Friday, July 1, 2011

Lombardi has a plan for free agents, not just wingn' it

For those not following along on twitter and/or facebook today, here is where things stand with free agency...

Back when Kings GM Dean Lombardi arrived in Los Angeles in the spring of 2006 he immediately began talking about building the team from the net out.

More recently, he's acknowledged that the team needs to be stronger at center if they want to compete with the upper echelon of the Western Conference - teams like Vancouver, San Jose and Detroit.

So, while a bunch of free agent forwards signed elsewhere today - Andrew Brunette (Chicago), Eric Cole (Montreal), Tomas Fleischmann (Florida), Jeff Halpern (Washington), Jaromir Jagr (Philadelphia), Ville Lenio (Buffalo), Alexei Ponikarovsky (Carolina), Michael Ryder (Dallas), Steve Sullivan (Pittsburgh), Marco Sturm (Vancouver), Scottie Upshall (Florida), Kris Versteeg (Florida via trade) and Joel Ward (Washington) - Lombardi headed to Toronto in pusuit of another center.

There are unconfirmed reports he's asked coach Terry Murray how feasible it is to start 12 centers on offense. Which is great news to prospects like Andrei Loktionov and Jordan Weal, who would be needed for those 11th and 12 spots.

So, for now we wait.

Three teams have yet to make a big splash today - the Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers.

Thus, we're actually right back where we started. The same three teams that have been rumored for over a month to be the front runners for uber UFA Brad Richards are still in the hunt.

Oh yeah, one more thing... there's also a very good, often injured, former Flyer winger who hasn't signed with anybody yet. Perhaps he's plan B.

The Mayor

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yet another d-man invited to Kings Development Camp

Adding to the roster notes posted earlier today for the Kings upcoming Development Camp, word is that another defenseman has been invited.

The annual sessions, held at the team's training facility in El Segundo, usually features all of the top signed and unsigned prospects in the organization, along with a few key free agent invitees.

Already listed as invited were right wing Michael Kantor (Soo Greyhounds, OHL) and three defensemen - Pierre Durepos (Saint John Sea Dogs, QMJHL), Colin Miller (Soo Greyhounds, OHL) and Saverio Posa (Windsor Spitfires, OHL).

You can now add to that list Alexander Roach of the Calgary Hitmen.

In 61 regular season games this year, the 6-foot-4, 217 pound blueliner posted 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists) and 77 penalty minutes. Although 18 years old, it was his rookie season in the WHL.

According to his agent, he was tendered the invitation moments after the conclusion of the NHL Draft this past weekend in Minneapolis.

For more information on the players invited to this year's Development Camp click here or for some pre-camp interviews with several of the Kings top prospects follow these links - JF Berube interview (link), Tyler Toffoli interview (link) and Jordan Weal interview (link)...more to follow.

The Mayor

DevCamp 2011: Pre-camp comments from Tyler Toffoli

Photo: V. Wutti, Blitzen Photography
Mark it down now. My pick for a Kings rookie to make the opening night roster is Tyler Toffoli.

Drafted by Los Angeles in the second round of last summer's NHL Draft, he exploded into the junior hockey headlines this season when he put up 57 goals and 108 points for the Ottawa 67s and ended up as the OHL scoring champion.

While some might think he'd be an obvious pick to join an offensively starved team like the Kings, remember he's only one year removed from his draft year. Not many kids that young can make the jump so early - not to mention the fact there are several players in Manchester who are probably ahead of him on the depth chart at this point (i.e. Andrei Loktionov, Corey Elkins, Bud Holloway, etc.). However, he appears to have all the skills.

So, will he do it? Is he ready?

The next step in his evaluation comes in just a few weeks when he joins dozens of other prospects at the Kings annual Development Camp.

He was a frequent guest on MayorsManor this season and he joins us again today to share some pre-camp comments...

MM: Let's start with Manchester. Any thoughts about your time there at the end of the season?

TT: Overall, it was a great experience in Manch. I went in just trying to take it all in and I had a lot of fun. It was good to meet everyone and spend time there.

MM: What have you been doing back home to stay in shape since the season ended?

DevCamp 2011: Pre-camp comments from Jordan Weal

Jordan Weal posted 102 points (35g, 67a) for the Regina Pats during the 2009-10 season. Even though that was only four points fewer than the more highly touted Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, cynics wondered if he'd be able to post such large numbers again this season without Jordan Eberle.

Guess they were right.

He could only muster 43 goals and 96 points this year.

