Saturday, January 23, 2010

Storm Watch 2010 - Trade Winds Picking Up

The LA Kings have been downright maddening so far in 2010.

The problem has been known since last season - they need more offense.

Ryan Smyth may be back from injury, but he can't carry the top line by himself. Randy Jones may add some occasional offense, but he's usually a huge defensive liability. Alexander Frolov continues to...well, put it this way - he and Patrick Marleau will both be unrestricted free agents this summer. On guy currently leads the NHL with 35 goals and the other...well, continues to be Frolov.

The Kings need Frolov to put up those type of numbers, not be a solid two-way forward that chips in some goals only periodically. Wayne Simmonds has more goals right now than Frolov...and he's played three fewer games than Fro. That's unacceptable.

Much has been made about the team's restocking of the farm system over the last few years and their development of younger players. And while this isn't a knock on any individual player, the roster is filled with too many kids right now.

A trade for a top-six forward needs to be made now, not closer to the trade deadline. The points in the next 10 games are too valuable.

Take a look at how the Kings have been performing:

Last night's win came in the 50th game of the season. Breaking the season down into 10-game segments shows a rather consistent performance by the Kings:

1st 10 games = 12 points
2nd 10 games = 12 points
3rd 10 games = 13 points
4th 10 games = 10 points
5th 10 games = 12 points

Which leads us to the real question... Is that same level of performance (about 12 points in every 10 games) going to be enough? It could be, but probably not. Most other years it probably would be. However, this season continues to be filled with three point games by a lot of teams.

For the Kings, it's too risky a proposition to hold your breath and hope they have enough to reach the finish line.  The team has been largely hovering around the 8th seed all year. The time for a trade is now.

Yes, the Kings have been learning how to win. And they've been learning how to lose.

All the while, they've also been trying to raise their compete level (the trendy saying of the moment) and coach Terry Murray continues to preach his 'shot mentality.'

Yet, the bottom line remains, this version of the LA Kings is short on offense...and to win games they need more of it.

Here's a quick review of some of the names who might be available to help:

* Eric Belanger - solid, veteran center...other than Jarret Stoll, the Kings are terrible on faceoffs...he's an unrestricted free agent this summer, so could be a good rental player...when I asked somebody in the Kings organization about him recently they said 'He's been one of the best faceoff men in the league, he's still got a lot of speed'

* Raffi Torres - he certainly would follow the theme of the last few years, where LA picks up a guy who's had some recent injuries...all jokes aside, he plays wing - which is the most critical need for the Kings right now...he has 26 points in 49 games this season - more than Scott Parse, Brad Richardson and Teddy Purcell

* Ray Whitney - one of the better choices available...he's a proven top-six forward with a Stanley Cup ring...great character guy...rumor is, it would probably cost a second round's a complicated situation though because he has a no trade clause and reportedly loves playing in Carolina

* Tampa Bay Lightning - two years ago it was heavily rumored that the Kings were interested in Vincent Lecavalier - but, at this point, it just doesn't make sense with his big contract...the Lightning have three other players who might be better options, each with varying levels of probability when it comes to their availability - Martin St Louis (least likely, has a no trade clause), Ryan Malone (maybe) and Alex Tanguay (rumored to be available and would cost the least)...getting Tanguay would be interesting, as he was available last summer and Dean Lombardi passed on him

* Scott Hartnell - another player with a limited movement clause - however, this is the PERFECT guy for LA...some would complain that Dean Lombardi went after another former Flyer, yet that would be unfair criticism...Hartnell was drafted by and raised in the Nashville system...he plays on the top line in Philly and if you're going to move Frolov in a package, this is the type of guy you want in return

* Ilya Kovalchuk - of course, the Kings have been rumored to be in the sweepstakes for weeks...I just don't see it...Atlanta is going to want (and get) too much in return for a guy that will be unrestricted in, in the back of my mind I keep thinking about baseball (and we all know how much Lombardi loves baseball)...GMs there are often warned about taking the best pitcher on a bad team...I'd argue the same concern exists here with alternative from Atlanta might be Kozlov.

* Duck haters beware - two other possibilities include Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya

To get something you have to give up something (or some things). Trading draft picks is fine. If the Kings can get what they need with that, great - it's just highly unlikely to be that 'inexpensive.' Trading Purcell isn't going to get you much in return either. They may need to use Frolov to fetch more than what a package of 'Purcell and picks' would yield.  However, would they really be better off swapping out his goals for those of somebody else? Not really - that sounds more like a replacement than an addition.

So, what's left? Prospects that still have high trade value.

Lombardi has commented that he probably waited to long to trade Brian Boyle. The Kings have several kids in the system that may still yield a high return. So, perhaps the time has come to part with some of the future. Thomas Hickey may have been the guy they wanted at that draft, but how many young defensemen can the Kings really work in over the next two to three years? They already have Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson playing in LA.  Having Hickey, Colten Tuebert and Viatcheslav Voynov in the system is at least one too many blueliners.
It's a good problem to have, for sure - but somebody has to go.

The future is now. As in right now, not in another month at the trade deadline. There are 32 games left as of this morning - a third of which will be played before the deadline on March 3rd.

