Saturday, December 26, 2009

Addition and Subtraction in Phoenix

Ryan Smyth in, Justin Williams out. Is it really that surprising? After all, it is the LA Kings...a team notorious for doing things the hard way. For the better part of a month it's been that way and why should it change now.

While many Kings players and fans were downright giddy about the reuniting of the top line prior to the game, those visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads have gone sour yet again. Williams broke his right leg before the game was even five minutes old.

It was just one of those things. He was tangled up in the corner with Ed Jovanovski and Anze Kopitar. Unfortunately for him, he got the worst of things. No timetable has been established for his return and more details should be available late Sunday afternoon.

As for the rest of the game...well, they say Captains need to be leaders. Dustin Brown certainly did his job then. He put the Kings on the board first, not long after the team had to watch Williams carted off on a stretcher agonizing in pain.

Much of the pregame buzz centered on Smyth's return and Frolov being left off the Russian Olympic roster yesterday. Perhaps Brownie was making his final push before the Team USA group is announced on Friday. Interestingly, another hopeful for the Vancouver games, Michal Handzus (Slovakia), scored the other Kings goal.

It was a tie game up until about the half way mark of the third period. Then, the Coyotes went up 3-2 and that was pretty much it. A power play in the final minutes of the game for LA provided some excitement, but nothing made it past Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov.

The loss was only the second for the Kings this season against a Pacific division foe. Both came against the Coyotes.

Two points lost. A top-6 player lost. Not a good night.


WJC Recap: Day One

If you're a fan of the LA Kings, you had plenty to cheer about. If you're rooting for Team USA, you had plenty to worry about early on in their game against Slovakia.

Day One recap:

Canada 15, Latvia 0 - It wasn't even close. The host Canadians put 67 shots on goal. That should tell you all you need to know. Hang on...

Sorry, I had to check. Canada might have scored again.

Canada hadn't lost an opening round game in the WJC tournament in 12 years. Make it 13 now. Gabriel Bourque, a Nashville prospect, was the star of the game - setting a new Canadian single-game record with 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists). Kings prospects did well too - Brandon Kuzon 5 points (2g, 3a) and Brayden Schenn 2 assists. To see video highlights of the game click here.

Sweden 1o, Czech Republic 1 - Last year the Czechs opened the tournament with a 8-1 loss to Canada. They outdid themselves this year in another lopsided affair. Edmonton prospect 'MPS' Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson put up 5 points (1g, 4a) for his homeland.

Russia 6, Austria 2 - Team Russia featured Anaheim Ducks prospect Igor Bobkov in net. Offensively, they received three goals from guys hoping to hear their names called at the 2010 NHL Draft in Los Angeles - Yevgeni Kuznetsov (2) and Vladimir Tarasenko (1).

United States 7, Slovakia 3 - The first period was wild. Slovakia was playing big, physical, smash mouth hockey. They had the Americans rattled and were up 2-0 early on. To Team USA's credit, they gathered themselves together and came storming back in the second period to take the lead. USA captain Jordan Stepan stepped on the dreams of any Slovakian upset. His goal put the Americans on top and they never looked back. Six different guys put in goals for the USA, including Jordan Schroeder (who is trying to chase down Jeremy Roenick's tournament record for points by an American...he needs five more to tie).

The tournament continues Sunday with three games, including Team USA taking on Switzerland at 1pm PST. It will be televised on the NHL Network. Check it out.

The Mayor

Catching Up with the Kings

All hockey starved fans in SoCal know that today is the day. It's been more than a week since the Kings have taken the ice for real and their supporters couldn't be happier. After all, there's plenty to be excited about.

Two key players from the Kings early season success will both make their return tonight vs. Phoenix. Wayne 'the Train' Simmonds is somehow ready to go after recently having his knee operated on. If anybody can help the team shake off it's holiday rust it will be the energetic Simmonds.

