Saturday, January 9, 2010

Interview with Andy Murray

They say nice guys finish last. Well, they at least get screwed over.

Tonight the Kings take on the Blues, an opponent that usually doesn't get the juices flowing for most fans in LA. There isn't any sort of a rivalry between the two teams.

Although, a decade ago there was plenty of hate when the Blues swept the Kings in the opening round of the playoffs (in game 3 the Kings were up 3-0, LA's Sean O'Donnell 'politely introduced himself' to Geoff Courtnall - after he took a run at the Kings goalie - resulting in a five minute powerplay for the Blues...St Louis rallied back and won the game).

For most, the memories have faded since then and this game is no different now than Columbus or Nashville coming to town.

However, prior to last Saturday, there was another reason to care. A beloved former Kings coach was at the helm and it was always great to see him back, even as a visitor.

Andy Murray went from being a virtual unknown when he was first hired by the Kings to their most successful coach in history. After three trips to the playoffs and with the team above .500, despite being riddled with injuries, he was let go with just a handful of games remaining in the 2005-06 season.

It may have been de ja vu all over again last Saturday morning. Murray led the Blues to a remarkable second half run last season, putting the team in the playoffs for the first time in five years. His team was riddled with injuries this season, played poorly at home and he was promptly welcomed into 2010 by getting his walking papers from the Blues.

Prior to his being let go I had a chance to speak with the always approachable Murray as part of my game preview for today. Obviously, some of it is out of context now, but the answers and insight were still worth sharing. We talked about his career, the Blues, family and a team he truly cares about - the Kings.

MM:  Your first year as the head coach of Hershey in the AHL you guys won the Calder Cup and then you were promoted to the Flyers as an assistant. Did you have to switch your mindset a little with the move?

AM:  When Bob Clark (GM of the Flyers) asked me to help out Paul Holmgren (head coach) I was happy to do so, but I would say my mindset hasn't really changed from one league to another. I've been coaching practically my whole life. I was even starting to coach back when I was still playing. My dad taught me that people are your most important assets in business or when managing a team, so I've always tried to approach things the same way, regardless of where or what level I'm coaching.

In 1992 you were an assistant with the North Stars when they went to the Stanley Cup finals...

Bob Clark got me that job too. He was fired in Philly and when he landed in Minnesota he called and asked me to join him.

Before the finals, did you feel you guys needed to alter your approach at all or was it important to just continue doing the things that got you there?

Well, at that point the guys are tired. They're getting banged up every night, but running on lots of adrenaline. Not a lot needs to be said at that point. It's funny. You get labeled in life, it doesn't matter if you're a coach or a player. At the time people were saying I like to have a lot of meetings, even if I didn't have them. But, I remember trying to keep the message simple.

Eventually you ended up taking some time away from the NHL. In 1996-98 you coached Team Canada and then eventually ended up at Shattuck-St. Mary's, a prep school...

The real reason I took the job at St. Mary's was when I was the coach for Team Canada - I mean it's a great gig, you're coaching one of the best programs in the world - but we didn't have any home games. Our home base was in Calgary. We'd have practice there and maybe some hockey clinics, but we traveled all over the world to play our games. Brady was playing at St. Mary's and when the coach left there was an opening. It was a great opportunity for me to spend more time with my family.

Then in '99 you were hired by the Kings...

When I got the job in LA I had never met Dave Taylor before. I knew Al Murray and I knew Rob Blake from coaching him with Team Canada. I had one interview with the Kings and when they asked me back I figured they must have liked me. When we went out to dinner and they offered the job I think I surprised them when I said I needed to think about it. But, I wasn't expecting them to offer me the job so soon and wanted to talk to my family and think about the kids back home that I had made a commitment to when I became their coach.

You mentioned taking the Shattuck job to spend more time with family. Why take the job with the Kings? Was it to get back to the NHL, was it the opportunity to be a head coach?

