Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kings-Wild Preview with Jose Theodore

French Canadian goaltender. Debuted in the NHL as a teenager. Spent most of the next few seasons in the AHL. Finally arrived in the big show...with huge expectations. Perhaps even impossible to live up to.

Jonathan Bernier?

No, Jose Theodore.

Drafted by Montreal 44th overall at the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, expectations were huge right from the start. Come on, he was expected to one day replace Patrick Roy in net.

Eventually he left the Canadiens, making stops in Colorado and Washington before landing in Minnesota just before the start of this season. His primary job these days is backing up Niklas Backstrom. However, as I reported on twitter yesterday, he'll get the start tonight vs. the Kings.

Here are some thoughts from him regarding the match-up...

MM: Having played most of your career in the East, the Kings are a team you've only played 12 times during 11-plus years in the league. Any thoughts about facing them?

JT: Well, they're a good team. Look at the standings, they're right there. It's really tight. So, it's going to be a fun game to play and it should be a really fast game.

MM: The Kings will start Jonathan Quick. Would it be any more interesting if they went with Jonathan Bernier instead?

Kings-Wild Preview with Andrew Brunette

Forward Andrew Brunette has 30 points (8g, 22a) in 41 career games vs. the Los Angeles Kings. He also has 18 points in 18 games at Staples Center.

After a three year run with the Colorado Avalanche (2005-08), he's now in the third year of his second tour of duty for the Minnesota Wild. A few weeks from now he'll be playing in his 1,000 NHL game. In the interview below he helps us preview tonight's Kings-Wild game...

MM: You guys are having an up and down season. Yet, you had a big win the other night in Phoenix. What type of momentum does that give you coming into the game against the Kings?

AB: We've had a hard time grabbing a hold of momentum and carrying it through. So, we'll find out. Hopefully, we can continue doing what we've been doing the last three or four games and get a big win.

MM: In Colorado a game vs. LA probably meant more than it does to the Wild, from a rivalry perspective. Having been part of those games, does this match-up mean anything to you personally?

Final Audition?

When is the right time to cut bait with a prospect?

Kings GM Dean Lombardi has openly said he probably waited a year too long with Brian Boyle, in terms of getting maximum trade value.

It's just so tough though. When a kid hasn't even played a full season - or probably two - in the NHL, how do you really know if he'll ever be ready?

Oscar Moller is probably at that fork in the road with the Kings.

The 21 year old forward was drafted by Los Angeles in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, he's played 74 games with the team through multiple call-ups over the past two seasons.

He's also been spending time in Manchester, where he was when recalled yesterday. He has 18 points in 19 games there this season (6g, 11a).

Besides his size (listed at 5'10", yet he sure seems smaller), the biggest hurdle to a full-time job with the Kings may have been injuries. 

In fact, Coach Terry Murray talked about it just a few weeks ago when discussing the possibility of Brayden Schenn playing in the World Junior Championships this year.  Moller was injured while captaining Team Sweden at the tournament a few years ago. Specifically, Murray said "It (the injury, a clavicle fracture) set him back the rest of that year and maybe had an impact on how things went the following year."

Regardless, if the team was that high on him, you would think he'd have already been with the big club. If he had the ability to score at the NHL level, he'd be with the Kings. They need scoring.

So, perhaps this is it. The final audition...aka a prelude to a trade.

The Mayor


Terry Murray on the Brayden Schenn situation - WHL, World Jrs, etc.


Wild Comments on Patrick O'Sullivan

Earlier today we posted a preview of tonight's Kings game with the newest member of the Minnesota Wild, Patrick O'Sullivan.

Below are some comments on O'Sullivan from two other members of the Wild organization - coach Todd Richards and veteran forward Andrew Brunette. Both were asked how he's fitting in...

Richards: Patrick has come in and done a pretty good job for us. I've used him in a lot of different situations, a lot of different positions with a lot of different players. He has the skill. You can see that. The thing for him - because he can help us - he makes us a better team when he's going and he's playing. But, it's getting that consistent effort every night. I would say in the last two games he's played he's done a pretty good job for us. So, that's what we need each and every night, him being able to make those plays. He's a creative player, he makes our power play better and he makes the players around him better. He's a player we can use as long as he's out there working.

[Does any of this sound familiar?]

Brunette: I think he's fit in real well. He has some real good offensive instincts.  That's an area we can always use more of, just like every other team. He knows where he's going in the offensive zone. He gets himself in the right place in the right time. So, he's fit in nice so far.

