Saturday, November 14, 2009

Random Ramblings

Very few things sound worse than four games in six nights. Well, five in eight nights doesn't sound much better - but, we'll get to that later.

For now, here's where things stand:

* After the dismal performance the Kings showed in their last game at home, it would have been nice to start the road trip off with a win in Chicago. It didn't happen.

* Carolina looked like an easy win heading in to Wednesday given that they had lost about 43 straight games this season. "Looks easy" is always scary. And given how bad the Kings needed a win after dropping a few, be honest - you were worried too. Last year's team would have wilted under the pressure. This year's team - they took care of business and got the win. Poor Carolina.

* Well, the goaltending in Atlanta wasn't as bad as first reported. Pavelec looked just fine while making all 38 saves.

* Bogosian got over on Doughty. He scored the third goal of the game and was a +4 for the night. Drew's claim to fame was posting "only" a -1 on a night his team lost 7-0. Both guys played about 24 minutes. Did I mention they're only 19?

* Kovalchuk got over on Kopitar. Ilya had ANOTHER two goal game against the Kings.

* Finally saw Ivanans trying to impose his will in a game this season. Yes, against the dreaded Tampa Bay Lightning.

* Rick Tocchet can complain all he wants, but that WAS NOT a goal in overtime. His guy was about to ride Quick like a backpack. No goal!

* Still no sign of Frolov of in the shootout. Really?

* Who would have ever thought the Kings would be up 1-0 after three full rounds of the shootout? Then, Quick got the number one star for the game. It's about damn time.

* So much for the team playing on the second night of a back to back losing two thirds of the time. Atlanta beat the Kings Friday (after playing Thursday in NY) and the Kings won Saturday (after playing those Thrashers the night before). Weird.

* Four points after those four games in six days. Sounds fine to me.

* Ryan Smyth should have had at least three, if not five, goals in the last two games. Still not sure how he missed some of those WIDE open looks at the net.

Sunday is the day of rest. Just ask the Kings. Then on Monday night it'll be time to wrap up the road trip with a game in Miami versus the Panthers. One point would be nice, two would be even better.

Come back Monday and we'll find some interesting story lines to ponder before game time.


photo courtesy of

Friday, November 13, 2009

13 Things to Know Before Tonight

Superstitions in sports are as old as the games themselves. Hockey is no exception, where guys tape their sticks a certain way, grow beards in the playoffs and there's the octopi throwing Red Wing fans.

Somebody forgot to tell the NHL schedule maker that playing games on Friday the 13th would probably only increase the weirdness. So - after walking across the street backwards, while rubbing my stomach with my left hand four times, then tugging my ear twice - I give to you, 13 things to mull over while preparing to watch the Kings take on the Thrashers tonight:

* Drew Doughty vs Zach Bogosian -
these two will probably be linked throughout their careers. DD was taken #2 in the draft, with Zach going right behind him at #3. Both are considered two of the best - if not THE two best - young defenseman in the league. And to think, neither of them has turned 20 yet. Wow.

* Canada vs USA - both defenseman could make their respective Olympic squads. Come February you could see Zach in red, white and blue; while Drew possibly suits up for host Canada.

* Making his point - Doughty has nine points in the last 10 games (1-8=9).

* He's baaaaackkkk - after some initial confusion, with the GM and coach giving conflicting information, Ilya Kovalchuk made his return to the ice last night in New York. For those wondering, he had a goal and two assists. Some things never change.

* Frolov vs Kovalchuk - While there has been plenty of conjecture in the last year that these two should be traded for each other, it probably doesn't make sense for either side. Kovalchuk is the face of the franchise in Atlanta and resigning him would help solidify a team still searching for an identity. Fro on the other hand, may or may not be part of the long term Kings outlook. LA's bright lights now shine on a guy wearing #11.

* The real main event - the Thrashers
homepage says it all "Kovalchuk vs. Kopitar Tonight".

* More on those two - last season when the teams met in LA, take a guess who the two stars were...Kovalchuk and Kopitar each had a pair of goals. Kings lost in a shootout (literally), 7-6.

