Saturday, January 30, 2010

High / Low with Luc Robitaille

Throughout the season we've had many special guests stop by to take their turn at our quick hit series called High/Low. The premise is simple, we serve up a topic and they give their three highs and three lows. Jim Fox, Marcel Dionne, Kelly Hrudey and others have all taken a turn weighing in on various topics.

Today we have the King of Kings, Luc Robitaille making his second High/Low appearance (the first visit from November is available by clicking here).

Topic for today - the Kings season to date...

He starts out by telling me that the loss to the Sharks last Tuesday was a big low. Then, he proceeds to laugh. Which of course makes me laugh. I swear, someday I'm going to get a serious interview out of Luc where he doesn't make me laugh one time. On second thought, that's probably impossible. He's always smiling and laughing.

He did pull it together long enough to get a few low points out though - "The Ryan Smyth injury was a huge low for us. We also had that little slump around Christmas where we played real well, but we lost four games in a row by one goal and those are always tough to swallow because the team was playing well."

Before I could let Lucky know that he's the first person all year to start his High / Low segment with the 'lows' he says "More interesting for us is that we've had several great highs..."
  • The acquisition of Ryan Smyth was a huge plus for us.
  • Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar starting the season so strong was big for us too.
  • The play of Drew Doughty is amazing. I'm still amazed he was picked to be on the Olympic team at his age and as a defenseman. You never see that happen.
He then moves forward with "Talking about all of this though, the thing that's important for us is the last 30 games. We need to be at our best."

Ok, Luc - good segue. What holes need to be filled going into the trading deadline?

"We always talk about wanting more experience. Dean's evaluating the needs at every position, but to lose Justin Williams for that long is going to hurt. He's a hard guy to replace, so I'm sure he's looking for somebody to help us with the secondary scoring. I think if he has an opportunity to get the right veteran to help our young guys, it's going to help us. He's looking at what everybody has available. The funny thing is when you get to this time of the year - just when you think nobody is available, suddenly teams are willing to move four or five guys. So, it's going to be interesting over the next month for sure."


The Mayor

Links to other High / Low guest articles:
Kelly Hrudey
Marcel Dionne
Jim Fox
Terry Murray
Mark Hardy

other Luc Robitaille articles on Mayors Manor:

20 Questions with Lucky - the full interview
Luc on his teammates
Players speak out about Luc

Friday, January 29, 2010

4's All Around

The Kings took care of business last night, putting four goals up on the Blue Jackets in Columbus for their fourth win in a row.

In their next game they'll be taking on the Bruins - who just so happen to be winless in their last four. Game time in Boston will be 4pm PST Saturday afternoon.

So, hey, if they can rally around the four, so can we...

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Steve Ott a future LA King?

As the NHL rumor mill kicks into high gear - leading up to the first of two trading deadlines - it seems that every five minutes a new story gets out about the Kings possible interest in Ilya Kovalchuk.

Last week, we had a story looking at some of the other probable players on the move and the reasons why they would or wouldn't be a good fit for the Kings (linked here).

There's also another player who might be in the mix, a guy flying below the radar of names like Ray Whitney and Sheldon Souray...Steve Ott.

Now, there's no guarantee he'll be moved out of Dallas. However, a recent article by Stars' beat writer Mike Heika shed some light on the difficulties the Stars are having in getting the unrestricted free agent-to-be inked to a contract extension:

The talks are cordial, Ott wants to stay in Dallas, and both sides say everybody is happy and open to negotiations. But the fly in the ointment is that it's really tough to define what Steve Ott is right now.

Is he a gritty third line forward who can kill penalties, agitate and help the team win? Is he a top six forward who can score goals and help make a skilled line tougher? Is he the elusive shut-down checking line center who can win faceoffs that this team so desperately needs?
He goes on to say things like:
He is a very good player who has a lot of value in this league as an unrestricted free agent, but he may not have that same value to his own team.
and then

If Loui Eriksson is getting a raise to $4.25 million next season and Brenden Morrow makes $4.1 million and James Neal is going to need a raise into the $4 million range pretty soon, do the Stars have the space to pay another winger $2.5-3 million? Would Ott even accept that kind of offer?
You can read his whole article by clicking here.

