Player evaluation: Westgarth
This year: 25 games, 1 goal, one assist, minus-3 rating.
The good: Westgarth has no illusions about his role on the team. Although he’d like to play more — anyone in his situation would — Westgarth understands that his role on the team is subject to the whims of the coach and the desire to have an enforcer in the lineup (or not). For an enforcer, Westgarth has a credible all-around game. He doesn’t take nearly as many bad penalties as previous Kings enforcers, he moves well for his size and he has some offensive instincts. The highlight for Westgarth came on Nov. 23 in Dallas, when he scored his first NHL goal. Westgarth is a positive locker-room presence.
The bad: On a personal level, Darryl Sutter’s hiring was worst on Westgarth. Terry Murray valued having a heavyweight enforcer in the lineup for almost every game, but Sutter but a greater emphasis on being able to roll four lines. That meant Westgarth, who is limited in his ability to play more than a handful of minutes, played only eight games from late December through mid-June. Westgarth simply doesn’t have the all-around skill level of other fourth-line options such as Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. It’s tough to envision him ever playing more than five minutes or so per game.
Going forward: At this point, it’s rather doubtful that Sutter will alter his philosophy in terms of rolling four lines, which creates a bit of an awkward situation in terms of Westgarth. He signed a two-year contract extension, meaning he’s under contract through 2014 at an average salary of $725,000 no matter where he plays. Assuming the Kings’ roster remains static for the rest of this summer, what will Westgarth’s role be? Nolan came in and locked down that fourth-line right-wing spot, and showed himself to be a guy who offered size and a willingness to drop the gloves. What does that mean for Westgarth?