For sure. There are only 30 NHL head coaching positions. To be considered for one means that you have done some good things leading up to it. That's why I tell young coaches "Don't think so much about the future. Coach the team you have. If you do that well, the future opportunities will come." To answer your question though, there were other reasons. I always admired Dave Taylor as a player and I wanted to work with him. I also enjoyed coaching Rob Blake with Canada, so that appealed to me. The best part of being a coach is the day they ask you. It's a validation of all you've done up until that point.

Your first three seasons in LA your teams had 90+ points and made the playoffs all three years. Then the team lost to Colorado in '02. The next season the Kings had 78 points. What happened?

Well...I don't like to use injuries as an excuse. However, we set a record at one point for the most man games lost over a multi year period. We lost Allison, Deadmarsh, Palffy was out for an extended period - plus other guys. We weren't dealing with small injuries either. We had guys out with broken bones and concussions. That would be like Anaheim losing Getzlaf and Perry this season. It would crush them. Or the Kings losing Kopitar. It would hurt. Who knows where we would have been without a guy like Derek Armstrong. I think people forget, he basically became our number one center. It was a tough road to hoe there. We were struggling to find consistency. Looks like the Kings have that solved this year. But, that was a problem in LA for a number of years.

You left LA with more wins than any other coach in Kings history. Is that your legacy here or would you like to be remembered for something else?

You know what means the most to me? Going to the rink and having guys come up to me and still want to shake my hand. The way I'm treated when I return. Players, front office people and the fans, they all treat me so well. I love the handshakes and the hellos. The Kings are a great team finally. They are so fun to watch and I truly enjoy the people in LA. I'm glad they still welcome me.

In the Spring of 2006 you were fired with just a few games left in the season. Looking back on it, do you think it was a desperation move by a GM trying to save his own job?

I remember us being 8 games over .500 when I was fired. But we had been playing poorly for awhile and just came off a terrible game in Colorado. It was about 4pm and Dave Taylor called me into his office. I knew something was up. The only time he called me to his office at a time like that was if we were sending somebody down to Manchester. He'd call me in and we'd tell the player together. I knew that wasn't the case here so I went over and stuck my head in his office and said "Are you sending me down to Manchester?" and he was white in the face. I knew what was coming. I thanked him for what he had done for me, how he helped me and for the opportunity he gave me.

I'm not mad though. I had a great time in LA. I liked working for Mr Anschutz, Tim Leiweke and the whole team. I loved everything about being the Kings coach. I just wish we could have stayed healthy. It also would have been nice to still be there when guys like Brown and Frolov developed into the players they are today. Wow, they're something special. The only thing that bothers me is some of the stuff that people wrote that wasn't true - about my supposed battles with certain players and stuff like that. Even with Sean Avery. Sure, he's a real character. But he's become a pretty darn good hockey player for the Rangers.

For me, it's all about the relationships. I feel like now I can go back there when I retire and sit and watch the Kings games and enjoy it.

As far as the decision to let me go, sure I was disappointed. But, those things happen in our business and you just have to move on. I don't blame Dave. I'm a big Dave Taylor fan. Still am right now.

Let's move on to family. Your son Brady was drafted by the Kings and then finally made his debut in the NHL when the team played a series over in London back in '07. Was that a bittersweet moment for you since you couldn't be there at the game?

First off, I had no idea we were drafting him. It's a common misconception that I influenced that happening. Truth is I didn't know. As a coach you really don't get to see the draft book. Sure, you go to the draft - but that's basically just to shake hands or if there is a trade being proposed they'll consult you. But, most coaches know nothing about the draft - unless you're a coach and GM. You're not part of the decisions. I didn't even know where we had him ranked. In fact, I had been told by somebody in the Nashville organization that the Preds were looking to draft him around the third round. I guess somebody they had ranked higher fell to them in the second or third and then when it came around to us picking Al Murray walked around to the end of the table and said 'We're going to take Brady.' I had no idea. They told me just minutes before it was announced.

Anyway, it was great that he finally made the team in '07. He had a good summer camp. Nelson Emerson was keeping me informed. He was just living the dream there.