Fans have been doing their part in LA, with several sellouts since Christmas.

Dean Lombardi, you're on the clock. What are you going to do next?

The Mayor

Friday, January 22, 2010

Triple Header on TV Today

The Kings may be off, but there is plenty of hockey worth watching on TV later today. In fact, several of the guys suiting up could one day be Kings. Three games with NHL Draft implications are available for viewing or recording:

Everrett Silvertips vs. Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
This game will be on later than the other two listed below - however, it's the marquee match-up of the day when it comes to Draft Watch 2010 as eight guys ranked by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau will be playing.

Swiss superstar-to-be Nino Nierderreiter (RW) leads a loaded Winterhawks team that features five kids ranked in the top 100 - Nino (ranked #14), center Ryan Johansen (#16), defenseman Troy Rutkowski (#43), left wing Bradley Ross (#69) and defenseman Taylor Aronson (#90).

The Silvertips have three players of their own ranked as well - Kent Simpson (#7 ranked goaltender) and two defenseman, Alex Theriau (#74) and Radko Gudas (#131). If that last name sounds familiar to some of you, Gudas participated in the Kings rookie training camp back in September, wearing jersey #73. He is a year older than most draft eligible players and some scouts say he could be NHL ready next year.

The game can be seen on FoxSports Northwest (channel 687 on DirecTV).

Boston University at Boston College
As I wrote about a few weeks ago when these two teams played outdoors at Fenway, this is the best rivalry in college hockey and is almost always a great game. They've been battling each other for nearly 100 years! They've also won the last two NCAA Championships, Boston in 2009 and BC the year prior. Both are top five schools when it comes to producing future NHL players, including current Kings Rob Scuderi and Peter Harrold.

...and if you've been keeping up on the Kings news this week, Boston schools are favored by Kings GM Dean Lombardi. Shhh, don't tell Jack Johnson.

Scuderi and Harrold both played four years at Boston College. Scuds won a championship with the team in 2001 and Harrold served as team captain his senior year, 2005-06.

This year's BC roster features several potential NHL stars of the future. For example, Chris Kreider, who won a gold medal with Team USA at the recent World Jrs, and three of his teammates have already been drafted by NHL teams. Never to be outdone by their rival, BU's roster features the Colorado Avalanche's first and second round picks from 2007 - Kevin Shattenkirk and Colby Cohen.

Click here to read the recent BC vs BU article detailing the rivalry and all the connections to current and former Kings.

The puck drops at 4:30pm PST on NESN (channel 628 on DirecTV)

Denver Pioneers at Wisconsin Badgers
Another college hockey game, this time featuring two of the top ranked teams in the country - #1 Denver visits #3 Wisconsin. The Badgers have lost five straight games to the Pioneers, including the last two by shutouts. This season they're the second-highest scoring team in the nation though (with a 4.05 goals-per-game average), so they're hoping to reverse their fortunes tonight at home.

In an interesting twist, Denver head coach George Gwozdecky is a former Badger teammate of UW head coach Mike Eaves.

Players to watch: UW Junior defenseman Brendan Smith has been mentioned among the leading candidates for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

Jordy Murray, former Kings coach Andy Murray's 'other' son, also plays for UW. As most of you know, Jordy's brother Brady was drafted by the Kings and is still team property. Jordy injured his shoulder in December, however he has come on strong lately -scoring goals in three of the last four games, including a goal in both games last weekend versus #8 Colorado College.

John Ramage, a 6'1" defenseman for Wisconsin, is ranked #187 and will be drafted this June.

Current Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske played four years for the Badgers, winning an NCAA Championship in 2006 (beating Peter Harold and his Boston College teammates).

Read the interview with Andy Murray, where he talks about his sons, by clicking here.

This game can be seen on the NHL Network starting at 5pm PST (channel 215 on DirecTV)

Finally, back in October I wrote an article about the Kings being ahead of the curve in the NHL with their make-up of guys from the college ranks (available by clicking here). It was updated a few weeks later when another former college player, Scott Parse, was called up from Manchester. You can read the 10 Tidbits on Scott Parse article by clicking here.

Read. Watch. Enjoy.

The Mayor

Frolov Rumor: Team Russia?

It wouldn't be a good hockey week without a good Frolov rumor.

When the Olympic hockey rosters were announced a few weeks back Russian officials raised some eyebrows after saying the published list was only their 'preliminary' roster. They openly said they planned on making some changes. It was then reported that Brian Burke and Steve Yzerman, GMs of the U.S. and Canadian teams, asked IIHF officials for a clarification on the rules. They were under the impression that the rosters they submitted could be changed prior to the Games beginning...however ONLY in the case of a valid injury.

Well, fire up the story again...

According to they've sourced a report out of Russia claiming nine players will be swapped out on the motherland's roster. Three of the reported substitutes come from the NHL, including the Kings Alexander Frolov.

Read the full report by clicking here.

While this would be great news for Frolov, perhaps even righting the original wrong of him not being included in the first place, this type of move by Russia isn't going to come without a little controversy...and perhaps even a protest or complaint filed by one of the other countries.

