Yesterday 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.
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.
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).
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.”