Then, when the Kings came home, one of their first games was against us (the Blues). So, to see him playing for the Kings at Staples Center - a building he was skating around in as a kid when it was first being built - it was special.

A couple games later he scored his first NHL goal, only to be sent down the next day. So, that was an exciting time, we just wished he could have stayed up a little longer.

He's playing in Europe right now, right?

Yes. He's playing as a non-import over there since I was there for eight years. He's making real good money and he led the league is scoring last year. The Kings qualified him. However, LA just has so many good young players right now you just never know if there's room for him. Who knows. In another year or two maybe he'll be back to give it another crack.

And your other son, Jordy, he's a left wing is in his second season at the University of Wisconsin. How's he enjoying himself?

He really likes it there. He was a little down in December after separating his shoulder. Right after it happened he was a little sour about being out. But, he'll be fine.

I just watched a tape of my daughter Sarah too, she is playing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, one of the best women's hockey programs every year. She's a senior and she's getting ready to go play in a real good women's pro league over in Switzerland. In fact, she's going to sign with a team that's in the same city as Brady, so that will be pretty exciting.

(Just a reminder before the next section, he was still coaching the Blues at the time...)

Last year St Louis finished #6 in the West after being near the bottom of the standings at the All-Star break. As a coach you're constantly having to build guys up and keep them motivated. Confidence is important. How did you keep yourself motivated during that time not start doubting your ability to coach?

Again, a big part of it came down to injuries. We lost Brewer, Kariya, MacDonald, TJ Oshie, guys like that in the first half of the season. So we had lost a lot of close games, but we played our butts off. I didn't talk to the team about the standings or points. I just tried to keep everybody focused on he next game. This season people here (in St Louis) got ahead of themselves and started talking Stanley Cup and stuff. That's too much pressure for most young players. Look at Kopitar, it took him three years to figure things out. Young guys like Doughty are definitely the exception.

Anyway, we just tried to think about the next game. If anybody had told our players in January how many games they would need to win in the second half to make the playoffs, it would have been overwhelming. We didn't even talk that way. We just talked about the next game on our schedule. I know that sounds very much like a coaches cliche. But, guys believed in that. We were just trying to win the next game. Its the same thing we're doing right now. It's a tight league, every point is so valuable. You have to win the next game though. If you don't win enough 'next games', you wont have any more to play at the end of the regular season.

When you were coaching in LA you often talked about the most important shift in a game being the one right after a goal is scored. When the Blues visited Staples back in early December the Kings scored, then you guys came right back and scored on the next shift...

That's why I harp on it, it's so important. A few weeks before that we had three of our young guys on the ice and a goal was scored against them. As soon as it happened all three of the young guys skated to the bench. Jackman and a couple other guys hopped on and lined up for the face off. Their thought was they got scored on, so I must have wanted them off. I made them get back out there. I made a point right then saying 'If I want to change it, I'll change it.'

I never want to see a player change himself. Unless it was a lazy goal or something, when a goal is scored on you I want you to go right back out to center ice and line-up. Show our team and show the opponents you're ready to battle.

When that goal was scored by the Kings, all five our guys stayed out. I was impressed by that. Obviously, they got a goal on that next shift. But, that's just a bonus. You want to have a strong shift after a goal is scored. You want to take the game back and we do talk about that. I was very proud of our guys at that moment.

How about some word association Andy?


Here we go, we'll start with some guys you coached early in your career and move forward from there...

Dallas Drake - tough
Tie Domi - irritator
Nelson Emerson - great guy
Brent Thompson - passionate
Jay Wells - competitor
Ron Hextall - ultimate competitor
Rick Tocchet - ultra, ultra competitor (he laughs) about 'total package'
Mike Modano - quality guy, quality player
Rob Blake - great person
Luc Robitaille - one of the nicest guys in the game
Frolov - happy guy...I love being around him, always makes me smile
Ziggy Palffy - I still talk to Ziggy quite a bit - for him I'll say 'dynamic player'
Dustin Brown - wish we had him on our team
Sean Avery - underrated as a player
Ian Laperriere - love the guy
Jeremy Roenick - was fun to coach
Mattias Norstrom - warrior (then he laughed and said or 'a Canadian Swede')
Keith Tkachuck - classy guy, real leader on our team

* * * * * *

When we wrapped things up I thanked him and said I'd see him today. Only I won't.

