Saturday, October 15, 2011

LA players on Simmonds, Flyers, possible scrap for Clifford

Will Simmonds fight Clifford? (photo: C. Ikiri)
There's no denying Wayne Simmonds was a fan favorite in Los Angeles.

Almost from the moment he made the Kings as an 20-year old forward out of the Ontario Hockey League, people loved his hustle.

Simmonds went on to play 240 games and score 39 goals with the team. Then, as has been heavily documented, he was traded this past June to the Philadelphia Flyers.

In the weeks that followed, several Kings stopped by MayorsManor to share thoughts on their departed friend and teammate...

Jarret Stoll - "He's going to be a very good player, he is a very good player...I wish him all the best in Philly. He's a great guy, he was roommate on the road. We had some good times together and some good talks. He's a good kid. He'll figure it out in Philly and he's going to be a well liked player there, for sure."

Matt Greene - "Simmer was a big part of our team. He's a great player and he's only going to get better. So, it was tough to lose a friend and a good player like that.

Mike Richards trade for Simmonds and Schenn revisited

In the 40-plus year history of the Los Angeles Kings franchise, there have been some pretty big trades. Obviously, none bigger than a deal that went down in August 1988 with the Edmonton Oilers.

However, several moves since then have also created some earthquake like tremors within the LA hockey community. For example, just before the Kings relocated to their new arena downtown in 1999, they traded away prized prospect Olli Jokinen in a package with the Islanders to land Ziggy Palffy.

A few years later, the most controversial trade (by far) saw future Hall of Famer Rob Blake shipped out to the Colorado Avalanche.

Since then, deals to acquire Roman Cechmanek (2003), Jeremy Roenick (2005), Jack Johnson (2006), Ryan Smyth (2009) and Dustin Penner (2011) have been some of the bigger moves. [Ironically, the two trades on that list that worked out the worst for the Kings were both made with the Flyers.]

Yet, it's been a long time since the Kings were involved in something that sent shockwaves through the NHL like this summer's blockbuster deal to bring Philadelphia captain Mike Richards to LA in exchange for Wayne Simmonds and the number one rated prospect in all of hockey, Brayden Schenn.

In a game that fans on both coasts immediately circled on their calenders moments later, the Kings will meet up with the Flyers later this afternoon for the only time this season. In honor of what should be a near-playoff like atmosphere, here's a look back at ten of the most popular articles posted on MayorsManor stemming from the trade and a few more about the players involved...

- Mike Richards already has ideas to help the LA Kings power play

Morning Skate: Wayne Simmonds talks LA Kings vs Flyers

Following the morning skate in Philadelphia, Wayne Simmonds spoke about facing the Kings later tonight, his linemate Danny Briere and being on the Flyers' second power play unit with Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux.

If you missed it, Ian Laperriere was on MayorsManor earlier today to talk about the game tonight. He shared thoughts on how the Philadelphia crowd will react to Mike Richards, speculated on the possibility of a Kyle Clifford vs. Simmonds scrap and explained how the Flyers are adjusting to their new captain (article link).

Coming up in just a bit, Clifford and several other Kings talking about Simmonds.

The Mayor 

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LA Kings vs Flyers - what to watch for... with Ian Laperriere

Talk show host Jim Rome likes to joke that if you're fortunate enough to spend 15 minutes with quarterback Tim Tebow, your life is better for it. Earlier this week, I tweeted an update to that expression...'If you're lucky enough to spend five minutes with Ian Laperriere, your life is better for it.'

There's probably nobody in hockey I'd rather speak with. He offers zero cliches and no b.s., just raw emotion and straight ahead honesty.

Sure, several players, both past and present, are universally liked. However, if you look hard enough, you can usually find a small pool of people who dislike certain guys - for whatever reason, logical or not.

Lappy is different. And he has been since he first arrived in Los Angeles in 1996. You show me one person who has EVER had a bad thing to say about him and that will be the first.

The guy is as real as they come.

He's been on MayorsManor a number of times, including his still popular guest spot on the podcast last November and again earlier this summer - when he stopped by to set the record straight about Mike Richards, in the days following the big LA-Philadelphia trade.

