"The important thing is that we have this kid locked in for eight years. I just want to go win Cups."-Kings Governor Tim Leiweke,
Sept. 29/11, the day Drew Doughty was signed
Los Angeles has until 2019 to grab those multiple championships under Doughty's current contract (quote courtesy of "Kings Insider" reporter Rich Hammond), but success in Year I is definitely endangered. California's seniormost NHL team wakes up Monday outside a playoff position, dropping out of the West's Top Eight with a 1-0 loss to Calgary on Saturday.
The major problem? A flaccid offence -- rock-bottom in the NHL with just 124 goals. This is not a good omen. The Kings are on pace for a total of 172 and the last club to reach the playoffs with a total that low no longer exists. The 1970 Oakland Seals (LA's extinct expansion brother) made it with 169. (The 1995 lockout-shortened season is discounted.)
The last time a team with the fewest scores made the postseason was the 1989 Vancouver Canucks, although two recent teams were close. The 2010 Bruins were 29th and the 2008 Ducks 28th. But it's generally not a recipe for success.
There's a lot at stake in Los Angeles. Failure is not an option after back-to-back first-round defeats. The Kings look good on paper, but it's not translating on the ice. While all eyes are on the Columbus combo of Scott Howson and Craig Patrick, Kings President/GM Dean Lombardi is another man to watch.
Lombardi is unafraid to step up and swing for the fences, as evidenced by hiring Darryl Sutter mid-season. He went hard after Ilya Kovalchuk and Brad Richards in free agency, and hoped last season that either Jarome Iginla or Patrik Elias would consider waiving trade protection to move west. He did get Mike Richards in one of last summer's Philadelphia blockbusters, but this year's offensive disappointment necessitates another trip to the batter's box.
But will he make two?
The major reason Los Angeles still has a shot is All-Star goalie Jonathan Quick, he of the 1.87 goals against average. And, at 22, defenceman Slava Voynov is 10th in team scoring despite playing only 33 games. (He has 11 points.) With the big club, he's playing 18 minutes a game and gets more powerplay time than any defenceman not named Doughty or Jack Johnson. He doesn't face the stiffest competition, but the Kings like using him in offensive situations.
Quick's dominance makes Jonathan Bernier expendable, although there is some debate about Bernier's ceiling. Voynov's emergence leads to Jack Johnson trade rumours, although Lombardi could, in theory, deal either one.
Lombardi could package Bernier and one of the two defenceman for a scorer. (Jeff Carter is a the obvious candidate.) But, if he split up that package -- and moved Johnson in the process -- he could add a second one.
When he does step up to the plate, how big a swing will Lombardi take?30 THOUGHTS
I'll take the NHL at face value that the official clock struck zero before Michael del Zotto scored Sunday night
at the end of the second period against Columbus. (The play starts at 2:25.) Have seen that happen before in football. What must happen though, is this clock be synchronized with what's shown on TV. The league does not need the headache of a hugely important goal being disallowed because no one else can "see" the time remaining on that clock. Do believe a solution is being worked on.
After Lombardi, the next most-interesting GM might be David Poile. The Predators have decided this has got to be their year. 3.
The possibility of a Jack Johnson trade is curious because of some research the Kings did with him. Johnson shoots left, but spends plenty of time on the right. Before the defenceman received his contract extension, assistant coach John Stevens looked at how many blueliners who play their "weak" side are point producers. (For example, Brad Stuart's done this most of his life, but hasn't been above 22 points since 2006-07.) Don't have the exact numbers, but Johnson was in the extreme minority. Los Angeles considered that very valuable.4.
Finishing this blog at 5:40 am Monday, my latest thought on Rick Nash/Columbus is this: the Blue Jackets will not trade him at the deadline unless the deal is incredible. 5.
Regarding the Nash "list," not certain there's something formal. Sounds like what happened is, when Columbus asked if he would waive, he submitted a few teams he liked. But, it was also agreed that Howson could see what is out there and, if he came up with something, would take it to Nash for approval. Whatever the case, the player has ultimate control here.
Boston GM Peter Chiarelli went on record last week that Tuukka Rask and defensive uber-prospect Dougie Hamilton will not be traded. Chiarelli's said that before about Rask, but I wanted to double-check after Nash's availability became known. Mentioned on Hotstove that it's believed the Rangers told Columbus that neither Michael del Zotto nor Ryan McDonagh are available.
In doing research on the Columbus captain, was surprised to find out that there are teams who aren't big fans. (Boston was not one of these teams.) It's some of the same stuff you've heard about Jay Bouwmeester, in that Nash has played only four playoff games and prefers the shadows to the spotlight. But others raced to his defence, saying he's played very well on the international stage (2007 World Championships MVP, 2010 Olympic gold medallist). There was also a comparison to Jarome Iginla, in that he's never played with an elite-level centre.
Final Nash note: With the exception of Phil Kessel (who was a restricted free agent), Brian Burke's biggest moves all happened under a cone of silence. The Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul/Jake Gardiner trades did not leak until the last seconds. If he was serious about this player, would he be that obvious about it?
If Burke traded Mikhail Grabovski for a second-round pick and a prospect, who, exactly, would fill his spot on a team trying to make the playoffs? Would have to be another move, no?
Steve Mason said he wasn't yelling at coach Todd Richards after being pulled in Saturday's 6-1 loss to Chicago, but a fan who was taunting him. Brings back memories of Carey Price reacting to a fan when he was yanked from a playoff game in Boston. Price matured and became a franchise goalie. Time for Mason to follow.
