At the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, I was disappointed to see one of my favourite Los Angeles Kings get traded away. General manager Dean Lombardi dealt defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for forward Jarret Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene. Visnovsky, who had called Los Angeles home for seven years, was suddenly gone much to the chagrin of many Kings fan. But in return, they were getting a great deal, even if they didn't know it at the time.
In Jarret Stoll, I saw a solid two-way player who, just two years earlier, helped the Oilers make an unexpected playoff run that saw them fall one period short of reaching their 16-year-old Stanley Cup dream. In Matt Greene, there was another piece to that Cup run, albeit not as mainstream. In his three years in Edmonton, Matt Greene scored just once while adding 12 assists along the way. But the blueliner from Grand Ledge, Michigan, wasn't playing at the NHL level because he had the ability to light the lamp. Instead, Greene used his 6-foot-3, 232-pound frame to be as defensively textbook as they come.
Between the 2009-10 and 2011-12 seasons, Matt Greene averaged 240.7 hits per season with the Kings while averaging 114.3 blocked shots per campaign during that stretch. While he registered 22 hits in both the 2010 and 2011 playoffs, Matt Greene's total in said department escalated to 77 en route to Los Angeles's first Stanley Cup in 2012. His blocked shots even doubled from six in 2010 to 12 the next year to 24 in 2012. If there was ever a tour de force on the Los Angeles blueline, Matt Greene would fit the bill.
Unfortunately, injuries plagued Greene over the last two seasons. During the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, the bruising defenseman suited up for just five regular-season games, accumulating 22 hits and five blocked shots. In the playoffs, Greene took part in nine games, amassing 34 hits and 17 blocked shots while helping his team to the Western Final. Injures played a role again this past season as Greene played in just 38 regular-season games Still, the 31-year-old made the most of his opportunities, recording 118 hits and 59 blocked shots.
But he looked to be more of a defensive liability this past season than other years, the Kings coaching staff had enough trust in Matt Greene to let him suit for 20 of the team's 26 playoff games this spring, generating 62 hits and 24 blocked shots. Greene even had four assists. But while some would have been all but sure that the pending unrestricted free agent was playing out the final days of his career with the Kings, he elevated his game so much that by the time the Finals rolled around and defensive veteran Robyn Regehr was back from injury, the coaching staff elected to keep him sidelined in order to make way for the continuing success of Matt Greene.
With Greene set to become a free agent on July 1, many wonder if the big defenseman will be back in Los Angeles. Depending on who you would ask - and there has been plenty of debated garnered because of it - Matt Greene's future in Los Angeles involves either a third championship run or the team's front office respectfully showing him the door.
While he did pick up a career-high in goals with four during the 2011-12 season, Matt Greene is not known for finding the back of the net - and that certainly is not a bad thing. Greene's physicality and willingness to block crucial shots have already been established, but it warrants further emphasis. Heck, the damage Matt Greene has taken as a King to help his team out has made Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett look like Miss America.
Greene's intrepid, leave-nothing-on-the-table style has not only left Kings fans in awe of their bruiser but fans and players of the other 29 teams with their jaws to the floor. Some may believe that there is a time-honored stereotype that hockey players are the toughest and most fearless athletes of the four major North American sports. But Matt Greene is living proff that said stereotype isn't a stereotype st all. Instead, it's pinpoint accuracy at its finest.
Having just turned 31 last month, Matt Greene has quite a few years left in his playing career and after two Stanley Cups, any of the other 29 teams will be stronger for signing the big man. But I'm selfish. I don't want to see Matt Greene don the uniform of another this summer. I want him in Los Angeles and most importantly, I want him to spend more on the ice than in the press box.
In his six seasons in Los Angeles, Matt Greene has finished on the positive of the plus-minus category five times. The lone exception was during the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign when he finished with a -1 rating. THe plethora of hits and blocked shots may speak volumes of Greene's exceptional defensive play, but his plus/minus ratings should be heard just as loud.
If 2013-14 was Matt Greene's final season in Los Angeles, then I wish him every bit of his success with his new team. After all, considering everything he brought to the table when he came over from Edmonton in 2008, how could anyone not wish Mr. Greene nothing but the absolute best? But while all good things do have to come to an end sooner or later, I am hoping to see a big body donning No. 2 in silver-and-black when the Los Angeles Kings raise their second Stanley Cup banner this coming October.
Yes, all good things do have to come to an end. Just not yet.