With the Flyers hosting the Kings tonight, who could possibly be better to kick off our 'what to watch for' segment today?

Here he is, the one and only...

MM: Philadelphia is known for being a great sports town. Yet, the fans can be tough. What type of reaction do you expect them to give Richards when he comes out of the locker room for the first time?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Reign preview - Hardy behind the bench, Berube in net

Tonight marks the fourth season opener for the Ontario Reign, the Kings' ECHL affiliate.

For those who don't follow Southern California's premier minor league hockey franchise too closely, here's a quick crash course to bring you up to speed.

The Reign are owned by the Kemp family, who previously headed up the Long Beach Ice Dogs. They play in a beautiful building (Citizen's Business Bank Arena) some have called a mini-Staples Center - probably because it's also run by AEG.

In October 2008, the Reign played their first ECHL game, against the Bakersfield Condors, the same team they're playing tonight.

At the end of that inaugural season, the team made the playoffs - but, ultimately lost their first round match up with the Stockton Thunder in seven games. Former Kings first round draft pick Colten Teubert was with the Reign for a few games at the end of the season and for the playoffs. Current Manchester goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, was in net at the time and former Monarchs sniper Bud Holloway was among the group of forwards in Ontario.

They missed the playoffs each of the last two seasons, both of which brought mounting frustrations for the fan base and management. Part of the issue on the hockey operations side has been the fact the Kings haven't been sending them four to five players each season, like most other ECHL teams get (team president Justin Kemp spoke openly about the issue here).

Coach Karl Taylor, who also was in charge of managing the team's player personnel, left over the summer, taking an assistant coaching job in the AHL. The circumstances surrounding his departure are murky at best, as he's now working in the Canucks organization - the same team Kemp was negotiating with to bring on as a second NHL affiliate (again, discussed in greater detail in his MayorsManor interview linked above).

This season, the Reign are getting two additions with LA ties.

Penner defends himself against Greene's accusations

Dustin Penner (photo by: C. Ikiri)
Let's get right to it.

A few weeks back, Matt Greene came out swinging. The long reigning champ of comedy within the Kings locker room had heard enough. Two of his former Oilers teammates were coming for his crown, but the 28-year old defenseman wasn't going down without a fight.

He warned the public, don't buy into the hype surrounding Ethan Moreau, who he claimed had been riding his coattails...or Dustin Penner, someone Greene said he's been nursing along for years.

Moreau had his chance to respond here on MayorsManor, boasting that Greene and Penner are only funny because they stole his best material when they left Edmonton.

Now, Dustin Penner steps up with his retort...

"I'd like to put this issue to bed once and for all. What was Greener in that last article, something about how he took me under his wing? Well, that's a cute way of putting it when he pretty much begged me for a month straight to move in with him. I was pretty happy and content in the hotel. But, he ended up saying I could stay there for free and that he'd give me a check monthly just to stay there - so he could learn from me. And I think we did pretty well with getting him up to an acceptable level of humor, as everybody thinks he's pretty funny now."

Then, out of nowhere, he softened up just a bit...

LA Kings prospects on TV later this afternoon

Shore and Forbort at Kings camp (photo: C. Ikiri)
There's no denying the growing impact of U.S. college hockey on the NHL.

And the LA Kings have been ahead of the curve in recent years, with a plethora of former student athletes on their roster.

Heck, on defense Drew Doughty is the odd man out, as everybody else went the college route - Matt Greene (North Dakota), Jack Johnson (Michigan), Alec Martinez (Miami-Ohio), Willie Mitchell (Clarkson) and Rob Scuderi (Boston College).

The Kings have been stocking up on those type of players at the NHL Draft as well, with five of their 11 selections over the past two years already committed to going the NCAA route.

Later this afternoon, the top two prospects from that pool will be featured on television.

Defenseman Derek Forbort - the Kings first round pick from 2010 - and his North Dakota teammates will host the University of Maine 5:30 pm PST on Fox College Sports (channel 617 on DirecTV). Forbort is coming off a big weekend last week, having scored the first goal of his NCAA career. For those unfamiliar with him, he was also a member of the Team USA's squad that won a bronze medal at last winter's World Junior Championship (WJC). North Dakota are ranked sixth in the country, Maine is #16.

