Sunday, September 13, 2009

Training Camp Opens : Love is in the Air 8:30 a.m. this morning and the 2009-10 season takes the first step towards officially camp opens with the pros at TSC.

9:00 a.m. and its official, we have a budding bro-mance on our hands. Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth just cant seem to get enough of each other. And that's more than a good thing folks. We don't just want a team that gets along or team mates that have good communication. We want a few guys to REALLY like the guys they play with.

If you were at Hockey Fest a few weeks ago you could still sense the genuine love between Dionne, Talyor and Simmer. These guys truly enjoyed each other. If this morning's session on the ice was any indication, Kopi and Rhyno are digging each other.

These two were following each other around like kids on a school yard. Practically inseparable (and no, not just because they were on the same line, it was more than that). At nearly every stoppage of play, these two were off to the side, chatting, playing with the puck, shooting, skating...and most of all, laughing. Kopi's stomach muscles and face must be hurting. The kid never stopped smiling the entire time! Again, this is a good problem to have.

Three other observations from the opening of camp:

* This one is for all you fashionistas out there. The Kings looked like a bunch of skittles out on the ice this morning. I was fine with the black jerseys. The purple jerseys were great looking. Yellow isn't a problem, as it seems kinda retro. Even the red jersey doesn't really bother me (maybe because seeing Peter Harold skate around in it I kept imagining a Boston College logo instead of a crown).

All of that aside, the one jersey that really bugs me to no end...the green one. It's horrible. The Kings crown should never be within 20 feet of that color. I'm not even sure if the Coyotes move to Hartford and resurrect the Whalers you'd want that green sweater back in the league. What's the problem, were all the white ones dirty?

* One of the great things about hockey are all the different sticks. By comparison, in baseball you have essentially just three colors of bats - black, cherry and natural. So they look alike for the most part. In hockey there are so many different colors, styles, etc. Over the last few years, some of the differences have started to diminish as most guys switched to the one piece composite sticks. Every once and awhile you see something that stands out though. Ryan Smyth still plays with an old school vibe - he uses a wooden blade. Hey, whatever works.

* I've written several times about how consistent Dean Lombardi is. In part, this is why I was never worked up over the recent Marleau rumors. That deal just smelled bad from the start (as in nothing like a "Dean Deal"), regardless of what people were reporting. Well, some of that consistency might be creeping over into the coaching staff. Throughout the summer they were pretty open about how they saw the line combinations shaping up - regardless of various online debates about where Frolov should play...and guess what, the lines used to open camp were pretty much what they said they would be (wow, that sounded very Dennis Green to me...Cardinals / Bears, you remember right?). In case you somehow missed it, that means:

Smyth - Kopitar - Williams
Purcell - Stoll - Brown
Frolov - Handzus - Simmonds

as the top three lines and some combination of Harrold - Westgarth - Ivanans - Moller - Zeiler - Richardson - Lewis to make up the fourth line.

Of course, that's not factoring in two other things. One, Stoll may not be ready to go. Which could mean Moller sneaks into that spot. Second, this assumes that one of the other kids doesn't jump up and grab a spot ala Simmonds last year. Dean has gone on record and said he doesn't see somebody pulling a "Simmonds" this year.

However, that could just be posturing used to keep fan and media pressure off the kids and/or something to be used as a little extra motivation for one (or a few) of the prospects. If you have kids yourself, you know how they just hate it when you tell them they can't do something.

If those combinations end up as the top three lines, I'd be ok with most of them. The bro-mance line should be the offensive line Kings fans have been craving the last few years. Kopi is primed for a big, big year. Williams is supposedly back 100% and ready to go. Rhyno, well - he's "that guy" the Kings have been lacking since the Deadmarsh days.

Line three is rock solid. They played well together last year and have all the elements needed to make a successful line. Which brings us back to line two. Two of the three spots are questionable. And Brown isn't one of them.

Kings fans have 48 hours to lay out their opinions on the all the various line combinations - and we haven't even tackled the defensive pairings yet. Time is ticking though because come Tuesday, there is a split squad situation. Who goes to KC, who stays in LA...and what are the possible implications about people playing together that night? For example, if Moller and Purcell go to KC and Brown stays in LA, what does that say about the potential line two pairings?

Ah, its only day one and my head already hurts.

I'm sure glad hockey is back. I haven't felt this good since April.

The Mayor

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