Although nothing’s been officially stated, it seems as if Alexei Ponikarovsky’s brief time in Los Angeles has come to an end. The 31-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and, with many believing that his signing was the next best thing after losing out the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes last summer, the Ukrainian’s arrival in Los Angeles wasn’t exactly one filled with a plethora of excitement in the air.
After taking two undisciplined penalties in the Kings’ season-opener in Vancouver, I immediately thought that this really wasn’t a sound investment by general manager Dean Lombardi. Then again, it was just a one-year contract so how bad could this experiment be?
Much of the Kings’ strong start to the 2010-11 season had to do with the defensive play of Ponikarovsky who played exceptionally well on the penalty kill. Ponikarovsky’s defense presence proved so important that the Kings missed him in January when they lost eight of ten while the Ukranian was out of the lineup nursing an injury.
Offensively, Ponikarovsky was a 20-goal-scorer on average. This season in that department, he disappointed only lighting the lamp five times while adding ten assists in 61 regular season games. Ponikarovsky did get a goal in four playoff games against San Jose but even at that, this was a season that Ponikarovsky, I’m sure, is willing to forget from an offensive standpoint.
The 6’4, 220-punder did dish out his share of punishment by registering 139 hits but it’s little consolation next to measly 12 takeaways, his 20% faceoff percentage and his miniscule 5.3% shooting percentage.
Alexei Ponikarovsky was a fairly good asset to this Kings team in the first-half of the season. Unfortunately for him and the Kings, he virtually disappeared for the latter-half. I’m confident that Ponikarovsky can pick up his game but, in all likelihood, it won’t be in Los Angeles.