Thursday, March 11, 2010

10 Tidbits - The Story of Zeus

According to Greek mythology, the God Zeus is often depicted by images of him striving forward with a thunderbolt in his hand.

Times have changed through the years, yet Michal Handzus is often seen skating forward, stick in hand...increasingly, the stick has been raised in the air as the Kings just scored another goal.

Things have never been better for Handzus here in Los Angeles. He's about to put a bow on his 3rd regular season with the Kings - one that will most likely see him in his first playoff series with the team. Today, on his 33rd birthday, he's the latest subject in our 10 Tidbits series.

Enjoy the Story of Zeus...

* While the God Zeus is known for his many children, Handzus may be known for his collection of jerseys - having played for a handful of NHL teams...five in all - St. Louis, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles.

* Perhaps Zeus was destined to sign with the Kings...not only because of Greek mythology, but because of former Kings owner Bruce McNall. While it's unclear if McNall sold or collected Zeus coins as part of his massive collection, there is a link nonetheless. According to various New York Times articles from back in the day, McNall sold several ancient vases to the Hunt brothers, one depicting the death of the Lycian prince Sarpedon, a son of Zeus.

* Almost immediately after signing a four year, $16 million contract in the summer of 2007 the criticism began. Fans and media alike thought that was a lot of scratch to lay out for a guy coming off of major knee surgery...and having played only 8 games the season prior. Did it work? Well, after Michal's first season in LA, Kings GM Dean Lombardi had this to say in an interview with the Daily News "We expected him to be better. He started skating better in the second half. He's not the fleetest afoot anyway. He got himself in a rut and started pressing. He'd be the first to tell you he wasn't where he expects to be. Until the last couple months his skating wasn't where he expected to be. Next year, I expect him to be more like we expected him to be when we got him." Yep - 7 goals, 21 points and a minus-21 rating is probably not what everybody had in mind.

* If year one was a failure, year two was more what Lombardi had in mind. For the second straight season with the Kings Handzus skated in all 82 games - this time netting 18 goals and 42 points (fourth best on the team, behind the big three of Kopitar, Brown and Frolov). Equally impressive was that he increased his shots on goal by 61%.

* Has worn #26 in each of his NHL stops, with one exception...during his brief stay in Phoenix he wore #16. Mike Sullivan was already wearing his number when he was traded to the Coyotes late in the 2000-01 season. Ironically, it wasn't like Sullivan was married to the number...he'd played on four teams in his career, each time wearing a different number. Maybe Zeus didn't want to 'compensate' him for changing.

* Thrives in international competition. When he's represented his home country of Slovakia the numbers are impressive - 9 points over 12 games at the World Jrs, 17 points in 25 games at the World Championships (note: he's represented Slovakia 4x at the WC) and 7 points in 9 Olympic games. He's earned two medals for his efforts, a silver at the 2000 WC and gold at the 2002 WC. Many of those teams included former Kings like Ziggy Palffy and Jozef Stumpel.

* On December 5, 2002, he became only the second player in NHL history to score a penalty shot goal in overtime when he beat the Rangers Dan Blackburn with just 37 seconds left in the extra frame. Coincidentally, the only other player to do it also beat the Rangers (when Nashville's David Legwand put one past Kirk McLean on December 23, 2000).

* Awards: Was runner-up for the NHL's Selke Trophy in the 1999–00 season, given out to the top defensive forward. Selected by the media as the Kings Best Defensive Player for the 2008-09 season, an award he may win again this year. Last season he also received an award from his teammates. The Unsung Hero award goes to the player they deem "contributed the most to the team yet did not get the proper recognition for their contributions."

* Was drafted by the St. Louis Blues and recorded his first two milestones with the team. 10/22/98 - first NHL point (an assist) at Ottawa. 11/28/08 (the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend) - first NHL goal in a home game vs. the Washington Capitals. The Blues won both games.

* In Monday's 6-0 win over the Blue Jackets Handzus recorded his 400th NHL point and his 100th point as a member of the Kings.

Zeus, per Greek mythology, is the King of the Gods. Handzus is primed for a triumphant return to the playoffs next month. And the Kings are hoping he can wreak havoc and put that thunderbolt to good use.

The Mayor


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