* Making a point II - Frolov has 10 points in the last 10 games (3-7=10). If you like to pick a guy for first goal, go with Fro tonight.

* Quick vs well...? - the Thrashers are a mess in goal right now. Their main guy, Kari Lehtonen, is out with back problems. He just underwent a second surgery - which doesn't sound good. The two guys filling in have been decent, with NHL veteran Johan Hedberg actually playing pretty well. For the Kings, its back to Quick after letting Ersberg get some playing time on Wednesday.

* Heads Up - LA is 7-1-3 lifetime vs Atlanta. On the road they're 3-1-1. However, the Kings have lost the last two at Atlanta. With the first of those losses all the way back in December '03, the "streak" probably isn't relevant. The two teams just don't play each other enough.

* Back to Back - The Kings had last night off, while the Thrashers played at MSG. Does that give the Kings an advantage? Well, for the month of October the team playing the second night of a B2B had a record of 12-21-0 (just a 36% winning percentage). Hope it helps.

* Useless Trivia - Ten years ago former Kings winger Kelly Buchberger scored the first goal in Thrashers history. It came in the second period of their first ever game, a 4-1 loss to New Jersey.

* The Kings are 1-1 on the current roadtrip and play again tomorrow night in Tampa Bay. Going back to the first point, who was the only player taken ahead of Doughty and Bogosian in the 2008 draft...Steven Stamkos of the Lightning.

Stay away from black cats the rest of the day. Only eat the green M and Ms.  Oh...and if Scott Parse scores in the second period, clap fast three times.

The Mayor

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

10 Tidbits on Drew Doughty

Teenagers aren't supposed to play in the NHL, especially on defense. Most scouts will tell you because of the complexities of the position, the majority of young d-men won't mature until about 24-25. Tonight in Carolina, on game two of the Kings current five game road trip, young Drew Doughty will play in his 100th NHL game. Even more remarkable than the quantity of games played BEFORE his 20th birthday is the quantity of minutes played - he led the Kings and all NHL rookies with nearly a 24 minute average last season and continues to lead the team most nights this season.

(Doughty's first hockey card, age 4)
In celebration of what is sure to be many milestones to come for Drew, let's take a closer look at the guy teammates call Dewy:

  • Born in London, Ontario, Canada. It's quite the hotbed of hockey. Other NHLers from London - Jeff Carter (Philly), Joe Thornton (San Jose) and Eric Lindros (multi-teams).

  • Numbers Game - wore #3 when playing for Team Canada at the World Championships last Spring. Growing up he wore #99 in honor of his childhood idle - Wayne Gretzky. Then, briefly wore #19 for Joe Sakic. With his Junior team (Guelph) and here in LA he wears #8 (taken from his birthday (Dec 8).

  • Was taken second overall by the Kings in the 2008 draft. It could end up being a very memorable 1st round for defenseman. Other key guys taken that day - Colten Teubert (Kings #13), Zach Bogosian (Atl #3), Luke Schenn (Tor #5) and probable Calder candidate this season, Michael Del Zotto (NYR #20)

  • Prior to the draft E.J. McGuire, the NHL's director of Central Scouting, said that Doughty is "a defenseman around which a team is going to build the next 10 years." Yep.

  • Won gold with Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships, where he was named Top Defenseman of the tournament. He was just the fifth Canadian d-man to win the award (Marc Staal 2006, Dion Phaneuf 2005, Bryan McCabe 1995, Gord Kluzak 1982) and the first to win it before being drafted into the NHL. Also played for his native country at the 2009 World Championships (earned silver medal), the 2007 World Junior Under-18 Championships and the 2006 World Junior Under-17 Championships. Also has an outside chance of making the very deep roster that will represent Team Canada at the upcoming Olympics in Vancouver. Participated in the initial training camp in August and will anxiously await the final roster announcement on December 31st.