The Kings have a history of pulling deals out of left field. A trade for Ott would certainly qualify as such.

Just remember, he's solid on faceoffs and isn't afraid to go to the corners - two valuable attributes come playoff time.

The Mayor

Andre Ethier to drop puck at LA Kings - NY Rangers game

According to a press release earlier today from the Dodgers, outfielder Andre Either will be on hand for the ceremonial face off prior to the Kings game with the New York Rangers next Tuesday night.

Tuesday, February 2
Dodgers Andre Ethier and Hiroki Kuroda and former Dodgers Kenny Landreaux, Rudy Law, Bobby Castillo and Tommy Davis...will be on hand for day two of the Dodgers Community Caravan.

5 to 6:30 p.m. - ESPN Zone at L.A. LIVE Downtown Los Angeles
Dodger players and legends will be on hand for an autograph session.

7 p.m. - Ceremonial Puck Drop
Prior to the 7:30 p.m. L.A. Kings game versus the New York Rangers, outfielder Andre Ethier will head to Staples Center to take part in the ceremonial puck drop.
The full press release can be read by clicking here.

The Mayor

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brown channels Gretzky in 5-3 win over Toronto

On Wayne Gretzky's 49th birthday Tuesday he was still the talk of Toronto. He may be too old to play in the National Hockey League, yet when the Kings are in town fans can't help but remember back to his amazing performance in Maple Leaf Gardens in the spring of 1993.

Fast forward to last night and the current Kings captain, Dustin Brown, was perhaps channeling the Great One's energy as he posted a three point night in route to a 5-3 Kings victory.

Drew Doughty, who grew up not to far from where the Leafs play, put the Kings up 1-0 early in the first period with his 10th goal of the season. Although he's just starting to get national - and international - recognition after being selected to play for Team Canada in the Olympics, the Kings organization and fans have known they have something special for quite some time.

In an article following the game Pierre LeBrun wrote "Drew Doughty makes it look so effortless, it's mind-boggling to think he just turned 20 last month." Hmmm, where have you heard that before? It's a good read nonetheless, even mentioning the fact that the goal triggered a $212,500 bonus in his contract.

LeBrun wasn't the only one touting the magic of Doughty, the National Post newspaper had an article headlined "All hail King Doughty."

For 10 Tidbits on Doughty that you may not know click here.

Wayne Simmonds, who also grew up in the greater Toronto area, had plenty of friends and family among the the hockey crazed Leafs Nation that filled up the AC Center. While he didn't have any points on the night, he did have more ice time than any forward not named Smyth or Kopitar, so he gave his cheering section plenty to see.

For 10 Tidbits you may not know about Simmonds click here.

Back to Brown, his game seems to have picked up a little of late. Perhaps, it's being named to the U.S. Olympic squad that's given him a little pep in his step - or should I say skate. It could also be his new linemates. Coach Murry has spent the better part of the last month playing musical lines trying to find the right combos for guys like Brown and Kopitar.

Whatever it is, it's working, as the Kings are enjoying a three game winning streak. Like Gretzky's team in '93, Brown says the Kings had plenty of confidence heading into the game with the Leafs:

“I think the one difference is that, last year, we hoped to win a game. This year, we’re going into a game knowing we’re going to win,” said Brown. “When you have that kind of confidence and belief system, not just from one or two guys but from 15 to 20 guys, that’s when you can see success.”

For 10 Tidbits on Brown you may not know click here.

Brown's performance wasn't only thing stirring memories of '93 though. Raitis Ivanans was back in the line up. Could there be a McSorely-esque scrap on the agenda? No, just a little protection in case the Leafs decided to play Brian Burke style hockey.

Final note on Gretzky - he has said his performance in the Kings game seven win back in the '93 Campbell Conference finals was the greatest performance of his career. Relive the greatness that was by clicking here. See if you agree.

It's a story about mullets, the Great One and so called hockey experts.

