The good: Jamie McBain was used during three different spurts: eight straight games between November 12 and 29, seven games in an eight-game span between December 20 and January 8, and 10 straight games between February 5 and 26. All entrances to the lineup more or less lined up with other defensemen succumbing to injury, and McBain proved to be a capable fill-in who came as advertised and was useful in pushing the pace of the game, getting pucks to the forwards and avoiding forechecks, and providing offense during limited minutes. “If he’s on his game, he passes the puck well,” Darryl Sutter said in February. He appeared in all eight games of the February winning streak. By entering the lineup due to injuries and unavailable defensemen, the offensive catalyst played under circumstances that had a natural tendency towards a greater offensive output, and ultimately, the statistics reflected that. The Kings outscored their opponents 3.04-2.54 per game and were 17-for-81 (21.0%) on the power play in the 26 games McBain played. Through the nearly 123 even strength minutes in which he appeared alongside Brayden McNabb, Los Angeles averaged 3.48 goals per 60 minutes and allowed 2.18 goals per 60. He scored on three of 18 shots on goal and averaged 1:44 of power play time per game. This production followed a training camp in Arizona that did not result in an NHL contract, one month of training and conditioning as a free agent, and five games in Manchester. McBain notched his 100th career point by scoring on Roberto Luongo on February 5.
The bad: McBain played his final game of the season on February 26, a 1-0 loss to Ottawa in which he took his only two minor penalties of the season. By that point, he wasn’t seeing a ton of ice. Though he logged 15:23 of ice time in a 4-2 win at Tampa Bay on February 7, two games later he drew 9:56 against Calgary and did not hit the 13-minute barrier in any of his final eight games. While the numbers indicate that the Kings scored more regularly when McBain was in the lineup, it’s difficult to really derive any firm understanding of McBain’s impact because he averaged only 12:41 of ice time per game. “It’s kind of happened throughout my career in general. I’ve sat here and there and it’s kind of a little bit more so this year than in the past. But it’s something that I’ve definitely grown to understand and to make sure that, like I said, I’m keeping myself sharp in practice. That’s something that maybe in years past I maybe pouted or been upset. So I think, as of this year, it’s been a definite focus of mine to make sure regardless of what’s happening I’m staying as sharp as I can and like I said, whenever my name is put in, I’m ready to go,” he said in February.
Going forward: With injuries, departures and a suspension affecting Los Angeles’ blue line, the Kings turned to an experienced figure who possessed a much-needed righthanded shot to serve as a seventh or eighth defenseman. By and large, McBain did what was expected of him. He distributed the puck well and contributed on the power play, and the Kings posted a 15-7-4 record while he was in the lineup even though he entered during periods imperfect defensive depth. The Kings are cap-pressed and would appear to be in need of inexpensive defensive pieces, but McBain is an unrestricted free agent and Jeff Schultz (who is also capable of playing on the right side) is signed for one more year at $850,000, so Schultz is more likely factor into the upcoming season than McBain as a depth defenseman. He did enough with the Kings to earn an NHL contract when the free agency period opens on July 1. There should be interest in his services; the Kings were not inclined to expose him to waivers in the second half of the season due to his experience and valuable righthanded shot.