Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Dan Arritt at ESPNChicago,
"It’s frustrating." Crawford said. "We played a good game, and [the Kings scored] two quick ones at the end. I guess everyone can pretty much tell how we feel about that one."
Crawford was clearly unhappy with some of the calls that were made -- or not made -- during the game but passed on making any comments regarding the officiating.
Patrick Kane wasn't so reserved, pointing to a slash in the final minutes that resulted in a broken stick but wasn't called. He also referred to a penalty earlier in the game on Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook for using his hand to pull the puck out from under his backside as he sat in the middle of the slot, something he claimed the Kings had done just prior to the penalty.
"There were a couple calls that could have been made," Kane said. "[The referees] were maybe playing catch-up after we had three power plays [in the first period] and evened the score a little bit."
from Curtis Zupke at NHL.com,
The Kings play 20 of the remaining 35 games on the road, where they are 5-9-6. The only teams with fewer road wins are the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres.
"It's big," Jeff Carter said of their upcoming stretch. "We're not in the position we'd like to be, and we're running out of games."
Several factors have contributed to the Kings' slide, which includes a 2-4-5 finish before the break. The most glaring is their record away from Staples Center, which contrasts their 23-14-4 road record last season.
"If it doesn't [anger you] as a player, you shouldn't be playing at this level," Brown said. "But as individuals, as teams, as coaches, you pore over video and stats and this and that. We need to figure it out. Again, it's something we're going to have to figure out very quickly here because of the situation and how many road games we have.
"But ... historically, our team, when our backs are against the wall, we dig down and find a way. It's one of those situations. It's going to be an important 30-or-so games left."
from Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun,
A Calgary Sun source confirms GM Brad Treliving has discussed the possibility of acquiring the 29-year-old centre from the team he helped to win two Stanley Cups in the last three years.
Make no mistake, it would be a long shot for the Kings to be able to peddle the fourth-liner who still has five years left in his contract at a cap hit of US$5.75 million annually.
Given Richards’ decline in speed and productivity, Kings GM Dean Lombardi will have to be plenty creative to free the club of Richards, who cleared waivers Tuesday morning and was assigned to Manchester of the AHL to save the club $925,000 in salary-cap relief.
Given how much room the Flames have in salary-cap space they are one of the few teams in the league who may have the palate to stomach the contract, but only if it makes sense on other levels.
Essentially, any team that takes on Richards would be doing the cap-strapped Kings a favour.
LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Kings have assigned forward Mike Richards to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi announced today.
The 5-11, 199-pound native of Kenora, Ontario, appeared in 46 games this season with the Kings, registering 15 points (5-10=15) and 39 penalty minutes. He played in his 700th NHL game, Jan. 12 vs. TOR and recorded his 300th career assist, Dec. 12 at MTL. He had played 224 consecutive games dating back to Dec. 22, 2011, the longest active streak on the Kings.
from Scott Cullen of TSN,
He still has positive possession numbers but, given how well the Kings fare without him on the ice, Richards is practically being dragged to respectable shot differentials. While in previous seasons he at least faced a reasonable level of competition, Richards has continued his descent this year while facing relatively-soft competition.
There may be an argument to make that a motivated Richards could still be a useful contributor, but his contract is going to make it challenging to find a new opportunity.
After this season, Richards still has five years remaining on his deal, at a cap hit of $5.75-million per season, a big ticket for an underperforming player. The easiest way for the Kings to rid themselves of that contract would have been to use a compliance buyout on Richards last summer, but it's hard to ante up $20-million for a player not to play on your team.
Difficult as it may have been, the decision not to buy out Richards then leaves the Kings in a tight spot now. They don't get much cap relief ($925,000) by putting him in the AHL, and while that has value to a team jammed against the salary cap, it doesn't clear the decks in the way that it would have under the previous collective bargaining agreement, when Wade Redden, among others, got buried in the AHL with a big NHL salary.
The hope for the Kings has to be to find a trade for Richards, but that's going to require some creativity. It may require eating up to half of Richards' salary, taking on a bad contract from another team, or both.
from Rich Hammond of the OC Register,
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi talked to reporters about the decision to put Mike Richards on waivers. Here's what he said...
(on how Richards took the news…)
LOMBARDI: ``You can ask him. The process isn’t done, obviously, because he still has to clear tomorrow, so we’ll probably talk again tomorrow. I’m sure it’s not easy on anybody, but these are the tough decisions you’ve got to make.’’
(on not buying out the contract…)
LOMBARDI: ``We expect loyalty from our players, and I think it’s a two-way street. Under the circumstances, with what he had done for us, I thought he deserved a chance to get back to where he knows he’s capable of. That’s a hard balance. Obviously I thought about that a lot, but there’s the new-wave thing about there where players are commodities, and things like passion and loyalty are values that I thought made sports special. Commodities guys will tell you that doesn’t matter. Well that’s been a big part of the success of this team, I certainly believe. That’s kind of the way I came down on it. If you’re going to expect loyalty from your players, then you, at times, have to show loyalty to them....
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
... What I do remember, though, is how the Kings felt in September, buoyed by the feeling they were getting, players showing up early for camp with the sense their focus was different than the last time they had to defend a title. Well, just like almost every other team that's won a Stanley Cup over the past 15 years or so, the hangover is in full effect.
As Scott mentioned, the Kings limp into the break sitting one point out of a playoff spot. I fully expect the defending champs to make the playoffs, but it's just eating at management to see how it's played out so far this seeason. The rope-a-dope thing, where the Kings turn it on just in time late in the season, is getting old for the L.A. front office.
Let's be fair, though, and note that losing Slava Voynov was impactful, because top-four blue-liners don't grow on trees. I suspect you'll see a trade or two before the March 2 deadline from GM Dean Lombardi, who's never scared to tweak his roster. Should be an interesting final two and a half months of the regular season in L.A.
read on for Custance on Penguins/Blackhawks, Strang on a ASG replacement for Bobrovsky and Burnside on the Avalanche...
from Lisa Dillman of the LA Times,
If there is a price to be paid for playing 11 playoff series and 64 playoff games in the past three years, one can argue that the Kings are making that payment right now.
As of Tuesday, the reigning Stanley Cup champion Kings are on the outside looking in, out of a playoff spot, trailing the Calgary Flames by one point for the last Western Conference spot. The Flames finished 23 points behind the Kings in the final standings last season.
The Kings have one more game before the All-Star break, at San Jose on Wednesday, a symbolic point of the season.
"We've set ourselves up to be in a dogfight now," Kings forward Justin Williams said. "We didn't set ourselves up so we could be more comfortable."...
"They have to keep understanding and listening to what I'm telling them about how tough it is," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said Tuesday. "The train has got to be a work train, not the Stanley Cup train. The Stanley Cup train was last year and some guys just have to get off that train. There's no extra for it. You get nothing for it."
from Helene Elliott of the LA Times,
The ceremony the Kings staged to retire Rob Blake's jersey was very much like Blake himself: unpretentious, mostly understated but illuminated by genuine emotion that hit home as hard as any punch to the gut.
The emotional jolts Saturday weren't as obvious as the thunderous hip checks that became Blake's trademark, one of many facets of an outstanding two-way game that earned him induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year.
The most affecting moments during the 35-minute ceremony were the respect that made Dustin Brown's voice quiver as he praised Blake for teaching a bunch of players how to be a real team and begin the transformation of the Kings from wannabes to winners, and the passion displayed by General Manager Dean Lombardi for the man he called "one of our greatest Kings," who passed every possible test of athletic greatness.
Below, watch Rob Blake's speech and the banner raising ceremony...
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