Oh yeah, the mullet lives - Smyth scored a goal on Tuesday too.

The Mayor

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reliving '93 - When Mullets Were Cool

1993 seems like so long ago - the NHL played an 84 game regular season schedule, the Ducks were still a movie not a hockey team, Eric Lindros and Teemu Selanne were promising rookies, wearing a helmet was optional for players, Ron Hextall was wearing a Quebec Nordiques jersey (seriously!), Gary Bettman was just named the NHL's first Commissioner, Bruce McNall still owned the Kings and yes, mullets were cool.

Five years prior the Kings had made 'the trade' with Edmonton to bring Gretzky to LA, turning Hollywood to Hockeywood. The Kings had their best year ever in 1990-91, posting 102 points and winning the Smythe Division. After losing to Edmonton that postseason and the year after, coach Tom Webster was fired.

Then, prior to the 1992-93 season the Kings hired Barry Melrose, a Tony Robbins following - mullet wearing coach who had never been behind the bench for an NHL game. His star player, #99, missed the first 36 games of the season with a back injury. Luc Robitaille captained the team while he was out, in route to the best season of his career with 63 goals and 125 points. The team finished in 3rd place with a record of 39-35-10, just 11th best in the 24 team league.

Fan favorite and starting goaltender, Kelly Hrudey, had gone through a horrible slump earlier in the year and still wasn't right as the playoffs began. Down 2-1 in the series, Melrose replaced him with Robb Stauber. Hrudey says "Robb played in game four and we won 2-1 to even the series. Barry stuck with him in games five and six...He won the series."

Melrose kept Stauber between the pipes to open the second round against Vancouver. After the Kings lost the first game Hrudey recalls "Immediately following the game Barry called me into his office and told me I was going to start game two." The Kings went on to win the series 4-2, setting the stage for what came next...


The Campbell Conference Finals in 1993 would determine who would play the Montreal Canadians for the Stanley Cup. Hockey know-it-alls would tell you the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to send Melrose, Gretzky and the rest of the LA Kings packing.

Even though the Leafs had gone 2-1-1 against the Kings during the regular season, team leader Doug Gilmour didn't take the Kings lightly, saying "We don't want to get into a scoring match up with the Kings. We want to play them strong defensively and go from there." Rookie goalie Felix Potvin agreed, adding "It's going to be a tough series...they've got a wide-open offense...and we're going to try to have to shut them out. We don't want to get into a shootout with the Kings."

There were also plenty of odd associations on both sides as well. Leafs winger Mike Krushelnyski had played two seasons for the Kings before being traded to Toronto a few years earlier. Glenn Anderson of the Leafs had played with Gretzky and Kurri back in Edmonton and felt the Kings were "very determined not only to get by this series against us but to win the Stanley Cup."

Toronto's captain, Wendel Clark, just so happened to be the first cousin of Melrose. Clark, who played a key role in most of the games, has since said "That series was probably the most excitement I saw around here," referring to Maple Leaf Gardens.

Melrose didn't let family ties stand in the way of what he says "was one of the best series the NHL has had in the last 30 years," adding "both buildings were electric, and both cities were unbelievable."

Game 1 - while the Maple Leafs defeated the Kings 4-1 to take the early series lead, the real story of the game centered on a hit LA defenseman Marty McSorley put on Gilmour. Clark took exception to the hit and went after McSorley, in what became a series long theme (click here for video of the whole incident). The hit also enraged Burns, who tried going after Melrose on the bench, convinced he ordered the hit on Gilmour.

McSorley's bruised face was on the cover of the Toronto sports page with a quote from Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher "All I'm saying is (McSorley) may try (going after Gilmour), but it won't happen again".

The coaches were beginning their own war too. Burns began to take aim at Melrose through the media - feeling the Kings coach didn't respect him or his team. After Melrose made a comment about the Leafs being good at protecting a lead because they have "10 guys 30 years old. They plug up the middle pretty well." Burns retorted with "We had 99 points this year, his team had 88. I guess our 30-year-olds did a pretty good job clogging up the middle. We beat Detroit and St. Louis, and I firmly believe we'll beat the Los Angeles Kings, too." The war of words later escalated to Melrose commenting on Burns' weight - even telling him to have another donut - while Burns would call him Billy Ray Cyrus.

