Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Second Six

The Original Six is back in style once again - you have Montreal celebrating their 100th season, the Blackhawks resurgence has been one of the top stories in hockey, everybody seems to be waiting on pins and needles to see what Brian Burke is going to do to fix the Maple Leafs...

Yet, let's not forget the Second Six.

Up until 1967 the NHL was a small - very, small - exclusive club. Just six teams. The smallest of any big time sports league. Then, they decided to do the unthinkable and expand. The number of teams doubled and the game moved west.

With the Blues in town today for a game between two of the Second Six, it seemed like a good time to review a little history.

How it came to be - the entire story of the '67 expansion would be a long one. In brief, a few owners had been pushing for adding teams to the NHL in the mid-'60s but were being met with resistance. However, the rival WHL was expanding into West Coast markets and was now threatening the NHL's ability to secure a TV contract. Specifically, in 1965 the NHL was told that without expansion they wouldn't be getting a TV deal going forward. The process began, with the league receiving 14 bids - including FIVE from Los Angeles based groups. In the end, six cities were chosen - Los Angeles, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Oakland.

The Second Six were placed in their own division, you know to keep the "bad" away from the "good". It's like when the new kid comes into a classroom and they make him sit at the back of the room by himself. St Louis got out of the gate quickly, going to the finals three straight years (and being swept all three times - should we call that a St Louis hat trick?). However, they never won the Cup, nor have they been back to the finals since.

But long before the teams started playing each other there was the draft. Dean Lombardi and many GMs before him have talked about the need to build a team from the net out. It's true now and it must have been true back then too. On June 6, 1967 the expansion draft was held - officially creating the Second Six, as they now had players to call their own. LA had the first pick, they took a goalie. Then, the next 11 picks were all goalies. Thus, each team had taken two netminders before the first skater was ever selected. (note: I'll have more on this in an upcoming article on the draft.)

As the years went by a few changes took place with some of the Second Six teams. The California (Oakland) Seals went through a number of name changes, relocated to Cleveland in '76 and eventually folded in '78 (merging with fellow expansion team, the Minnesota North Stars). Of course, Minnesota left their original home too, moving to Dallas in 1993.

Six Stanley Cups have been won by the Second Six. And if the Cup is the ultimate measure of success, Pittsburgh would be the most successful of the bunch. Their three Cups beats Philly's two and the lone cup won by Dallas. The Flyers won their cups first though, going back to back in '74 and '75. Additionally, the Flyers have been to the most Conference finals (14), the most Stanley Cup finals (8) and have the best winning percentage (.578) of all six teams.

As for the Kings...well, they've been to the Stanley Cup finals just once - the magical season of '93. LA has played 644 games against the other surviving Second Six teams (ignoring the defunct California Seals). They have the most wins against Dallas and Pittsburgh, tied at 70.

Back to the present...

When the Kings and Blues square off at Staples Center today it will be the second match up of the season between the two Second Six teams. LA won the first game back in October by a score of 2-1. Two coach Murrays - Andy and Terry (no relation) - will be looking to guide their clubs to a victory and another two points.

In my best Vin Scully voice "...and the deuces are wild!"


picture courtesy of

For the stat heads out there, here's a look at how the Kings have fared all-time vs. the other four surviving teams:
Kings vs. Stars: 70-91-32 (wins-losses-ties)
Kings vs. Penguins: 70-57-18
Kings vs Blues: 63-87-23
Kings vs. Flyers: 38-80-15

note: record vs. Stars includes Minnesota and Dallas, does not include stats from teams merged into the franchise (i.e. California and Cleveland).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let's Get Ready To...

Much has been made this year about the role Raitis Ivanans plays for the LA Kings. Some argue his fighting minutes are down because guys don't want to exchange with such a big heavyweight. Others argue he doesn't play mean enough. Or perhaps, its just that he's been picking his spots this year.

One thing is for sure, when the puck drops tonight at Staples Center the opportunity for a rumble will certainly be present. Ottawa is 4th in the league with 22 fighting majors. The Kings are 26th with only 11. Further, the Senators feature two of the top three leaders in penalty minutes...and also have the 15th ranked player. WOW - three in the top 15. The Kings have only one player in the top 35 (Ivanans) and he is all the way down at #23.

