Why was it stupid to trade Andrei Loktionov? Let’s review

Loktionov Engraving on CupYesterday Dean Lombardi traded the most NHL-ready playmaker in the Kings prospect pool to New Jersey for a 5th round draft pick. Ever since Lombardi inexplicably chose not to petition to have Loktionov’s name engraved on the cup (while simultaneously petitioning for Davis 9 games Drewiske and Kevin 25 games Westgarth) we’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Back in September, Igor Larionov was quoted saying that Loktionov wished to be traded when the lock-out ended. This request was re-reported last week by a few people.

Last September, I wrote at length on Lombardi’s unconscionable decision to leave Loktionov’s name off the cup. First, I showed that going back several years there is simply no precedent for a team to not even bother to petition to include a player who was so close to the 41-games-played minimum, nor for a player who appeared in the playoffs. We’re not talking about the league saying no. They didn’t. Because they were never asked. There also is no precedent for the league to say no to a request for inclusion of a player who was 2 games shy of the required number. The bottom line: given that the Kings successfully petitioned for the inclusion of two players who played zero games in the playoffs (Loktionov played two playoff games) and who only played 25 and 9 regular season games, respectively (Loktionov played 39, plus 2 in the playoffs, for 41 total), the only reason for the Kings not to petition for Loktionov is simply that they did not want to.

Why they didn’t want to is another matter. Dean Lombardi offered the extremely weak explanation that he believed Drewiske and Westgarth were deserving because they had been with the team all season, practicing hard and being good sports despite being a healthy scratch for 92 games (Drewiske) and 77 games (Westgarth) — whereas Loktionov…had only been with the team for half the season, spending the rest of the season in Manchester, where he presumably was also playing and practicing hard…otherwise why would Lombardi recall him, and why would Sutter play him? (I argued this in more detail in this post.)

Who is more deserving, the player who is not valuable enough to dress in actual games but doesn’t complain about it, or the player who is sent to Manchester because he’s too valuable to let rot in the press box, and doesn’t complain about it? And since when does not complaining about it deserve special recognition in Lombardi-land? I thought that was a basic requirement.

Everyone who has followed the career and wisdom of Dean Lombardi knows how much stock he puts in loyalty and effort, in paying your dues and putting in your hours. How then, by the Lombardi ethos, is Loktionov’s work, effort, dues-paying and loyalty any less deserving than Drewiske’s or Westgarth’s? Answer: it isn’t. And everyone knows it isn’t.

But hey, the Kings won the Stanley Cup, so no one is much in the mood to complain about one little Russian who got shafted, even though the explanation Lombardi gave doesn’t even pass anybody’s smell test.

I am not a reporter, and I have no sources. But it would be nice for one of these real reporters to ask Andrei Loktionov or his agent what explanation they were given. I also am extremely curious to know whether or not Loktionov was given a Stanley Cup ring. Because there is no limit to the number of rings a team can request (unlike names on the cup, which has a limit). The Bruins, for example, gave rings to everyone who worked at the arena right down to the hot dog vendors. So, reporters, why don’t one of you find out if Loktionov meant more to the Kings last summer than a hot dog vendor meant to the Boston Bruins?

Anyway, once Loktionov was not included on the cup, and subsequently requested a trade, it seemed pretty likely his days on the Kings were numbered.

I was sad when I read the initial tweets reporting the trade yesterday. What I thought was the most interesting, though, was how uniformly dismissive of Loktionov the reports from the LA press were. I’m referring to LA Kings Insider, the LA Times and Mayor’s Manor.

LA Kings Insider: Loktionov to New Jersey

[...] This ends the Los Angeles career of a player selected in the fifth round of 2008, and who had requested a trade [...]. He auditioned for and was eventually passed over in a role to replace a concussed Kyle Clifford in the playoffs a season ago and appeared in two games against Vancouver in the first round without accumulating as many as 10 minutes of ice time between the two games. [...]

He failed his audition? That’s intentionally demeaning, isn’t it? You don’t “audition” players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Players play because the coach and GM believe they are the most deserving.

Loktionov had a brief role on a line alongside Dustin Brown and Mike Richards in the first half of last season. “They’re good players. They can find me anywhere. I just have to leave my stick on the ice and open up,” he said at the time. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that easy.

I don’t want to dwell on the tone of Rosen’s post. I know he’s just doing his job and he, like (apparently) everyone else, doesn’t think much of Loktionov. But the attitude is a little smug. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite that easy.” The kid is giving a boilerplate quote to a reporter. Months later, someone else repackages it for some bogus “irony” illuminating the fact that the kid couldn’t hack it in the bigs, when it’s obvious at least to me that the jury is still out.