Looking back now Melrose says "Pat and I are both competitive guys. We're both outgoing guys," Melrose said. "We both talk a lot, and when you get both of those things combined...a lot of stuff is going to happen."

Game 2 - the Kings tie the series with a 3-2 win in Toronto

Game 3 - with the series now in LA for games three and four, the Kings win 4-2, taking the series lead

Game 4 - the Leafs tie the series with a 4-2 victory at the Forum

Game 5 - in the first of back to back overtime games, the Leafs win 3-2 when Anderson whacks a puck out of the air with 40 seconds left in the extra period...the Leafs now lead the series 3-2 and the series heads back to LA.

Game 6 - prior to the game Toronto columnist Bob McKenzie noted that Gretzky was playing like he had a piano on his back throughout the series..the Great One then went out and proved you don't call out a legend like that...

Urban myth has it that Wayne addressed the team before the game and asked them to give it their all to tie the series and send things back to Toronto, where he promised he would take care of things in game seven.

It almost never came to be. The Kings dominated the first two periods and were up 4-1 early in the third. However, Clark scored three goals for the Leafs to even the game 4-4 and send things to overtime. Early in the fourth period Gretzky high-sticked Gilmour for what Leaf fans will forever claim should have been a penalty. Referee Kerry Fraser disagreed and play continued.

From behind the net Robitaille set up Gretzky to win the game. Kings 5, Leafs 4. Board the plane. We're going back to Toronto for game seven and a possible trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Game 7 - in what will forever be known as 'the series' among Kings fans and players, this is 'the game'

Gretzky opened the scoring on a shorthanded give-and-go with McSorley to provide the Kings an early 1-0 lead. He then set up Tomas Sandstrom for a goal to put the Kings up 2-0 at the end of the first period.

Toronto tied things up early in the second on goals from Clark and then Anderson. Melrose called a time out to settle things down. At the half way point of the second period Gretzky was alone in the slot and put a slap shot past Potvin to give the Kings the lead again at 3-2. Like the intermission before, the Kings were leading at the break.

Clark scored his second goal of the game just minutes into the third period to tie things up once again. Both teams rushed up and down the ice repeatedly for over 10 minutes, neither scoring. With just under four minutes remaining in the third, Kings forward Mike Donnelly scored on a rebound of a shot originally taken by Alex Zhitnik - giving the Kings a precious one goal lead.

Just seconds later Gretzky ended up with the puck, circled behind the net and backhanded it off the skate of Leafs defenseman Dave Ellet. It went by Potvin and the Kings now had a two goal lead on #99s hat trick.

The next few minutes probably seemed like an eternity to Kings fans everywhere. Then, with about a minute to go, Ellet got a small sense of redemption, scoring to pull the the Leafs close, now trailing by just a goal.

Tick, tock...pass, shot, save...rinse, repeat...ten seconds left...three seconds over. Kings win the game 5-4 and the series 4 games to 3.

Gretzky has been quoted as saying that his performance in game 7 was the best NHL game of his career. For Kings fans it will certainly was.

With a roster full of guys like Corey Millen, Gary Shuchuk and Pat Conacher the Kings beat an original six team in the playoffs for the first time since entering the league in 1967. Oh yeah, they also had guys named Granato, Carson and Blake.

In two of the iconic moments in franchise history, Gretzky skated over to the bench after the game to give Melrose a huge hug (pictured at right)...later in the locker room, Luc Robitaille kissed Dave Taylor as they celebrated around the Campbell Conference trophy (picture above).

It truly was probably the greatest seven game series ever played and the mere mention of Kings-Maple Leafs will always bring back memories of that epic playoff battle.

Ah, 1993...when mullets were cool and the Kings owned LA.