[More comments from Brunette coming up later today, including his thoughts on the Kings]

The Mayor


Kings-Wild Game Preview with Patrick O'Sullivan

Game Preview with Jose Theodore - talking Bernier, Staples Center, Ryan Smyth, etc.

Game Preview with Andrew Brunette - talking Smyth, the Kings, Theodore vs. Backstrom, etc.


Kings-Wild Preview with Patrick O'Sullivan

Soon after Dean Lombardi arrived as GM of the LA Kings in 2006 he made two then-somewhat-unpopular trades. Eric Belanger and Tim Gleason were traded to Carolina for Jack Johnson. And Patrick O'Sullivan was acquired from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Pavol Demitra.

It's obvious at this point which ended up being the better of the deals.

O'Sullivan has since played for three different teams - including two this year. Prior to tonight's game vs. the Kings, I sat down with him for some exclusive comments about the Kings-Wild match-up...

MM: You've been with Minnesota now for seven games. How are you fitting in?

POS: I think it's been pretty good. I feel pretty comfortable here and I'm starting to get used to how the team plays and the guys I'm playing with. It's been a bit of a struggle for our team lately. But, we had a good game in our last game - got a win against a good team in their rink, so it's something to build on (they beat the Coyotes 3-2 in Phoenix on Thursday). The Kings will be a tough test.

[note: after starting the year with the Carolina Hurricanes he was waived by them in late November]

MM: Going back to last month, did you see the end coming in Carolina or was it a bit of a surprise to you?

Jack Johnson - Master of His Own DVR

Jack Johnson is one of seven Kings defenseman who formerly played college hockey. From 2005-07 he was at the University of Michigan - the school that's sent more players to the NHL than any other program. So, naturally, he had a few things to say about the big game being played outdoors later today...

MM: Any thoughts on the Michigan - Michigan State game?

JJ: It's going to be awesome. I wish I could have played in a game like that. It's going to be the largest hockey game ever played (over 110,000 people expected). Those guys are going to have an awesome experience. I'm going to record it so I get a chance to watch it afterwards. I hope they get to soak in every minute of it.

[note: This past May, Johnson was part of the Team USA squad that played in the game currently holding the attendance record.  More on that in a moment.]

MM: Davis Drewiske said he had a bet last year with Scuderi and Harrold on the BC-Wisconsin game. Any wagers from your side of things?

JJ: Yeah, I put a little wager on the Michigan-Wisconsin football game. We also followed the College Hockey Showcase, the Michigan-Wisconsin game (played over Thanksgiving weekend). I have a little bet with Justin Abdelkader on this one too (the UM-MSU game).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Post Practice Comments - Kyle Clifford

Here's some thoughts from Kyle Clifford after the Kings practice this afternoon...

MM: A goal and a fight last night versus Calgary. What was the highlight of the night?

KC: We got the win. I think that's the most important thing. It's always fun to win and it's an added bonus when you score a goal.

MM: It sure looked like you were smiling during the whole fight with Tim Jackman. Were you just having too much fun out there last night?

KC: You know, anytime I'm dropping the gloves I'm always having a good time. I like to throw down and he's a tough customer. He's probably one of the tougher guys I've fought this year. But, yeah, I'm just going out there and having fun.

MM: You played against Calgary in the second game of the season. Were there any left over issues that had developed in that game or was it all new?

KC: Not really. We were pretty bitter that we lost that game though. That's pretty much what carried over. We came in with a good attitude after having a couple days off. We knew we had to come out strong.

MM: Last night you were back on the fourth line after playing a few on the third line with Michal Handzus. Are you more comfortable back on the fourth line and/or did you have to make any adjustments?

KC: I'm just going to stick to my game regardless of where I'm playing - fourth line, third line or where ever it is. It's a pretty simple, straight forward game. Up and down the boards. So, I'm going to stick to my role and whoever I'm playing with it's going to be the same every night.

MM: On the upcoming road trip there is only new team that you guys haven't seen yet this year, the St. Louis Blues. Any thoughts about facing them for the first time?

KC: Alex Pietrangelo is an old teammate of mine (with the Barrie Colts / OHL), so there will be a little bit of a rivalry there. But our attitude is to go in there and win.

The Mayor


Post Practice Comments - Kevin Westgarth

Here's some thoughts from Kevin Westgarth after the Kings practice this afternoon...

MM: The team has won three in a row to start off the month of December. What's been the biggest difference during this stretch compared to the rough patches in November?