All jokes aside, the Kings were somewhat surprised when Weal was still on the board in the third round of last summer's NHL Draft. They nabbed him and have continued to be impressed ever since. He looked solid at both last year's Development Camp and again in Rookie Camp prior to the start of the season. His speed and shot were on full display in the two-game series with the Phoenix Coyotes rookies.

After his WHL team missed the playoffs for the third straight year, he headed east to Manchester (AHL). He played in seven of the teams final regular season games, picking up a single assist for his efforts. In part, that led to him being a healthy scratch for the Monarchs run through two rounds of the playoffs.

In a few weeks he'll be back in Los Angeles, where his whole journey to the NHL began one year ago. Since then, he's been a guest on MayorsManor numerous times and today he checks in again with some pre-camp comments...

MM: Let's start with Manchester. Any thoughts about your time there at the end of the season?

JW: It was a great experience. They had a really nice group of guys who made it very comfortable to fit in. It was great to get into some games and get used to the speed of the game there. It was just unfortunate to have an early exit from the playoffs.

MM: Was there any one player you bonded with this time around - obviously you already know several of them...

DevCamp 2011: Pre-camp comments from JF Berube

Hollywood is headed to Los Angeles.

Goaltender JF Berube - nicknamed Hollywood - finished his junior season as one of the top goaltenders in the Quebec league (QMJHL). After playing in 50 regular season games he had a 2.60 goals-against-average (fourth best in the league), a .902 save percentage (sixth best), 32 wins (second best) and three shutouts (tied for third most).

His Montreal Junior team swept thier first round opponent, the Halifx Moosseheads. But lost their second series to the Lewiston Maineiacs 4-2 (including an overtime and a double-overtime game). He finished the post-season with six wins in 10 games played, a 2.79 goals-against-average and a 0.901 save percentage. His two shutouts tied for the league lead.

Originally selected by the Kings in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, Berube has been a guest on MayorsManor numerous times and he's back today to offer up some pre-camp comments...

MM: First off, any comments on fellow Quebec league goalie Christopher Gibson - the Kings just drafted him in the second round last weekend.

JFB: I didn't play him a lot. But, I know he's a very good goalie. He's square to the puck and has good feet.

MM: You recently signed your entry level contract. How good does it feel to have that behind you now?

JFB: I'm really happy that the Kings decided to put me under contract for the next three years. I really like the organisation and all the coaching staff, so it was really good news for me.

MM: Any thoughts on coming to camp?

Los Angeles Kings 2011 Development Camp Roster Notes

As previously announced, the Kings are getting ready to hold their annual summer development camp at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, CA - with sessions open to the public on July 11 and 12. Most of the players are scheduled to arrive on the 8th.

Last year 40 players were in camp, including five goalies.

So, who's coming this year?

While the full roster is expected to be announced shortly, here are some confirmed participants, four of the tryout players and a few miscellaneous notes.

Confirmed Draft Picks

JF Berube - 2009 fourth round, Montreal (QMJHL)
Nic Deslauriers - 2009 third round, Gatineau (QMJHL)
Derek Forbort - 2010 first round pick, North Dakota (NCAA)
Kevin Gravel - 2010 fifth round pick, St Cloud State (NCAA)
Brandon Kozun - 2009 sixth round pick, Calgary (WHL)
Michael Mersch - 2011 fourth round pick, Wisconsin (NCAA)
Tyler Toffoli - 2010 second round pick, Ottawa (OHL)
Michael Schumacher - 2011 seventh round pick, Sweden
Jordan Weal - 2010 third round pick, Regina (WHL)

Invited Guests

Each year a number of guys are invited to attend camp on a tryout basis. So far, the following players have accepted and are scheduled to be in camp:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

No June Gloom from Los Angeles Kings LW Dustin Penner

If you follow the Los Angeles Kings, you know the story all too well. Needing scoring help, the team makes a trade at the deadline to help give them some extra punch down the stretch. After much excitement from the fan base, the player doesn't produce as expected.

We're not just talking about Dustin Penner. This could be the tale of any number of players the team has acquired over the last decade.

Nearly every one of those players never returned after their brief 20-odd game run with the club. They're just footnotes in team history.

Yet,GM Dean Lombardibelieves the final chapter on Penner hasn't been written yet. He's expecting big things from the player he gave up multiple assets for, including this year's number one draft pick.

Along with the Kings recent addition of the Flyers Mike Richards, they've also picked up Colin Fraser in the deal that sent Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton.

