Saturday, December 19, 2009

Best of the Decade: Kings Center

The fine folks at have put together a nice little series of debates to help everybody get through the next week or so. Life can be rough without hockey for eight days. Their solution? To take "EIGHT days to FIGURE out the best of the last 10 years."

My selections will sit along side those of Jim Fox, Bob Miller and others. You can read the various arguments, then vote. Pretty simple.

First up, Best Center. My article began as follows:
Most teams win or die by who is in net. Yet, it's usually the centers who get all the attention. If Magic, Manny or Marino played hockey, they'd probably all be centers.

Picking the best Kings center of the last 10 years isn't as easy as it should be. Any other time period would elicit much less debate. '70s? Butch Goring. '80s? Easy - Marcel Dionne. 90's? Of course, Gretz. The last 10 years? Um....

Former Kings coach Andy Murray says Derek Armstrong should get big props. While not alluding to him being as good as any of the above names, he simply points out that Army stepped his game up at a time so many other players were out injured. Not a bad pick I guess, Army is 10th all-time in Kings history for points by a centerman.

But for me, there is only one right choice.
To see my selection and read the rest of the article, click here --> LA Kings Figure Eight Debate.

When you're done reading, be sure to vote! Or come back here and tell me how much you absolutely agree with me.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday's Footnotes

So, FINALLY, the Kings will get a few days off. It's been a brutal month from a scheduling standpoint. LA just finished playing six games in nine nights and their 10th game this month! Today's blog includes a game recap from Calgary, injury updates, some video and begins to answer a question - WHO IS THE BEST CENTER to play for the Kings this decade?

The Recap

Kings lose 2-1 in a night of firsts, I guess.

Flames captain Dion Phaneuf scored his first goal in 20 games to give Calgary the early lead.

Corey Elkins, skating in just his second game since being called up from Manchester, scored his first NHL goal. An accomplishment that was rewarded with a return trip to Manchester this morning. Sure he was an emergency call up, but is it really that important to see Purcell or Harold get more ice time at this point?

The Flames penalty killing was downright smothering. Some of the best the Kings have seen all year. LA gave it their all in third though, out shooting Calgary 16-3...and late in the game it looked like LA was going to tie it up...but, no.

THE first the Kings were hoping for was a win in Calgary. It's now been eight trips to the Saddledome without a win. They'll travel back to Alberta and try again on 12/30. Given that the teams could potentially meet in the first round of the playoffs, the Kings need to solve what's puzzling them up there.

If you don't have the Center Ice package and want to see some of the action (the goals, the big hits, etc.) CLICK HERE to watch the NHL approved highlights.

The Kings fell out of first place with the loss.

Injury Update

More information will be available in the days leading up to the next game (12/26 at Phoenix). For now, the GREAT news is that Ryan Smyth was activated earlier today and is on track for his return to the line-up when the Kings play the Coyotes. Jarret Stoll should be back by then too, along with Jack Johnson and Randy Jones. Wayne Simmonds will still need a few more weeks.

With guys healing, combined with the long break the team gets beginning today, three other players will join Elkins on the trip back to Manchester - Oscar Moller, Scott Parse and Alec Martinez.

The Debates

Over the next week or so will be presenting a special series where a few guests will debate some Best of the Decade topics involving the Kings organization. They asked me to weigh in on a few of the topics, staring with issue #1 that was posted earlier today:

Who is the Best Kings Center of the last 10 years?

To read what I had to say and see how my answers compared to the others CLICK HERE to read the articles. The only hint I'll give is that I didn't pick Anze Kopitar.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Rubber Match, of sorts

The Kings and Flames have met twice already this season. And by some strange stoke of scheduling, the teams are playing each other three times this month in an 11 day period.

Will familiarity breed contempt?

Game one in November was a lopsided affair, Flames captain Jarome Iginla had a hat trick and Calgary downed LA 5-2.

With the way the Western Conference standings are starting to shake out these two teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs. Thus, I prefer to think of this month as a three-game playoff preview.

The Kings took game one of the fictitious mini series, a tight 2-1 contest in LA on December 7th. Game two is tonight and the final match-up will be Dec 30th, also in Calgary.