KW: I think towards the end of our little skid we were playing some good hockey and just not getting the bounces. With a team like this, we have great veterans and great young guys. If everybody just sticks to the program, we're going to come out on top more often than not. So, that was basically the main thing - making sure we stuck to our guns and stuck to the game plan our coaches have set out for us from day one. It's starting to pay dividends back as we get rolling again.

MM: As a fan of the rough stuff, did you happen to notice that ear to ear smile on Kyle Clifford's face while he was going at it with Tim Jackman?

KW: Yeah, he enjoys it man. I think that's a huge part of being in that role. There's a lot of guys that don't (enjoy it). But, the more enjoyment you can take out of every part of life, the more you're going to be laughing. If he's enjoying getting punched in the face or punching other guys in the face, hey - that's awesome! It's great to have him as a teammate and a linemate too, right now. I just know that he has everybody's back on the team and he's a heck of a hockey player.

MM: He was off your line for a few games, moved up to the third line. Does it change your game at all having him back with you now?

KW: I think getting to play with guys more you become a little more accustom to them. You start to learn where they'll be without having to look and see if he's there on the ice. So, it definitely can build some pretty good chemistry. And I think Cliffy and I have a bit of that. So, I look forward to keeping it going. As Cliffy already put one in the net, maybe I'll be able to tap one in now or bounce one off my shin pads at some point soon.

MM: Looking ahead to Minnesota tomorrow night - you guys have already played them once. Any thoughts about the game?

KW: They're a solid team. Looking at the standings right now is pretty crazy because everybody is in a dog fight. In our division you have one team in first and all the others are tied for second. So, they're all important games. We know that Minnesota is a strong team. They've had their ups and downs, as well, this year. I know we're going to be ready. And again, the most important thing for us is to make sure we're doing our thing and playing our game.

The Mayor

Restoring 45's Cool Factor

Number 45 was supposed to have significant meaning to the Kings this year.

Only seven players in the 40-plus year history of the franchise have worn that number on their jersey. Of that group, just one had any sort of prominence - center Sandy Moger in 1997-98. And 'prominence' is definitely too strong of a word.

Jonathan Bernier was to change all of that this season.

He was to have a coming out party between the pipes like nobody in this town has ever seen. The only question some people seemed to have was how long would it be before he took over the starting goaltending job from the other Jonathan, Quick.

Well, plans change.

Coach Terry Murray has taken an eraser to his "penciled in" goaltending schedule and looks to be going with the vintage "Play Quick A Lot" approach from a season ago. So far, it's working.

Yet, while Bernier sits idle, the Kings toasted a new '45' last night. They killed off their 45th straight power play at home before giving up a late third period score to the Flames.

No problem, the streak stops at 45 and the number's good name has been restored.

There's still time for Bernier. Until then though, 45 can be associated with an awesome ride by the penalty kill.

Besides, how fitting was it that the streak was broken by a former King, Olli Jokinen. Like Bernier, when drafted he was thought to be the future of the franchise. Instead, he was traded for Ziggy Palffy after a little more than one season with the team.

Perhaps equally as fitting was having the game winning goal come from Anze Kopitar - the guy who's ended up becoming that franchise center that Jokinen was never given the chance to be in LA.

The Mayor

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Besides the two points, losing to Calgary in the second game of the year meant little in the big picture. It was a throw away game, coming on the second night of a back to back weekend series. More importantly, it came after an emotionally charged opening night in Vancouver just 24 hours prior.

This Kings team isn't filled with Gretzky, Robitaille and Blake. They don't hate the Flames, circa 1990. After making the playoffs last season for the first time in eight years - and the first time ever for most of the team - losing to the Canucks is what hurt. Thus, that's the game that's going to get them up this season.

So, that was the excuse last time.

How about the other games over the last few years, where the Kings have dropped 14 of 17 to the Flames?

Other stats to consider...

* Jarome Iginla - for all the talk a few weeks ago that he was about to be traded, perhaps even to the Kings, he's still with the Flames. In 20 career games at Staples Center he has 23 points (13g, 10a).

* Olli Jokinen - he's one of those players that "newer" Kings fans probably don't have a connection to. For those unfamiliar, think Brayden Schenn 10+ years ago. At the 1997 NHL Draft the Kings selected him third overall, behind only Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. He was supposed to be a a big time center with tons of promise. Instead of being the guy in LA for the next decade, he was traded for Ziggy Palffy a few months before the Kings moved downtown. In 10 career games at Staples Center he has seven points (4g, 3a).

* Alex Tanguay - he's a big fan of MayorsManor. Enough said.