Stay tuned.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

CHL Prospects Game wrap-up

Last night was another showcase event for players looking to be drafted by an NHL team this June in Los Angeles. The CHL - comprised of all three major Canadian junior leagues - put on their annual Prospects Game in Windsor, Ontario.

Nearly all of the players on both rosters are ranked in the top 100 by the NHL's Central Scouting, including the top three ranked North American players: LW Taylor Hall (first), C Tyler Seguin (second) and D Cam Fowler (third).

Another guy on the roster was the kid that should be called 'number one with a bullet' the way his stock is rising, Swiss superstar-to-be Nino Nierderreiter. He had another strong game, netting one of the two goals for Team Orr (Bobby Orr).

You can catch Nino on TV again this Friday. He'll be playing for his regular junior team, the Portland Winterhawks, when they host the Everrett Silvertips (Oscar Moller's old team). The game can be seen on FoxSports Northwest (channel 687 on DirecTV).

Team Cherry (Don Cherry) won the game with four goals from Ryan Spooner (ranked #38), Emerson Etem, Jordan Weal (ranked #45) and Louis-Marc Aubry (ranked #89)

Although Hall was held to just an assist in the game, he was named player of the game for Cherry.

Jeff Skinner (ranked #47) scored the other goal for Team Orr and was voted his team's player of the game. He also won the breakaway contest in the prior night's Skills Competition.

"It's just an honour to play for Bobby Orr and it was a great game," Skinner said. "It was a tough one to lose but I think our team battled hard and it was a lot of fun."

Seguin ended the night with zero points and a minus-2 rating. Fowler, also held pointless, was a much better plus 4 in the game.

Click here to see the official game story and game sheet.

Click here to see the current player rankings by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau.

The draft will be here before you know it. Read up!

The Mayor

ECHL All Star Game wrap-up

Ontario, CA - It was a night of firsts. The Ontario Reign, in just their second year, were hosting their first All Star game. Twenty-two of the 42 players in the game were rookies. And for the first time in ECHL history, the All Star game went to a shootout to determine the winner.

Scouts from nearly every NHL team were in the building, including Dave Taylor of the Dallas Stars. If it sounded weird in your head when you just read that, imagine how weird it was to type it. Dave Taylor, part of any organization other than the Los Angeles Kings will always seem like a typo.

While the real stars of the night were on the ice, kudos to the fans that actually showed up. The official attendance was 7,615, a few thousand above what the Reign have been averaging since they started play at Citizens Bank Arena in the fall of 2008. Still, for the opening face-off the building was barely half full. Unfortunately for the host team Southern California was in the middle of a multi-day rain storm, which usually keeps Angelenos home. People here think they will melt in the rain, unlike Buffalo where they'll sit outside in the snow to watch hockey.

Three Reign players made the team and two of them netted goals, Captain David Walker and 5'4" forward Peter Lenes. Their regular teammate (and former Kings draft pick), Greg Hogeboom, was kept off the score sheets entirely - although he was robbed on a breakaway early in the first. Had he scored, the National Conference would have led 1-0. Instead, the American Conference scored moments later and led at the first intermission 3-2.

During the introduction of players prior to the game some of the loudest cheers of the night could be heard for the diminutive Lenes...that is, until he scored less than two minutes into the second period to tie the game. The cheers were even louder. After the game he described the play "We were going to the net and tried to make a pass, it went off the goalie's pad and I just got the rebound, had the open net so..." When I asked him if he was aware the crowd was going crazy for him his response was "Yeah, it was awesome. Some of the guys on the bench were teasing me, they thought it was pretty funny. It's great when the fans are behind you and I wish we could have won for them."

The night got off to an unintentional funny start when the American Conference captain, JC Sawyer of Toledo, somehow tripped near a rug at the base of the bench as people were cleaning up after the ceremonial face-off at center ice. He fell like an eight year old on skates for the first time, causing the guy next to me to chirp "He just pulled a Legace." Sawyer was a minus four for the night and held to zero points in a game that was 9-9 after regulation. A rough night for a guy that leads all defenseman in the ECHL this season in goals and points.

Adam Miller of the Las Vegas Wranglers and Evan Barlow of the Idaho Steelheads both had four point nights, with matching lines of 2 goals and 2 assists. Near the end of regulation they collected my MVP ballot for the night. I backed the wrong horse by selecting Miller, the award went to Barlow.

After the game he had this to say about his play and the experience "We had some fun in the third. Miller has great speed and has a lot of vision, I think he's a heck of a player. It was fun playing with him."

The Americans were up 3-0 in the shootout (best of five format) when Barlow finally got the Nationals on the board. At that point he said he was trying to keep things alive and said "I was hoping Box (goaltender Richard Bachman, his teammate in Idaho) would come up big there, but they were able to sneak one past him."

Bachman was one of eight players in the game that are currently under contract with an NHL team -three of them with the Ducks. He's with Dallas, so if Turco gets traded (as rumored), he could be moving up to the AHL.

The Americans won the shootout 3-1 and the game 10-9.

All in all, a great time in Ontario. The staff there are wonderful and very accommodating, going out of there way to make sure everybody in the building has a good time.