Injuries have to be a big part of the pre-game story. The Kings have been playing without Ryan Smyth for quite some time already. Then more recently Wayne Simmonds, Jack Johnson, Jarret Stoll and Randy Jones have joined him on the sidelines.

Returning to the Kings line-up is defenseman Alec Martinez, he played one game earlier in the season (opening game of the season, where he was a -2 with 16 minutes of ice time). Corey Elkins will also play again, after making his NHL debut Tuesday night in Edmonton.

Over the past few years Miikka Kiprusoff has been one of the best goalies in the league, if not the world. Jonathan Quick will once again try to outplay him and prove to his doubters that he is for real and a netminder whose status is on the rise.

While Quick and his teammates have had a great month so far, the Flames have lost three straight entering tonight. Can the Kings keep rolling and hand Calgary their fourth straight loss?

It wont be easy. Not only is LA all banged up, putting the line combinations in disarray; they're also finishing up a horrific part of the schedule where they will have played six games in nine nights. Not to mention the fact that the Flames have beaten the Kings in their last seven trips to Calgary.

No worries says coach Terry Murray. It's just another game. One team will pick up two points. Coaches usually follow that with 'whichever team wants it more.'

After it's over the Kings will fly home to begin a much needed break for the holidays.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LA > EDM: video highlights included

This one's going to be short. Five quick notes on the game tonight and then it's on to the video highlights...

* Captain Dustin Brown and Brad "watch me go" Richardson traded goals and assists to put the Kings up 2-0. However, you know, in the new NHL 'no lead is safe'...and with Kings fans probably fearing this was all too good to be true, yes - the Oilers came back to tie things up.

* They say pro athletes never forget plays in a game. So, Sean O'Donnell must have been channelling his mental notes of the last time the Kings played in Edmonton (when fellow defensive-defenseman Matt Greene scored the game winning goal) - for the first time in 157 games Odie put the biscuit in the basket, giving the Kings a 3-2 win over the Oilers.

* Jonathan Quick, who will finally get a day off on Wednesday - because the Kings don't have a game! - stood on his head again. The media up north must take greater notice of what's going on between the pipes, as Quick was the first star of the game. Why he hasn't earned more of those at home is beyond me.

* Among the injured group, Jarret Stoll may have been the most disappointed to miss the game. Not only was it versus his former team, he has strong ties to the whole area - he was drafted by Calgary, then later the Oilers (he re-entered the draft) and is from Melville, Saskatchewan. Back at Frozen Fury in September I met another Melvill-ian (?). He was probably equally bummed. First, his 'Riders lost the Grey Cup, now the Kings are 2-0 against the Alberta teams this month. Ouch!

* Hold your breath too - Jack Johnson was injured blocking a shot in the first period. Although he played a few more shifts in the second, he was sent for x-rays after the game. Results are pending (updated: He'll miss the game on Thursday vs. Calgary).

Once again SoCal fans without the Center Ice package were left out in the cold. CLICK HERE to watch the NHL approved highlights of the game.


Interview w/ Ethan Moreau, Oilers Captain

Over the last two years Kings GM Dean Lombardi has signed Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar to long-term extensions - wanting to get his guys under contract before their free agency window opened.

Up north in Alberta, the Oilers did the same thing a few years prior. Steve Staios and Ethan Moreau both inked four year extensions in the months following their playoff run in 2006. A symbolic move Lombardi would probably describe as guys showing they have the team logo tattooed on their bodies.

Similar to Brownie and the Kings, following his long-term deal Moreau was later made Captain of the Oilers. A lineage that includes names like Gretzky, Messier and Buchberger.

Prior to the LA Kings taking on his team in Edmonton tonight I had a chance to talk all things hockey with Ethan. It's another MayorsManor exclusive - Conversations with a Captain:

Last season you won the King Clancy award. When you look back at the names of guys that have won that award in the past you see some big time, hall of fame type players. To be mentioned in the same breathe as them had to be something special for you.

It was. I do a lot of work in the community and it was nice to be recognized (the picture is of him getting his head shaved for charity). Our community foundation put together a good package and presented it to the NHL. It was nice to be acknowledged, even though a lot of those things we do is just because we want to do them. It makes you feel good as a person. But, to be acknowledged and to be able to go to the awards in Vegas, to bring my kids and to hang out with a lot of elite players, it was definitely a thrill.