Joe Pavelski temporarily left Sunday's 3-2 loss to Detroit after taking a Nicklas Lidstrom shot off his face. Apparently, Pavelski felt safe dropping down in front of the Red Wing captain because Lidstrom always gets his shot through. Hopefully, there will be no lingering effects.
Watching Anton Volchenkov block a shot with his face (for about the 5,721st time) reminded me of a conversation with a couple of Senators after he left Ottawa. Sometimes, you hope a teammate takes a little less money to stay with you, but there was an understanding of Volchenkov's willingness to hit the jackpot. When you abuse your body like he does, you never know how long you're going to last.
Joey MacDonald got a two-way deal this season and a one-way next year. Don't think he's going to need to worry about collecting an minor-league salary any more (it's about $450,000 less than the big-league figure). He's proof that it's better to be an AHL number one than an NHL number two -- behind someone who plays every night.
Extending their home winning streak without Howard is the kind of challenge the Red Wings love. About a month before the Wrigley Field Winter Classic on New Year's Day 2009, was chatting with one of them. He guaranteed their best games over the next four weeks would be against San Jose and Chicago. (The Classic was the second half of a set against the Blackhawks.) Detroit won the three by a combined 16-4. Two were shutouts.
Craig Simpson and Glenn Healy watched the speed and structure of Vancouver's four forward lines, the way the third powerplay unit emulates the top two, the intense backchecking that disrupted Toronto. Reminded them of: Detroit. 16.
Thought Jim Hughson made a good point. Chris Tanev is in the NHL now because the Canucks want to know how ready he is. If the results are positive, Mike Gillis doesn't need another defenceman.
Cory Schneider on Roberto Luongo: "Last year, the idea was that if we were not sure (in goal), we retreated back into the crease...Now, there's the option, if you know a player's only option is to shoot, to challenge aggressively. It's the way he used to play, and he's more comfortable with it." Schneider added you can play that way in Vancouver because you can "trust the defence to protect against the backdoor plays and trailers." 18.
Schneider (boy he's a great interview) also said David Booth brings the "one thing we really didn't have last year, someone who will take the puck and aggressively go to the net." 19.
Think Chicago was in on both Hal Gill (Nashville) and Nicklas Grossman (Philadelphia), but were beaten out. 20.
Here's my guess on Patrick Kane: He's been discussed, but the danger in reporting that is, sometimes, teams do it in a "What would it take for you to move him?" or "Well, if he was on the market, what would you give us?" kind of way. It's difficult to determine the seriousness at this point. Can tell you that a couple of execs said they would be "terrified" to trade someone of his talent.
The sense with the Blackhawks is that their playoff run will determine the future. After ending the drought, they made a conscious decision to emphasize speed and skill over size. Gone are Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer and Ben Eager. They're going to have to correct that a little. A first-round defeat means the organization will have to answer some tough questions. 22.
Few eyebrows raised when Joel Quenneville, during a scrum in Nashville, referenced "Barry" as being in communication with the coaches. That's Barry Smith, one of Scotty Bowman's bench lieutenants in Detroit. Has he joined the team's staff? No, say the Blackhawks, he's a consultant for Quenneville's group. 23.
Tough spot for Peter Laviolette on Saturday during Philly's meltdown against Pittsburgh. Ilya Bryzgalov makes a poor effort on Matt Cooke's ugly three-on-five shorty
, so the coach pulls him. Then, he probably regrets it because Sergei Bobrovsky isn't much better. Really a moment where you feel absolutely helpless behind the bench. 24.
Speaking of goalies, Chiarelli met with Tim Thomas after the Conn Smythe winner's most recent political Facebook posting. He didn't say to stop, but did explain that you can't expect the media not to ask about it. Thomas is adamant he shouldn't have to discuss his personal beliefs, but it's not that simple. 25.
People who believed in Kirk Muller as a coach said one of his strengths would be that he'll make players want to compete for him. Judging by how the Hurricanes played in Montreal last week -- winning 5-3, a meaningful victory for Muller -- that certainly appears to be true. 26.
Couple of public disputes between Randy Ladouceur and Canadiens' players: PK Subban during a game, Scott Gomez during practice. People who knew the coach when he played respected a guy who reached 931 games because he got everything out of his body. Wasn't the most talented defenceman, but cared and never took shortcuts. That probably explains his frustrations during a disappointing season. 27.
Our NHLPA/CBC player poll (www.PlayerPoll.ca) listed Brad Shaw as the assistant coach most ready for a head job. That was probably the most unexpected result. Senior Writer Tim Wharnsby did a little research into that, and was reminded that Shaw's worked under Ken Hitchcock, Andy Murray and the underrated Steve Ludzik. Also is credited for knowing when to teach and when to push. 28.
Good line after John-Michael Liles signed his four-year, $15 million extension in Toronto: "Probably made (UFA) Dennis Wideman another million per season."
Okay, so last week, some people were upset I tweeted criticism of the Montreal crowd when it cheered a bloodied Zdeno Chara. "What about Boston fans?" they whined. Sunday's Gary Carter tribute is a perfect example of why that made me so crazy. Even during an awful season complete with embarrassing treatment of Randy Cunneyworth, no franchise shows more class when it matters than Montreal. People expect that from them, because they usually deliver -- and spectacularly. So, when the Canadiens (and/or their fans) disappoint, it's news. It shouldn't matter what anyone else does, you're expected to be better. The Canadiens are synonymous with class and it should always be that way.
Words cannot express how much we wanted to thank Wes Rypien, Rick's brother, for agreeing to talk to us last week
. Hardest interview of my career. You don't want to be exploitive. You do want to grow the website (mindcheck.ca) and play a small role in helping the Rypien family's road to recovery. Hopefully, we accomplished that.
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