What would you do?

It’s no secret that since Kings president/general manager Dean Lombardi was hired two years ago, his main focus has been on improving the Kings’ defense. It seems as though a crucial point has been reached. You might remember that in my last interview with Dean Lomardi, he debated whether now was the time to go “all in” with the Kings’ young players, perhaps even at the risk of exposing them too early.

Consider the Kings’ situation on defense. Right now there’s basically Jack Johnson, Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Preissing and a bunch of holes. The reserve list is starting to fill up with players such as Peter Harrold, Thomas Hickey, Alec Martinez and whichever defenseman the Kings select with the No. 2 pick this year (most likely Drew Doughty or Zach Bogosian). Is now the time to start playing those guys at the NHL level? Or would the Kings be better served by holding off a year on a player such as Hickey and going with a “bridge” player, a veteran who will fill that spot for one more season?

What are the factors here? Consider baseball. On one hand, there’s C.C. Sabathia, who made his major-league debut at age 20. He won 17 games that season, has never thrown fewer than 188 innings in a season since and won the Cy Young Award last year. On the other hand, there’s Edwin Jackson, considered the top pitching prospect in 2003. Jackson made his major-league debut on his 20th birthday and outdueled Randy Johnson. The next year, almost assured a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation, he struggled. He now has a career ERA of 5.30.

Would you play a young defenseman, such as Hickey or Martinez or the draft pick, next year? There’s the excitement of watching them play for the Kings, and the ability to watch them learn the NHL game, as Jack Johnson did last season. On the other hand, there’s the risk that they might be overwhelmed, might start to doubt themselves and have their long-term development harmed.

So here’s the question. You bring a prospect to the NHL next season, and there’s a 50-50 chance he will either succeed or have his development stunted. Or, you wait one year, and there’s a 90-percent chance he will succeed and a 10-percent chance he will have his development stunted. But during that year, that roster spot is filled by a nondescript veteran plugger.

What do you think? Feel free to add to your answer with an explanatory comment…

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