This season there's been a lot of talk about the legality of hits and the number of injuries around the league. You were even involved in some of the discussion a month or so ago when Ryan Wilson of the Avs gave you a hard elbow to the head (video here). Are things getting out of control in the NHL? Do you feel that things are different on the ice this year versus previous years?

I think it's a result of guys being faster and bigger. You have a bunch of guys that are over 220 pounds and they can skate really fast. It's a vicious game. We've had mentions that the collisions are more violent now because of the strength and speed of the players - through training - there's really no way to police that. Its a very physical game. There's going to be guys that get knocked out, there's going to be guys that get concussions. There's no way around that.

Back in '94 you were taken in the first round of the draft. Were you excited to be going to an original six team or was it more about just getting to the NHL?

It was a long time ago, but I remember being rated fairly high. I knew I wouldn't go past Chicago. There was a chance I might go before that, but I had some good talks with Darryl Sutter, who was the coach at the time. He made it clear he would pick me if I was available to them. So, I was extremely excited to go to Chicago and like you mentioned, an original six team. They had a lot of veteran players at the time, so it was a great place to start.

You were able to sneak into a few games with the 'Hawks in '95-96, before joining them full time the following season. Were you intimidated a little when you looked around the dressing room and saw so many superstars - Chelios, Roenick, Amonte, Belfour, Nicholls...

I was a fairly confident 20 year old. So, I fit in well. Having said that, part of it was due to the fact they really accepted me; guys like Cheli and Bob Probert - they were great to me. Really made me feel comfortable, allowed me to excel. I played on a line with Brent Sutter as well. It was a great place to learn how to play and learn from a lot of great veteran players.

The week before you were traded it was reported in Chicago papers that you weren't going anywhere, even though the team wasn't playing well. Then, it happened. Do you have different feelings now about being traded from Chicago than you did back then?

At the time Chicago was kinda on the downturn. We were a bad team, we weren't making the playoffs. So, for me, it was exciting to go to a younger team that had a chance to make the playoffs. Once I got there I saw they had lots of guys my own age. Plus, it really helped in my development as a player because it was a skating team and a forechecking team. It was the perfect fit for me at the time.

After your first full season Craig MacTavish took over as the head coach for the next eight seasons. Much has been made in the media about guys not seeing eye to eye with him. Is that just hype or did you have a different relationship with him?

Staying in 2006. Although it was a bitter disappointment to not win the Cup, you had to feel pretty good about the team that summer and the direction things were heading. In fact, just a few months later you signed a four year extension, rather than test free agency the following year. What was your thought process about resigning so soon?

Well, yeah, we almost won the Stanley Cup and we thought we had the pieces in place to get back and make another run the next year. I think that's why a lot of us signed extensions, to remain in Edmonton with a good bunch of guys. And for me, it was also where I raised my family. Now, it didn't really work out like that, so far we haven't been able to get back to the playoffs. But, I don't regret my decision.

You were named captain in '07. With the Oilers rich history and tradition, is there extra pressure being the captain in a place like Edmonton, where the whole city embraces the team, versus other so-called small markets - like, say Nashville or Tampa Bay?

I think there's a lot of pressure put on me by people. But, I don't put extra pressure on myself. I've always been a leader, ever since I was 20 years old in Chicago. So, I haven't really changed anything. That's just the way I've always been. I don't really do anything differently and I don't really expect any more of myself. I try to just do the things that have made me successful in my career and that have made me captain. I've worn a letter everywhere I've played, so the pressure mostly comes from external.

As a leader, lets talk about how you handle certain things. Recently, Patrick O'Sullivan found himself in a little whirlwind, arguing with some guys in the media and whatnot. Do you call a guy like that to the side and remind them that's a no-win situation or do just let somebody like Sully work it out on his own?

I don't even know what happened. What was it? (note: I tell him about Mike Milbury and Kelly Hrudey's comments mentioned here in a Kings Kool-Aid article...and then Sully's reaction here)

It's stuff we don't really worry about, I guess. We have a task everyday to get accomplished. Sure, as part of being a good teammate you try to help your teammates whenever you can. But, I don't get caught up in that type of stuff.