  • Other awards - was voted Best Offensive Defenseman in the 2007 and 2008 OHL Coaches Poll (Guelph, Juniors) and was also named to the OHL All-Rookie Team in 2005-06. Selected to participate in the YoungStars game at the '09 NHL All-Star Weekend in Montreal. After his rookie campaign in the NHL was named to the '08-09 All-Rookie Team.

  • Offensively minded - tied for first among NHL rookie defensemen last season with 27 points and 21 assists. This was after he put up 50 points (13-37=50) in 58 regular season games during his final campaign with the Guelph Storm.

  • Was called out by former Kings forward and current broadcaster, Jim Fox, after the first game of the current season. In an article HERE Foxy called it Drew's "worst game as a King."

  • Making history - made his NHL debut on Oct 11, 2008 vs. San Jose. Recorded first NHL point with a goal Oct. 20, 2008 vs. Colorado.

  • Under contract - He is currently in the second year of his initial three year deal, earning $875k per year. He'll be a restricted free agent at the end of next season. If you're placing a bet, put it all down that he isn't going anywhere!

  • 100 and counting. Keep 'em coming Drew. You're the foundation of what is arguably the most promising group of young d-men currently assembled by any NHL team. The Kings are in good shape for many years to come with you minding the blue line.

    In closing, it should also be noted that Michal Handzus will be playing in his 700th NHL game tonight too. The signing of Handzus was universally panned when first announced a few summers ago after he was given a four year deal - at a time when he was coming off reconstructive knee surgery. Although his first season as a King was nothing to write home about, near the end of that year you could start to see he was slowly regaining his pre-surgery form. That was confirmed last year when he had a remarkable bounce back season. The chemistry formed with Alexander Frolov has continued this year and many now see what Dean Lombardi was banking on when he first signed him...a solid two way center. Congrats Zeus on game #700.

    The only number that could be more meaningful tonight is one. As in "wins: one in a row." If you prefer the number two, that could work also. As in "the end of the two game losing streak" or "two points." Either will do.

    The Mayor


    10 Tidbits on Dustin Brown - the Kings captain scores NHL goal #100

    10 Tidbits on Wayne Simmonds - yearning for top six minutes

    10 Tidbits on Willie Mitchell - a story of pickles and burgers

    10 Tidbits on Alex Ponikarovsky - we welcome Poni Boy to LA, Hollywood style


    Monday, November 9, 2009

    20 Questions with #20 - Interview with Luc Robitaille

    From the 1984 NHL Entry Draft to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals. From his 500th goal in 1999 to his retirement in 2006. Kings fans have been watching Luc Robitaille for two decades now. He's strayed from Los Angeles a few times, yet his heart always belonged to the Kings. Today marks another milestone in the incredible career of the young kid from Montreal who grew up to become the greatest left wing of all time.

    Prior to his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame later today, we had a chance to sit down with Luc...we went all the way back to the beginning and tried to cover everything in was 20 Questions with #20:

    Recently the Kings had a Dad's Trip, something they didn't do back when you were playing. Yet, the bond between father and son was still important - especially when you're younger. Do you remember any advice your dad gave you prior to being drafted?

    My dad never said much to me about playing. He never missed a practice or a game. I think there was one game in Juniors though where he said "I drive two hours to watch you everyday. I don't care if you play bad, but you have to work hard." It never happened again. I didn't want to disappoint him.

    You had a great career at Hull (Junior Hockey), you were the player of the year in 85-86 and the the CHL later created an award named after you (The Luc Robitaille Trophy). Now, its given to the team that scores the most goals in a season. The Kings have drafted six guys that have played for a team that won the award...
    Wow, I didn't know that.

    Well, I'm not sure if its a good thing Luc, none of those prospects have panned out yet.
    (He laughs) Hang in there. Sooner or later one of them will work out.

    There isn't a 'Luc' jinx?
    No, no, no. Don't say that. One of them will pan out. (he laughs some more)

    Well, Nicolas Deslauriers was taken in the third round this year...
    Yeah, he's a real good player. He had a pretty good season.

