Willsie the key?

The Kings’ streak of winning five of six games began when coach Marc Crawford dusted off forward Brian Willsie from the bench and started playing him regularly. Coincidence? Probably, for the most part. But it’s worth mention. Willsie only got off the bench for one of the first six games as the Kings opened the season 1-5.

“It was definitely frustrating,” Willsie said. “It caught me a little off guard. I felt like I had a good camp and I was excited about this year. It was tough sitting, especially losing the way we were.”

Willsie started to wonder if he was going to be part of the team’s plans this year.

“That kind of creeps in your mind. But I was confident that I’d get my opportunity, and once I got the opportunity the ball was in my court. I knew I had to take it upon myself to stay in the lineup.”

Willsie got his shot Oct. 16 with an assist in the upset of previously undefeated Minnesota and hasn’t left the lineup since. He played a direct role in one of the team’s biggest wins of the season, a 2-1 victory over Dallas last week, flying through the air and reaching around the goalie to score the first goal in spectacular fashion.

“I’ve never had a goal like that,” Willsie said. “I saw a couple pictures of it that turned out cool. It was nice to contribute like that in a close game, and hopefully there’s more coming.”

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  • anthony

    I’m no fan of his, but I’ve got to admit that he’s playing well in given situations.
    He’s in the last year of contract and I don’t predict he’ll be around next year. There’s too many up and coming prospects in Manchester.
    Might be trade bait at the deadline.

  • Bill

    I was very disappointed by Willsie’s play last year, but I have to admit he’s had a much more positive impact on the team so far this season. I imagine a lot of the same concerns he expressed are going on in Thorton’s mind right about now. I’d like to see Thorton traded so it’s not an issue for Thorton or the team.

  • Carla Muller

    I agree Bill, I too was less than impressed with Willsie last year.

    He has really stepped up his play since being benched. Hard to give him credit alone for the turnaround, but the wins do speak volumes for who are dressed.

    I also concur that the handling of Thornton bothers me and could be a distraction at some point. He was given the “A” and has been a healthy scratch most games. That part seems disrespectful to me.

    I question whether he has trade value though.

  • Scott C

    I was very happy to see Willsie(Or Willy as Bob called him) get back into the line up. While he didn’t play well last year he has been effective with Kyle Calder fore checking and playing hard leading to chances.

  • Ric

    I was so fed up with Willsie last year, I used his name as a curse word.

    ‘Oops! The Metamusil hit! I gotta take a big Willsie!’

    This year is different. Willsie’s out there playing with heart and it shows big time. He’s making smart, decisive moves, passing well, grinding the opposition, and making sacrifices when necessary. Most importantly, I’ve noticed that Willsie making an impact in turning momentum around when he’s on the ice. It doesn’t surprise me that our record is better when he’s in the lineup. His work ethic looks like it’s infecting the rest of the team. I definitely don’t want to see him get traded while he’s playing at this level.

    From curse word to compliment, Willsie’s sure lookin’ WILLSIE these days!

  • gggbdfan

    carla, nice to see you post on this site!!! I read your site numerous times a day just like I do with this one. I just never post there. You and Rich BY FAR have the greatest articles on the Kings. You both are “class” writers. And Matt is coming along in the same fashion. After a terrible season last year, Willsie has most difinitely contributed this year. I hope it continues. I really don’t see a need for Thorton though, as others are getting the job done. So, I would try to trade him. Once again, thank you Rich, Carla, and Matt for all the hard work you do for us!!!!!!!

  • ed

    Rich or Matt, next time you speak to Dean or Crow. Please ask why we left a roster spot open. I believe we have 22 players, and we are allowed 23 if i remember correctly.
    thanks

  • JOE

    maybe hes like a lucky rabbit’s foot for us?

  • Carla Muller

    gggbdfan, thanks for your kind words!!

    We in Los Angeles are truly lucky to have Rich Hammond and Matthew Kredell who can be our daily eyes and ears of the team, in a way the Kings never had previously.

    Thornton’s signing was a head scratcher for me a year ago, still is. I am quite cool with the benching, just take issue with Crawford giving him the “A” and then never playing him.

    Armstrong was my choice for captain; he most definitely is the more appropriate holder of the alternate captain designation.

    I would be pretty surprised to see Thornton get another contract, but then I thought Roenick was done too…

  • John Strachan

    Thornton is getting on in years and isn’t all that fast to begin with. He will be at his best if he plays 40-50 games. He will also be a lot more effective if he is fresh in the 2nd half and down the playoff stretch when the game becomes more of a grind. I have no problems letting a greybeard save up his energy for the time when he will be most important.
    As far as the “A”, it rotates and only 2 of the 4 wear them at any game. Thornton garners a lot of respect and giving him the “A” reinforces that.

  • sybil

    I hope Thornton can act professionally about his limited playing time. I’d like to keep him with the team. He’s a good presence around the team – and when we face teams that would try to push us around – Anaheim, Philadelphia – I’d put him back in the lineup.

  • Moondoggie

    Willsie has played well, much better than last year. Last year of his contract may be pushing him, regardless he’s been a key member of that 3rd line. He has a good shot but the difference this year seems to be his skating and forecheck. He just looks like an all-around better player than last year. Maybe he’s found his “zone” but then again, the whole team seems to be in the zone these days. Let it continue!!!

  • Darren

    I think the key this season over last is that he’s just expected to play that 3rd-4th line role. He was often thrown into a top 6 role last season and that square peg just didn’t fit right. He’s playing his 10-12 minutes of hustle and it’s productive. Hope he’s able to stay in that role all season and not be asked to do anything more.

    Keep up the good work BW

  • Dan H.

    Carla,

    They didn’t give Avery the “C” either and he gave the team penalty minutes and running his mouth too, so I don’t think that’s a good indicator.

    I think Cammi should have it, but Armstrong hasn’t done squat besides “coach” the team per some posters and sit in the penalty box for bad penalties. He got an assist on a Frolov goal the other night which has been his best contribution so far. Hell we even had a power play coming up the other night and he decided to jump in the fracus as a third man in to put us at even strength again.

    Needless to say…not a big fan.

  • Carla Muller

    Dan,

    I hear what you are saying, but have a tough time reconciling any comparison between Armstrong and Avery.

    I have never seen, or heard through the press, any evidence that Armstrong runs his mouth, so I am not fully understanding that reference.

    Avery was what he was. With the exception of the home opener, I have not found Armstrong to be a bad penalty machine, or anything close.

    He does play on every and any line asked, from what I can tell, shows no ‘tude and plays hard. He IS in most marketing ads of the team, where Thornton is not, and as you and I have seen, people have seen him “coaching” players at practices.

    On all these things combined, I give him a letter, not Thornton.

  • Pierroth

    Willsie did have a good camp and I was surprised to see him relegated to the press box. But his return seems to have also fired up Calder, who’s also playing a vital role in the Kings’ recent surge.

  • Andre, Norway

    Hi, I agree with Carla that Army should have got the C or at least an A. He is well respected on and off the ice. He works hard every game and play on every and any line asked without complaining. And I are also impressed with willsies play so far, last year he looked like bambi on ice.

  • Damen

    Willsie can be a key if they increase his PK ice time to the level it was at last year (2:08) & reduce Brown’s PK time. They might get more of an offensive punch from Brown if they did.

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