One final note, both teams were wearing special All Star jerseys, of course. However, unlike most sports where the colors have nothing to do with the host city, both teams were wearing the Reign colors - orange and blue. It was a nice tie-in and a smart idea. The NHL should try something like that when their All Star game returns next year.

If you haven't been to a Reign game yet, give it a try. Tickets are inexpensive and the parking is free. You might like it. For tickets, special offers and game schedules visit

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Random Notes from the ECHL All Star Game

This blog was updated live throughout the game.

For brevity it's been removed and the notes have been consolidated into my game recap available by CLICKING HERE.

The Mayor

Luc Robitaille at ECHL Hall of Fame

As part of the ECHL All Star festivities in Ontario this week they hosted a Hall of Fame lunch to induct the four members of the 2010 Class, including former NHL goaltender Olaf Kolzig.

Luc Robitaille, a man who knows a thing or two about battling against the odds to make it the NHL, was the guest speaker. Below are highlights:

He opened with a few comments on this year's Kings team, saying they've "played to packed houses" most nights. He acknowledged they "weren't happy with the team's performance last night" and that's being addressed. With attendance up, they'll be focusing on TV ratings next. The most applause came after this proclamation "At the beginning of the season we said we would settle for nothing less than making the playoffs this year, so that’s what we’re focused on."
Luc reflected over his career by saying "I was just a kid and I wanted to play the game. Next thing I knew I was 35 years old and I was still shooting pucks into the net."

Like his Hall of Fame speech from November he acknowledged the scout that pushed the Kings to sign him, the only scout that actually looked at him and had him ranked. He also mentioned how tough it must have been to get the Kings to draft him. After all, they took Tom Glavine in the 5th round - a guy who told everybody he would never play hockey, choosing baseball instead.

On his approach to the game Luc offered "Every night when I sat in the locker room I made sure I didn't have any regrets. I didn't always have a good game. Many games I was a minus – so I had some tough games. But, I never wanted to think I wish I had done something different."

About his passion for the game and how he became a left wing: "In midgets I wanted to play center – my idol was Wayne Gretzky. I wanted to be a center and dreamed of being the greatest play maker in the game. My coach asked me to play left wing on the fourth line one day. I told him I'd play goalie if they needed me to. I just wanted to play. Then some guys got hurt and things happened, I moved up and I played left wing for the rest of my career."

Always humble and never shy about his lightning fast speed he offered "The good thing about being slow when you’re 20 years old is that you never lose a step. So, near the end of my career they couldn't say anything about my speed. I was still just as fast as I was when I first broke into the league."

Robitaille spoke about Reign owner Barry Kemp (then owner of the Long Beach Ice Dogs) mentioning to him 12 years ago that he wanted to build an arena in Ontario and bring a team to the area. He's proud to see how far the dream has come, with the team now hosting the ECHL All Star Game and the Hall of Fame inductions. He thanked the Reign staff and all they do in partnership with AEG on promoting the game of hockey and providing a quality product to fans in Southern California.

He wrapped things up saying "Ill keep this short because I know some of the players in the room want to go back and take a nap and I'm sure a few of you had a good time last night and can use the all the players, keep the dream alive, there will be many scouts in the crowd and watching the game on TV tonight. Character is number one. That’s what the Kings look for and it’s a hot topic in the NHL right now." He wants every player to remember that on and off the ice.

One more joke before he left - while thanking Reebok for their sponsorship and support of the game he quipped "I wish they had those tight (slimmer) jerseys earlier in my career."

The guy is always smiling. He's such a joy to be around. You can always be proud to call yourself a Kings fan when Luc is in the room.

The Mayor

more to come from the ECHL All Star Game later today

2010 DRAFT: More Prospects on TV Today

The 2010 NHL Draft is headed to Los Angeles this June. To get ready, all 30 NHL teams will have scouts at the CHL Prospects Game in Windsor, Ontario tonight.

Luckily for you, you can watch the game on the NHL Network at 4pm PST. Get a good look at some of the players that will be taken in the first round of this year's NHL Draft.

Case in point - all 16 Canadian Junior players that were selected in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft played in last year's game. Alumni of this game include first overall picks John Tavares, Chris Phillips, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Rick Nash, Marc-Andre Fleury, Patrick Kane, and Steven Stamkos. Like the World Junior Championships, this is a must-see event for scouts and draft-heads.

Last night they held a skills competition to showcase some of the guys that will play in today's Prospects Game. Swiss superstar-to-be Nino Nierderreiter (expected to be a first round pick) had the highlight goal of the skills event - click here to see the video.

The above goal earned Niederreiter a perfect 10 score from three of the judges in the Skills Competition - Windsor Spitfires defenseman and 2009 first-round Entry Draft pick Ryan Ellis; former NHL player (including with the LA Kings) and Windsor GM/owner Warren Rychel; and Rogers SportsNet's Rob Faulds. The toughest judge was former NHL enforcer and Windsor native Bob Probert, who gave Niederreiter a 9.