The Mayor

note: Numerous highlights of the series are available on YouTube including this one: click here. What's your favorite moment from the seven games with Toronto? Post a comment below and share it with other readers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Bob Miller & Daryl Evans on NHL Power Play

With the Kings in Toronto to take on the Leafs tomorrow night, Bob Miller and Daryl Evans stopped by Gretzky's restaurant this afternoon for an appearance on the NHL Power Play, available on both radio and TV throughout North America at 1pm PST.

While it was great to have them talking Kings hockey for over 30 minutes - instead of listening to their normal stories about the Bruins, Flyers, Blackhawks, Penguins and Capitals - there wasn't a lot of new ground broken for fans that follow the team in LA.

Here are some highlights for the curious though:

Bob said this is the 4th year of rebuilding and the expectations are the playoffs this year. His big question coming into the season was how good would Quick be - and up to this point, he's been great.

Daryl eluded to Dave Taylor deserving part of the credit for any success the team has this year, as he drafted guys like Brown and Kopitar.

Bob said Doughty has been outstanding. Dean is very cautious about kids coming in to the NHL too soon, but that hasn't been a problem with Doughty. He probably could have been rookie of the year. The poise he has is so impressive. He's going to be a Norris candidate for many years to come. Both he and Johnson are great players. For Doughty, it's like the bigger the game, the bigger he plays.

Re: Lombardi's comments about Jack and Michigan - Daryl says Jack had to adjust his game when he came to the NHL. He is a strong skater, shoots the puck a ton, can finish guys in the corner, etc. The style you play in college is more run and gun. There is more structure in the NHL. And the minus 18 is not indicative of his play. For example, he hasn't been on the ice a lot with the Kopitar line, so he isn't getting the pluses. Also, he's been on the ice a lot against the other team's top line.

Bob chimes in that he hates the plus/minus stat. He also says Dean meant it as a comment about how much Jack has developed since coming into the NHL. Jack has a great shot, can move up into the play when he needs to, etc.

Bob thinks Quick struggled a little bit at the start of the year, then he turned it around. Last week against Buffalo, Miller was outstanding, but so was Quick. He doesn't think Quick will be out of his league at all when he is with Team USA.

Daryl is not concerned about Quick's fatigue down the stretch. Says Quick is very athletic and the more he plays the more he gets into it.

RE: Frolov's play this year - Daryl says he's not finishing the same way as in the past. His puck protection on a consistent basis hasn't been there, like it was in the past. It's mind boggling given that it's a contract year. Bob added that he's always been a streaky player. However, there is no doubt the Kings want more goal scoring from Frolov.

On the subject of LA needing a superstar to draw, Bob would like to think its about winning. But, he realizes that what has kept the Lakers at the top of the sports pages all these years is that they keep replacing superstar with superstar year after year. He's just not sure who would be available for the Kings to go out and get, Gretzky was a once in a lifetime type deal. Daryl says they can develop the superstar in house, with guys like Doughty. The Kings are an exciting team to watch right now and that helps attract new fans too.

They wrapped things up talking about the Miracle on Manchester and the Triple Crown.

You can watch the full 3o+ minute video stream via Kings Vision by clicking here.


Manchester Mondays

In this week's edition of Manchester Mondays we take a look at two of the Kings top prospects playing for the Monarchs, Jonathan Bernier and Viatcheslav Voynov; the AHL All Star Game; haircuts; Avatar: and game worn equipment for sale.

* Bernier started the All Star Game for Team Canada, playing only the first period and stopping 10 of the 15 shots he faced. Canada was down by four goals to start to the third and they were able tie it and force overtime - then, eventually a shootout, where they won 10-9. Voynov started for TeamUSA (don't ask, I know he's Russian), but didn't factor in the scoring. Besides Bernier, nine other former NHL first round picks played in the game - including rookie Tyler Ennis, who was voted the game MVP with three points (1g, 2a).

* The Monarchs played three games over the weekend, including two against the Hartford Wolfpack. Friday: 3-2 loss in OT, goals by Gauthier and Elkins...Saturday: 5-3 loss to Norfolk, goals from Gauthier, Walker and Westgarth (his 8th of the year!)...Sunday 6-1 win on two goals each from Holloway and Campbell - plus others from Gauthier and Elkins. Next game is Tuesday when the Monarchs visit the Portland Pirates, recent hosts of the All Star Game.