A week ago he was fired by the Blues. Their home record - worst in the league - was partly to blame. Overall, Blues management felt he wasn't getting through to the team anymore and it was time for a change. Such is the life of a head coach. Hired to be fired.

In one of his final moves, on the way out the door, Murray left a a hand written note for new Blues coach Davis Payne. He wished him well.

And now it's official...Andy Murray might just be the nicest guy - not only in hockey, but anywhere, ever.

A class act.

The Mayor


Interview with Rob Blake

Interview with Luc Robitaille

Interview with Ian Laperriere

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Best Rivalry in College Hockey

Boston College and Boston University are just three miles apart - on the same trolley ride no less. They've played hockey against each other a remarkable 247 times dating back to 1917. Later today they'll face off outdoors at Fenway Park for the first time ever.

Throughout their nearly 100-year rivalry, several players with current or former ties to the LA Kings have played on both sides of the battle.

Last summer's free agent addition, Rob Scuderi, was a BC Eagle for four years. Scuds was an iron man, playing more games in a BC sweater than any other player in team history. He was also there during a great run, going to the NCAA hockey championship game three of his four years (!), finally winning it all in 2001, his final season.

The always versatile Peter Harrold also played four years at BC. He served as the team captain his senior year of 2005-06 and was named first team all American on defense.

A college hockey game at Fenway isn't just the latest big game of the week because it's being played outdoors. This is a match-up of the last two NCAA national champions, BU last year and BC the year prior.

For Boston University it was their fifth title, trumping BC's three championships.

The man behind the bench today for BC, Jerry York, was also there for those three championships. He took over as coach of BC, his alma mater, in June 1994. Prior to that he coached at Clarkson and then Bowling Green - where he coached former Kings Rob Blake and Dan Bylsma.

York has had nine players selected in the first round of the NHL draft while heading BC's hockey program - including when the Kings drafted Brian Boyle in 2003.

He'll be trying to outwit another college hockey coaching legend, Jack Parker. He's been at the helm of BU for 37 years, sending 19 players to the Olympics, including four from the famous 1980 USA team - Mike Eruzione, Dave Silk, Jack O'Callahan and Jim Craig.

Another of Parker's star players moving on to international success with Team USA was Tony Amonte.

However, it was a BU game that Amonte says was "definitely the most memorable game for me throughout my whole career." And some game it was, a game that many call the greatest college hockey game of all-time. It was his last college game and it was for the 1991 NCAA title. With BU down 7-4 and less than eight minutes to go, he scored on a pass from former Kings forward Shawn McEachern. A few minutes later Amonte returned the favor, setting up McEachern for a goal. With 39 seconds left in the game BU would tie it. Sadly, they lost in OT, giving Northern Michigan its only national championship.

Nearly as disappointing to the BU loyal was the 1980 Beanpot final. For those unfamiliar, the Beanpot is an annual tournament featuring four Boston area teams - BU, BC, Northeastern and Harvard. First established in 1952, the February tournament grew in popularity to where it was eventually contested at Boston Garden (and is now played at TD Garden, the new home to the Bruins). BU has won the Beanpot 29 times, more than double the team with the second most wins (BC with 14). However, in 1980 they lost 5-4, giving Northeastern their first ever Beanpot trophy. A situation that Eruzione later joked about saying "There were actually two miracles that year."

The event at Fenway will surely be the most remembered game between the two since they met for the NCAA championship in 1978, the only time they've met with the title on the line. BU won that day 5-3.

Like the just completed World Jr's tourney, tonight's game will feature several potential NHL stars of the future. For example, Chris Kreider is expected to be back for BC after just winning a gold medal with Team USA at the WJC. Three of his teammates were also drafted by NHL teams...and nine more on the BU roster, including the Colorado Avalanche's first and second round picks from 2007 - Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen.