LA Times: Kings Make Player Moves, Say More Could Come

[...] Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi made his second trade since the lockout ended, sending the once-promising Andrei Loktionov to New Jersey for a fifth-round draft pick in 2013. [...]

With the Kings’ logjam at center, there was no fit for Loktionov. They tried to move him last season with minimal interest, and his agent, Igor Larionov, had been wanting a new location for his client for a long time.

Loktionov had three goals and seven points in 39 games with the Kings last season, and his status was reinforced when they did not invite him to training camp after the lockout ended.

“You’ve got the issue that after his contract is up he could go back to Russia,” Lombardi said. “You just try to make the best deal you can.”

This all sounds spoon-fed to me. “Once promising”? Er, he’s still promising. He’s 22 years old. (More on this in a minute — I have a list.) “They tried to move him last season with minimal interest”? I love it when “facts” are stated without attribution, or as though they’re somehow common knowledge. I will go out on a limb to say that this comes directly from Lombardi (who else?). Without any details, the statement is completely self-serving (the self being Lombardi). I’ve been trying to trade him for a year and nobody wants him, which is why I only got a fifth rounder. Also, I was trying to trade him before whatever happened last summer happened. Right. Sure.

Yeah, I’m sure that Dean was trying to trade the only fucking center in the pipeline, before he got Jeff Carter, when Jarret Stoll was not producing (all regular season), with Mike Richards recovering from a concussion, with the Kings utterly unable to score goals, with the Kings power play completely powerless. Oh, and when Linden Vey (the new “center most likely to be called up”) hadn’t even gotten his sea-legs in the AHL yet (he didn’t turn it around until the second half).

Mayor’s Manor: Why are people surprised by the Loktionov trade?

Instantly, some of the reaction from fans included things like ‘They gave him away’ or ‘What a terrible mistake by the Kings.’

Why? Where is this coming from?

It’s coming from people who have watched Loktionov and can see that he is unusually gifted. On a team that can’t score goals and hasn’t been able to for years.

First off, GM Dean Lombardi has his four centers under contract for the next several years.

If by several years you mean two. And if by centers you mean Jarret Stoll, who has not been and is continuing to not be anybody’s solution to a several seasons-long team-wide scoring drought. And, while we’re at it — I love Mike Richards (courage and intangibles and all that) but he scored a whopping 18 goals last year and is on pace for 8 this year. So the whole idea that the Kings are “set at center for years to come” is a house of straw.

Speaking of stats though, in 39 NHL games last season, Loktionov scored three goals. For his entire career, he has seven goals in 59 games with the Kings.

Speaking of stats, in 2010-11, Loktionov led the entire Kings team in goals/60, in the 19 games he played.

In Manchester this season five other players have scored more goals than the 22-year old Russian forward.

Heck, he’s tied with defenseman Slava Voynov at seven goals for the Monarchs – and his countryman hasn’t played there for over a month.

Loktionov is a playmaker. That means he’s a passer. His assists per game were second on the team, last I checked, about a 1/10th of an assist behind Vey. Vey plays with Toffoli. (Loktionov also led the Monarchs in assists/game the season before. But whatever.)

Finally, there’s his contract to consider. He’ll be a restricted free agent this summer, when he could always opt to go back to Russia if he thought the money and/or playing time could be better.

This is apparently one of Lombardi’s talking points. Here’s the problem:

A 5th round pick is very likely not to yield a viable prospect. So, in all likelihood, Lombardi traded Loktionov away for a future prospect who will not play in the NHL. In Lombardi’s entire history with the Kings, he’s drafted two prospects in the 5th round or later who have turned into viable NHL players: Jordan Nolan, and Loktionov. The Kings franchise hasn’t drafted a keeper in the 5th or later going back to Cristobal Huet in 2001 (I think it was 2001). And for the ten years before that, it’s a wasteland.

So, 5th round pick is of minimal value.

My opinion — clearly I’m in the minority — is that the Kings might actually need help at center this season, due to injury, or (say) due to a moribund powerplay or an inability to score. If the Kings need to call up a center…all they have is Linden Vey. I love Linden Vey. Linden Vey is great. He’s not as skilled as Loktionov. He’s also not as big as Loktionov. Nor is he as strong as Loktionov. Nor is he as experienced (zero NHL games). He is, however, younger and less physically mature. And he’s from Western Canada.

I just don’t think it’s sound management to make yourself weaker in an area where you are already not strong.

And if they kept Loktionov and he left for the KHL in the summer, he would still be on the Kings reserve list and the Kings would still have the rights to a player who has made it pretty clear he wants to play in the NHL, not the KHL, not the AHL.

