Player evaluation: Lewis
This season: 72 games, 3 goals, 4 assists, minus-3 rating.
The good: When Darryl Sutter came aboard, no Kings player had his fortunes change more dramatically than Lewis. It seemed as though Terry Murray had grown increasingly frustrated with Lewis, a former first-round pick who had mostly been a square peg trying to fit into round holes. Lewis didn’t score much, and Murray often talked of wanting a grittier game from Lewis. It certainly came out under Sutter. Lewis became a third-line winger and, at his best, showed a pit-bull like tendency to fight for pucks. He created the turnover that led to Jarret Stoll’s series-clinching overtime goal against Vancouver.
The bad: Lewis found success as a defensive-stopper winger and a strong penalty-killer. That can be a tough way to make a living, not only because it’s a hard way to play but because there are often younger, cheaper players who can challenge for roles such as that. Lewis works hard, but doesn’t have the hands of a great finisher and has yet to show that he can score more than a handful of goals per season at the NHL level. In the long term, he runs the risk of losing his job to a player who can combine the tenacious defensive- and neutral-zone play with a better offensive game.
Going forward: Lewis performed exceedingly well in the playoffs — when, it should be noted, he did have three goals and six assists in 20 games — and it would be shocking if Lewis didn’t enter training camp holding down the same spot, as the right winger on Jarret Stoll’s line. Lewis brings the benefit of versatility, because he can play all three forward positions, and the Kings will always find a place for forwards who thrive on the penalty kill. Lewis’ challenge, going forward, will be to maintain his defensive play while he tries to develop more offense. He’s only 25, and can still improve.