Then there's that other guy...after more than a month away, Captain California (Ryan Smyth), returns to the line-up. He'll be reunited up front with Anze Kopitar, news to everybody's ears. Their fellow linemate Justin Williams and the entire royal nation will be watching intently to see if their bro-mance can resume. From day one of training camp the chemistry between those two was magical.

For the entire team, it will be back to the grind. Another game, another two points at stake.

Throughout the season we've been highlighting the importance of breaking the 82 game schedule down into 10-game segments; making things easier to digest as the team tries to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. To date, the Kings have been very consistent - posting 12, 12 and 13 points in the first three segments.

Today is game eight of the fourth leg, so when the week is over we'll essentially be at the half way point of the season. Let's take a look at where things stand right now:

Game 31 - home vs Calgary (Kings win 2-1, 2 points)
Game 32 - at San Jose (Kings win 5-4 OT, 2 points)
Game 33 - home vs Phoenix (Kings win 3-2 SO, 2 points)
Game 34 - home vs Dallas (Kings win 3-2 SO, 2 points)
Game 35 - at Vancouver (Kings lose 3-1)
Game 36 - at Edmonton (Kings win 3-2, 2 points)
Game 37 - at Calgary (Kings lose 2-1)
Game 38 - at Phoenix
Game 39 - home vs Minnesota
Game 40 - at Calgary

So, while on paper this looked to be a tough stretch for the Kings, they appear to be in good shape. Having already earned 10 points, getting just another two in the three games this week would give them a consistent 12 points for the 10 games. If they can come up with two victories in this three game stretch, you're talking about the best 10 game segment of the year.

The most important games are the ones bookending the week. Tonight the Kings are playing a Coyotes team that is just as hungry to make the playoffs. Not to mention it's a division rival.

Then on the 30th they'll return to Calgary, the city they just can't seem to win in the last few years. This will be their third match up with the Flames this month. So far, the home team has won both contests. With the way the Western Conference is shaking out, this is a possible first round preview for the Kings. So, saying it's important game is a bit of an understatement.

For LA to have a decent showing in April, they'll need to learn how to win big games on the road.

First up, the Coyotes in just a few hours.


To read last month's article recapping games 11-20, click here.

WJC: Gold Rush, American Style

Perhaps Jordan Schroeder should change his number from 19 to 49.

You see, even without a pick ax and a pan, he's still searching for gold.

However, the subtle change may not be enough to stop optimistic supporters from saying things like "third time's a charm." An expression that may sound up beat, yet he still remembers his first visit to the World Junior Championships two years ago and the bitter taste of fourth place. Things were even worse last year when his team finished fifth.

Sure, he has two medals from the U-18 tournaments (that's under-18 for the new folks in town). And his silver medal from 2007 and bronze medal in 2008 should have led to bigger and better things for the U.S. hockey program. To date, it hasn't though. So, Schroeder is back for his third and final trip to the World Jrs. Still searching for that elusive medal. Gold preferably. Yet, honestly, wouldn't anything do at this point?

Although it's often said that most individual records aren't as important as team success in organized sports, a quick look at the 20 all-time leading scorers in the history of the WJC is telling. Seeing only one American - Jeremy Roenick - is no surprise, given Team USA's poor history in the tournament.

Things appeared to be changing back in 2004 when the Americans beat Team Canada for their first ever gold medal. That team featured guys like Dustin Brown, Patrick O'Sullivan, Ryan Suter, Ryan Kesler, and Zach Parise. Most of those guys have advanced through the U.S. system and will be wearing red, white and blue jerseys at the upcoming Olympics.

There's probably a little irony in there somewhere, with those games set to be hosted by Vancouver and the hockey portion to be played at GM Palace. The same building and city that Schroeder may call home some day, as he was a first round draft pick of the Canucks back in June.

For now, he's still playing for Team USA; surrounded by a group of largely teenagers. For the next two weeks he'll be trying to provide a little offense to a team built around defense and goaltending. Most importantly though, he's aiming to get the team back to a medal round for only the second time since the big win back in '04 (they finished 3rd in '07).