So, will the Kings really regret trading a guy who didn’t want to be in the organization any more? Doubt it. [...] Will he go on to become a high-scoring center in the NHL? Again, doubt it. But, we’d love to hear somebody make a reasonable case for it.

Andrei Loktionov was 21 last season. At that age, Pavel Datsyuk, Zach Parise and Henrik Zetterberg hadn’t played a single NHL game yet. Neither had Patrick Sharp, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Tomas Plekanec, Jussi Jokinen or Thomas Vanek. Jarret Stoll at that age had played 4 games, with 1 assist to show for it. Dustin Brown had played 31 games, with 1 goal and 4 assists under his belt. Logan Couture had played 25 games, 5 goals, 4 assists. Mike Cammalleri, 28 games, 5 goals, 3 assists. Semin, 10 goals; Milan Michalek, 1 goal; Frolov, 14 goals; Derek Roy, 9 goals.

But yeah, sure, Andrei Loktionov is a bust.

“He’s a beautiful skater,” Manchester coach Mark Morris said. “When you watch him skate, it’s almost like he’s on a cushion of air. It’s effortless. We’re grateful we have him right now. I don’t know how long that will be, but we’re going to enjoy him while we have him.”

via Union Times Leader

 

  25 comments for “Why was it stupid to trade Andrei Loktionov? Let’s review

  1. MM
    February 7, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    When someone demands a trade publicly, their value diminishes. Loktionov is a player with little NHL experience requesting a trade. How much value does he have? I’m not saying that he can’t be a good player, but what has he proved? He has capable hands? I can’t be upset with moving player who hasn’t really done anything.

    Even today, with Richards’ slump, if you were to ask me to do the trade over again, would I? Hell yes. He proved what he could do in one of the most intense hockey cities. Schenn was an unproven commodity. Valuable, yes, but still unproven.

    Also, do you expect a player to really play 110% for you if he gets a shot in your lineup? After requesting a trade? I think it is a little difficult to expect that.

    • February 7, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I’m not debating the return on Loktionov, really. Except to say that the return is not worth making the trade in the first place. Lombardi didn’t have to trade Loktionov just because Loktionov’s agent asked for a trade. Nor did the request need to be made public. How or why it did become public is an open question.

      as for RIchards, I have no complaint about the trade at this point. But there will come a time when Schenn’s and Simmonds’ value exceeds Richards’.

  2. February 7, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    … This is fantastic work, Quisp. Tremendous. I’m glad you spoke for yourself, for me, and for all of us who questioned not only the deal itself, but the timing of it. A tip of the cap to you.

  3. Samsa
    February 7, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    Preach it, brother.

  4. February 7, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    I was so pissed off when I heard. Then I calmed down. Now I’m pissed off again. This is so messed up.

  5. Tyfighter77
    February 7, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    THANK YOU! Again Quisp, you bring the voice of reason to a land of nonsense. I was shocked at the Mayor’s blithe dismissal of not only a great player, but those of us that think he IS a great player. I even got snickered at on Insider for referring to him as #12. (“Did Gagne get traded?” nyuck nyuck). *Sigh*. Oh well. I want to see his points/60min when he played at center with capable wingers. Anyone?

    • Drew
      February 8, 2013 at 12:49 PM

      Yeah, I know that David Clarkson plays w Henrique (?) I think…. but imagine him playing with Clarkson. If he gets the shot it’ll be just another addition to the Moulson, Purcell, success list.
      I didn’t put Boyle on there, but he has a very definite and appreciated role on the Rangers. But he is one who did get a fair chance w the Kings.

      • February 8, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        I had to laugh last night when the announcers on the Rangers game said of Boyle (healthy scratched last night) that “he’s a great player and he will bounce back.” I’m glad that he’s recognized as a great player, as opposed to a first round bust.

  6. Kings of Hockeywood
    February 7, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    We’ve been of one mind on Lokti for a long time now, Quisp. I felt the same way when I read Rosen’s blog about his derogatory tone and I considered commenting on the Mayor’s site but in the end I didn’t think it was worthwhile doing so. You have hit the nail on the head though. He is still a young kid and a very crafty centerman who probably could have had a place in the LA organization and whose acquisition will be a boon to the Devils. He’s going to be a fine NHL player within the next couple of seasons.

  7. February 7, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    It’s frustrating that the media just handwaves away their aguments. They paint him as a disgruntled/entitled prospect who hasn’t proven himself instead of painting a more balanced picture. That Lokti was a failure for us is as much DL’s fault as it was Loktis. DL has yet to manage and develop a skilled offensive player properly (for our own team, not the Isles or Lightning).

