Friday, July 23, 2010

Future Fridays - Interview w/ Seth Ambroz

Seth Ambroz is a name you'll want to remember.

Like the frosty winds of a Minnesota winter, his story was swirling towards a perfect storm.  Now things are starting to look more like a coulda, shoulda, woulda situation.

He was scheduled to start at the University of Minnesota in a few months, where he coulda been in the starting line-up when they face-off with his brother's college team in October.

The 6'3" 205 pound forward has risen to the challenge at every level he's played, so he shoulda been able to help a Gophers team that will desperately be trying to reach the Frozen Four next spring...a championship tournament they'll be hosting at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

That same building will then host the 2011 NHL Draft a few months later...and after what was expected to be a stand-out freshman season for the hometown boy, it woulda been a fairytale ending when he was selected with one of the first few picks in the first round.

Well, the too-perfect script has been going through some editing in recent weeks.  It was just announced that Seth will not be starting at the U (what the locals call it) in the fall.  Seems the coach isn't confident he can find him enough playing time, so he's shuttling him back to the Omaha Lancers of the USHL - where Seth has netted 36 goals and posted 80 points in 116 games over the last two seasons, all while being one of the youngest players in the league.

From all accounts, he appears to be the real deal.  While he may be playing for a different team than originally expected this coming season, scouts are very high on him.  The International Scouting Service has him rated fifth among all prospects for the next NHL draft.

In an article they referred to him as "one of the most talked-about prospects" and had comments from a scout who said "He's good at all facets of the game".  His coach in Omaha has been equally impressed, saying "He's a special kid. To think, he started on our third line (in 2008-09) and ended up on the top line."

Another interesting wrinkle in this story is that Seth's Lancers team is owned by a group of hockey legends, including Mario Lemieux and Kings President, Luc Robitaille.  Having seen Seth play at a few games he's attend over the last two seasons, Lucky wasn't shy when I asked him for some observations, "He's been a real team player and a good all-around person. As a player, he shows great competitiveness and a willingness to compete and battle around the net, and he combines that with vision and an understanding of the game."

For a guy that made a living around the net, that's some pretty high praise.

In today's Future Friday spotlight, we talk with Seth Ambroz to get some first hand information from the guy that may just wind up going first overall at next June's NHL draft.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Throwback Thursdays - Cowboy Bill Flett

Several decades before Alexander Frolov began driving Kings' management and fans batty with his sporadic and irregular play, the team had another superstar in the making...Cowboy Bill Flett.

Known as a hard partier during his playing days, Flett passed away in 1999 from liver related complications.  Had he still been with us, yesterday would have been his 67th birthday.  How ironic considering his big break came in '67.

Originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Flett was selected in the 18th round of the '67 expansion draft by the Kings.  A few months later when the season began he was well on his way to becoming one of the early stars of the new hockey team in Los Angeles.

Like another player in the news this week, he wore #17 (bet you didn't see a Kovalchuk reference coming in this story, did you?).  Playing on the top line, in the now legendary purple and gold uniforms, he netted a team-high 26 goals his rookie season.  However, Flett's goal production declined each of the next four seasons and in January 1972 the Kings had seen enough, packaging him in a deal to the Philadelphia Flyers.

As often happens in such situations, he appeared to get the message.  Flett posted the best statistical year of his career the following season, 43 goals and 74 points.  He topped that 12 months later by winning the Stanley Cup with the Flyers, the first by an expansion team.

Similar to what the Chicago Blackhawks experienced last month, the celebration didn't last long.  Just a week after drinking from Lord Stanley's Cup, Flett was traded to the Leafs.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

He's Back... How Appropriate

When the New Jersey Devils tweeted "HE'S BACK: Ilya Kovalchuk signs with the Devils." around noon yesterday, it seemed like the NHL's summer reality show had come to an end.

Just like your parents always told you though - things aren't always what they seem.

Yes, He's Back!  In the news, on the market and so much more...thanks to this official statement from the NHL's Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly:

"The contract has been rejected by the League as a circumvention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Under the CBA, the contract rejection triggers a number of possible next steps that may be elected by any or each of the NHLPA, the Player and/or the Club. In the interim, the player is not entitled to play under the contract, nor is he entitled to any of the rights and benefits that are provided for thereunder. The League will have no further comment on this matter pending further developments."