Fraser played 67 games with the Oilers during the 2010-11 campaign after coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks, where he played two full seasons.

Given they were roommates in Edmonton, I caught up with Penner this week to get some comments on Fraser and it wasn't long before we were also talking about his own numbers and what he's focused on this summer.

MM: What can you tell us about Fraser?

DP: Well, obviously he has Stanley Cup experience. Being in a locker room full of guys who are all working towards a common goal of winning, it brings you a bit of knowledge on how to play this game at a high level. In the playoffs he probably didn't get into as many games as other guys on that Stanley Cup team, but winning the Cup gives you a lot of confidence from just being part of that team. He competes in every area of the ice. He's a third or fourth line center, who's good on draws. He'll do anything to help his team win. So, I think he's a real character guy and he brings leadership in that aspect. He's a good all around person too. So, hopefully he gets a chance and cracks the squad.

MM: He was shown joking around a bit on the Oil Change documentary. Is he loose? Is he a funny guy?

More from Laperriere - talking Luc, health, life after hockey

A few days ago Ian Laperriere joined us to talk about the Mike Richards trade. Did the Kings get good value in the blockbuster swap with the Flyers? Lappy thinks so. If you missed the full interview, you can read his thoughts here.

Because everybody loves Lappy, he's back today for more. This time around we cover his health, winning the Masterton Trophy at last week's NHL Awards and his plans for life after hockey.

MM: People always want a health update. So, how are you feeling these days? Any news?

IL: You know what, I feel pretty good. Other than my eye, that's what drives me nuts, I still have issues with blurry vision in my right eye. Other than that, I feel great. I've been training hard and I'm probably in the best shape of my life. But, still, when I'm on the ice, with my eye, I don't feel quite myself. Until that goes away, I don't plan on going back. At least I'm feeling pretty normal though.

MM: So, you're not using the 'R' word yet?

IL: I still have a year left on my deal and I'm going to give myself that year. If my eye doesn't get any better, I'm just going to call it a career. It didn't get that much better over the last year, so I don't expect it to be cleared in one more year. But, if it does, great. If it doesn't, I'll move on and do something else. Either way, I'm OK with it.

MM: Last time we spoke you were spending quite a bit of time with some of the younger players in the Flyers organization. Is that something that you're still involved with?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wisconsin coach on LA Prospects Forbort, Gravel & Shore

Earlier this week, Wisconsin assistant coach - and former LA King grinder - Gary Shuchuk joined us to talk about the Kings fourth round selection in this year's draft, Michael Mersch.

Shuchuk, now an assistant coach at Wisconsin (NCAA), helped oversee Mersch's development during his just completed freshman season. Among the comments he shared was his belief that the 6-foot-1 prospect is patterned after somebody like Brendan Shanahan. Not bad.

Today, Shuchuk joins us again - this time to talk about three other Kings prospects that his Badgers played recently...

MM: You guys played Denver at the beginning of the season and the Kings just drafted Nick Shore in the third round. Any memories of him when the two schools met up?

GS: He's a good player. He's another big forward, a potential power guy. I think he has a lot of upside. He's probably a better skater than Michael (Mersch) right now. He's a smooth skater with a lot of power and a good shot. He plays hard, goes in the corners, not afraid to muck it up. He's good.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Quick Recap - LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi on NHL Live

Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was on NHL Live this afternoon. Below are the key highlights. As with all recaps of this nature, please note these are not exact quotes. The comments are close, yet some areas have been paraphrased for brevity.

* GMs are always surveying the market and throwing around options without being committal. I've known Paul Holmgren from our days in Philadelphia together so it's easier to talk to him and get stuff done. He's more straight forward that there isn't as much negotiating. We're able to cut through all of the posturing. By the time we got to the draft I saw that he was serious about getting it done before the draft started. That put some urgency on it.

* What does Mike Richards give the Kings that they didn't have before? I've admired him from his junior days until now. The kid's a winner, pure and simple. From the Memorial Cup, to the Olympics - and I was amazed when he went to the AHL his first pro year. He has a unique presence, where he can take over a room without even trying. He has that 'it' factor, you can't describe it but you know it when you see it. So much of it comes from the way he plays. He has an aura in the room. That's just something you can't teach. I've stayed away from certain players that don't meet a certain type of MO. Part of building here was not only to build the team, but build the culture. Players like this are culture changers. He still has some work to do to become a well rounded pro. He probably learned a few lessons. I don't think you lose that 'it.'

Flyers Ian Laperriere on Mike Richards vs. Chris Pronger

Certain things in hockey are just the way they are.