    So I shouldn't mention the possibility of a jinx to Dean?
    No, no. Don't mention it to him. (More laughter)

    In 1986 you beat Ron Hextall for the Calder Trophy. Do you like to tease him about that now that you guys work together?

    No, I never do. That's something I should though. I've never teased him about that. I tease him about a few of the goals I scored on him though. He said he doesn't remember any of them, but I say I do and I can show him the video. I know he remembers.

    After your second season with the Kings the big trade went down for Wayne. Do you remember how you found out he would be your teammate and what your thoughts were at the time?
    Bruce McNall called me the day before the trade was about to happen and I still wasn't sure it was really going to happen. The next day I was in Montreal when it happened and I had to do a couple hundred interviews. There was no way to get a hold of Wayne because of the press conference, so people starting asking me questions.My thoughts were pure excitement. I idolized Wayne, so to get the best player in the game was great. That was the most excited I ever was in my career about getting a new player on my team. To be able to watch him day in and day out was just amazing.

    The Kings had a great season in 1990-91, winning the Smythe Division. How close was that team to threatening for the Cup? When I talked with Kelly Hrudey recently he said he thought the Edmonton Oilers were what held you guys back; that those guys just had something special and it was hard for you guys to get past them.
    Well, I think every year once we got Wayne we thought about it. You know we had John Tonelli, Kelly Hrudey, Mike Krushelnyski, Larry Robinson. We had good stay at home defenseman in Tom Laidlaw and Tim Watters. We felt every year we had a shot that year. That being said you never know. But, we felt that way every year.

    As far as the Oilers, well - we beat them in the playoffs one year, they beat us the next year. They still had a good aura. But we had some good runs against them. I actually thought Calgary and Edmonton both gave us the most problems.

    In the '92-93 season Gretzky was hurt and you were given the 'C'. Many people have said that you played differently as the captain. Do you think so?
    I think so. Barry Melrose gave me a lot of respect with that. To tell you the truth, it was my first time in LA playing on the top line. All the years prior I was always on the second like. So that changed a lot of my responsibilities. I remember Barry asking me to work hard every day and it certainly paid off. I enjoyed the responsibility.

    The following year the Kings missed the playoffs and then things got weird. There was a lockout, you were traded to the Penguins. Did having Tomas Sandstrom in Pittsburgh make the transition any easier for you?
    Well, I knew Howard Baldwin. When I went there he treated me real well. I had a fairly decent year, about a point a game. We had a good run in the playoffs. We lost to New Jersey and they won the cup that year. I enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh. The only reason I left was Howard went to my agent - because of the lockout I was able to file for arbitration - he wasn't going to be able to pay me. We didn't know at the time, but he was in trouble financially. He did me a favor and sent me to New York.

    Let's talk about your time as a Ranger. You got the chance to play with the guy that many people claim is the best captain in all of sports, Mark Messier. What did you learn from him?
    I learned a lot from Mark. I was really impressed with how hard he worked every game, he was such an impact on every game. What impressed me the most though was the way he lead. He lead with a constant positive thoughts. If you worked hard and you were honest, you were part of Mark's group. If you weren't working hard and you weren't honest, you were just literally out. That's why Mark won so many cups because of the way he lead. He was definitely one of the best leaders I ever played with.

    In August of '97 one of Dave Taylor's first moves as the new GM of the Kings was to bring you back to Los Angeles. How excited were you at the time?
    I was excited. Dave talked to me right away. I knew what was expected of me in LA. Larry Robinson was the coach, it was a good fit. Unfortunately, I was hurt the first year. I played with a bad groin, a hernia, for a long time. Then I had to have hernia surgery. But the team played well. We were staring to build a team. That was fun.

    The last year at the Forum, in '98-99, you went out with a bang - playing all 82 games and scoring 39 goals, the most you had put up in five years. Was that intentional?
    Like I said, the year before I had the hernia surgery and I was not feeling good about my game. It was hard to play with a bad groin all year. Then once I fixed my hernia I got into a new training program. I got a lot stronger and bigger. That's when the players were getting faster and bigger. Literally I changed my career that summer. I probably added ten years to my career that summer.