What about some of the guys that have left town. Take a guy like Chris Pronger, who basically forced his way out of Edmonton. How disappointed were you when that whole thing went down?

You want to have the best team you can. When you lose quality players its definitely disappointing. We have to do a better job of making this a more desirable place to play.

Along those lines, the team was trying to get Dany Heatley to come there over the summer. Ultimately, he went to San Jose. Because it was the off season and guys are spread out all over the world, was it difficult to coral the issue and keep the guys on the same page?

He was never really part of our team. It was a huge story here, but it just never happened. It was unfortunate that the trade got out though. It was difficult on the players that were involved in the supposed trade. But, it's not like we had him here for a year and lost him. He was never an Oiler. It's just too bad the whole thing went public. It was another blow to our organization and our city that he didn't want to come here.

Talking about stories and how big they can become in a hockey crazed town like Edmonton, last week there were reports that the ownership group might have to think about relocation if they cant get a new building. Is that something you guys try not to worry about or is that another story that ends up in the locker room and the guys end up talking about it?

Well, I think its obvious we need a new building. Any successful organization in the league right now has a new building. So, its a no-brainer. People to oppose it in the city really don't have the best interest of the city or the organization in mind. It's crucial to the wellness of the city that we get a new building.

Let's move on to some more light-hearted issues. Back in September you posed fairly naked in a special edition of ESPN's magazine. And a few times you've been in the finals for online contests like 'Sexiest Oiler.' Is that something the guys in the room like to tease you about?

Not really. Once when you're in the environment of the locker room guys don't talk about that type of stuff too much. It was a good opportunity to work with the people at ESPN. It was an awkward shoot, but it was a pretty cool issue. It was fun.

Now the Olympics are coming up soon and the coverage is going to be insane throughout Canada. Given that you won't be playing, what are your plans for the time off?

We'll be going to Maui. But I'll be into it, whoever is playing. It's going to be a huge deal here. I imagine it will be one of the biggest sporting events ever in the history of Canada, especially if we make it to the gold medal game. But, there's a lot of good teams. Anything can happen in that format when you have a one game elimination. You have the US, Russia, Sweden, etc. Really, on any given night any of those teams can beat each other. It's a little different than in other sports, when usually the best team wins in the course of four quarters. In hockey you can outplay the other team and still lose. Its a tough sport in that format.

Obviously your loyalties are to the Oilers, so this isn't a trick question. But, with so many former teammates now in Los Angeles, do you find yourself cheering for the Kings if you're catching a game on TV?

Definitely. Stolly and Greene are good friends of mine. My brother trains guys there and I live in LA in the offseason. I've known some of the other Kings, I'll skate with them in the summer - I got to meet guys like Blake and Luc a few times. I know a lot of people in that organization. So, its definitely a team I keep my eye on.

Now you guys just came off a very successful road trip with five straight wins. The Kings are hot too, going 8-1-1 prior to the game in Vancouver. Are they going to be able to find a way to beat you guys at home?

Well, with them playing in Vancouver last night it will be tough. Back to back games are extremely difficult in this league. They won a game from us in our building last time when Greeny scored a late goal. We haven't forgot that. We need to beat them, especially at home. So, we'll be at our best.

NOTE: The conversation continues here in a HIGH / LOW article, which includes word association using names like Chelios, Roenick, Pronger, Smyth, Greene, Stoll and more.

The Mayor

High / Low with Ethan Moreau, Edmonton Oliers captain

Since entering the league in 1979 the Edmonton Oilers have been one of the most successful franchises. They've made seven trips to the Stanley Cup finals, winning five. However, its been a tough few years since their last run in 2006.

Back in the late '80s and early '90s they were one of the LA Kings biggest rivals. Sure, Gretzky came to LA after winning four cups with the Oilers, but it was more than just that trade that made things so special. It also didn't hurt that they played in the same division at the time.

After a big trade 10 years ago, involving seven players, Ethan Moreau arrived back home in Canada. Five years earlier he was a first round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks and would soon be playing along side Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios and Bernie Nicholls in the Windy City.