For example, if Bob McKenzie says it's true, it pretty much is.

If Marcel Dionne shares what a player needs to do to become a more prolific scorer - and Marcel will tell you more than that! - it must be fact.

And if Ian Laperriere gives you a thumbs up or thumbs down on a guy he's played with, you can take it to the bank.

Laperriere, the former Kings forward and fan favorite everywhere he's played, has made several visits to MayorsManor - never offering up cliches and generic answers. What you see with Lappy is what you get. He wears his heart on his sleeve - regardless if he's wearing a jersey or a t-shirt.

So, when the Kings traded for Flyers' captain Mike Richards last week I thought he'd be the perfect guy to reach out to. Who is Mike Richards? Is he the uber talented center who helped take the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals and won a gold medal with Team Canada? Or is he the temperamental, immature star-to-be the Philadelphia media made him out to be?

Here's what Lappy had to say...

MM: What type of player did the LA Kings just acquire?

IL: He's a character guy. He's a leadership kind of guy. The bigger the game is, the bigger his game is. He's a great guy too. I got along really well with him. I just spent a day with him about a week ago. He's just one of those kids who will do everything for the team. He's not the biggest talker in the room or anything like that - but when the puck drops, he's there and he'll give you 100%. He's a winner too. He's won the gold medal and he was a big part of that Team Canada group at last year's Olympics. I think the Kings are going to be really happy about having him on their team.

MM: When you win something so big, like a gold medal or a Stanley Cup, you come out of it a much different player. Did you notice anything different about him - either on or off the ice - after the Olympics?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

NCAA Coach Gary Shuchuk on LA Kings Draft Pick

The theme of the day must be 'full circle.'

Not only did Ryan Smyth return to Edmonton today, but we're joined by Gary Shuchuk.

In 1990 he led the the Wisconsin Badgers in goals and won the NCAA hockey championship. After playing for Barry Melrose in the AHL and with the Kings in Los Angeles, he's returned to his roots.

This season he was hired on as an Assistant Coach for the men's hockey team at his alma mater.

His connection to the Kings was strengthened yesterday too, when one of his players - Michael Mersch - was drafted by the team in the fourth round.

Afterwards, I spoke with him...

MM: What can you tell us about Mersch, he's a 6-foot-1 winger, right?

GS: He's a big kid and he's a very polite young man. Off ice he's the kind of guy who's very well mannered, but on the ice he's a different story. He plays the game hard. He's a big body. One of the things he's going to have to improve on, and he knows this, is his skating - which he has been. But, from the hash marks down below the dots, he's as best as I've seen. And he's going to better - controlling the puck, using his body, driving to the net, etc. He has an NHL shot right now, it's a quick release. Being a sophomore now in college, he has huge upside.

The kid just wants to learn, he's just a huge sponge. I've worked with him almost daily and he just wants to learn and get better and better. That's just the way this kid is. I think the Kings are very fortunate to get him. They're going to have, I really think, a diamond in the rough here. He came from the U.S. Development program, where he had one good year. He had like 20 goals and then the next year he had seven. So, some people kinda wrote him off. But, I think it was good for him. He really matured after that.

MM: When you say he needs to work on his skating, what has be been doing to improve in that area?

Details on Ryan Smyth's 'Official' Trade to the Oilers

Last summer it was Ilya Kovalchuk negotiations, this summer it was the Ryan Smyth trade.

Yes, two entirely different players - and two entirely different situations - yet, some things just take longer than they should.

The week long, back and forth, on-again-off-again saga is now complete and the Kings ended up with basically what they wanted (given that Smyth had asked out) - cap flexibility for the free agent window opening next Friday.

Make no mistake about it, Smyth will be missed by the Kings. In 149 regular season games with the team he amassed 100 total points (45g, 55a). So, say what you will about his speed, the fact remains he was a top goal and point producer on a team that sorely needs more offense. Not to mention the fact that he plays left wing.

At the moment, the Kings have Dustin Penner, Scott Parse and Kyle Clifford down the left side. Taking nothing away from the trio, that isn't enough to strike fear in the hearts of most opponents. Unless of course you're talking about going toe-to-to with the Colonel.

Thus, expect another move - free agent or trade - to fill the hole, most likely to complete the second line of Mike Richards and Dustin Brown.

As for this deal, the Kings received center Colin Fraser and a seventh-round pick in 2012. Fraser has 41 points in 224 NHL games, including three goals in 67 games last season. He's on the books for one more year at $825,000.