Wednesday, November 5, 2008

LA Times: "Coach Wants More From Kings Top Line"

Well, here's MY headline:


More than ELEVEN SECONDS....

Eleven seconds is what I got last night, from Patrick O'Sullivan on the Kings powerplay. And, to make matters worse, I had to endure those eleven seconds with him sharing the ice with Wayne Simmonds... COME ON ASSHOLE, what the hell is wrong with you? Are you SERIOUSLY trying to win a hockey game that was clearly within your grasp? Granted, J.S. Giguere was lights out and terrific the entire game, but you had Kyle Calder bumbling his way through over three minutes of power play time that could have been better spent with O'Sullivan's occasional flair for the offensive (and I mean that in a GOOD way.) While Calder had the puck a good 3 inches from the goal line and still couldn't figure out how to tap it into the net, O'Sullivan sat nailed to the bench while his even strength linemate Brian Boyle got just a shade under two minutes of time with the man advantage, and newly installed right wing (DON'T GET ME STARTED ON THIS NONSENSE) Peter Harrold spent almost four minutes at the point on whatever "second unit," Murray threw out there. Hell, Michal Handzus, who I swear will spend 25 consecutive pointless games (literally and figuratively) got over four and a half minutes on the PP.

I'm beating the O'Sullivan drum, and I don't believe he's playing the role of malcontent. I think Murray is just making BAD decisions.

And, in the dead horse department: Parros and May were both injured... did we really need to see Raitis Ivanans in a uniform? Doesn't he have a suit he needs to model for the press box? You want a guy who will "bang bodies" for 7 or 8 meaningless shifts that MIGHT know what to do with the puck if it accidentally lands on his stick? I'm voting for Derek Armstrong, who, as useless as he's been in so many more important situations over the last umpteen years (so it seems) --- the guy has channeled Don Kozak this year, and has been willing to skate from east to west, north to south and hit anyone. That would have done just fine last night. Instead we saw Ivanans out there with FIVE minutes left in a scoreless game... and then again with TWO minutes left in a scoreless game. Poll the other 29 coaches in the NHL... How many of them would put this deep freezer on skates on the ice in those two situations? Poll the other 29 coaches in the NHL... How many of them would let a gifted and intuitive forward like Patrick O'Sullivan rot on the bench during the myriad of power play time the Kings accumulated last night?

Falling short of saying I miss Marc Crawford, I still say that even he wouldn't have callously screwed the fans out of some potential entertainment in lieu of the mysterious lump of crap that he went back to the well with time and time again last night.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

after reading Hammond's blog about today's practice...

It's wearing thin, honestly. This daily game of mix and match... and really, it all doesn't much matter because the team isn't very good... certainly not as good as most of the teams they have played, regardless of line matchups, shots on goal, shots against, etc.

The goaltender is a below average NHL netminder, who can't handle the puck, period. The rebounds are juicy, his stick handling is absurdly pathetic, and honestly, if there wasn't a Doughty, or an O'Donnell, or a Quincey back there to swoop away rebounds, he'd look every bit as exposed as he did when it was Stuart, Modry, Dallman and the like.

This constant juggling of the forwards in some pseudo-reward system is just boring. I like Terry Murray, mainly because I loathed Marc Crawford, and had worn tired of Andy Murray and was embarrassed to say I was a season ticket holder for a team coached by John Torchetti. But this crap is goofy... all this "I never saw O'Sullivan play, so I don't know what he can do..." or some of his other stock answers are just ridiculous. You don't set people up to fail. That's all I've seen him do with O'Sullivan at even strength all season. Boyle doesn't hit... yeah, I get that. Boyle is 7 feet tall and weighs 630 pounds, yeah, I get that... so what is it about Boyle's game that you DO like enough to put him on the team and not put him in Manchester? OK then, Coach... live with it, and work him in within that framework. Richardson has won 61% of his draws... That might seem boring and useless to you, but I've been watching a Kings team that hasn't won 50% of their draws in a decade. He has value. Armstrong sucked when he was relied on for 16 minutes a game. You figured out a way to make him less offensive (in more ways than one) in 7 minutes a game, and then you bench him. Ivanans seems to have naked pictures of you, because he plays constantly, doesn't fight, barely hits, and skates and stick handles like he belongs on the Food Network, not the NHL Network. Why do we need to see him constantly? Simmonds is way overmatched, game in and game out. He doesn't win battles, shoots from the perimeter, and adds nothing to the "magic" that is the 3-6-1 LA Kings... Oh, he's black... You and I both know that's not why he's here, so let him go play in Manchester and learn the pro game. Manchester is sucking worse than the Kings so it's not like there's much down there to ravage.