Today's big college hockey match-up will start an hour earlier on the CBS Sports Network (channel 613 on DirecTV), when #3-ranked Denver travels to #1-ranked Boston College. The Kings third round pick at last June's draft, Nick Shore, is one of the top centers for the Denver team. Earlier this summer, he attended the Team USA evaluation camp for the 2012 WJC and spoke exclusively with MayorsManor about his experience in an article linked below.

Next weekend, Forbort and team travel to Wisconsin to take on Michael Mersch (2011 Kings draft pick) and the Badgers. Then, the following weekend, they'll be home to play Kevin Gravel (Kings 2010 selection) and St. Cloud State.

At the end of February, North Dakota will play at Denver, in one of the most anticipated regular season games of the season. Can Forbort and the Sioux defense shut down Shore and the Pioneer offense? Ah come on, there's plenty of hockey to play between now and then.

The Mayor 


Exclusive - Nick Shore on Team USA WJC camp experience

Exclusive - Michael Mersh on experience at Team USA evaluation camp

Guest author - defenseman Kevin Gravel's Team USA camp journal

Interview with Kings' college prospect Derek Forbort

Forbort defeats Gravel via round two knockout

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

VIDEO: Stoll never shoots, Devils def Kings 2-1 in shootout

Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll was the definition of 'money' in the shootout last year, scoring on nine of 10 chances. Tonight, he sat on the bench and watched as the Kings were defeated 2-1 by the Devils in New Jersey.

With the game tied 1-1 after overtime, LA coach Terry Murray opted to go with Simon Gagne, Anze Kopitar and Stoll in the shootout.

Neither of the first two Kings scored, while Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise both converted - sending most of the crowd home happy.

- Gagne scored the lone goal for the Kings at 1:47 of the first period, his first with his new club.

- Goalie Jonathan Quick was the first start of the night (stopping 36 of 37 shots), Patrick Elias was second (1 goal on 7 shots) and Gagne was third.

- Dustin Brown led all Kings with five shots on goal. Rob Scuderi had four shots.

- Drew Doughty played 27:02, more than any other King. However, Kovalchuk topped all skaters in the game with 29:37 of total ice time.

- Ethan Moreau continued to be a physical force for the Kings, leading the team with four hits. Yet, for the second game in a row, Brown was not credited with any hits.

- The Kings again struggled in the faceoff circles, only winning 48% of the draws vs. the Devils (22 of 48). Kopitar won four of the 16 draws he took (25%).

Video highlights are after the jump.

LA Kings at New Jersey Devils - three things to watch for

Tonight's game between the Los Angeles Kings and new Jersey Devils will feature a pair of homecomings and a season debut.

The two clubs last met on October 30, 2010 in LA and the Kings were victorious 3-1, led by goals from Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll.

Here are three things to watch for on each side of the puck when things get going a little later this afternoon...

New Jersey Devils:

- The four-minute man returns: Cam Janssen was originally drafted by the Devils in 2002. However, he spent the last three-plus seasons with his hometown St. Louis Blues. This summer, he signed a free agent contract to return to New Jersey. Tonight he'll make his season debut. In his MayorsManor interview last season he talked about scouting Kyle Clifford prior to playing the Kings. So, what's in store there?

- Power play: New Jersey has converted on just 10% of their chances with the man advantage this season (one goal in 10 tries). Granted, they've only played two games. However, that's not too far off their 14% conversion rate last year, which was third worst in the league.

- Harrold Watch 2011: If you circled this game on your calendar in the hopes of seeing former Kings defenseman Peter Harrold, you'll probably be sad to hear he won't be in the line-up. Or even in the building for that matter. He's now in Albany, with the Devils AHL farm team.


VIDEO: Barry Melrose gives Kopitar 'Mullet of the Week'

In what has to be the greatest hockey award ever created, Barry Melrose put out his 'Mullet of the Week' award winner today...and Anze Kopitar, who played like a mad man in the Kings first two games of the season, was the proud recipient.