    A lot of fans still don't understand what happened in the summer of 2001 and why the Kings didn't resign you. What can you share?

    I still don't quite know what happened either. I thought we had a great run. When it comes down to a contract its always about one guy. I had a great year. I was 11th in scoring in the league. We had done everything right. But then I was offered a pay cut. I wasn't expecting a don't know what I was expecting. But I was expecting something. When I was offered a pay cut - you know - that never happens to the leading scorer on your team. I was really disappointed. It happened 24 hours before the July deadline. It was certainly weird the way it happened. There was not a lot of communication. I didn't understand it. But at the time I wasn't going to go and shop myself around. I was going to go for the team that really wanted me. So that's what I let the Kings know at the time - I said "If you want me, you have until tomorrow to sign me" and that was going to be it for me. They never called me back.

    You went on to win the Cup in Detroit your first season there. Then, at the end of your second season the team was swept by Anaheim in the first round of the playoffs. You were about to be a free agent again. Do you remember your first thoughts about what you were in store for?
    I don't really remember. We were so disappointed in the way that season ended. We knew we had a good team and we knew it wasn't going to last forever. That summer, Ken Holland sat me down. He's a very special person. Once that happened I knew I was going to be a free agent.

    Your wife, Stacia, has always been so supportive throughout your career. What were her thoughts when you told her you had a chance to come back to LA to finish your career?
    Tim Leiweke had mentioned to me previously that when my deal was up he wanted me to finish my career in LA. So Stacia and I planned on calling Tim. I knew he would live up to his word. He has been so good to me and my family through the years. It wasn't really much of a surprise at that point.

    After your final game (up in San Jose) the Sharks players and coaches came onto the ice to congrats you. Did that surprise you at all?
    It really surprised me and at the same time it was one of the proudest moments of my career. teammates and your opponents are the people that know the price you pay to play every day. And I know I played my career in an honest way, the right way. So when they did that it was special. It certainly was one the greatest memories of my career. Sometimes the little things make you feel good about situations. That was a big thing for me. I remember Big Joe Thornton approaching me and he spoke very highly of my career and that meant a lot to me.

    Regarding the Hall of Fame festivities, what are you most nervous about?
    I just don't want to screw up the speech. i want to make sure everything goes smooth in that way. I don't want to forget anybody. I'm not really nervous. Its such a great honor. I'm just going to be happy to be part of it and to enjoy every single moment because it never happens again. Its going to be such a blur though. They told me they're going to keep me.

    Tell us about the Omaha Lancers. Your part owner with Mario Lemieux, right?
    Yes. I always wanted to give back to Juniors. I played in the US my whole career. When this team was available in Omaha we started looking into the USHL. We started getting familiar with Junior Major in the US and the chance for kids to go to college. I really liked that concept. Its been fun.

    You were recently on NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's radio show. Why do you think he gets booed so much around the league?
    They've booed every commissioner in the history of sports, ever since the first sport was created. I remember the fans used to boo John Ziegler when he was commissioner. Its just the way it is. I think they get a kick out of it. But Gary has done a lot of stuff throughout his time with the NHL. He's made a lot of changes. Fans all have their opinions. But at the end of the day, what Gary has done with our league he has helped make it so that we compete at a higher level every night, the buildings are fuller now than ever before, he's done an amazing job - but, there's not a commissioner that doesn't get booed. If you get the job of Commissioner, you have to expect to be booed - everywhere.

    If you were the Commissioner, what one thing about the game would you look to change?
    Oh gosh. well, we all like to play Commissioner. But the one thing I would like to do - we all talk about improving tv - the one thing I like to do is get rid of the hurry up faceoffs. Give more time to talk about and tell stories about our great players between whistles.

    Fans in Los Angeles obviously loved you Luc. They get your autograph on just about anything. What about for you, is there any important memorabilia you've kept from your career?

