Thursday, September 22, 2011

Washington Capitals 2011-2012 Previews: D.J. King

D.J. King

Theme: “All things come round to him who will but wait.”
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

D.J. King logged a total of 90:57 of ice time last season. Only ten players who appeared in at least ten games logged fewer minutes, and six of them were rookies. That is the result of having dressed for only 16 games in the 2010-2011 season. King does not get much in the way of ice time, but his is perhaps the most difficult job in the sport. He is what once might have been called an “enforcer,” although in the modern (post-lockout) game, there does not seem to be much “enforcing” going on.

Among King’s class of player, the time spent in the penalty box for fighting majors rivals the time spent on ice (King had 30 minutes on six fighting majors last season to go with his 90 minutes of total ice time). But there were some odd and unexpected things that came out of King’s 2010-2011 season. For instance, among Capital forwards…

-- He averaged more points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than did Eric Fehr (go look it up at
-- He averaged barely fewer points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 than Jason Chimera and… Mike Knuble.
-- He was third – third! – among the team’s forwards in assists per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, behind only Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

OK, there is that thing where he played only 16 games and 90 minutes, which isn’t much from which to make a conclusion, and the quality of competition he faced was last among forwards playing in at least ten games, but still…

“Hey cuz, the quality of teammates he had was worst on the team regardless of position, and I think that includes Slapshot.”

Thanks for pointing that out, Cheerless, but you’ll get your turn.

Fearless’ Take: You didn’t have to stop there. Here are a couple more odd facts about the season of D.J. King…

-- He had a higher percentage of offensive zone starts at 5-on-5 than every Capital forward except Marcus Johansson and Brian Willsie, who played in one game for Washington.
-- His plus-2.0 of team penalties drawn on ice versus team penalties taken on ice per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 led all Caps forwards who played in at least ten games.

Cheerless’ Take: Are you two done? He didn’t have a game with ten minutes of ice time all year; he had six with less than five minutes of ice time. In only four of his games did he skate at least ten shifts. He had one game with more than one shot on goal and had only six shots on goal for the year. He seems to be a player from a different age, a player who isn’t going to do much on the score sheet but who might have served as a peacekeeper, or at least an avenger.

The Big Question… Will King dress for more than ten games this season?

King dressed for 61 games in St. Louis in 2007-2008. Since then, it has been downhill in terms of ice time. He spent almost all of the 2008-2009 season injured, then played in just 12 games for the Blues in 2009-2010 before moving to the Caps and playing 16 games last season. Even with the departures of David Steckel, Matt Bradley, and Boyd Gordon that would have opened up spots on the fourth line, King is going to have problems finding time on ice. With the addition of Joel Ward and Jeff Halpern to the roster, there is still going to be some stability among the lines. And with the possibility of Jay Beagle jumping into the lineup, a fourth line could have Halpern, Matt Hendricks, and Beagle. Or perhaps Jason Chimera drops down to that line. If 16 games seemed like a light workload for someone the Caps traded for last summer, it seems likely he is going to get fewer games this season.

In the end…

We adhere to the notion that what King does might be the most difficult job in the sport. A player like Matt Hendricks, who is a player of more varied skills who happens to fight (his 14 fights tied for 12th in the league last season), is not going to have the fighting aspect of his game spotlighted to the same degree as a D.J. King, for whom an ability to use fighting skills is the biggest reason he would be in the lineup. King’s is a job that impresses us as having at least as much pressure placed on the player to “perform” as that placed on “skill” players. It’s just him, his opponent, and 18,000 pairs of eyes on them, plus the risk of physical harm. Frankly, I don’t know how such players do it. But whether they will be doing it much longer in the NHL is something to ponder, because the pure “enforcer” of the past seems to be fading away. The 18th skater in the lineup cannot be just a “fighter” anymore, and that means that King’s chances to put up those other odd set of numbers will be infrequent this season.

Projection: 12 games, 0-2-2, minus-2

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)

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