    Very little mention or emphasis is made to how fucked up it was to omit his name from the cup even though he was an actual contributing member of a team that won it all.

    No mention made of the fact that he was paired with players who were subpar shooters on one of the worst shooting teams in the league. Or that he was placed in a position he doesn’t play, centered by a player who was in a mental fog for almost an entire season.

    A playmaker paired with bottom of the barrel finishers isn’t exactly a fair shot. Did he really expect Lokti to become a Lewis or King or Nolan or whathaveyou? Is it Loktis fault Lewis or Richardson were unable to bang home his passes?

    We can churn out effective 3rd/4th line grinders by the dozen but we manage to screw up the development of our most talented and promising offensive players. Holloway is another one, now he’s dominating the SEL and unlikely to ever play in the NHL as a King. Of course, DL likes to place the blame there on Bud. Bud made the best decision for his career there. There was no indication DL was ever going to give him a shot even though he had proven himself for 2 years in Manch.

    DL gave away a cheap, young, talented player for basically nothing given the rate of success for 5th round draftees.

    • Drew
      February 8, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      Bob, also, I Still question just how much of a shot Moulson was given. Purcell perhaps had more opportunity than Moulson…. but with TM as coach (and I respect him as a man and coach, but certainly not as a coach who encourages creativity). I live back east and see Moulson play often on tele, and he looks great. I mean, even if he didn’t look great, he scores great. And …. wow, what a difference it makes for a player playing with the likes of a John Tavares rather than doing what you can with Stoll who as you allude to is well on his way to his second consecutive year of offensive funk.

      • February 8, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        I’m working on a post regarding Moulson, Purcell and Loktionov. All three of those players were saddled to varying degrees with making elite players better. They were each dropped into lines with Kopitar, Brown and company and asked to shake them out of slumps, or dumped onto a third line with guys who can’t finish, and expected somehow to change that. It’s an absurd expectation. and yes, it’s lombardi’s fault.

        • Drew
          February 8, 2013 at 2:16 PM

          Yeah Quisp. I know that Scribe shares many of those feelings. In addition Lombardi was exceptionally fortunate that last year the Carter trade worked out the way it did, and that every element of change (DS, King, Nolan) worked to maximum efficiency.
          That said, this is the third year running that the team has been constipated offensively during the regular season. Even if it’s a case of not going to the tough areas or whatever….. who is inevitably responsible for that? Maybe King or Lewis will quite happily go to the ‘tough areas’ but if they don’t have the chops then they don’t have the chops. And it’s the GM’s responsibility to find someone who does.

          I look forward to your post on Moulson, Purcell and Loktionov. It’s magnificent to win the cup. But it’s not a thrill to feel like you’re wasting opportunities to develop a consistent contender. And if the goal is to create a Detroit in their prime type of environment, you’re just not gonna do it by wasting draft picks on small players when there is no indication that they can function in the type of system you want to play, and then getting players who DO have something substantial to offer, but not knowing how to get it out of there.

          Gads…. at that age neither Zetterberg, Parise, nor Datsyuk had played an NHL game!! Henrique doesn’t seem too concerned about Lokti.

          • Drew
            February 8, 2013 at 2:19 PM

            Oops. Typo….’and then getting players who DO have something substantial to offer, but not knowing how to get it out of there’ – I meant get it out of Them. In other words… help them realize the natural talent that they do have.
            On Scribe’s site the other day there was someone who gave the points totals so far this year for TP and Moulson. Then the total points for I believe four of our top six plus Stoll. It made for rather depressing reading actually.

        • February 10, 2013 at 12:50 AM

          Do you mind bringing up Holloway as well?

  8. February 8, 2013 at 5:55 AM

    Everyone loves to bag on Jarret Stoll. The guy is one of the best face off men in the NHL. No, he doesn’t score a lot of goals but anyone who expects that doesn’t understand the game he plays. The Kings are lucky to have him.

    As for Loktionov, I have no problem with trading him. But I do think they didn’t get enough for him. They should have insisted on a player in return, not just a draft pick. Deano will come to regret that trade.

