolan to Manchester)

or

King – Loktionov – Toffoli

Clifford – Fraser – Lewis

(Nolan, Richardson)

(trade Stoll and Gagne)

Probably, what will happen is:

  1. Gagne – Stoll – Lewis will be the third line.
  2. Nolan and Loktionov will start the season in Manchester.
  3. King – Fraser – Clifford will be the fourth line.
  4. Richardson in the press box.
  5. Westgarth is traded.
  6. Loktionov and Toffoli are recalled in the event of “top-six” type injuries.
  7. Nolan is recalled for the other type.

I guess, going back to Surly’s original questions, it comes down to whether Clifford or Nolan can be sent to the AHL, whether that’s fair (to Clifford), and whether Nolan has passed Clifford on the depth chart. I don’t think Nolan has passed Clifford (yet). I do think it’s okay for either Nolan or Clifford to spend some time in the AHL. don’t think that Clifford needs to be moved. Since King, Nolan and Clifford are all young and all have waiver-exemption left, it makes the most sense to let these three battle it out in camp. One of them can regroup in Manchester to start the season, and there’s no shame in that.

One thing to keep in mind is that Clifford has two years of NHL experience, and he’s seen some ups and downs. Nolan and King have not. They’ve been riding a pretty incredible wave, an unprecedented one, actually. At some point (I think!), the Kings are bound to come down from this high, and it might be good to see how the line-up reacts before we start dealing away our depth.

 

  14 comments for “Whither Clifford?

  1. USHA#17
    July 4, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    The one thing about Nolan and King (which you point out) is that few players who faced them knew what to expect. 2nd year will tell.

    By the way, notice the schedule? From 1/19 – 3/2 LA plays 13 road games with just 4 home games mixed in. Just 3 home games are slated for February

  2. TradedForAPick
    July 4, 2012 at 11:59 AM

    still in for signing doan short term possibly?

    • July 4, 2012 at 1:56 PM

      And put him where?

      • m_and_m
        July 4, 2012 at 2:56 PM

        Trade him or Penner to make room

      • TradedForAPick
        July 4, 2012 at 3:11 PM

        RW3. Lewis moves down to RW4. King/Nolan/Clifford is LW4, and whichever one doesn’t play that night is a healthy scratch. One (or two) of King, Nolan, or Clifford starts in Manchester until something I shall not name happens to Gagne inevitably. Richardson stays as the healthy scratch backup a la Drewiske.

        If they are worried that 50/50 playing time at LW4 would hamper the development of King, Clifford, or Nolan I would send two down and keep Westgarth on to at least keep Richardson and Drewiske company and possibly give Lewis or Fraser the odd night off. Just spit balling

      • DougS
        July 5, 2012 at 12:58 AM

        I’m afraid I’m still not grokking the enthusiasm for signing Doan. In addition to the question of where to put him, I just don’t see Lombardi sinking a lot of money into Doan’s declining years.

        But then again, my predictive/analytic powers have not been much to brag about. I was pretty certain that the Kings were not going to re-up Stoll.

  3. Token
    July 4, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    Cliffy is waiver exempt? Do the playoff games not count towards the 80 game total?

    • July 4, 2012 at 10:15 PM

      You’re so right. Actually, the limit is 160 games (or three years) and Clifford has played 157 regular season games, plus 9 playoff games, and playoff games DO count (I forgot to add them in), so Clifford’s exemption expired a few games before the end of the regular season.

      • Token
        July 5, 2012 at 9:51 AM

        I also think King is no longer exempt. His third year went up June 30th.

        That would leave Nolan and Lokti as the only forwards that are waiver exempt on the current roster.

        • July 5, 2012 at 11:08 AM

          I had (in my spreadsheet) King signing at age 19, which would have given him four seasons of exemption, but it turns out that — although he was in fact 19 when he signed — he signed in the calendar year 2009 which is the year in which King turned 20, which according to the CBA makes him 20 for the purposes of calculating waiver-exemption. (He signed in May and turned 20 in July.) This gives him only three years of exemption. The clock starts ticking (for 20 year olds) after they play their first professional game (for 18-19 year olds, the clock starts ticking with their first NHL game). King played in the ECHL, if I recall, in 2009-2010. That counts as “professional.” So the clock started ticking with 2009-10.

          Which means, yes, King is no longer exempt, as of five days ago.

          I need more coffee.

          • Token
            July 5, 2012 at 5:51 PM

            Yep, Happy Birthday Dwight! That one took a little figuring. Lokti is even better with June 30th, final day of the season.

            BTW the 18/19 yo kids clock starts ticking on game 10 of their season, same as the contract year burn clause.

            • July 5, 2012 at 9:49 PM

              I believe the way it works is that for 18/19 year olds the first “year” of their exemption is the year in which they play their first game, and then at 10 games their exemption is reduced to 3 years from 4. But I will look it up.

              • July 6, 2012 at 3:10 PM

                We’re both wrong. It’s the 11th game.

                In updating my reserve list today, I noticed that it had all the right information re Clifford and King, if only I had bothered to check it.

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