The CHL Top Prospects Game will feature two teams full of future NHL Draft picks, all taken from the three CHL leagues. The teams are coached by Don Cherry and Bobby Orr and are thus called Team Cherry and Team Orr.

Team Orr won last night's skills competition, topping Team Cherry by a 23-17 margin.

The 20-man rosters were selected by NHL General Managers along with NHL Central Scouting and include 18 players from the Ontario Hockey League, 13 players from the Western Hockey League, and nine players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Windsor Spitfires (OHL) players LW Taylor Hall (ranked first) and D Cam Fowler (ranked third) will suit up for Team Cherry and C Tyler Seguin (ranked second) from the OHL's Plymouth Whalers will play for Team Orr.

Click here to view the full rosters for the CHL Top Prospects Game.

Watch the game later this afternoon and form your own opinions on who should be taken first overall. See who you think looks like an NHL star in the making. Playing scout and GM can be fun. Just remember, these are kids...and their future upside is highly debatable, even by the guys that do this for a living.


The Mayor

note: some information in the above article was taken from the coverage of the Prospects Game

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ECHL Skills Competition

As mentioned here several times over the last few weeks, the Ontario Reign - proud affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings - are hosting the ECHL All Star Game on Wednesday, January 20th.

In the same arena where the game will be held - the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario - the Skills Competition was held earlier tonight.

In a touch of irony it was pouring rain outside the home of the Reign. Inside, the host National Conference defeated the American Conference, 11-10.

Here are the official results, per the ECHL press release:

Sher-wood Hockey Puck Control Relay - National d. American

Sher-wood Hockey Individual Puck Control Relay - National (Peter Lenes, Ontario) d. American (Jacob Micflikier, Florida)

Reebok Fastest Skater - National (14.406) d. American (14.462)

Reebok Hardest Shot - American (97.9) d. National (94.7)
* David Walker (Ontario), National Conference (94.0)

Bull Outdoor Products Rapid Fire - American (22 saves) d. National (20 saves)

MeiGray Group Accuracy Shooting Competition - National (11 targets) d. American (9 targets)
* Greg Hogeboom (Ontario), National Conference (3-for-8)

Ice Town Breakaway Relay - American d. National, 7-5
* David Walker (Ontario), National, goal
* Peter Lenes (Ontario), National, miss
* Shawn Weller (Ontario), National, miss
* Greg Hogeboom (Ontario), National, goal

The ECHL All-Star Game will be played in Ontario on Wednesday, January 20th. Tickets are available via the Reign website by clicking here.

You can also watch the game in SoCal on Fox Sports West; and nationally on the NHL Network (DirecTV channel 215 or check your cable listings). The game will also be broadcast live online free of charge on

I'll be at the game and providing a full report right here on If you're not busy, head out to Ontario and check out the game in person.

The Mayor

Rob Blake : The Interview

Bet you never thought you'd see this one did you?!?!

Yep, the Rob Blake interview. For real. No joke.

For those who don't know, there's a little history here. I'm very much a 'you're with me or against me' type guy. So, when Rob Blake resigned the captaincy of the Kings in September 2000 it pretty much sealed his fate with me.

From the moment he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche the following spring, he was one of my top targets along the visiting team tunnel.

The banter with players comes from many places - dark places for some, respect for others. It's a blast when you know you're inside of a guys head. For others, it's a respectful give-and-take, back-and-forth thing. You can 'hate' a player and still respect him - see Theo Fleury, Mike Ricci, etc. You can also 'hate' a player to your very core - see Craig Muni, Craig MacTavish, etc.

Then there's Rob Blake. It's so hard to describe. On some levels you want to like him for what he did for the organization. On the other hand, you want to hate him for what he did to the organization.

Blake was combative every time he returned in an Avs uniform. Constantly stirring things up with the fans in Section 119. He says he returned to LA in 2006 to try and fix things. After completing his second tour of duty with the Kings I get the feeling he's moved on. Nowadays, when he visits with the Sharks he keeps his head down and appears focused on the game, ignoring those still hanging on to the past. It's like he got the closure he needed. Now I find myself asking, "Do I have closure too?"

He had resigned the captaincy after receiving what he thought to be a 'take it or leave it' contract offer. At the time he said "When (an offer) is put that way, if you don't agree, you're gone. I stepped down as captain because the team needs to keep moving forward."

Then, a few days later, when he asked for the captaincy back he said "This is a business. But I think I took it way too personal."

Did, perhaps, we all take things too personal?

When Kings GM Dean Lombardi resigned him in the summer of '06 I asked him how he could bring back a guy like Blake after preaching he only wanted 'high character' guys. Dean insisted we had it all wrong and the Player's Association was behind most of the drama back then.

Perhaps. Or was it poor leadership? Contract, free agency, whatever. Leaders lead. And I'm not following any guy that leads by taking his ball and going home.

Where does the truth end and fiction begin? Is any of this still important after the franchise and the player have both moved on?

He's an important part of the Kings story and certainly one of the best defenseman in franchise history.

He'll return once again tonight, now the captain of the San Jose Sharks. As a preview to the game I chatted with Blake about his time in LA and we reflected a bit, as things begin to wind down on what will surely be a Hall of Fame career.