    • February 8, 2013 at 1:01 PM

      The problem with Jarret Stoll is not Jarret Stoll the player but Jarret Stoll the place he occupies on the Kings. Yes, he’s good at faceoffs. But the Kings have a problem scoring goals, and the reason for that, going back several seasons, is that they have three lines that are all built as hybrid scoring/defensive-stopper lines, the Stoll line simply being the third best (i.e. worst) of the three at both defense AND scoring. People get confused because they think the third line is the stopper/defensive line by default. On the Kings, it’s not. It’s maaaaybe the second and probably the third of those three lines to be matched against an opponent’s best lines. The stopper role goes to the first two lines. Since Stoll’s line gets easier assignments, it might be a good idea if they could take advantage of that. But they can’t. Because Stoll makes $3MM. So he’s there. And so that line will not be able to take advantage of the weaker match-ups. and we have a related problem on the power-play, where Stoll’s presence, in my opinion, isn’t helping. If you can feel me about to suggest that Loktionov and Toffoli (with King on the left, or Gagne, or even Pearson) would be a better alternative right now, this season, it’s true — that’s what I think. The Kings have one guy who is an elite finisher, and that’s Jeff Carter. And one guy who is an elite playmaker, and that’s Anze Kopitar. (Note that they’re not even on the same line.) The Kings need Toffoli and they needed Loktionov. Unfortunately, Lombardi’s line-up was validated by the Stanley Cup, so he went right back to it. Despite the fact that virtually the same line-up very nearly missed the playoffs and cost Lombardi his job.

      This is called irony.

      I actually like Jarret Stoll. I value him. And, hey, now that there’s no-one in the pipeline to take his place, I don’t even think there’s much point to trading him. (Though, if things get much worse for the Kings, don’t be surprised if he ends up somewhere else.)

      • February 8, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        I would also note that right now, and really for most of last season, Mike Richards has also been playing like a third line center. Maybe that’s the real problem.

        • LBlocal
          February 8, 2013 at 1:54 PM

          Jarret Stoll’s ideal replacement at 3C, is currently playing on his wing, Elvis.

        • February 10, 2013 at 12:55 AM

          I think instead of fishing, snowmobiling and surfing (well maybe that one is actually good) all lockout he should have been getting bigger/faster/stronger. He seems to be coming around a bit so hopefully it is just a case of being out of game shape. Last year I believe he was in a mental fog due to his concussion, but I still think he is highly overrated by most. He’s small, isn’t exceptionally physically gifted, and makes shitty, overconfident, low probability plays too often imo.

      • February 9, 2013 at 5:14 AM

        I would state that the Kings don’t have any “elite” players at any forward position. Yes, Carter, Kopitar, and Richards have shown flashes of brilliance in their careers but they’ve never done it consistently over multiple years. Crosby is elite. Malkin is elite. Ovechkin is (or would be in the right system) elite. The forwards on the Kings are very good but they aren’t elite. Until a year or two ago I believed Kopitar was nothing better than a 2nd line center because he doesn’t put points up consistently, and I still lean in that direction. Any player can get hot over a 15 or 20 game stretch (see Dustin Brown) but the Kings don’t have anyone who puts up a point a night, which is my idea of “elite”. And Stoll isn’t far off from the talent level of the top Kings forwards. He’s just got a different skillset.

        That said I do agree that he’s probably not the best player in the league for the spot in the lineup he plays, but the Kings don’t have anyone better. It’s not about his contract, it’s about his ability. I don’t believe the Kings would be holding on to him if they thought they could get someone better.

        • February 10, 2013 at 12:48 AM

          Kopitar is elite, there is no doubt about that. The whole team has suffered with scoring woes going on a few years now, so it is not likely an individual under-performance, but rather a system-wide effect. NO ONE scores on the Kings since at least 2 years ago.

          Putting up points isn’t all there is to hockey btw. Malkin is elite, this is true, but his defensive game doesn’t compare to Kopi’s, and he benefits from getting to play behind the best player in the world right now. It’s kinda hard to matchup against Crosby/Malkin/Staal for most teams.

          Carter, in the last few years (except 11-12, an injury plagued season, and playing in Columbus and LA), has been near the top of the league in goals per game. 09-10 and 10-11 he was around 14th, the year before he was 3rd. He’s got an exceptional release on his shot.

          Stoll is not even in the same gotdamn ballpark as Kopi, JWill, Richards, Carter, Gagne/Penner/Random left winger. He can barely stickhandle the puck fercrying out loud. He’s exceptionally good at boarding defensemen, however. He’s basically Lewis but with a good faceoff percentage.

  9. Drew
    February 8, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    Quisp, I too found it curious, but then reading your post made me regret it even more, when you gave specific stats for other players at that age who didn’t turn out too badly. And I have another issue on top of it all. Back to drafting skilled forwards and developing them. Well, at least he drafted Kopi and Brownie…. Oh….. wait a minute (I know… sarcasm font).
    But that’s it. Why oh why does he draft guys like Hickey, Lokti, Moller, Kozun etc, if there is simply no place on this team for smaller players. What other explanation can there be?

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