Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rhyno Crossing Ahead

Quick snapshot (sorry for the quality, its a cellphone).

Ryan Smyth's new Kings helmet in his locker at Heath South.

Just seeing the helmet adds to my enthusiasm for the coming season!

In other player related news...

Saw Dustin Brown and a few other guys (mostly younger players) getting some ice time recently. Brownie was towing players around the ice. Seriously. At first I wasn't sure if I was at a practice for some weird new age circus or if this was an NFL training camp circa 10 years ago (remember when you would see wide receivers running around with mini parachutes on their backs?). Looks like part of the new strength and conditioning program involves the players towing another player (via a 4 ft strap that connects to them from behind). On this particular day Brownie was towing guys (one at a time) from the goal line to the blue line. Sounds short enough, yet probably sucks when you're pulling 200+ lbs.

Frolov was downstairs in the gym working out in a private session with a trainer. He had quite a sweat going. Good to see him there working on getting in shape. Also ran into Dean while watching Frolov and he was just beaming about seeing his core guys in town working out. In fact, he said there was a large group that were at Health South everyday in July. This "camp" (obviously, those are my words not his) ended on July 31st. Looks like some of the guys wanted to go back home for a few weeks before having to return for Hockey Fest and/or the start of training camp. Dean reiterated the story about how shocked he was during his first summer here and none of the team stayed in town to work out and train together. He sees this as a big step know...getting that "tattoo on their ass." Hopefully more will soon.

On the Frolov contract front, we didn't talk about it at all. However, I just don't see them trading him before January (if at all). It just wouldn't be consistent with Dean's patterns up until now. And if there is one thing he has been, its CONSISTENT. Trading him now just doesn't make sense anyway. He has a low cap hit, puts pucks in the net and finally has a better team around him. Let's wait until mid season to see what kind of shape the Kings are in and then re-evaluate his future. Assuming he hasn't already signed an extension by then. One thing is for sure, its extension or trade by the deadline. NOBODY walks for free!

Finally, Dean did mention they're adding some sort of an outdoor puck shooting machine thing in the next week or so. This will be housed in part of the area that is currently behind the gated VIP parking area. He is a big proponent of finding ways to get the guys to work out and be involved without actually having to suit up and hit the ice. Heck, they do that enough during that season - twice a day on game days. This gets them another way to be involved as a group and hone their skills, without making a full ordeal out of it. He says baseball has been doing things like this for years and strongly believes it will help the team moving forward. Little things like this go along way and are really off the radar of what most people see or think about when evaluating the progress the Kings have been making the last few years.

While we might take Health South for granted, one former Kings player recently told me it might be the nicest facility in the league. The only other "top notch" facility he could think of was in San Jose. Damn Sharks!

The Mayor

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Los Angeles Kings Rumors, News & Upcoming Events

OK, OK, OK - I get it. You guys want some scoops, some gossip and some rumors.

Here you go, this is the latest happenings from inside the Los Angeles Kings organization (non-player related)...

* GRAB YOUR FLIP FLOPS - The Kings are working to put a pre-season game together next year with the Ducks. Seems normal enough right? Well, now ponder the game played on the beach (yes, on ice AT the beach). They're looking at a game in Santa Monica, Manhattan or Redondo. While there is some concern that the capacity will probably be limited to the 6-10k range (ala a pro volleyball event), this is seen as something unique enough that it could generate some hockey buzz in a media market that pretty much ignores the greatest game in town. Should be interesting. Look for more information in the months to come.

* HOCKEY FEST - Looks like they've already made the decision to make this an annual event. A lot of planning has gone into the inaugural one coming up in a few weeks and they're convinced this is a great way to kick off the season going forward. Several other teams around the league do similar events - most are only one day events, nearly all with more expensive tickets. Perhaps they've done their homework and they're prepared to outdo those teams. Good! Should be a nice treat for the fans. The whole thing sounds fun (and is getting better by the day with all of the info being made public). Looking forward to it. One more thing, next year's event will probably be held in the ball rooms of the new hotel at LA LIVE. So next year's event already has one up on this year - it comes with climate control!

* CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? - I for one love the conference calls the Kings have been doing recently with season ticket holders. Great guests, great format, easy to participate, etc. For all you bashers out there, stop ruining my hockey buzz. If you don't like the calls, if you don't like the breakfasts with Dean, just stop going. More importantly, stop bitching. OK, I'm back. Looks like the next call will be with more of the scouting staff and focused on the topic of scouting and player development. Guess I wasn't the only one who liked when Dean explained how the scouts are spread out throughout N.America and Europe on the last call. The positive feedback now has them preparing to dedicate an entire call focused on this side of the business. This is not to be confused with the recently announced "Growing Up Kings" event at Hockey Fest.

* JUNE 2010 - Were you bummed when the Kings cancelled their (what seemed like) annual draft party? Sure, the event a few years ago in Hollywood cost the team A LOT of money. However, there are ways to scale it back and still get a large group of us together to share in the experience of drafting for the future. In fact, one great suggestion floating around out there was to let the Kings Care foundation take over the event and charge a small admission fee ($5-10) to offset the cost. (note: more on Kings Care later). Well, this year it would have been tough to pull off, in part because so much time and effort was being put into Hockey Fest. So, here's the scoop for you...the Kings are actively working with the NHL to secure the bid to host the 2010 ENTRY DRAFT. If they can't pull it together in time for '10, 2011 is the fallback plan. Stay tuned.

* MAKE IT A DOUBLE - Looks like the early reports that the Royal Room would be closing along with Fox Sports Bar are wrong. In fact, according to people inside the Kings, the Royal Room is growing! Hopefully more people in there means shorter lines for me at the regular concession stands.

* ALL IN THE FAMILY - Be on the lookout for a bigger, stronger, more robust alumni presence going forward. Jim Fox and Ian "Hawk" Turnball are working on a new website and have been laying the groundwork for a stronger connection between current fans and former players. As Luc, Dean and others have often mentioned, history is very important. You'll start to see more alumni around and included in events in just a few weeks at Hockey Fest. Then, look for more involvement at Frozen Fury and other events this season. For example, want to have lunch with some former players, play some pick-up hockey or skate with the Kings alumni? It'll probably be possible in the very near future.

Finally, some trivia. Who is the only defenseman in NHL history to score 5 goals in a game? HINT: This guy also is the only Kings defenseman to score 4 goals in a game.

The Mayor

Monday, August 10, 2009

Report: Doesn't play well with others...

Only one professional hockey team from SoCal made the playoffs this past season, the Ontario Reign (remember, the Ducks don't exist to me - they're a movie, not an NHL team). When I found out that Colten Teubert, the Kings highly regarded prospect, would be lacing 'em up there for the playoffs I knew it was time to go to a few games.

Some buddies and I went to two games.

In the first home game Teubert looked like a beast. You could clearly see this kid had skills a few levels above nearly every other player in the building that night. Sidebar - I always find it somewhat humorous when fans say things like "he was NHL ready". Really? You're confident enough to make that statement after watching a guy play against other people that aren't even close to NHL caliber? Big fish small pond doesn't guarantee success when stepping up. At best, again as a fan, about the only thing you can say is a player (like Teubert that night) is at a level above the people he is playing against.

How quickly things change from game to game...

The man beast that was crushing people and was flat dazzling in game one was nowhere to be found in game two. It was scary how a kid that seemed like he was EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME in game one was NOWHERE to be seen in game two. We later learned that apparently he had some sort of upper body injury at the end of game one (shoulder, arm, can't remember) that somewhat limited him the rest of the series. Still, wow - it was like two different players.

I'm not bashing Teubert or the pick or his future. In Dean We Trust.

Fast forward a few months and it looks like Teubert subscribes to the Jim Rome theory of MAN'S GAME. He is lightn suckers up, smokin fools and all the other phrases that make sports talk radio enjoyable and annoying at the same time. Check out how Teubert was rolling earlier this week in what was basically a SCRIMMAGE(!) for team Canada's WJC team..

NHL ready? Who knows? I'll wait for Coach Murray or Dean or Hex or some other expert to weigh in on that topic. For now, let's all just have fun watching that clip again.

The Mayor

The Mayor interviews Colten Teubert

note: to watch the full report from that game, follow TSN's coverage here: WJC Summer Camp

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Faith - hockey style

Being that it's Sunday I've decided to give a few thoughts on faith.

Since I don't go to church some might say I don't have any faith at all. While others might say that after giving the Kings lots of my money for nearly 20 years that's all I have - faith.

Either way, one thing is for sure. I'm losing faith in the Hockey News.