When you were drafted by the Kings back in '88 was that something you were expecting or had you been talking more with some other teams?

It was more unexpected than expected. Back then they didn't really do all the interviews and things they do now. So when I went to the draft I really didn't have a clue where I would end up. LA wasn't a team that I spoke with before hand or anything, so I didn't know they were going to pick me.

You played two more years of college hockey before finally signing with the Kings. What were some of your first thoughts when you finally showed up to play with the Kings?

I came right at the end of college. We finished our season at Bowling Green and the next day I flew to LA. I remember my stall was right beside Larry Robinson, who was a childhood idol of mine growing up. So to walk into the dressing room, over at Culver City at the time, and have Larry Robinson as the guy next to me and looking across the room was Wayne Gretzky. I remember he actually came over and introduced himself, saying 'Hi. I'm Wayne Gretzky' or something like that. I was like, 'I grew up in Canada. I know who you are.' That's how personable those guys were. But, when you're not in the NHL and you're working your way up, those guys are idols to you. Then, from one day to the next, all the sudden they became teammates. It was pretty amazing.

Players often talk about how much faster the NHL is than college or juniors. What were some of the first things you noticed about the game itself being different?

I think the size and strength of the guys is the first thing you noticed. I think the first game was against Winnipeg. I remember skating around in warm-ups and thinking 'Look at the size of all these guys.' In college you might have had one or two guys that were kinda big, but they might not have been as fast. It seemed like it was a whole different level. And it was men! I was coming from college and kids. Now all the sudden I was in a league of men. It's almost better that you don't know what to expect. You just kinda get thrown in and away you go.

One of the first real high points for the franchise was winning the Smythe Division in '90-91, your first full year with the team. As you guys entered the playoffs that year, what kind of a sense did you get from your teammates - how close did that group think the team was at that point to making a serious run at the Cup?

I think we thought we were...obviously, finishing first in the Smythe - a division that was, at the time one of the toughest divisions for sure. We all expected we would go a lot further. We had some big games and we had guys like Gretzky and Kelly Hrudey. So our expectations were to go very deep into the playoffs. It's not easy to do, but winning the Smythe put us in a position where we thought 'We're not far away from going to the finals.'

Some of your teammates from the early '90s have said they felt it was the Oilers that were the big hurdle for you guys. That getting past that team was just too much. Did you see things that way or did you have a different perspective?

I don't know if that was it so much with me because I had just come in at that time. But, we did have a lot of ex-Oilers. We had Marty, Huddy, Gretzky, Kurri. So, we had plenty of ex-Oilers and that created that issue. But, not so much with me because I wasn't part of it. When you look back on it though you can certainly see the history between the two teams for sure.

On to the '93 playoffs. The seven game series with Toronto had to be draining. Entering the finals, were you concerned that maybe the team wouldn't have enough left to compete with Montreal - who was well rested at that point?

Yeah, they had been off. Anytime you make it that far though and you get into the finals you understand there's a maximum of seven games left, so you have enough left in your tank. Interestingly, we had to go through four Canadian teams that year in the playoffs. Obviously, the majority of us being from the Toronto area, to be able to beat them in a seven game situation was a pretty exciting situation. We stayed right there in Toronto after it was over. I think we had a day or two off and then was off to Montreal and the hype began for the finals. It was a pretty amazing experience.

You're probably tired of talking about it, yet we have to if we're talking about this time period...Marty and the stick situation - everybody has an opinion about it and over time some opinions have changed - do you think that was the turning point in the series?

I think it's the most publicized turning point of that series. I don't know if it was the real turning point. I mean if you look, we were still up by a goal when that happened. We should have been able to put the game away. We should have been able to kill that off. They scored in overtime. They won three games in a row in overtime. I think Desjardins, LeClair and LeClair. wasn't just that we lost that game. The next two games were very close too. The series ended up 4-1 and in the fifth game they kinda took it to us. There were a lot of different key points, but I think the stick incident will always be the most talked about just because it gave them that power play late, late in the game.

As you look back at your career, is there one guy you wish you would have had a chance to play with?

I don't know. I've been fortunate. I played with so many players throughout the LA era there. It's been pretty amazing. I look more at the guys I played with, rather than I didn't. Like I mentioned Gretzky, Robinson, Kurri - then you have guys like Granato, McSorley, Huddy, Hrudey. I can go on and on with the players. So for me, I've been blessed to be able to play with some great players over my career. It's made it a lot of fun.

How about the hiring of Andy Murray. He told me that you were one of the reasons he wanted to come to LA. Was that something you lobbied for after having him coach you with Team Canada or were you surprised when he ended up here?

No it wasn't a coincidence. It was definitely something we had talked about. I had him before in previous hockey Canada situations and I understood what type of coach he was and the structure he had, his understanding of the game. He had us so well prepared in those World Championships I thought that was something that could be brought to the Kings. Obviously his record over the years on different teams shows that he can do that. He brings teams that are kinda coming together and he finds a way to get them playing and producing every year. So, we were fortunate to be able to have him there for a few years to help build that.

What happened with all the injuries? People in the media, even fans, they like to point to him working his teams too hard in practice.