The NHLPA followed up with a statement of their own:

"The NHLPA is currently analyzing the basis upon which the NHL rejected the contract between the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Kovalchuk. We are evaluating the options available to us under the terms established in the CBA. The NHLPA will have no further comment at this time."

Devils' President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello jumped into the game with the following statement:

"We are extremely disappointed that the NHL has decided to reject the contract of Ilya Kovalchuk. The contract complies with the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We will have no further comment until the process outlined in the CBA is complete."

Finally, Kovy's agent, Jay Grossman, added "No further comments until this matter is resolved."

No further comment on this story?  That couldn't be further from the truth.  The hockey media world is alive and buzzing again. 

The NHL hasn't had this much press in July, never!

Yet, you just have to wonder if another old saying you may may have heard is still true - there's no such thing as bad press.

The Mayor


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday's 10 Tidbits... on the deal with the Devil(s)

Yes, it's of 7am this morning, Wayne Simmonds is still listed as #17 on the Kings roster.

One of the many fascinating rumors surrounding the last few weeks of the Kings' negotiations with Ilya Kovalchuk was that Simmonds had been asked to change his number, should the Kings sign Kovy.  It's now a moot point.  The Russian superstar signed a bazillion dollar contract yesterday to stay with the Devils, leaving Wayne the Train still in possession of his coveted diecisiete.

After sleeping on it for a night - that's real popular in the hockey world these days - let's take one final spin around the Kovalchuk merry-go-round.  Then, we can finally put this thing to bed...well, until October 30th when the Devils come to town.

For now, here are 10 Tidbits from across the web...file it under 'The fallout on Ilya's deal with the Devils' -

* Adam Proteau of The Hockey News still isn't 100% convinced that Kovy will work out long term in New Jersey.  However he has tons of praise for Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello, saying "What isn’t up for debate is that Lamoriello is as dangerous and dogged of an adversary as any GM in the league.  He might look and talk like a benevolent librarian, but inside that serene demeanor beats the bulging heart of a competition junkie that aches for its next talent fix."

* Ken Campbell, a senior writer at The Hockey News added - "The fact is, the Kings wanted Kovalchuk badly, just not badly enough to blow their brains out and potentially compromise their roster for the next decade."  He likes GM Dean Lombardi's plan to build through the draft and applauds him for not throwing away his plan mid-game, with quotes like "Some people pay lip service to building through the draft, then look at their roster and, for example, deal two first round picks for a 40-goal scorer who might not make the roster appreciably better.  Kudos to Lombardi for not getting sucked into that way of thinking."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kovy "No thank you LA"

Sometimes no means yes.

With one giant tweet from the New Jersey Devils earlier this morning "the decision" was known...Ilya Kovalchuk was NOT coming to Los Angeles.

After weeks of speculation, posturing and contentious negotiations, things were over.  Kovy was staying in New Jersey.  He wasn't worried that Snookie and the Situation packed up and left for Florida.  They still had Martin Brodeur...and that was enough for him.

What does this mean for the Kings?  For starters, the details of the back and forth conversations will probably never be known, so don't get caught up in what you read on the internet.  Were the Kings interested?  Yes.  Lombardi and team let that be known.  Was Ilya ever really interested in LA?  We'll never know.  And it doesn't really matter at this point.

The most important thing is this...the Kings are a team on the rise with a lot of contracts needing to be worked out in the next two years.  Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are far more important long term than Ilya was short term.

Yes, the Kings need offense.  They need help on the wing.  They need help at center.  And if you forgot how important 5 on 5 scoring is for the Kings right now, you can rewatch the recent LA vs. Vancouver playoff series starting Monday on the NHL Network.

Offense is a problem.  It will be fixed.

There is still plenty of time too.  Training camp doesn't open until September.

Everything will be fine.  The world isn't coming to an end.

Trades will happen.

Kovy's "no" to LA means the Kings will be fine.  Lombardi didn't bite on the large, long term contract that could have, should have, would have made it difficult to maneuver in the future.

Will the Kings be alright?


The Mayor