Who ever would have thought after the trading of Ryan Smyth a few months ago that any member of the Kings would be winning a mullet award so soon?

The Mayor 


Kopitar training in one of Europe's most beautiful cities

Shane Doan would pick Kopitar and the NHL All-Star Draft

Dustin Brown not buying that he lacks chemistry with Kopitar

Kings vs Maple Leafs, reliving when mullets were cool

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LA Kings' Willie Mitchell on his past, present and future

Willie Mitchell will be staring at part of his past when he steps onto the ice tonight in New Jersey.

"Where it all started. That's the first thing I think about when it comes to playing the Devils," the 10-year NHL veteran said. "It doesn't matter how many teams you've played for, and I've played for a couple, you always have fond memories of where it all started."

He debuted for New Jersey on March 25, 2000, nearly four years after they selected him in the eighth round of the 1996 draft.

Nowadays, as he hands out advice to young players, they probably hear stories of the experiences he went though as a prospect coming up through the New Jersey organization.

"I think in life in general, you try and learn your whole way. That's the journey of life, learning. If you ever think you can stop learning, you're in trouble," Mitchell said, as we reflected back on pieces of his career that have molded him into the player he's become.

"As a pro, I try to learn every day. I tried to learn from guys before me, guys who spent a lot of time in the league. I was fortunate enough to start in one of the best environments ever with the Devils - Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Larry Robinson, Jacques Lemaire, I could go on and on. There's a lot of Stanley Cups there. And you don't win those without having a good model for success. I tried to learn from those guys."

Some of those lessons have steered him towards being a certain type of player, just don't necessarily call him a leader.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dustin Brown adds a new name to Penner vs Greene feud

Is he the funniest LA King? (photo by: C.Ikiri)
The debate raged all summer.

No, it wasn't who would be the starting goalie this year. Didn't Jonathan Quick end that argument last season?

It also wasn't which rookie would make the team - Brandon Kozun or Tyler Toffoli? Actually, that discussion may have gone on a bit longer had the Kings not signed Ethan Moreau in late August.

So, the undisputed topic de jour has been 'Which player on the LA Kings is the funniest?'

Many insiders had Matt Greene running away with the title for the last few years. Then, Dustin Penner showed up in February and the competition looked to be heating up again when he immediately challenged Greene to a ping pong contest, something Greene turned down and shrugged off.

In mid-June, things went a different direction when Greene offered up tattoos for his teammates - like, brass knuckles or a big wolf for Kyle Clifford...and a bald eagle right across Jack Johnson's chest.

Soon thereafter, Penner turned his attention to a wide variety of topics - including the NHL, shoe manufacturers, the Simpsons and much more (article linked here).

Then, Ethan Moreau wasted no time jumping into the mix either. Just days after joining the Kings, he insinuated neither of those two were funny at all. In fact, he alleges they stole his best material when they left Edmonton (article linked here).

By the time training camp opened up a few weeks later, Greene had heard enough. He offered an exclusive rebuttal here on MayorsManor, where he called out both guys - saying Moreau had been riding his coattails for years all while nursing Penner along at the same time (link).

Before those three sign on for a cage match at the next WWE pay-per-view though, let's get a fresh perspective on things.

LA Kings trade for a kid with more questions than answers

So, Kings GM Dean Lombardi made another trade with the Philadelphia Flyers today. At least that's how it's going to read in some places. Yet, there is so much more to this deal. Or is there?

Jammed by the salary cap and total number of player contracts under contract, the Flyers needed a little breathing room. No problem. They called up their old buddy for some help. And in exchange for the always popular 'future considerations' the Kings picked up a sixth round draft pick and Stefan Legein.

Which is where things get really interesting.

Normally, people wouldn't be talking much about this deal. It would be more like a shuffling of paperwork than a real hockey trade.

However, upon further investigation you'll see that Legein is one of the most interesting stories to come out of the NHL Draft in years.