    Its kinda funny because when I was younger I didn't keep much. When I'd get a jersey or something I'd give it to my mom, but I never thought much about it. Once I started having kids I thought Man I gotta start keeping stuff. So I have some stuff in boxes. I kept some stuff when I won the Cup. Believe it or not when we were going to the Finals in '93 I was keeping a lot of stuff. I just had a feeling. The funny thing is, in that series my wife...she knew everybody in the arena and she came to all the games. Most of the time she'd forget her ticket, but they knew where she sat. So, that year in the playoffs I forgot to give her tickets for the first round. She was bugging me to give her the tickets for the second round and I forgot again. By the time we got to third round I said I'm not giving them to you! I remember thinking that's probably the only uncut tickets in existence. So when we made the Finals I said Man if we win the cup this is going to be awesome.

    You've stated that helping the Kings win a Stanley Cup is your number one priority as team President. What other goals have you set for yourself?
    Our fans deserve for us to put a product...and to be a franchise...that acts like one of the top franchises in pro sports. When Mr. Anschutz and Mr. Leiweke gave me this job they let us have people working for the Kings 365 days a year. We take a lot of pride in giving great service to our fans and we're trying to be at the forefront of things, like what we're doing on the internet. We're trying to do as much stuff as possible to be a successful franchise, on and off the ice. Look at what Dean has done too, like redoing the locker room for the second time in two years. We're trying to treat the players with a lot of class. When you look at other teams, like the Dodgers or the Detroit Red Wings, they do all the little things right. That's what we're looking at. That's our goal.

    Thanks Luc. Congratulations on your well deserved honor.

    Luc Robitaille, member of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

    The Mayor


    Word Association with Luc Robitaille - talking teammates and opponents

    Interview with Seth Ambroz of the Omaha Lancers - probable 2011 first round pick

    Interview with Rob Blake

    Interview with Kelly Hrudey

    Interview with Robb Stauber
    To read other interviews we've done with Luc here on Mayors Manor, simply type his name into the search box near the top left corner of this page.

    Players Speak Out on Luc

    Yesterday we published an article with Luc's thoughts on a variety of guys he played with - from the three other members of this year's Hall of Fame class, to guys wearing Kings jerseys.

    Today the roles are reversed. Here are a few comments we've collected from guys that played with or against Luc. They wanted to share their thoughts on Mr Lucky:

    Kelly Hrudey - First off, he worked hard at scoring goals. You can't say that about every player, even though scoring is one of the main objectives in hockey. He worked harder than anybody I played with. Sometimes he was annoying actually. In practice he'd be over in the corner when it wasn't his turn and he would still be firing pucks. He'd ring one off my ankle or a rebound would end up in front of me. I'd be trying to stop the guy coming in on me and I'd be stepping on pucks that Luc was shooting. I would constantly give him a hard time about this. All in all though, I have the utmost respect for his game preparation.

    Marcel Dionne - He was a solid player from the day I first met him. I've always liked his game and him as a person. He was so committed to the game and came every night with all he had. I told him I'd be there to see him at the Hall of Fame no matter what.

    Bernie Nichols - I have a lot of memories from the early days. We were so young. One of the funniest was the story we told (at HockeyFest) about Luc trying to start at fight during training camp. I had to stop it. I thought Dan (Brennan) was going to kill him. Luc just tried to scored goals after that experience.

    Mike Modano - The one thing I remember most about Luc is he had the ugliest looking stick, the curve the shape of the blade. I’d look at that while playing him and think he must be really good to be able to do all that with that stick!

    Jim Fox - A few things come to mind. First, Luc said he remembers reading a book in which Mike Bossy talked about just shooting for the middle of the net to make sure you hit the net. Luc must have been a bad aim, because he sure hit a lot of corners for a guy that was just trying to hit the middle of the net. Also, his incredible hand and wrist strength. He rarely took the stick back more than parallel to the ice, but he was able to generate so much power with half a swing.

    Luc has tons of fans. Even former players love the guy.