For some more LA flavor, take a look at the Kings alum that played for either institution:

Boston University - Peter Ahola (played 70 games on D for the Kings back in 1991-93), Rich Brennan (2 games, 2000-01 season), Paul Fenton (92 games, 87-88) and Shawn McEachern (49 games, 93-94).

Boston College - Brian Boyle (36 games, 2007-09), Jeff Giuliano (101 games, 2005-08), Steve Heinze, Billy O'Dwyer (18 games, 1983-85) and Kevin Stevens.

Perhaps a few of those guys, along with Harrold and Scuderi, will be so excited for the Fenway game they'll order one of the special BC jerseys the team will wear just this one time (pictured above). To commemorate the event, they've added a little Fenway green to the striping on their jersey. That's a nice touch.

See the jersey, Fenway Park and these two legendary teams square off on the NHL Network today at 4:30 pm PST.

BU vs. BC. Great rivals almost always produce great games.

The Mayor

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wayne the Train bobblehead night

Well, it's finally here Kings fans. The night so many of you have waited for. You were teased in 2002 with the Jason Allison All Star bobblehead. Then, just last month, it was a Robitaille bobblehead, with Luc wearing his rookie purple and gold jersey.

Now, the kid that one coach said "just wouldn't go away" when he came to training camp in 2008, Wayne 'the Train' Simmonds gets his own bobblehead. The first official Kings bobble giveaway of an active player.

Make sure you're at the game on February 11th to get one. Read the official press release on, interact with their bobble simulator and BUY here for all the fun.

And for you bobble enthusiasts that have never seen this rare gem, the Manchester Monarchs did do a crazy looking Dustin Brown bobblehead a few years ago. He's wearing half a Monarchs jersey and half of a Kings jersey. Click here to see this piece of highly sought after memorabilia.


The other Winter Classic

Fenway Park isn't done hosting hockey just yet.

Friday evening the famed ballpark will host a match-up between two of the most storied institutions in college hockey, Boston College and Boston University.

Current LA Kings players Peter Harrold and Rob Scuderi, both Boston College alum, will surely be rooting for their former schools. In fact, both programs usually rank in the top 5 for having sent the most players to the NHL.

As a quick sneak preview to the article we'll be posting on Friday prior to the game, take a look at just some of the current and former NHL players that will have a vested interest in the outcome of this one:

Partial list of Boston College Alums
Brian Leetch
Bill Guerin
Joey Mullen
Brian Gionta
Brooks Orpik

Partial list of Boston University Alums
Tony Amonte
Keith Tkachuk
Chris Drury
Mike Eruzione
Ryan Whitney

The game will be carried live on the NHL Network. More to come as the game draws closer.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

USA defeats Canada

After a game like tonight, you don't need a fancy headline. The subtlety says it all.

For only the second time in history Team USA has won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships, a tournament showcasing NHL prospects and draft picks to be. All of the best under-20 year old players in the world were in Saskatoon the last 10 days representing their countries and leaving everything they had on the ice. Many of the games provided some of the finest hockey you'll see anywhere this year. As one broadcaster put it, you may not recognize some of the names now, but you will soon enough.

Team USA was playing for only its sixth gold medal in tourney history. Canada was playing for their sixth straight gold. Team USA's Chris Kreider and Jerry D'amigo - both draft picks of Original Six teams - each scored their sixth goals of the tournament. Taylor Hall of Team Canada, the expected top pick at this year's NHL draft, also scored his sixth goal. Trailing late in the game, Canada's Jordan Eberle made the most of his sixth game at this year's WJC, scoring two goals in the final minutes to tie things up and force overtime.

Team USA was up against Canada late in the game last year and lost. They were on top of them again just a few days ago in the New Year's Eve thriller...only to come from ahead and lose. So when Eberle tied the game tonight you just knew it spelled the end for the Americans.