I don't know, I don't really buy into that. The conditioning has changed so much from he 90's until now. I mean it's tremendous. If you watch, now you see why kids are so developed coming into the league. I think the way Andy coaches the practices and how he drives it that's anticipated. You need to have your body in that position and need to be able to take all that. So, I don't read too much into it. But, I do think the transition of the training process has increased so much from the early 90s to now, it's changed the game a lot.

The trade. By resigning the captaincy some would say you forced the teams hand. In hindsight is that how you see things?

Well that's totally false. I don't really answer these things because a lot of it is what people want to say and what people want to make up. Obviously there was a dispute in the number of years and things we wanted on the contract and then the next day I wake up and get a call and I'm traded. So, there's not a lot a player can do. You respond to the trade. When you're traded, you go to that team and you show up the next day and go to work. That's the position I was in at the time.

Some fans in LA didn't treat you so well after the trade. Being a fan favorite for so long in LA, was that a bitter pill to swallow at the time or was winning the Cup in Colorado your own sense of satisfaction?

Well I don't know if there's any satisfaction in it. I came into the league a Los Angeles King and that's what I wanted to remain. Like I said we're in a business. When you get that phone call that you've been traded your mindset has to change that very day. You have to become a product of the Colorado Avalanche now and you've got to leave those memories that you had with Los Angeles behind you. I've always said the fans are passionate fans there and they're not going to cheer for somebody wearing a different uniform, that's for sure. That's the way it's been handled from that day on and we can live with that.

How about returning to the Kings in '06, GM Dean Lombardi took some heat for it at the time. Was it something you needed to do, wanted to do or was it just the right offer at the right time?

No. I didn't even actually look anywhere else. It's what I wanted to do at the time. I've enjoyed my time in LA and I enjoyed playing there, living there, raising a family there. It was an opportunity to be able to come back and try to work things out, try to get through it. It wasn't the best two years for the franchise or for me personally. But, it was something that I needed to do and I'm glad I did it. Obviously we've gone different ways now. That being said, at that time, it's exactly what I had hoped. I had hoped I could go back and try to play in LA again. That's what I wanted to do.

Speculation at the trade deadline in '08, your last year here, was that Lombardi wanted to trade you and you wouldn't allow it. Any truth to that?

No. He tried to trade me and I allowed it to go through if that's what he wanted to do. I guess at the last minute they couldn't get the deal worked out. I wasn't going to stand in the way of anything they wanted to accomplish.

That summer, without a contract, did you contemplate retirement...or did you know you wanted to play, but you knew you just wanted to play somewhere else?

It's not that I wanted to play someplace else, that was the only option I had. I wanted to keep playing in the NHL. I had some injuries that took awhile to heal and later on through the year you start feeling a little better. As I was overcoming those things I knew I wanted to continue my career in the NHL. It's a dream to be able to do that, that's how it's unfolded even a couple more years past that.

How about getting the 'C' in San Jose. Was that captain by default? Does it bother you when people say Joe Thornton is the real leader of the team?

Not at all. We have more of a leadership group. It's definitely not one guy wearing a letter that's going to be able to lead this team. We needed a group. We didn't look at it so much as Patty losing the captaincy, he's a big part of this team and anything going forward. When we go into meetings and whatnot we have four or five guys go in as a group, so its obviously not just one guy in there. That's the way this team has been set up. You have a lot of guys capable of handling things at different times, so we kinda do it as a group.

Is there anything else you'd like to say to the fans of the LA Kings to wrap things up here?

Nope. I think that's good.

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

After thinking about it for a long time, I think he's right. So much has been said already, there really isn't much left to say. Perhaps it's time to move on.

When it comes to Rob Blake I'm conflicted. I'll admit it.

The Mayor


High / Low with Rob Blake - also includes word association on a bunch of his teammates

Reliving '93 - When Mullets Were Cool

Roy, Melrose and Blake on the '93 Finals

20 Questions with #20 Luc Robitaille

Interview with Andy Murray

Hockey's Most Exclusive Club - live from the induction ceremonies


Monday, January 18, 2010

Manchester Mondays: All Star Edition

What are you looking for in this week's AHL prospects report - first round draft picks? all star notes? stats? We have it all.

The AHL - one of the top feeder systems to the NHL - will be holding its annual All Star Game tomorrow night in Portland, Maine. That's where the Pirates play, the Buffalo Sabres AHL affiliate.

In advance of tomorrow's game the AHL will put on a Skills Competition later this afternoon, featuring events such as the fastest skater, the hardest shot and accuracy shooting. The event will start at 5pm PST and can be seen on several of the Fox Sports stations carried on DirecTV.

As for the game itself - well, it's scheduled to start at 3pm PST Tuesday afternoon and can be seen on the NHL Network (DirecTV channel 215). The Kings AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, will be represented on a variety of levels. Monarchs head coach Mark Morris and assistant Scott Pellerin will head the PlanetUSA team (for those unfamiliar, the AHL uses a PlanetUSA vs. Team Canada format for the All Star Game) and two players made the rosters - goaltender Jonathan Bernier (Team Canada) and defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov (PlanetUSA - which is actually a mix of U.S. and non-North American players...I know, don't ask).