And DO NOT get me started on Peter Harrold playing right wing. That was worst than last year when Crawford put Kevin Dallman at CENTER!!!!! Oh, and by the way, Dallman is the Mike Green of the KHL... 22 games, 12 goals, 8 assists... maybe not the litmus test for all NHL 7th defenseman rejects, but he's doing it... and doing it as well as he could have done here if Crawford had not screwed with his head so much.

I'd MUCH rather have Dallman than Harrold... I'd much rather have Maude, than Harrold.

I'd much rather post this to MY blog than this one :) But then NO ONE would read it :)

Don't expect a win vs. the Ducks on Tuesday, so please start LaBarbera. I don't want you to set Ersberg up to fail the way you so eloquently have done with Moulson, O'Sullivan, Calder, and just about every other forward over the first 10 games of the season (Moller being an exception.)

Proof? Just go back and read this blog. Every friggin practice it's something new, and some dumb comment attached to it that supposedly justifies this reward/punish system. You're not God... you're a hockey coach, coaching players that are just good enough to be bad enough to lose in the NHL. Get over it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I know, I know, I have forwards to write about

but I've been travelling, and my soujourn began and ended in Nashville, TN. --- a beautiful city that is akin to time travel in many ways.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend the non-televised Kings v. Preds game at the Sommet Center. The crowd was loud and actually very into the game, and well they should have been --- at least for the first 15 minutes, and the last 15 minutes. That middle section was (for a Preds fan) akin to listening to an Enya CD...

So, first I want to say that I really like the arena. Very bright, great sightlines, lots of energy, a far better jumbotron than Staples, and free programs that actually have useful information!

It was apparent from the opening faceoff that the Kings were flat. Nashville just swarmed and by the time they scored their first goal, I was pretty sure they should have had three... and soon they did. So, while Labarbara exited for Ersberg, and Terry Murray thought that just maybe that third goal could have been stopped, there was no way I was faulting the guy I always fault in goal for the Kings. He was swarmed, beleagured and ransacked, and left to the mercy of non-household names like Hornqvist, Ward and Jones...

As the shot clock read 15-2, I was pretty sure it was going to be a tough comeback for a team that had played a perfect road game the night before. Three goals in a little more than three minutes, and two power play goals against a Kings team that had reigned supreme in their previous 28 attempts to start the season.

By mid-second period, as the shot tide had turned, the Kings found the Preds on their heels and Patrick O'Sullivan took matters into his own hands and fed Jarret Stoll for a shot Ellis initially stopped but left a nice juicy rebound for him to bang home and get the Kings motivated and back in the game. Sully started the play that led to Stoll's second goal, and as we headed to the concourse after two, it was clear we had a game. I know, the scoreboard dictates the obvious, but this new-look Kings team has the kind of tenacity that really does make you believe comebacks can happen.

Meanwhile, Ersberg might as well have been a cardboard standup for much of his time in the nets to that point. The Preds mustered just two shots in the second period, and I believe Ersberg saw only two in the final seven minutes of the first, so once again, we had no idea if he was going to be a saviour (save-iour) or not...

A double minor to Legwand towards the end of the second period gave the Kings ample opportunity to tie the score, but Ellis stood strong. A few good chances, but no goals through the first half of the third, and then with a little more than a blink of an eye, it was offensive popguns Jerred Smithson, the baby-faced assassin that played a couple dozen completely invistible games for the Kings back when he was a fetus, and Jordin Tootoo, who thanks to a train whistle that is sold on the concourse, creates a frenzy every time he touches the puck (toot toooooot) --- the Kings and Ersberg found themselves down by 3 with just about seven minutes to go.

I should point out that while I was cheering for the Kings and shouting the occasional encouragement to them, it was not without reservation that I refrained from yelling "KOPI --- you're face is on milk cartons all over LA ---" because aside from the occasional neutral zone to blue line carry of the puck through two defenders, he really did a whole lotta nothing --- despite two assists on the scoresheet. Granted, neither Moulson nor Calder has done much to deflect the attention away from Kopitar, but it's not been easy to watch our new 7 million dollar manchild do a whole lotta Handzus.

Speaking of Handzus... so much has been said about his resurgence this season, but I'm placing even money on waking up one day and saying "Holy crap, that slug has 4 points in his last 25 games" at SOME point in the season...