He was an assistant captain on the gold medal winning Team Canada squad at the 2008 World Junior Championships - a team that also featured Drew Doughty, Thomas Hickey, Jonathan Bernier and Wayne Simmonds.

Legein hurt his shoulder during the tournament and some have claimed he's never been the same since. He came back months later to finish out the OHL season and made his AHL debut, playing two playoff games for the Syracuse Crunch, once his junior club had been eliminated from the playoffs.

That summer, he announced his retirement from hockey - yes, at the age of 19 - essentially, walking out on the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had drafted him 37th overall in 2007.

What went wrong?

At first, some speculated it was just a prank. After all, this was the kid known for terrorizing his teammates with practical jokes.

That wasn't it. He was serious.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bernier on coach Murray's goalie plans for the LA Kings

Bernier at LA Kings camp (photo by: C. Ikiri)
Jonathan Bernier knows all about the waiting game. He made his NHL debut on September 29, 2007 and would go on to play a grand total of six more games over the next three seasons.

Last year, he finally arrived. Well, sort of - he went 11-8-3, with a 2.48 goals-against average as the designated back-up to Jonathan Quick.

Things may be changing though...even if it's slightly.

After spending the better part of the last 18 months saying Quick was his starting goaltender, period-point-blank (exhibit one your honor), LA Kings coach Terry Murray appeared to soften his stance during training camp - expressing he'd be more willing to play the 'hot' goalie this year.

A few days later, I asked Bernier what he thought about Murray's sudden change in direction.

"I just have to do my thing. Last year, he said he was going to go with the hot goalie close to the end of the season. Then, the coach changed his mind. Coaches who don't change their mind, they're crazy, I think. So, it's a quick game and it can be a quick turnaround. If Terry has his mind set on something, for me, it doesn't really matter. At the end of the day, I need to play the way I'm able to play and win some hockey games for my team."

The reason this is all relevant today is because after just two games, Murray is likely faced with a tough decision. The Kings are now back in the U.S. and possibly still jet lagged from their trip to Europe. Even so, he'll have to decide on a goaltender for Thursday's game against the New Jersey Devils (and an offense that features Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk), plus another game on Saturday. That one will be in Philadelphia and there won't be any hype needed, considering the big trade that went down this summer between the Kings and Flyers.

So, earlier today, we posed the question - if you were the coach of the Kings, which goaltender would you start against the Devils and the Flyers?

Cast your vote here and see how other Kings fans are responding to the question.

The Mayor


A summertime chat with Jonathan Bernier - we talk trade rumors, not playing in the playoffs and more

Clearing the Crease... with Jonathan Bernier

Why Jonathan Quick should have made the NHL All-Star Game

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Matt Greene's first assist of the season - packing the Kings

Dustin Brown at Kings practice (photo: K. Spatz)
Defenseman Matt Greene has picked up 40 assists in 381 NHL games. And while this might not count in his official stats, he picked up his first helper of the season as the Kings were preparing for a trip overseas.

In the days leading up to their departure, several members of the team participated in a series of interviews - including the following segment - for a special edition of the MayorsManor podcast, titled 'European travel with the LA Kings.'

However, knowing that some of you prefer to read things, rather than listen to them (translation: you can't listen to podcasts at work, buy you can read the site on your lunch hour - cough, cough), here's Greener having a little fun at the expense of his teammates...

Question for Greene: If you were to help each of these guys pack for the long trip, what's the one thing they need to remember to bring?

Dustin Brown - "His teeth."

Mike Richards - "He seems pretty together."  (note: ironically, during the podcast, Richards said the thing he was most worried about bringing was his toothbrush)

Anze Kopitar - "His checkbook. He's going to be buying a lot of tickets."

POLL: Quick or Bernier vs. New Jersey and Philadelphia?

The impending goaltending battle in Los Angeles has been well documented.

It's supposedly been imminent for over a year now.

However, last season could be best summed up like this...

Jonathan Bernier entered the year with high hopes, came out of the gates slow, admitted that he didn't feel comfortable in the crease until after Christmas and then played lights out hockey when given the chance in the second half, including going 4-0-1 in March with two shutouts. The Kings also picked up a point in Bernier's final nine starts of the regular season. He didn't see the ice for a single minute in the playoffs.

