Defense wins championships.
The old adage has been proven right by the Los Angeles Kings, who have won two Stanley Cups in three years. In recent years, though, they have had to part ways with some talented blueliners. From Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell to Robyn Regehr, Slava Voynov and even Andrej Sekera, it seems as if, on the surface at least, the Kings should be losing a step or two on the back end. That, however, is not the case. Not even close.
Building for the future is the lifeblood of any successful organization, and the Los Angeles Kings are no exception to the rule.
Recently, the club has been blessed with vast defensive improvement from the likes of Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin and Brayden McNabb — all of whom, who had struggled on the blueline at one time or another, have come into their own as defensive stalwarts for the silver-and-black. But never have the Kings been complacent defensively — or in any area for that matter — as they continue to move in the right direction.
Of all the reasons for Kings fans to be excited about their team’s defensive depth, one player in particular is taking great strides in just his second pro year.
At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, Alex Roach boasts even more size than the Kings are used to. Still just 22, the former Calgary Hitmen blueliner has been playing very well for the Manchester Monarchs this season, scoring three times and adding 12 assists in 33 games. Those numbers may not look overly impressive but his plus-eight rating is certainly significant, especially after finishing at plus-16 last season — when the latter version of the Monarchs were still the Ontario Reign — making him a real asset when on the ice.
I recently spoke with Monarchs head coach Richard Seeley about Roach’s play thus far.
“Alex has been doing well,” Seeley said. “Obviously for us Alex is a big defenseman. He’s 6′ 4, 230. He came in in great shape at the start of the year, which is good, and he’s played s lot of minutes for us in different situations. We’ve relied on him for some penalty killing and we’ve relied on him to contribute on the power play.
“Alex has played well for us here and I think he’s made some strides since the time we signed him to where he’s at. He’s gotten better.”
As far as attitude goes, Seeley has been happy with the big man’s ways.
“Alex has been good off the ice,” the coach continued. “He seems to get along well with our group here. He seems to fit in. So, as far as off the ice, we haven’t had any issues with Alex at all. He’s been a good teammate.”
As promising as Roach has been, though, Seeley admits of one particular area that the native of Quesnel, British Columbia, needs to address moving forward.
“I know Alex has made some strides, but I think the biggest thing is consistency,” Seeley pointed out. “He needs to play and prove that consistently he is an elite defenseman at our level, and I think he can do that. I think he’s had a fairly strong start to the season, but I think he can do that down the stretch. And for crunch time for us, I think that will help his case to potentially raise some eyebrows and earning an opportunity in Ontario. As of right now, I think he’s still continuing on consistency.”
Set to turn 23 in April, Roach certainly has time on his side. Scouting reports have suggested that should he make the NHL on a full-time basis, he would be part of a lower-end pairing on the blueline. As Seeley mentioned, though, consistency is what the big man needs to work on most should he hope to make the jump to the AHL before he thinks of suiting up for the Kings.
With his combined plus-23 rating over the course of this season and last, Roach has proven that his team is in great position when he is on the ice, so the big man definitely has positives working in his favour. There is still plenty of room for growth, though, and the second half of the season in Manchester should determine what will be in store for Alex Roach in the very near future.