It's kinda funny. Today I was going to write about my shock and disgust that there is even a debate going on in certain online circles about "if" JR is hall of fame worthy. Come on people, you KNOW I have an opinion on that one (so, I'll get to that debate in a future blog). Yet, while cruising The Hockey News website this week I noticed they're revealing their predictions for the upcoming season. Actually, they're slowly revealing their thoughts, with a new team added daily. You know, to build interest. Oohh, the drama.

While clicking in today I notice they have the Kings ranked #12 in the West. WHAT?

Let's spend a few minutes on this. Last season the teams finished:

1. San Jose
2. Detroit
3. Vancouver
4. Chicago
5. Calgary
6. St. Louis
7. Columbus
8. Anaheim
9. Minnesota
10. Nashville
11. Edmonton
12. Dallas
13. Phoenix
14. Los Angeles
15. Colorado

THN sees the bottom of the West this year looking like:

12. Los Angeles
13. Minnesota
14. Colorado
15. Phoenix


Assuming that you agree with what most people would say (and why would you, that's no fun...however, in the spirit of keeping this blog relatively short, lets assume that) - San Jose, Detroit and Chicago are the three best teams in the West as we head into the new season.

Those same people would probably say that Calgary, Vancouver and Anaheim are in the second best tier.

So six spots out of 15 are taken. Actually, nine spots are taken because you can slot Phoenix, Colorado and Minnesota in the bottom three.

That leaves six teams - St. Louis (#6 last year), Columbus (#7), Nashville (#10), Edmonton (#11), Dallas (#12) and LA (#14) - to "battle" it out for seeds 7-12 this year.

Can you sensibly make the argument that out of those six teams the Kings will rank dead last this year? NO WAY.

The West is wide open this year, outside of just a few elite teams (and even those teams have some question marks).

What propels this belief? Some misguided eternal faith in the Kings? Perhaps. My unwavering (and growing) faith in Dean? Maybe.

But how about some simple logic. Or, even common sense. Perhaps my dad was right though. He would say "common sense isn't very common at all." Must be true when you have the leading hockey information source in the WORLD putting out garbage like this.

If you're not the optimist or realist that I am or want to be, at best you could say those six teams are all interchangeable. That barring injuries and such, any of those teams could end up in any of the #7 - #12 slots. Even IF I want to follow that train of thought, come on. Give the Kings a little more credit. The goal tending is better coming into this year than it was coming into last season. All of the "kids" have another year of experience. Plus, Dean addressed the two things he said they needed to do this summer - get a top 6 forward and continue strengthening the defense. Check and check.

More importantly for me, they added the missing ingredient that is so often needed. I don't care if you call it character, grit, that extra special something, WHATEVER. It's been missing from this team since guys like Lappy and Deadmarsh were here. I love the kids, yet the one thing I've been dying to see on this team is grit.

Recently I had a conversation with Jim Fox at Healthsouth (yes, I still refuse to call it TSC...and yes, the Angels are not from Los Angeles...hold on, I need to breathe...ok, I'm back). He was talking about how so many of the "experts" love to draw the comparisons between the Kings and the Blackhawks. I was telling him - and now I'm sharing with you - I think the better comparison is right in our own backyard. And I think the comparisons run all the way through the organization. The Kings are the Dodgers of 24 months ago.

Everybody used to complain about McCourt as an owner (until they started winning). People questioned the hiring of the GM and some of his early moves (until they started winning). The boys in blue were full of young talent. Yet, they couldn't win until they added Manny. What is Manny? He is that grit. The guy is a gamer and his teammates feed off of him.

The Kings have finally added some grit, some character, some of the missing ingredient by acquiring Ryan Smyth. Don't get me wrong. He isn't going to put up MVP like numbers ala Manny. However, he is going to be the leader for all of the younger players in LA. And just like the Dodgers, once the Kings start winning people will stop complaining about AEG as owners, they will stop questioning Dean's plan, etc. Winning solves everything. Its been proven time and time again and the Dodgers are just the latest example.

The Kings are back. The wins are coming. Believe me. I have faith. And I have enough common sense to say that the Kings will certainly finish better than #12 in the West this season.

Can I get an amen?

The Mayor

NOTE: you too can follow the daily drama on THN as they continue to post their rankings by clicking here: The Hockey News 2009-2010 predictions