Coming into the season the Sens Matt Carkner had played a whopping two games in the NHL. This year is a different story though. He's played in every game and is third in the league in penalty minutes, with more fighting majors than anybody in the league. has him at 3-1-6 in his 10 fights this year. His 18+ minutes a night are more than any other tough guy mentioned in this article, giving him plenty of opportunity to select his dance partner of choice.

Chris Neil, the Sens forward sitting at #2 on the list of penalty minute leaders, is on pace for a career high - already at 76 PIM in just 22 games. According to he's had 6 fights this year, sporting a 3-2-1 record.

Also on pace for a career high in PIM is Jarkko Ruutu. His 52 PIM in 25 games ranks him 15th in the league. The Finish left wing has just two fights this season, going 1-1 in the pair.

For the Kings, the heavy lifting has been done by Ivanans - it just hasn't been done very often. He has six fighting majors this year. Interestingly, 5 are on the road, with only 1 at home. He's listed with a 2-1-3 record.

Tonight's game will be an interesting affair, as the two teams don't meet very often. Last year in Ottawa the Kings won the only contest played between the two all season, 1-0.

Ivanans dropped the gloves versus the Ducks on Tuesday night. Could he be in store for back-to-back, with a rumble vs. Ottawa?


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prospects Continue to Shine

Finding a silver lining in all the futility of the last few years can be tough. Top draft picks have probably been the one thing everybody can agree has helped the franchise. From day one Dean Lombardi has talked about the importance of not just having younger players in the system, but the right younger players. Ones with high upside, strong character and guys that have been tested in key hockey situations - like playoffs and international play.

It doesn't get much bigger than the grand stage of the World Junior Championships. Team Canada has dominated the holiday tournament, winning five straight gold medals. More importantly, it features a who's who of all the best under 20 players in the world.

With games beginning at the end of the month, camp selections are staring to be announced. Take a look at some of the Kings prospects already invited to participate:

Team Canada
Colten Teubert (D) - 1st round pick 2008
Nicholas Deslauriers (D) - 3rd round pick 2009
Brandon Kozun (RW) - 6th round pick 2009
Brayden Schenn (C) - 1st round pick 2009
Martin Jones (G) - free-agent signing
* note: the Kings selection of five players was more than any other NHL team

Team Russia
Vyacheslav Voinov (D) - 2nd round pick 2008

Team USA
At one point it appeared a lock that Robbie Czarnik (C), a 3rd round pick in 2008, would make the team - especially after playing two years on the under-18 team. However, just a few weeks ago he left the University of Michigan to play Junior hockey in the OHL. Why leave one of the best programs in all of college hockey? He said "I don't think I got as better as I should have." Team USA must have agreed.

More teams will be announced in the days to come.

Nearly every top player you can think of to come through the Kings system in the last decade has played in this tournament - Brown, Frolov, Doughty, Kopitar, etc. and you can add top prospects currently in the system to the list too - guys like Bernier and Hickey.

If you want to see some of the future stars of the Kings, watch the World Junior Championships beginning December 26th. DirecTV and Center Ice usually play a handful of games, including Team USA vs. Canada (12/31 at 5pm PST) and the medal rounds (1/2 -1/5/2010).

Of course, will have all the key stories too!


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

10 Tidbits on Wayne Simmonds

As a team the Kings are break even in their last 10 games and were only one game above .500 for the month of November. Not exactly setting the world on fire. Individually, the guy that carried the team for the first six weeks of the season - Anze Kopitar - has pulled a Frolov like disappearing act, having not found the back of the net in 9 games now. Back in early September I wrote about the budding bro-mance between Kopi and Ryan Smyth (click HERE for the 'love' article) and it sure seems like he's somewhat lost without him right now.

Then, there's Wayne 'the Train' Simmonds...he's scored a goal in three straight games now, the second time he's pulled that stunt already this season.

His ability to score timely goals is starting to shine through. Here are 10 things you might now now about 'theTrain':

* 109 and Counting - Was one of five Kings players to play in all 82 games last season. He's added to that total by playing in all 27 so far this season.