Finally, this is the second arena I have gone to where I have come to the conclusion that BLACK netting is SO MUCH BETTER when you are sitting in the arena between the blue lines. I can't say for sure that it's SO MUCH WORSE if you are looking through it, but in both this instance, and an instance last season in Philly, I was amazed to realize at some point that there WAS netting... With the white, it's immediately obtrusive. (and I sit in 210 at Staples, so I look through white netting for the most part.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Five games in the books

and what have we learned from the 2-3-0 Kings?

That this is a team that will not quit.

That this is a team that will not win, because of below NHL standard goaltending.

That this is a team that will play in front of sparse crowds.

That this is a team that is perhaps the most likeable Kings team in at least 5 years.

Yes, I'm turning towards cheering for the Kings for the first time in many years. There's something about most of these guys I find compelling. They work hard. They have upside. They don't seem to care that no one (myself included)gives them a chance to win games. Results have been mixed so far. Four home games, two wins, two losses, and an opening night road loss. Let's just zip down the roster and discuss the five game pole:


Matt Greene has looked good for the most part. There was one shift where I wasn't sure if he was auditioning for a ballet troupe, or just skating on butter, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and cheer his efforts through the first five games. The Kings gave him a nice five year extension, which felt a tad premature, and a tad rich, but unlike contracts that had the names Cloutier, MacCauley, Willsie, Nagy, Bure and the like on them, this one is at least attached to a young, strong body that seems to really care about his play on the defensive side of the ice.

Jack Johnson is hurt. Three month hurt. Shoulder hurt. I'm not hurt. While I have no doubt he's going to be a good player in the league, I'm not wow-ed, and I'm not ready to annoint him as the second coming of James Norris. I've seen more from a couple of the other young King defensemen in a handful of games than I have in a year of JJ (Insert other letters with thought and care.) He'll be back, and he'll be welcome, but he's just one piece of the team, and it's the team that comes first.

Sean O'Donnell is the stopgap guy. 37 years old, and a veteran of many battles, Odie is glue, and we can overlook limitations put on him by age and agility, and thank the heavens that he's here to teach, and to eat up some minutes while the kids learn the drill. So far he's been terrific, and based on his play in Anaheim for the past couple of seasons, he's smart enough to overcome his limitations and provide the Kings with quality play in PK and ES situations.

Drew Doughty has been a revelation. Oh to be 18 and that talented. I'm a big believer that the Kings screwed up royally by not staying the course and finishing in a position to get Stamkos, and I'd still rather have Stamkos over the long haul, but accepting the things I can not change means allowing Doughty to stake his place on this team, and when he's on the ice it's hard not to notice how good he is. I have no doubt that between now and April there will be enough Doughty highlight clips to make a nice afternoon of YouTube viewing.

Denis Gauthier is probably a candidate for waivers or a trade prior to the end of the season, but while he's here, he will dish out the occasional punishing hit, as well as be the guy you see turning his back and banging his stick in disgust while a prone LaBarbera lay on the ice with the puck being fished out of the back of the Kings net. Personally, I could do without him more often than not, but until Johnson is healthy, it is doubtful he goes anywhere. His minutes are usually going to be watched carefully by the coaching staff, as he can be the biggest liability the team has on the blueline.

Kyle Quincey has only been on the scene for two games, but he's been terrific at both ends of the ice. I knew that he could hit, and stay fundamentally sound on the defensive side of the puck, but his ability to jump into the play and move the puck towards the net has been excellent in the limited time I have seen him with the Kings. I can already say that this no-risk pickup was a steal for Lombardi, but of course, over the course of time deficiencies could pop up, and I reserve the right to don my Maxim Kuznetsov game worn, and say "oops..." once again. I'm pretty sure that's not gonna be the case.

Tom Preissing was a big ol' minus three last night, and the bloom came off the rose after four games that made me feel like he'd escape whipping boy status in the early going. I like Preissing's game, and would like to think he's going to have less nights like last night as the season progresses, but since I think the Kings will eventually land in suckitude, then SOMEONE has to be shouldering the blame on the blueline, and if Johnson is injured, and Harrold is in a suit... well, it might just be TP.

Peter Harrold is the spare. There's a zillion kids on the blue line in Manchester, and at some point that needs to shake out, so for that reason alone I don't expect to see Harrold sent down soon, but you gotta feel for a guy who needs some ice to keep any part of his game in shape. The upside for Harrold? His paycheck.

Forwards and Goaltenders will be up next.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I've scoured box scores for years... decades even...

but this is a first...

It's 4-0 mid second period, Ottawa leading Phoenix... and EVERY SINGLE SKATER on the Coyotes has a minus.

That's amazing.