However, during the 3rd period/OT intermission on the NHL Network they interviewed one of the U.S. assistant coaches - something they had been doing throughout the WJC. When asked if the mood was somber in the locker room after letting Canada back into a game yet again, he said "No, Johnny Carlson is in there right now firing the boys up." At the time, it seemed like an odd name to mention. Not team captain, Derek Stepan. Not assistant captain Jordan Schroeder, playing in his third WJC for Team USA. No, it was John Carlson.

Indeed. Just 4:31 into the extra period he put one past Kings prospect Martin Jones to win it all for Team USA. John Carlson. It was his second goal of the night and probably the biggest of his young career.

Prior to the game, fans and players alike had to be wondering how this game could possibly match the drama and excitement of the previous contest a few days earlier. After all, when these two teams met in the prelims it was a game that ended in a shootout, after already seeing two shorthanded goals, a penalty shot and several lead changes. What could they possibly do for an encore? Well, how often do BOTH starting goaltenders get pulled in the same game? Not very often to say the least.

Credit for this win will rightfully go to the players on the ice. However, enough good things can't be written about U.S. coach Dean Blais. He had the conviction to make tough calls when he needed to throughout the tournament and this game was no exception. Pulling Mike Lee for Jack Campbell about four minutes into the second period took some nerve. Then when Canada followed six minutes into the third - replacing Jake Allen with Jones - some people had to be thinking this is nuts.

One of the most exciting games you'll ever see. That's the second time in less than a week I've written that about a game involving these two teams. Yet, it's true. Each game was entirely different, with one constant - edge of the seat excitement from the moment the puck dropped.

I can hardly wait for next year's tournament in Buffalo.

The Mayor


Interview with Jeremy Roenick - JR previews Canada vs U.S. and talks about his time w/ Team USA

Canada - USA lives up to the hype

WJC Gold Rush, American Style

Interview with Brandon Kozun - Team Canada forward and Kings prospect

Comments from Brayden Schenn - Team Canada forward and Kings prospect

Here are the official game highlights...

Monday, January 4, 2010

Perfect for the New Year

Two games for the Kings since the calendar flipped to 2010, two victories. Easy enough, right? Not exactly.

On Saturday LA hosted the greatest player in the game, Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals. A team that has scored more goals this year than any other club in the NHL. The Kings held him scoreless and his team to just just one goal.

Tonight the Kings faced the second most prolific offensive team in hockey this year, the San Jose Sharks. Their big line of Thornton-Marleau-Heatley have all been top-20 points producers since 2002-03. Marleau was the only one of the trio to score tonight.

Two amazing games. And Jonathan Quick is the Kings number one star of the moment, no doubt about it.

The Kings 6-2 victory over the Sharks was a strange one. It's a game in which they were out shot 47-20 (that's not a typo).

How do you score six goals on your first 17 shots? They were playing the Sharks, not some weather-named team like the Lightning or the Hurricanes.

It was a game of streaks too.

The Sharks ended their eight game win streak and the Kings now have a modest three game stretch of their own.

Ryan Smith scored in this third straight game. Michal Handzus scored, giving him five points in three straight.

Oh yeah, then there's that little issue about Kopitar's funk. Anze had a goal and an assist in the victory. That's back to games with points for Kopi, only the third time he's done that since mid-November. More importantly, it was his first multi point night in 24 games (since Nov. 11 vs. Carolina).

In other player news Scott Parse scored his third goal in just five games since being recalled from Manchester. Drew Doughty had a career night with four assists. He now has eight points in the last five games. And perhaps the most underrated player on this year's team, Jarret Stoll, made his return to the line-up, picking up an assist.

As a team, the Kings scored four power-play goals for the first time since 2/16/09 vs. Atlanta.

With the win the Kings evened their record to 47-47-14 all time vs. the Sharks, a ledger they'll get the chance to add to soon enough.

In the first 20 games of 2010 - coincidentally, the 20 games until the Olympic break also - the Kings schedule sees them playing the Sharks three times, Anaheim three times and Detroit three times. Forget parity in the league, that's familiarity.