Individually (and perhaps silently), he may also have his eye on another prize. Last year Schroeder set the all-time record for assists by an American player at the WJC, with 15. This year, he'll take aim at Roenick's all-time points mark for Americans. JR sits #1 with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists = 25 pts in 14 games). Schroeder has 19 points (4, 15 = 19 in 12 games).

Even if he passes JR, coming home without a medal this year will be another devastating blow to him personally and for USA hockey. Any momentum from '04 is long gone. This is about getting things going before the tournament lands back on U.S. soil next year in Buffalo.

Canada is certainly the favorite this time around. They've won the whole thing five years running (or put differently, ever year since the U.S. team won their lone gold in '04). Russia, Sweden and Finland are always tough. But for now, Team USA is focused on one thing. Game one.

It's today at 5pm PST vs. Slovakia...and that team is no joke - last year they finished fourth and featured the guy that was probably the single most exciting player in the entire tournament, forward Tomas Tatar. Like Schroeder, he's back to try and help his home country too.

Getting off to a fast start is always important in such a short tournament. See all the drama and excitement unfold on the NHL Network later this afternoon.

Even if you don't recognize most of the names in today's game, remember that a good portion of the players will be NHL stars in only a few years. Just think, you can tell your friends you saw them back when...

The Mayor

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best of the Decade: Acquisition

The following article was written by The Mayor as part of a special series for the LA Kings website.

As they said goodbye to the first decade of the 2000s, took EIGHT days to FIGURE out the best of the last 10 years.  This article focuses on the Best Acquisition made by the team via trade, free agency, etc.

Acquiring a player always comes with risk. Each guy brings his own set of issues - things like health, future productivity, chemistry with the current team, etc. Yet, often one of the most overlooked components has nothing to do with the player himself...timing.

When a GM gets it right, he's publicly praised as a genius. In turn, when he gets it wrong too many times, he's usually looking for a new job.

All factors united to create the perfect storm in early 2001 for then-GM Dave Taylor. Months earlier Rob Blake, the Kings captain, had resigned his 'C' as ongoing contract talks weren't to his liking. When a player of his caliber literally or figuratively asks for a trade publicly like that, the bargaining power of his current team is instantly weakened. (Fear not Blake lovers, this isn't an anti Rob rant, that's just an intelligent point of view.)

Such was the case facing Taylor on February 21st that year when he pulled off the Trade of the Decade for the Kings franchise. In a block-buster move he shipped Blake and Steve Reinprecht to Colorado for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, two first round draft picks and prospect Jared Aulin.

The Kings franchise had a history of trading first round draft picks. Now, in the midst of jettisoning their captain to a conference rival they were ACQUIRING not one, but two first round picks. Shocking. But that wasn't all, the deal also included Miller, who had been a strong defenseman in the league for several years. In fact, it's been reported the Kings would only complete the trade if he was part of the package.

Then of course, there's the other guy - Adam Deadmarsh. In Deader they acquired a former number one draft pick with a Stanley Cup ring, a guy who was a consistent 20 goal scorer and had tons of international experience. Most of all, they picked up an elite power forward. Something the Kings had been lacking. Prior to this point, they never had that 5-tool player (a baseball reference just for Dean) that could change the game with his stick, a hit or his fists. There are only so many Roenicks, Iginlas and Doans to go around. Now the Kings had one.

The hockey world was stunned with what Taylor was able to accomplish. A fleecing of the highest order. One that earned him NHL Executive of the Year from the Hockey News.

And the timing? Rather than imploding a team when its' captain was traded, this was just the shot in the arm the Kings needed. They went on to upset Detroit in the first round and pushed Colorado to a 7th game of the second round.

Deader's tremendous efforts in the playoffs just weeks after first donning a Kings jersey will forever be what Kings fans remember most. He may have just been getting started though. He scored 29 goals the following season - his first full year in LA. Then, with optimism at nearly a ten year high, it all came crashing down 20 games into the third year. A series of concussions forced him out of the game far too early. Ah, what coulda been.