* The AHL is selling a ton of game worn equipment from the All Star Game; like jerseys, helmets, gloves, etc. Bernier's jersey from the first period is available now -auction ends tomorrow night. Click here to access the Bernier auction or click here to see the full AHL game used store.

* Voynov cut his hair off. Not sure when he did it. However, this could spell big trouble for the rising defenseman. You may recall he had the long flowing locks at Rookie Camp back in September (even longer than in the picture to the right). Cutting ones hair has caused problems for people from Andre Agassi to Jennifer Aniston, from Metallica in '96 to...well, just about everybody that was once known for long hair. Cutting the hair is usually followed by a lose of power, cool factor or unique abilities. Why do you think Fabio won't cut that crap after all these years? Still holding on to his 15 minutes. Keep your fingers crossed so the fate of these lost soles doesn't fall upon Voynov now that he's clean cut. Hope it wasn't the hair that made him so good.

* The Monarchs website currently features Corey Elkins' review of the movie Avatar, which he thinks might be the greatest movie he's ever seen. IMAX in 3-D was almost too much for him the handle. You can read the review by clicking here or wait till next week when he'll have a review of Sherlock Holmes. Things move a little slower in New Hampshire, so I'm not sure if that's the original or the remake that came out last year. We'll have to wait and see.

Now back the the NHL and our regularly scheduled programing...

The Mayor

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Kings Figure Out How(ard)

Life can be funny at times. Occasionally, things just have a way of working themselves out.

After the recent meeting between the Kings and Red Wings - that resulted in a 2-1 loss for LA, despite putting up 52 shots on goal - the last person many Kings fans wanted to see again was Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.

Fortunately, LA won the rematch 3-2 on Saturday in Detroit...and in the process the Kings figured out a few things:

...they figured out how to come back when down two goals to a good team. The Kings seemed to wilt after San Jose scored their second goal in Tuesday's game. Today was different. Down 2-0 before the first period hit the halfway point, the Kings pulled it together, finally tying the game a little more than six minutes into the third. A nice achievement for the Kings, made even better by the fact that Detroit entered the game 17-0-4 when leading after two periods.

...Coach Murray somehow figured out how to get even more out of Wayne Simmonds. It's almost like it doesn't matter who he's paired with. Wayne the Train just makes everybody play better. Pick up one of his bobble heads at the game on February 11th and he'll probably make you better at something too.

...they figured out how to beat Detroit when it mattered, when they were nipping at their heals in the standings. The Wings had beaten the Kings 22 of the last 24 times they played...with Detroit recently coming back from the dead and reentering the playoff race, it was never more important than tonight to beat them. That's how you make the playoffs when you're already in the top eight, you keep beating the teams below you.

...Anze Kopitar once again figured out a way to score without Ryan Smyth. All in all it was actually one of Kopi's better games this season. The new WAR line (Wayne-Anze-Ritchie), put together on Thursday for the Buffalo game, had another solid outing. All three guys had multi-points. Don't like the name of the line? Well, come on, it's better than what they're calling the top line in San Jose - the burger line. You want to call this the 're-mix' line instead, since that what Murray is doing right now?

...they figured out a way to get more pucks on Brad Richardson's stick...and that's a good thing...the Kings are 6-0-1 when he's scored this season, the only blemish being a shootout loss when the Blues visited LA on December 5th...tonight he picked up the game winner with about eight minutes left in the third.

There is at least one thing the Kings haven't figured out how to do though... win a face off with anybody other than Jarret Stoll at the dot. Number 28 was the only player above 50% on the night, going 10-16 (63%).

It needs to be addressed...and a few possible options were covered in my Trade Winds article yesterday (available here).

In the meantime, it's on to Toronto - where the Kings need to figure out how to keep the momentum going.

Figuring out how to pick up another two points is the top priority at the moment.

The Mayor