* For all the talk about the weird schedule this year, how about last year - where the Kings played the Flames three times over a 10 game stretch in December? Was that really necessary? LA went 1-2 with their only win coming at Staples Center on December 7 by a 2-1 final. That was the Kings’ first victory over Calgary since February 2008.

* Their overall power play percentages are nearly dead-even, 14.6% for LA and 14.9% for Calgary. However, LA's penalty kill is much better, 86.6% compared to 83.3, including a perfect 43-for-43 at home.

* Justin Williams has arguably been the Kings' best player this season. How has he fared against the Flames?  In 11 career games he has just one goal...and one assist to keep that goal from getting too lonely in the stats column.

*  How about Dustin Brown?  Well, #23 has played 23 career games vs. the Flames and produced just nine points (3g, 6a).  Only one of his three goals has come at Staples Center.  However, he did have the lone goal against them earlier this year in Calgary.  So, that's somewhat encouraging.

* Ryan Smyth has 20 goals in 71 games vs. the Flames.  Yet, most of those came when he was an Oiler.  Not to mention, 12 of the 20 have come at the Saddledome.

* Kopitar, you say?  Anze has found success against the Flames, with 14 points (7g, 7a) in 17 career games.

Regardless of the stats listed above, this game will more than likely come down to goaltending.  Jonathan Quick and Miikka Kiprusoff are two of the best in the Western Conference.  History suggests it will be tough to get the puck by either of them.

The Mayor


Remembering a Rivalry - Kings vs. Flames (w/ video of one of the best Kings goals ever scored)

Painting By Numbers With Ryan Smyth - his thoughts on key milestone games

The Complete Story on Brayden Schenn

Kings-Flames - A Playoff Preview? - published December 2009

Kings-Flames - By The Numbers - published December 2009


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

POLL: Doughty's Partner In Crime?

No doubt, Drew Doughty is still working to regain the form that had him as a Norris Trophy finalist last season. With concussion related problems about a month behind him now, he's seen his ice time progressively increased over the last five games. However, he hasn't had a point in eight straight - the longest drought since the middle of his rookie season.

Due mainly to injuries within the d-core, he's had a few different partners this season. Currently, he's paired with Rob Scuderi - a defensive-defenseman. However, after the Olympic break last season, Doughty had some success playing with another offense-minded blueliner, Jack Johnson.

Coach Terry Murray says he's sticking with Scuderi as Doughty's partner for Thursday's game vs. Calgary. Of course, this could all change once Willie Mitchell is ready to go in a few games.

Yet, for now, which partner do you think gives the Kings the best chance to win on any given night? Is it Scuderi? Johnson? Or how about Matt Greene? Maybe Alec Martinez?

Poll closes Thursday at noon.

The Mayor


10 Tidbits On...  Drew Doughty  *  Willie Mitchell  *  Alec Martinez

Drewiske makes a bet with Scuderi and Harrold


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

2011 WJC Update - More Kings Added

Four Kings' prospects - representing three different countries - could be part of the upcoming World Junior Championship (WJC), including a pair of first round picks.

Team Canada's summer evaluation camp was filled with more Kings' prospects than any other NHL team. However, for various reasons, only two of those five have a shot at the final roster - Brayden Schenn and Linden Vey.

While Schenn's spot is all but guaranteed, Vey will be competing with 23 other forwards when Canada opens their selection camp this Sunday. From the 40 total players invited, only 22 will be taken to the WJC.

Russia will once again feature Maxim Kitsyn - the leading scorer at the recent Super Series (a tournament pitting top Canadian junior players vs. a Russian all-star team). Kitsyn began a pre-tourney camp with Russia today and they'll depart for North America in about 10 days.  Last winter wasn't the best of times for Russia when it came to international play.  They didn't medal at the WJC (a first in six years) and were embarrassed at the Olympics in Vancouver.  So, they'll be a hungry team and will have their hands full right from the beginning - their first opponent in pool play is Canada.  Kitsyn vs. Schenn!

Team USA announced their preliminary roster today and to nobody's surprise, this year's first round pick by the Kings, Derek Forbort, was included on the list. He's a product of the U.S. National Development program and has participated in international play for them before, including winning a gold medal at the Under-18 Championships.

Painting by Numbers with Ryan Smyth

Over his four-plus-year reign as Kings General Manager there can be little arguing Dean Lombardi's incredible success at the NHL Draft table. However, the possible knocks on his rebuilding project in L.A. have been with free agent signings and trades for veteran players.