Now, the Captain of the Oilers, he is trying to guide the team back to the promise land one more time. Prior to tonight's match-up with the Kings he took some time to chat with the Mayor. Here's the first part of the interview:

Who is the smartest player you've ever played with and what did you learn from him?

I'd have to say Chris Pronger. He's probably the best player and the smartest player I've ever played with. I didn't learn too much from him on the ice because he plays a different position. But, he has a real professional approach to the game, he's always prepared to play and he takes a lot of pride in the way he plays. So those are probably things I took from him.

Let's take a look at the first few months of the NHL season. What have been the highs and lows so far?


1. Parity - nobody is running away with things and nobody is out of it

2. Big Hits - I think that's entertaining for everybody

3. Dustin Penner


1. Attendance - it's been tough in certain markets

2. Travel Schedule - things have been compressed because of the Olympics

3. Ice Conditions - we've played on some poor ice...some cities can handle the multiple events in the same buildings, others can't

Let's try word association with some of the guys you've had as teammates throughout your career:

Eddie Belfour - eccentric
Chris Chelios - competitive
Jeremy Roenick - entertaining
Tony Amonte - great release
Chris Pronger - smart (guess I set him up with that one earlier, eh?)
Ryan Smyth - hand-eye
Matt Greene - funny
Jarret Stoll - one timer
Patrick O'Sullivan - toe drag
Lubomir Vishnovsky - quick
Craig MacTavish - gray (note: he was his coach, not a teammate)

Finish this sentence: I'll be a better player this season if I ____

stay healthy

* * * * * * * * * * * *

To read more from our exclusive interview with Ethan Moreau - including his thoughts on the trade that brought him to Edmonton, his friends on the Kings, Craig MacTavish, Chris Pronger, Dany Heatley, his near nude pics in ESPN The Magazine and lots more, click here for part two.

The Mayor

Monday, December 14, 2009

One Demon Still Lives

Look, I'm not sure how to slay a killer whale either. So, I may not be much help. The closest I've ever even come to an orca is the Shamu show at Sea World in San Diego. Now the Kings, they've pushed things to 0-3 against the Canucks this season.

As we approach the holiday break later this week, there have been plenty of demons exercised over the last two and half months. The Kings have won in San Jose. They finally beat Calgary. They've been able to win in the shootout. The list goes on and on. Yet, they just cant seem to slay the demon that is the Vancouver Canucks.

At first glance you might just credit Roberto Luongo, right?

Not so fast though. Sure, Luongo held the Kings to just one goal when they met for the first time in October. Then the opportunity for a win was there in the rematch a month later, Luongo was out hurt. Backup Andrew Raycroft got the start and held the Kings to...wait for goal.

Luongo was back tonight for the third tilt and the Kings scored, you guessed it - one goal.

So, over the course of nine regulation periods and one overtime session the Kings have managed just three goals. A simple one goal in each game.

That's putting even more pressure on a guy that at some point may crack from what he's had to shoulder so far. Johnathan Quick has played in all but three games this season, putting on stellar performances most nights. However, he's yet to post a shutout in his 32 games. But if you're only able to get one puck past the guy at the other end of the ice, that's basically what you're asking him to do if you want to win.

Some kinda thank you by his teammates for being named the NHL's first star of the week, huh?

It wasn't for lack of trying though. Against most other goalies in the league tonight Kopitar and Frolov probably would've had a hat trick each. They both were pressuring all night long. Kopi just couldn't buy a goal...and it had nothing to do with missing his buddy Ryan Smyth. The effort was there.

Randy Jones? Well, he continues to be a two-sided coin. Offensively, he picked up another point, assisting on Frolov's goal. Defensively, lets just say he's lucky he plays for Terry Murray and not South Florida coach Jim Leavitt.

For now, the Kings need to just turn the page. If it seems they are playing every night this month, you're not the only one. And they'll need to shake this one off quickly because the streaking Oilers are waiting for them tomorrow night in Edmonton.

Check back tomorrow afternoon. I'll have an interview up with Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.


NOTE: The game was not available locally without the Center Ice package. CLICK HERE to watch the NHL approved highlights: