Friday, July 30, 2010

Future Fridays - Interview w/ Brock Beukeboom

Call it the Jeff Halpern pick.

Kings GM Dean Lombardi has been known to wheel and deal his draft picks - trading up, trading down and often bundling them with an 'asset' when trading for another team's player.

At the 2009 NHL Draft, Lombardi did a two-for-one deal, sending the Kings fourth and fifth round selections (#107 and #138 overall) to Florida in exchange for the Panthers' third round slot in this year's entry draft.

Then, at the trading deadline in March, Lombardi packaged that pick with Teddy Purcell, sending them both to Tampa Bay for Jeff Halpern - a move Lombardi thought would help the Kings down the stretch and in the playoffs.  After all, Halpern had played in 24 post season games - which was 24 more than Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty had at the time.

This article isn't about the Kings playoff run though.  Instead, we take a look down the other side of the fork in the road created by the Kings-Lightning trade.  

New Lighting GM Steve Yzerman used that third round draft pick to select Brock Beukeboom.

If that name sounds familiar, it should.  Brock's father is Jeff Beukeboom, who was a punishing defenseman for the the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.  He collected four Stanley Cups before his career ended in 1999.

Like most recent drafts, bloodlines were a common theme at this year's event.  Jarred Tinordi, the son of former NHLer Mark Tinordi, was the Canadiens' first-round pick.  Fellow first rounder Nick Bjugstad is the nephew of former Kings forward Scott Bjugstad.  Charlie Coyle, selected by the San Jose Sharks, is a double-dipper - he's related to Tony Amonte and Bobby Sheehan.

But Brock's current GM, Dave Torrie of the Soo Greyhounds, thinks there is more than just an obvious family connection with his player, saying "Brock Beukeboom is steadily becoming a force in the OHL. He has good offensive tools and also has the ability to throw big open ice hits that can change the tempo of a game."

In the interview below, The Mayor catches up with Brock on a variety of topics - including the draft process, living with the pressure of a famous father and playing for the legendary Soo Greyhounds in the OHL.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Throwback Thursdays - Interview w/ Noah Clarke

While hockey may still be Canada's game, U.S. born players were the media darlings of the recent NHL Draft in Los Angeles. In fact, there were a record number (11) of Americans taken in the first round, including the Kings' Derek Forbort.

A few picks later, two Southern California players were taken - Gardena's Beau Bennett at #19 and Emerson Etem, of Long Beach, at #20. However, long before they were supposedly putting California hockey on the map, Noah Clarke played for the Los Angeles Kings.

Born in 1979, he had already been playing for a few years when Gretzky was traded to LA in the summer of '88. His hometown of La Verne - about an hour east of the old Forum - wasn't exactly what you would call a 'hockey hotbed.' In fact, the city didn't even have an ice rink. Nonetheless, Noah honed his craft in several different places and was eventually drafted by the Kings in 1999.

After spending time with both Manchester and Los Angeles, he's been playing in Europe the last few seasons.  And just this week he left for Germany to get started with his newest team, the Augsburger Panther.  Before heading to LAX with his passport and hockey sticks though, he sat down with The Mayor for a reflective conversation - including his thoughts on several current Kings players (Brown, Kopitar and Doughty), a future player (Kevin Westgarth), a former player (George Parros) and even a rumored player (Ryan Malone).

He also talks about life in Europe, why he left North America and tells a story about one of the funnier pranks you'll hear that went down during his playing days with the Monarchs.

MayorsManor presents an exclusive interview with the original California King, Noah Clarke...

Looking back, what impact did Gretzky coming to the Kings have on you as a kid?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

10 Tidbits on Alex Ponikarovsky

While it was the Karate Kid receiving the remake treatment this summer, it will probably be another Ralph Macchio flick, The Outsiders, that will have more staying power as the calendar flips to the winter months.

Earlier today the the Los Angeles Kings announced the signing of unrestricted free agent Alexei Ponikarovsky. And although he was formerly known as "The Poni Express", out in, Hockeywood...he'll simply be Poni Boy.

Here are 10 Tidbits to get you primed and ready to go on the Kings newest left wing...with a special twitter twist:

* First question out of the gate, does Ponikarovsky have the longest last name of any player in Kings history?  No.  Well, he's tied.  There's the popular Mike Krushelnyski from the end of the 80s.  Then, according to several alert tweeters - including @KingsKoolAid, @kevinsyoung and @LHHockey - you also have Sheldon Kannegiesser ('73-77) and Steve Clippingdale (16 games in '76-77) checking in with 12 letters.  @SoundFlyer14 thinks Frank St. Marseille tops them all with 13 "units" (including the period and space).  But, I don't count that way.  That's just me.