Bernier was the Kings first round draft pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He's played four games with the big club, including picking up a win versus Anaheim when the two teams opened in London a few years ago. For the last two seasons he's played in Manchester, where he currently leads the AHL in most of the goaltending stats.

Voynov was selected by the Kings in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He joined Manchester last year after winning two straight bronze medals for Russia at the World Junior Championships (2008 & 2009). This season he leads all Monarchs defenseman with 8 goals and 16 assists. His offensive outburst also has him tied for second in the race for the overall team points lead.

In addition to Bernier, Team Canada's roster boasts five other NHL first-round draft picks - including Logan Couture and Tyler Ennis of the host Portland Pirates, the top two rookie scorers in the league. Meanwhile, the PlanetUSA roster features five former first-round NHL draft picks of its own - including John Carlson of the Hershey Bears, who was a big hero at the just completed World Junior Championships (read about it by clicking here).

Today's final note on the All Star Game is an interesting stat via an AHL press release: "Of the 492 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 94 percent have competed in the National Hockey League," including Dustin Brown, Dan Boyle, Zdeno Chara, Miikka Kiprusoff, Ryan Miller, Zach Parise, Bobby Ryan, Patrick Sharp and Eric Staal.

Needless to say, there will be an overwhelming amount of future NHL stars - some even superstars - competing in the AHL All Star Game festivities today and tomorrow.

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

Other Manchester notes:

The Monarchs are still in first place, leading the Atlantic division with 57 points after 44 games played. However, they're just a few points ahead of the Worcester Sharks and the Lowell Devils.

The top two players on the team (statistically speaking) to not be selected to this year's All Star Game would be Corey Elkins and Bud Holloway. Elkins was signed by the Kings as a free agent in March '09, after playing four years at Ohio State University. He's played three games with the Kings this season and is currently leading the Monarchs in goals (13) and points (29).

Holloway split time last season between the Monarchs and the Ontario Reign (ECHL), where he led the team in points in the playoffs. Originally taken in the 3rd round of the 2006 NHL Draft, he was also a teammate of Thomas Hickey (Kings first round pick in 2007, Dean Lombardi's first draft with the team) when both played for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. Bud is right behind Elkins in goals (12) and assists (24) after 40 games with the Monarchs this season.

Skills Competition Monday. All Star Game Tuesday. Then, the Monarchs return to action Friday night when they visit the Hartford Wolfpack.


EXTRA: There was a nice article on Jonathan Bernier that appeared this weekend on You can access it now by clicking here.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Right on Track

For all that's been made of the recent three game losing streak by the Kings, with their back to back wins they're actually right on track.

Since the beginning of the season we've been looking at the importance of breaking down the season into 10-game segments. To help maintain the sanity of players and fans alike it's critical to not overreact to any one game, any one period or even any one player (more on that later).

If you look at the final standings in the Western Conference last year, the Kings need to average about 11-12 points per 10 games (11.5 points x 8 segments = 92 points). Eight of those segments would equal 80 games, then use the last two games of the season for seeding purposes (any points acquired in the final two contests would push the Kings over 92 points).

When carving up this season into such segments a very interesting trend develops for the Kings...

1st 1o games = 12 points
2nd 10 games = 12 points
3rd 10 games = 13 points (read Picking Up Steam by clicking here)
4th 10 games = 10 points

That's a very consistent average. Sure, you wish that last stretch was a little better. However, a quick look back at the schedule reveals that brutal December run - injuries, plus some crazy scheduling. So, again, no overreaction.

Which brings us to the current stretch of 10 games:

Game 41 - 12/31 vs MIN = 2 points
Game 42 - 01/02 vs WAS = 2 points
Game 43 - 01/04 vs SJS = 2 points
Game 44 - 01/07 vs DET = 0 points
Game 45 - 01/09 vs STL = 0 points
Game 46 - 01/11 vs SJS = 0 points
Game 47 - 01/14 vs ANA = 2 points
Game 48 - 01/16 vs BOS = 2 points
Game 49 - 01/19 vs SJS = ?
Game 50 - 01/21 vs BUF = ?

So...that's 10 points already in this segment, with two more games to go.

Fairly consistent when you elevate up to 30,000 feet and get out of the minutia of this play, that play - this game, that game.

Pick up a few more points in the next two games and this is a successful stretch, in spite of that frustrating three game losing streak to the Wings-Blues-Sharks last week.

Make no mistake about it though. The Kings aren't out of the woods yet. They continue to hover around the 8th seed in the West, they have two strong teams coming in this week to finish out the home stand (SJ and Buffalo)...and they begin a five game road trip Saturday that features games against Detroit (looking to leap frog the Kings for a playoff spot), Boston (looking for redemption after letting a two goal lead evaporate in LA) and New Jersey (Martin Brodeur in goal, enough said).

One at a time though.

Next up San Jose.

Check back tomorrow for an unlikely interview as part of the game preview.


note: for those confused by the picture above, today's 10 Game Segment feature is brought to you by former LA Kings forward #10 Alyn McCauley