Some fans would have preferred a quick fix solution to the team he inherited in the spring of 2006 and have spent several summers hoping he would land a big name free agent forward. In 2007 many were hoping for Scott Gomez. They ended up with names like Kyle Calder and Ladislav Nagy instead. The following summer Marian Hossa signed with the Red Wings, not the Kings.

So, it was somewhat understandable when a portion of fans were underwhelmed when Lombardi's big move in July 2009 was acquiring Ryan Smyth.

Besides the track record mentioned above, Smyth was 33 years old and had a history of injuries. Some even wondered if he was on the down side of his career. After all, he had a lot of miles on him (over 900 games) and too many injuries to count from years of getting beat up around the net.

However, by now it's well documented, this turned out to be one of Lombardi's best non-draft moves. Smyth was essentially reborn in Los Angeles - starting last season as part of the hottest trio in the NHL, along side Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. Just as important as his play on the ice though, he proved invaluable in the maturation and development of the Kings young core. Players like Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty and Wayne Simmonds have all noted how Smyth helped them individually and the team as a whole.

It's probably more than just a coincidence that the Kings made the playoffs for the first time in eight years after adding Smyth to their stable.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Complete Story on Brayden Schenn

Everybody has that friend or family member who just always seems to find drama. No matter what they do, every time they seem to turn the corner, there's another perplexing situation sitting there waiting for them.

Brayden Schenn may be that guy for the LA Kings.

Simply take a stroll through his 18-month relationship with the Kings to get a taste of what I'm talking about.

The Draft... It probably all started right from the official beginning at the 2009 NHL Draft. Toronto GM Brian Burke was openly lobbying all teams to make a deal with him. The Leafs already had Luke Schenn and were desperate to add his little brother too. Instead, Kings GM Dean Lombardi took Brayden with the fifth overall pick and a picture (now somewhat infamous) of an extremely irritated Burke instantly started circulating online.

The Game... Within a few weeks most had forgotten all about Schenn, he was still years away. The organization and their fans became focused on acquiring the players necessary to return to the playoffs. However, to the surprise of nearly everybody, the Kings thrust his name back into the current consciousness just 26 games into the following season when they signed him to a one-day contract. He went from playing for Team Canada in the Super Series (a top junior hockey tournament) to suiting up for LA against the Vancouver Canucks. For one day. In, out and gone back to the Brandon Wheat Kings.

The Knee... Over the past summer, some were saying he had a strong chance to make the Kings this year (a notion I disagreed with many times here on MayorsManor, as there just wasn't room for another center without a trade). Then, on the eve of Rookie Camp opening word got out that he had sustained a knee injury while training in Canada. Speculation starting running rampant that he could be out for several months. Nobody could get a straight answer on the severity of things, even after he was brought to LA for an MRI. However, once main camp opened, there he was, part of Group B and everything was fine.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Forbort def. Gravel via Round Two Knockout

For all the talk surrounding the importance of drafting junior hockey players, outside of Drew Doughty, every other defenseman currently on the Kings roster is a former college hockey player - Jack Johnson (Michigan), Peter Harrold and Rob Scuderi (Boston College), Davis Drewiske (Wisconsin), Willie Mitchell (Clarkson Univeristy), Alec Martinez (Miami-Ohio) and Matt Greene (North Dakota).

And don't think for a minute those guys forget their college pride once they make the NHL. A few weeks ago Drewiske shared this story with me when talking about last year's BC vs. Wisconsin NCAA Championship Final, "I had a little bet with Scuderi and Harrold on the Championship game. I said if UW won, they each had to spend a day wearing my letter jacket from Wisconsin - which is just hideous, an ugly thing. If BC won, they had their senior sweaters, you know maroon and gold. Obviously, BC won the Championship game 5-0. So, I had to spend a day - I think we were in Vancouver - with the BC colors on, which didn't feel right at all."

XI Makes XXV Memorable

Anze Kopitar continues to get it done for the Kings.

In their 25th game of the year, he had the winning goal with less than a minute to go in overtime.

Quickly, here are the other eleven things of note from LA's big win over Detroit...

* Quick, which player has the most goals among the Kings defenseman? Here's a hint, it's not Doughty or Johnson. It's...Alec Martinez! Over the weekend we've had a few articles on some Kings prospects playing college hockey this season and the former Miami RedHawk now has two goals in his five games played.

* Justin Williams said he thought his early second period goal got the team going. I would say, well sorta. Former Kings coach Andy Murray used to talk about the importance of the next shift following a goal. Sure, Williams' goal was a big one. However, giving the lead right back to the Wings, less than a minute later, was fairly deflating.