* The comparisons to Alexander Frolov are almost too easy - both could be classified as "classic underachievers".  They've even played for the same teams back in Russia, just not concurrently.  Frolov spent time with Krylja Sovetov in '01-02 (just before joining the Kings), while Poni played there three seasons prior.  During the NHL lockout in '04, Frolov spent some time at home playing for Moscow Dynamo.  Poni was there from '98-00 (ironically, just before he came over to play for the Maple Leafs).

* Similar to Ilya Kovalchuck's apparent obsession with the number 17, Poni has one he favors too.  Supposedly, he's been wearing 23 to honor his grandparents and wife, who were all born that day.  He'll need a new number in LA though.  Dustin Brown isn't trading that for a trip to Hawaii or a year's membership at a nice country club.

Tuesday's Tidbits... via not-so-instant replay

More than three months have passed. That's plenty of time for the Kings 101-point fever to subside.

Coming off their best regular season since '90-91, the team was entering the playoffs for the first time since 2002. A lifetime ago, given the turnover in the front office and with player personnel.

When you watch a game without emotion, you see things differently. Considering what it took to get there, it's easy to understand why people may not have watched this year's opening playoff game with a clear mind. Would the benefit of time passing and the outcome no longer on the line provide different insights and observations from the game?

Bob Miller described his feelings entering this game as "When you're not in the playoffs it's like you're out of the loop in the NHL."

So, thanks to the NHL Network's replaying of the Kings 2010 playoff series, it was time to rejoin the other 15 teams invited to the NHL's second season.  Specifically, it's a re-examination of LA-Vancouver...Game One from north of the border.

note: these comments were jotted down in running time, without editing after the fact...the times indicated are clock time, not game time (for the sake of simplicity while watching)

* What was up with Luongo "throwing" his stick to make a save in the opening minutes?

* Overall, Jarrett Stoll is playing better than than I remembered - strong on face offs, playing his man effectively, etc.

* Nearing the half way mark of the 1st and the play of several Kings are starting to become worrisome - Justin Williams looks flat footed and isn't playing the puck well; for every nice play by Randy Jones he follows it up with a bonehead decision (i.e. a nice clearing play behind the net of Quick, then he he stands at blueline and can't keep puck out of his zone): Jeff Halpern looks slow.
* Quick was on his game in the 1st - looked solid.  Not the same guy that was between the pipes for the last few weeks of the regular season.  The memo that went out saying 'Need to raise your game in the playoffs.' was received and he's responding accordingly.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Here We Go Again...

In April the Kings returned to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

After losing a grueling six game battle with Vancouver, some suggested the Kings were only a player or two away from making a serious run next season.  'Who would the Kings add over the summer?' almost immediately had loyal fans worked up into a frenzy.  Message boards began lighting up with conjecture and wish lists.

The team's previous trip to the NHL's spring dance in '02 was captained by Mattias Norstrom and featured Ziggy Palffy, Ian Laperriere and Mathieu Schneider.  By the time the Kings returned for their 2010 run, those names had been replaced by guys like Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds.

LA's previous exit came against the Colorado Avalanche - the same team that defeated the Kings in a bitter seven game series the year before.  Emotions and tempers were running high in that initial series for two main reasons.  One, Rob Blake, the team's long time captain, had been dealt to the Avs just before the trading deadline a few months prior - a trade that still stokes the ire of many Kings fans to this day.  For his part, Blake said things like "I came into the league a Los Angeles King and that's what I wanted to remain" and "we're in a business" when he stopped by MayorsManor earlier this year to talk about his move out of LA.

On a more positive note, the 8th seeded Kings had just upset the heavily favored Detroit Red Wings in the opening round - largely due to the heroics of Eric Belanger and the then-newly acquired Adam Deadmarsh (who arrived in the package from Colorado as part of the Blake deal).

The Kings were close that year.  The Avs were already there.  After beating the Kings, they went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2001.

In a familiar sounding scenario, the prevailing thought at the time was if the Kings could add perhaps one key player over the summer, they'd be considered a serious threat the following season.  Instead, they let Luc Robitaille walk in early July - a move he talked about in an interview with The Mayor, saying "I still don't quite know what happened. I thought we had a great run...I had a great year. I was 11th in scoring in the league...But then I was offered a pay cut. I wasn't expecting a huge, um - I don't know what I was expecting. But I was expecting something."