Second Place: Kelly Buchberger - Sure, it may be a bit off the board. But, let's go back to timing. When the Kings brought him in on March 13, 2000 they were hoping to win a playoff game in the months to come - something they hadn't done in seven long years. In KB they added a guy with grit and experience. Your talking about a guy that made his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Finals! Look at the Kings roster they day before the trade - lots of talent, very short on proven winners. The Kings went on to make the playoffs all 3 years he was on the team and the leadership he brought to the Kings can't be understated.

Third place: Draft picks - Since I went trade on my first two selections, I have to give a tip of the hat to the draft picks that currently have stocked the entire franchise with a foundation for hope. Guys like Brown, Kopitar, Frolov, Doughty and Quick at the NHL level...on down to Schenn, Teubert, Voynov, Hickey and Bernier still to come. Like every other club, they haven't gotten them all right, but more picks from the last 10 years have worked out than at any point in franchise history. The Kings are working on something special and it's just about to bubble over.

The Mayor

Monday, December 21, 2009

What every Kings fan needs

Leadership, success, accountability. These are all words that businesses and sports teams love to throw around when preparing fancy scripts for contrived news conferences. Yet, where things really begin and end in an organization is with a vision. It's through the leadership and accountability of that vision that ultimately success is achieved or missed.

On April 21, 2006 the Kings made a move that was as significant as drafting the right player or signing a key free agent. Dean Lombardi was hired as the new President and General Manager. His mission was simple - turn the Kings into a winning franchise.

OK, so maybe it wasn't an easy task. However, he has a plan and he's sticking to it.

After watching the Kings play for the last 20 years - first at the Forum, now at Staples - the Kings appear to finally be headed in the right direction...a long term plan, rather than a flavor of the month approach.

If you agree, then it's time to prove it. You can now order - for yourself or your favorite Kings fan - a shirt that proudly proclaims IN DEAN WE TRUST.

VISIT THE STORE: Mayors Manor Store

There's a wide range of styles and colors to select from. The Mayors Manor store has everything from a basic value t-shirt for only $13.75...all the way up to a limited edition, premium style garment-dyed shirt.

...but wait, there's more - as a special offer to the valued readers of Mayors Manor, we're offering a 10% discount on all orders placed by 12/31/09. Simply use coupon code "10OFFTSHIRTS" when checking out.

Order now.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Crowning the Best Game of the Decade

As I first mentioned on Friday, to help pass the time while the team is off this week the gang over at have organized a series of articles highlighting various Best Of(s) for the past decade. My selections for Best Game were (in reverse order)...

Third Place (3-way tie):
* 2001 Playoffs - Game Six vs. Colorado
* Opening Night 2005
* Game Two of this season

Second Place:
* 2001 Playoffs - Game Four vs. Detroit (Frenzy on Figueroa)

First Place:
An excerpt from my article:
Sometimes, one game is more than just one game. When the events of the evening are more like the culmination of a lifetime of work, the achievement envelops the game and elevates it above all others.
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.


Kings sign OHL's top defenseman

The following story was originally posted on earlier this morning by Bob McKenzie:


Remember the late-blooming unrestricted free-agent defenceman from the Soo Greyhounds we told you about a couple of weeks ago.

Well, OHL overager Jacob Muzzin is a free agent no more.

Sources tell TSN Muzzin has agreed to terms on a three-year entry level contract with the Los Angeles Kings.

The deal will not be signed or formalized until after Jan. 1 in order for Muzzin to take advantage of favorable terms in the CBA regarding future arbitration rights, but interested teams calling Muzzin are now being told he has made his decision and it's the Kings.

Muzzin was a first round OHL draft pick who missed his entire first year of junior because of back surgery. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007 but was not signed by them or subsequently drafted by anyone else, so he became an unrestricted free agent last summer.

The Woodstock, Ont., native currently leads all OHL defencemen in scoring with 41 points (9 G, 32 A) in his 34 games this season.
The original article can be found here:

More information will be posted as it becomes available.