The first of those against the Red Wings will be Thursday night, opening up a 7 game home stand for the Kings. It's been two straight sellouts at Staples Center. Will they get a hat trick?

The Mayor

Is there a Hockey News curse?

Sports fans know all too well about 'the curse' and what it can do to their favorite team or player. The Red Sox had the curse of the Bambino. The Cubs still have the goat. Entire seasons have been lost due to the Sports Illustrated curse. Plus, you have the Madden Football video game curse. This year it was a two-fer, with both Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu showcased on the popular game...and, yep, they both were injured.

Hockey fans take note, because there may be some negative karma brewing in the print world north of the border too. It's possible The Hockey News is the latest sports related curse to be rearing its ugly head.

Perhaps it isn't Ryan Smyth's fault after all that Anze Kopitar has lost his mojo.

Case in point - November 2008 Av's captain Joe Sakic is featured on the cover of The Hockey News. Three weeks later he injures his back, then some fingers and hand injuries. That's it, he's lost for the season and then retires.

You want more? The very next issue showcased young Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn on the cover. Less than a month later he gets the famous lower body injury (knee) and misses a month of action.

Fast forward to this season. One of the best goalies in the world, Roberto Luongo, gets the cover for a late September issue. A month later, he injures his ribs and has to miss a handful of games.

OK, so you say injuries are just part of the game and it's a coincidence. Well, how about playoff performance?

April 16, 2009 Joe Thornton was the Playoff Preview cover boy. By now, everybody knows what happened to his Sharks in the first round after entering the playoffs as the top team in the West.

The following issue featured Zdeno Chara, captain of the East's top team - the Boston Bruins. What happens? Done, bounced in the second round by Carolina.

Not good enough for you? Let's look at some recent stats then...

Chris Pronger, Flyers defenseman, poses for a cover of The Hockey News in early November. The issue was released on 11/9/09. Prior to that he was a +11 with 14 points in 14 games. Since that time he is a -1 with just 11 points in 27 games. Cursed!

The next issue focused on three rookies playing for various New York teams. Last year's number one draft pick, John Tavares of the New York Islanders had 18 points and was a -1 in the 20 games prior. His numbers gave gone south since: -7, 10 points in 23 games. Another New York kid, Michael Del Zotto of the Rangers, was getting early Calder Trophy pub with his pre-cover play of 15 points in 20 games. Man, have times changed - only 5 points in 21 games since and a terrible -16 rating.

Which brings us to Kopitar. What's wrong with Anze? It's the million dollar question right now. Many people speculated it was the absence of Ryan Smyth. However, Rhyno's back now and things haven't really changed.

Kopi was The Hockey News cover boy for the December 14th issue. Ignoring his red hot start to the year - for the sake of trying to factor in the Smyth impact - in the 20 games prior to the issue being released on December 7th Anze had 16 points. The Kings have played 12 games from that point forward, a strech where Kopitar has just 5 points.

Is there a new curse to worry about in the world of hockey?

It's one possible explanation.

The Mayor

Sunday, January 3, 2010

WJC Sunday: Dream Match-Up is On

If you missed the USA-Canada game on New Year's Eve you missed one of the best hockey games you'll ever see. Now, the rematch has been set.

Team USA was able to knock off a loaded Sweden team earlier today to advance to the gold medal game of the World Junior Championships. Waiting for them on Tuesday will be a Canadian team who already holds a shootout victory over them in the opening round.

Canada will be playing for their sixth straight gold medal. The U.S. will be playing for their sixth medal ever...and only their second gold.

Sunday's two semi-final games provided the following action:

USA 5, Sweden 2
Tyler Johnson's 2010 NHL draft stock went up a little. He put the U.S. on top 1-0 less than two minutes in. That was the only goal of the first period.

Then, Team USA took a nap during the entire second period. It was worrisome. Sweden capitalized by scoring two goals. Oilers prospect 'MPS' Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson has been getting much of the press for his team this year at the World Jr's, but it was the Oilers other Swedish prospect, Anton Lander, who had both goals.

Jerry D'Amigo (Toronto Maple Leafs prospect) once again played a major role for the Americans. He scored late in the second to tie things up. He was also leveled on a clearing play that resulted in a five minute power play for the U.S., which turned up nothing more than a few shots on goal. Then, late in the game with the U.S. up 3-2 he scored a huge short-handed goal.

Setting him on the play was Team USA captain Derek Stepan (NY Rangers draft pick), who continues to lead all players in points and assists this year's WJC.

Canada 6, Switzerland 0
The LA Kings have four players on Team Canada, more than any other NHL team. It seems that in the five games Canada has played so far, at least one of them was always part of the story. This game was no different, as Brayden Schenn netted his second goal of the tourney in the third period. With that goal he now has points in every game played by Canada in the WJC this year.

The other story of the game may be injured defenseman. Coming in to the game the Swiss were without two of their d-men, including Anaheim Ducks prospect Luca Sbisa. On the other side, Canada picked up the win here, but they finished the game without their d-man Travis Hamonic. He separated his shoulder and will not play on Tuesday.

Jordan Eberle opened the scoring for Canada just 3:48 into the game, a move that tied him with former Kings center Jason Allison for second place on Canada’s all-time WJC scoring list. Taylor Hall, looking to become the number one overall pick at the NHL Draft in Los Angeles this June, also scored twice in the victory.

Kings defensive prospect, 'Mr. Nasty' Colten Teubert, also had an assist in the game - his first at this year's WJC.

So the showdown is set. It will be USA-Canada for the gold medal. WOW.

Switzerland's dream tourney will continue as well when they play Sweden for the bronze. The Swiss are looking for only their second medal ever, they picked up a bronze back at the '88 World Jrs beating the Czech Republic in overtime.

Watch both games live on the NHL Network Tuesday.

The Mayor
note: you can read the recap of the NYE thriller between Canada and the U.S. by clicking here.

The Interviews: Midpoint Musings

The first half of the season has brought wins, losses, moments of heartbreak and euphoria. Along the way Mayor's Manor has hosted a wide range of hockey royalty, role players and reporters. As we turn the page to 2010 let's briefly look back at some of the conversations that have already made this season memorable.

Based on emails and other feedback, below are the five interviews readers were most interested in. If you missed one of them the first time around, relive it today for the first time:

Luc Robitaille - The Kings all-time goals leader checked in just a few days before his Hall of Fame induction. It's a conversations that covers Luc's full career and the key players and moments that shaped it. Topics include Barry Melrose, Wayne Gretzky, Bruce McNall, the Stanley Cup, having a trophy named after him, why he signed with the Red Wings, Gary Bettman, hockey memorabilia, etc. To read 20 Questions with #20 click here.

Kelly Hrudey - The man that will forever be linked with the Kings trip to the '93 Stanley Cup finals stopped by to talk about the playoffs, his relationship with Dean Lombardi, teams that gave the Kings fits back then, being drafted by the Islanders, his first training camp in New York, underrated players and Robb Stauber stealing his job - click here to read the full interview.

Mike Modano - The all-time leading goal scorer among American born players is a true hockey legend. The former captain of the Dallas Stars chatted with the Mayor about the Stars winning the Stanley Cup, the team's move from Minnesota, what he'll do after hockey, not playing in the All Star game, almost signing with the Boston Bruins, being dissed by the Predators, getting knocked out by Mark Messier and lots more - click here to read the full interview.

Ethan Moreau - A first round draft pick in 1994, he discussed his time with the Blackhawks, the trade that brought him to Edmonton, the pressure of being the Oilers captain, going to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006, Chris Pronger, the firing of Craig MacTavish and yes, we even talk about his semi-nude photo shoot for ESPN - click here to read the full interview.

John Buccigross - For a different slant we caught up with ESPN's guru of hockey. He gives his take on all the teams in the Western Conference, the greatest hockey game he ever saw, his favorite arena, changes he'd make to the game if he was the NHL Commissioner and other quirky puck related tidbits - click here to read the full interview.


We already have a handful of interviews lined up for January. So, stay tuned.