* He was born August 26th, the same day as former King Steve Carlson. Yes, that guy - 'Killer' Carlson from the movie Slap Shot. Steve played just one season for the Kings, back in '79-80. He played a few more years in the CHL and AHL before eventually coaching the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL. Life imitating art. By the way, if you've never seen the movie, your homework assignment for tomorrow night is to rent it. A true classic.

* Grew up in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. Actors Mike Myers, John Candy and Jim Carrey also spent time in Scarborough during their youth. Candy also had (loose) ties to the Kings back in the '90s. He was friends with then owner Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky. The three also bought a Canadian football team together in 1991.

* While Kopitar won this year's Eddie Joyal Award (read article by clicking HERE), Simmonds did tie him for the preseason goal lead with 5...and he did it in just six games.

* In 2006-07 and part of '07-08 he played Junior hockey as part of the Owen Sound Attack - the same team that Brad Richardson played for from 2001-2005. It was the '04-05 season where Richardson scored...sit down for this one...41 goals in 68 regular season games. Anaheim's Bobby Ryan was part of that team and was still around when Simmonds joined the team (Richardson left the year before). To put Richardson's accomplishment in perspective, Ryan scored 37 goals in 62 games on that same team. Wow. Those two may never be mentioned in the same sentence again when talking about goals. King prospect Trevor Lewis also played there one year with Simmonds, 2006-07.

* With Owen Sound out of the playoff picture, Simmonds was traded to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for the final 31 games (and playoffs) during the '07-08 season. The legendary Greyhounds have a long long list of NHL alumni - including former Kings Charlie Simmer, Wayne Gretzky, Paul Coffey, Rick Tocchet - oh yeah, and Dan Cloutier.

* International Play - was on the 2008 World Juniors team for Canada, a gold medal winning team that included fellow Kings Drew Doughty; Kings prospects Jon Bernier and Thomas Hickey...and two kids named Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. Quite a line-up.

* From the age of 16 until joining the NHL last year, he had consistently been a point a game player each year. Last season, his first in the NHL, he averaged about a point every four games. He's picked it up this year, with 15 points in 23 games (.56 points per game).

* 2007 NHL Draft - Dean Lombardi turned a lot of heads that year, taking Thomas Hickey of the Seattle Thunderbirds with the 4th overall pick (Patrick Kane went #1 to the Blackhawks and Philly selected American born James van Riemsdyk #2). The Kings threw a huge, ultra expensive, open bar party at the new Hollywood and Highland that year to celebrate the draft day activities. They took Oscar Moller with their first of two picks in the second round (#52 overall) and then selected Simmonds #61 overall (the last pick of the second round). Interestingly, that pick had ties to Anaheim. The Kings acquired it on Feb 25, 2007 as part of the compensation from Vancouver when LA shipped Brett Sopel to the Canucks. Vancouver had originally received the pick when Anaheim hired coach Randy Carlyle in August 2005.

* Foreshadowing - In just his 3rd NHL game Simmonds scored his first career goal. Who were the Kings playing that night? Jean-Sébastien Giguère and the Anaheim Ducks.

Perhaps Wayne the Train and the rest of the Kings can ride the rails out of Anaheim with two points tonight. The puck drops in about an hour.



10 Free Agent Tidbits - notes on Frolov and Ponikarovsky, plus thoughts on Kariya

10 Tidbits on Alexander Frolov

10 Tidbits on Dustin Brown

10 Tidbits on Drew Doughty


The other Subway Series

No, we're not talking New York baseball.

On Monday the Kings and Ducks announced this year's Freeway Face-Off Series would be sponsored by Subway - you know, the sandwich people.

Well, before you get all hyped up and go order a foot long combo to help support the people supporting the NHL, take note of this...Subway was also the title sponsor of a huge hockey tournament that just wrapped up last week.

For the seventh consecutive year, the Subway Super Series was played throughout Canada, with a team of Russian players challenging various Canadian Junior All-Star teams. Don't worry, I'm not writing an article all about Subway, its actually about the Kings many prospects that participated in the tournament this year.