On the other hand, Jonathan Quick won at least 35 games for the second straight season, while posting a 2.24 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.

During training camp, coach Terry Murray said he'll be going with the hot hand this year - rather than following a penciled-in schedule, like he did most of last season.

For the Kings opening weekend, Murray went with Quick in game one (where the Kings downed the Rangers in overtime 3-2) and Bernier got the nod vs. Buffalo on Saturday (a 4-2 loss for LA).

Taking all of the above into account, plus the fact the Kings could possibly still be jet lagged from the trip to Europe (Quick even tweeted as much yesterday), what should Murray do with the next two games?

The Kings are scheduled to play the Devils in New Jersey on Thursday night and then take on the Flyers in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Poll closes Wednesday at 6pm PST.

The Mayor 


Terry Murray on Jonathan - Quick vs. Bernier

Clearing the Crease... with Jonathan Bernier

LA Kings summer vacation - a chat with Jonathan Bernier

Monday, October 10, 2011

Los Angeles Kings Prospect Report - October 10, 2011

When training camp began back in early September, we ranked the top ten prospects in the Los Angeles Kings organization...and it's that list that we're using today as the template for the first Prospect Report of the new season.

- Goalie Martin Jones:  While many expect him to battle Jeff Zatkoff for playing time in Manchester (AHL) this season, he is the Monarchs starting goalie - for now. Per NHL rules, the Kings were allowed to take three goalies on their season opening trip to Europe. As such, Jones started both games over the weekend and posted a 1.52 goals-against average, giving up two goals on Friday and only one goal on Saturday. His save percentage sits at .940 for the moment.

[note: The Monarchs are now off until Friday. Earlier today, the Kings returned Zatkoff to the AHL. So, expect him to get some playing time in at least one of the three games next weekend.]

- Defenseman Jake Muzzin: He has not played since the first pre-season game of the year vs the Phoenix Coyotes. In that game, he was hit from behind by Mikkel Boedker (photo here) and has been suffering headaches and neck stiffness ever since. Last Thursday he was activated from the injured reserve list and loaned to Manchester, where his status for next weekend's games remains TBD.

- Forward Tyler Toffoli: Last week he was named the assistant captain of his junior team, the Ottawa 67's (OHL). The player with the most goals in all of junior hockey last season (57), Toffoli has picked right up where he left off, scoring five goals in his first five games. The 67's next play on Friday vs. Peterborough.

- Forward Brandon Kozun: After the first pair of games in Manchester this season, Kozun has zero points, two shots on goal and is a minus-one. Expect more production in the weeks to come. This will be Kozun's second year of pro hockey.

- Forward Andrei Loktionov: He continues to shoot the puck in the early part of the season. Loktionov leads the Monarchs with six shots on goal after their first two games. He also leads the team in assists (three) and is has a plus-two rating.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

High / Low points from LA Kings opening games in Europe

For those unfamiliar with the High/Low segment here on MayorsManor, it's a pretty simple format where we look at three highs and three lows from a game, somebody's career, a team etc.

In the past, special guests who have shared their own High/Low thoughts on various topics include Jim Fox, Rob Blake, Luc Robitaille, Marcel Dionne, Ethan Moreau and many others.

Throughout this season we'll take a look at the performance of the Kings in individual games and/or using small segments of the schedule. First up, a review of the first two games played this season over in Europe...


- Anze Kopitar: He scored the first goal of the season on Friday and added two more on Saturday. For anybody questioning how last season's injury may slow him down to start the season, the answer has been given. He flew back to the U.S. with four points (three goals, one assist) and lead the forwards in minutes played both nights.

- Moreau: Singed in late August to bring some veteran leadership and extra grit to the third and fourth lines, Moreau delivered in both games. He had the second most hits on the team in the season opener, with four (only training Matt Greene's five hits) and was tied for the team lead in the same category on Saturday.

- The power play:  Last season the Kings finished with a dismal conversion of rate of 16.1% with the man advantage. After two games, they're up to 25% on the young season.