Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's on the line in Vegas this weekend?

As the Kings head to the desert of Nevada for Saturday's 12th annual Frozen Fury, they have little left to worry about. The major changes to the team took place earlier this summer. However, with opening night just a little over a week away, there's still plenty on the line as management continues to tinker, massage and carefully piece together the overall make-up of what is becoming the 2009-10 Los Angeles Kings.

Is this one game going to make a huge difference? Probably not. The top lines have pretty much been established. Jon Quick is the starting goaltender come opening night. Add in five solid defenseman and things are fairly set.

So, overall, the game itself won't really mean much. Save for one key area - the special meaning it has for thousands of Kings fans that make their annual pilgrimage to Sin City and the awkwardly shaped Grand Garden Arena. It's a weekend of drinking, debauchery and plenty of gambling loses (come on, nobody really wins in Vegas except the casinos). Somehow it's all just a prelude to what every hockey junkie is primed and ready for, preseason to end and the real games to get underway.

With that said, there actually are a few tidbits worth paying attention to.

In no particular order:

* On the Avs side, 3 things stand out - Sacco, Hannan & Foote.

Make no mistake about it, the Avs are not a good hockey team. They're in phase one of what will probably be a long rebuilding project. Thus, they have nothing to lose and that usually leads to people taking chances and liberties. They also have a new head coach, former Duck Joe Sacco. And you know what they say, once a Duck always a Duck. BTW - that isn't a compliment!

Scott Hannan is the the missing ingredient that would have put the Smyth deal over the top. On one hand, I'm glad Dean didn't part with a young D-man to include him in the deal. On the other hand, I'm still bummed Hannan signed that deal in Colorado in the first place. I just KNEW Dean was going to sign him up on July 1st of last year. Of course, it didn't happen as Scott's free agency came a year too early for the Kings. Just imagine if he was on the open market this summer instead. Things probably would have turned out differently. Anyway, for whatever reason, Hannan didn't have the best season in Colorado last year so look for him to rebound with a more typical solid performance.

Adam Foote - really? That's your captain? Don't like him.

* The Sports Books - Vegas says the Kings wont even make the playoffs this year. I say they're wrong. Find a way to put a little cash on the Kings now. These are going to be the best odds you'll see all season. As the months go by more and more people will be wising up to what's on the horizon in LA.

* Fine, you've been waiting for me to get to it... Westgarth.

If there is one lasting memory from last year's Frozen Fury it was the (somewhat) coming out party of Kevin Westgarth. He was pure energy and excitement. His two fights were just part of the story. Skating by the Avs bench and cupping his ear was pretty priceless for a preseason game. Heck, that's money in the bank for any game. One of his dance partners from last year, Scott Parker, has left the Avs. However, Chris Stewart is still around. Is there a sequel in the making?

Finally, let me just wish everybody safe travels that's heading to Vegas this weekend. Hope to see many familiar faces. Be safe and don't do anything stupid. Most of all, make other Kings fans proud. The franchise is turning a major corner this season, lets all celebrate together!

I'll be posting reports all weekend on my twitter account. Then, I'll be back next week with my official predictions for the Western Conference standings.


photo by Michael Zampelli of

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