When the six-game event kicked off with a pair of games in the QMJHL area, defenseman Nicolas Deslauriers (Kings third round pick in 2009) was the only LA prospect on either side of the ice. He was held pointless, however his team won both games. This kid looked extremely well rounded in the September rookie camp here in SoCal and expect to hear his name quite a bit in the years to come.

A few days later things moved over to the OHL. Unfortunately, the Kings second round pick from this year - Kyle Clifford (who, coincidentally was the MVP of the Kings rookie camp this year, which you can read all about by clicking HERE) was not available due to an injury. No other Kings draft picks cracked the line-up. Didn't matter much though, as the Russians lost both games again.

Then, last week, when the final two games were staged over in the WHL, the Canadian roster was littered with Kings prospects. In fact, all three Kings selections from this past June's draft that came from the WHL were selected to play - Brayden Schenn (#5 overall, first round), Linden Vey (4th round) and Brandon Kozun (6th round). Additionally, 'Mr. Nasty' Colten Teubert (#13 overall, 1st round '08) captained the team for game one, while undrafted goaltending prospect Martin Jones started game two.

Quick game summaries:
Wed 11/25 - Schenn and Vey both had an assist. WHL won 2-1.

Thurs 11/26 - Vey goal, Kozun assist, Jones win (only gave up two goals). WHL won 4-2.

Of course, Schenn wasn't available to play for the WHL squad on Thursday because he was making his NHL debut for the Kings in Vancouver.

Final comments on Teubert... As noted in some of my previous articles on this kid, he's been somewhat of a loose cannon (click HERE to read notes from August when he took out his own teammates in practice!). However, upon closer examination of his stats, perhaps he's finally learning to control his emotions and play a more intelligent defensive game. Last year he played 60 games with the Regina Pats and had 37 points (12g, 25a), with 136 penalty minutes (almost identical to his 135 from the season before). So far this year, in 27 games his offense is on pace to be at the same level (currently, 20 points: 6g & 14 a). It's his PIM that have taken a dramatic notch down. With only 46 PIM so far, he's on pace for about 102...or a 25% decline. Nice.

So, now that we know who some of the stars were for the north of the border Subway Series...who's going to steal the headlines tonight when Subway presents game one of the Freeway Faceoff Series between the Ducks and Kings?

Man, all this writing is making me hungry.

The Mayor


Click to read interviews on with...

Brandon Kozun
Colten Teubert
Kyle Clifford
Nic Deslauriers


Monday, November 30, 2009

Manchester Mondays

Catching up with life over in Manchester, NH - where most of the Kings top prospects are playing this year:

* The first place Monarchs went 3-0 last week, with two road wins and a home victory. Their record at home this season is now 9-1-0-1. The only team to beat them on home ice was the defending Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears. This week they'll be playing three at home and only one road game.

* Top point getter Andrei Loktionov (6 goals, 11 assists = 17 points) was called up by the Kings and blew out his shoulder in his NHL debut at Vancouver. He's expected to miss four months, ending his possible run at the AHL Rookie of the Year award. He was 4th in rookie points at the time of the injury. Oscar Moller now leads the active Monarchs with 16 points.

* Goaltender Jonathan Berneir went 2-0 last week; pushing his record to 10-5-2, with a stellar 1.75 GAA on the season. For those interested, you can chat with Bernier online this Thursday when he visits the AHL chat room. Simply visit for all the info.

* Backup netminder, Geoff Zatkoff (who played here in SoCal for the Ontario Reign last season) has been solid as the back-up. He picked up the shootout win on Saturday, the second of a back to back game for the Monarchs. Big Z is now 5-2 on the season.

* Another former Ontario Reign player (and another Geoff), Geoff Walker, scored his first AHL goal in Wednesday's game vs. Bridgeport. Walker had started the season with the Monarchs and then was sent down to Ontario. Injuries had the Kings making several line-up changes last week, forcing Manch to restock too - and Walker was recalled. With Loktionov injured, he may get the chance to stay in the 'A'.

* Kevin Westgarth, not necessarily known for his scoring prowess (4 goals in 65 games last season), notched his first goal of the year on Wednesday. There is still an outside chance he'll be recalled by the Kings this week for their match-up with the Ducks on Tuesday.