Thursday, March 11, 2010

10 Tidbits - The Story of Zeus

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

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

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

Enjoy the Story of Zeus...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mayor


10 Tidbits on Wayne Simmonds

10 Tidbits on Drew Doughty

10 Tidbits on Dustin Brown

10 Tidbits on Willie Mitchell

10 Tidbits on Alexei Ponikarovsky

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dean Lombardi live from the GM Meetings

All 30 NHL General Managers descended on Boca Raton, Florida this week for a round of well as some golf, fishing, fine dining and a roast for former Flyer Bobby Clarke.

The topic de jure was the violent head shots that have been taking place around the league this season. Additionally, the group was divided up into four mini panels for intense debates on key topics, like - the playoff format, tie breaker procedures, etc.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi was part of a breakout group that discussed the rules involving the goalie crease and the application of the IIHF regulations on play in the crease. In the group with him were fellow GMs Stan Bowman (Chicago), George McPhee (Washington), Larry Pleau (St Louis), Darryl Sutter (Calgary), Bob Murray (Ottawa) and Greg Sherman (Colorado).

Lombardi stopped by the set of NHL Live this morning to discuss his experience in Florida this week. Here are some highlights of what he shared:

* He was impressed with the research presented on head shots. He likes the methodical approach they're taking now to making changes because you have to be mindful that every change you make has a counter impact someplace else.

* They looked at clips from the '40s to present year. The game was fast, then it slowed down for a period of it's fast again.

* They're still talking about Brett Hull's foot in the crease goal from the '99 Stanley Cup Finals...and how they didn't think of all the ramifications down the road when they made previous rule changes.

* When they asked him about changes to the playoff seedings...he joked he has no thoughts about it right now...he's just happy to be in the thick of things.

* He thinks the current group of Kings might be the finest group of guys he's ever been around. They're playing with expectations...expectations they put on themselves...he likes that. They have a lot of pressure on them and he's enjoying it.

Another topic that made the media rounds yesterday was a proposal made to the GMs for a one game 'playoff tournament' for the 8th seed in each Conference, rather than the current rankings based on points.

Lombardi told yesterday "It really cheapens the regular season. I think you have to have some reward and some distinguishing factor during an 82-game season for going through the grind. That just sounds way too gimmicky for me. This isn't socialism where everybody gets another shot."

He wasn't alone in his thoughts. The idea was universally panned by the group.

You can view the entire seven minute segment by clicking here.

The Kings return to action tonight in Chicago at 5:30pm PST vs the Blackhawks.

Final note - get ready for the playoffs...order your IN DEAN WE TRUST t-shirt today. All of the various styles will be on sale for a few more days. Visit the store by clicking here and use coupon code TSHIRTS10OFF to save 10% per shirt.

The Mayor

Monday, March 8, 2010

Erik Ersberg, Larry Murphy and Doughty?

It's all in a day.

Happy Birthday to Kings back-up goaltender Erik Ersberg. The now 28 year old netminder has had extremely limited action this season, having played in just eight games. Since arriving in LA for the 2007-08 season Double E has only seen action in 50 games. Not exactly the veteran presence the Kings may need come playoff time, causing some Kings fans to wonder why GM Dean Lombardi didn't shore things up at the trade deadline.

When asked about this at yesterday's meeting with season ticket holders Lombardi shared a few thoughts...first, who was really available that would be much of an improvement...two, Ersberg shouldn't necessarily be judged on his performance this year (having to sit for long stretches at a time, sometimes more than a month - and then having to play)...three, if need be, they can always call up Jonathan Bernier from Manchester. However - HOLD ON before you Bernier lovers start ordering your new Kings jerseys from Team LA.

Lombardi and assistant GM Ron Hextall have made it perfectly clear on multiple occasions that the plan has been to keep 'the other' Jonathan in Manch' all year (including any possible playoff run by the Monarchs). So, it remains highly unlikely he'll be up in LA this season...unless there is an unfortunate injury...and if you're a Kings fan, you don't even want to think about something like that happening so close to the playoffs.

Now, on to the other birthday today...

Seems that Ersberg shares a birthday with not only a former Kings defenseman, but a legendary one...a guy who went on to have a Hall of Fame career - Larry Murphy.

Murph turned 49 today, which means he should be playing along side Chris Chelios for the Chicago Wolves. That's a different story though.

This story is about the uncanny similarities to Murphy and a current Kings defenseman - one who is pretty damn good himself...Drew Doughty.

* Both are guys are from a similar part of Canada - Doughty grew up in London, Ontario...about 2 hours from Murphy's hometown of Scarborough (Wayne Simmonds hometown coincidentally)

* Doughty played junior hockey for the Quelph Storm, less than an hour north east of where he grew up...Murphy played for the Peterborough Petes - yes, less than hour north east of where he was raised.

* Both have represented Team Canada in the Olympics - Murphy in 1980 and Doughty in 2010.

* Doughty was a first round draft pick in 2008 (taken second overall). Murphy was a first round pick too, having been picked fourth overall by the Kings in 1980.

* Both debuted for the Kings as teenagers - Murphy was 19 when he first suited up for LA in the fall of 1980...Doughty was just 18 when he played his first game as a King in 2008.

* Doughty wears #8 because his birthday is the 8th of December. Although Murphy started out wearing #5 with the Kings, he went on to wear #8 with the Washington Capitals (1983-89) and Minnesota NorthStars (1989-90).

* Both were offensive minded from the very beginning - Doughty's 27 points tied him for first among all rookie defenseman, while Murphy set the record for most assists and points by a rookie dman.

The list of comparisons could continue...however, just know this:

Murphy won four Stanley Cups and retired having played more games than any other defenseman in NHL history up to that point.

One can only hope that Doughty goes on to have that type of career...with just one major difference - let's hope he accomplishes those things wearing a Kings uniform!

The Mayor