Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider,
Another player who impressed last night was Jack Johnson, and it seems as though Johnson might benefit from Terry Murray’s new emphasis on playmaking, including the thumbs-up for defensemen to be more active in initiating and joining plays.
Johnson was known as a strong two-way defenseman at the University of Michigan, but that top-level offensive ability has yet to show itself at the NHL level. Johnson had eight goals and 28 assists in 80 games last season, but his voice picked up a noticeably more excited tone when he was asked about his desire to be more active in the offensive zone.
“Absolutely,” Johnson said. “It’s no fun to never cross the red line. You want to get involved at both ends of the ice and try to contribute at both ends. I think that’s what makes the game fun. Just to be a one-sided player, I don’t think it makes it as fun.”
We have Philadelpia taking on Toronto right now on NHL Network-US from London, Ontario and then the Kings face the Coyotes at 10:00pm ET via streaming which is embedded below.
from Pierre LeBrun of ESPN,
When you see them on the ice together as a pairing, you wonder if you aren’t watching the makings of one of the NHL’s great defensive tandems for the 2010-11 season.
Free-agent newcomer Willie Mitchell was again skating alongside blueliner phenom Drew Doughty at Kings training camp Monday, a fit that makes so much sense.
“Mitchell and Doughty—I really like the look,” Kings coach Terry Murray said Monday between on-ice sessions at the team’s practice facility. “A great veteran player in Mitchell, a defensive guy whose really a solid character person, is going to help push Doughty along.”
Mitchell, the towering, shutdown D-man, plus Doughty, the offensive wizard and puck-mover and ... voila! You have the Kings’ top pairing.
“A perfect fit for a guy like Doughty,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi told ESPN.com on Monday.
Lombardi’s eyes rarely shifted away from the ice surface while he discussed his team with ESPN.com. His excitement for the Mitchell signing is unmistakable; so much so that, while he would never say it out loud, I’m convinced Lombardi would be more excited about signing Mitchell even if Ilya Kovalchuk would have become a King this summer. Seriously.
Before a single tweak to the roster, the Tampa Bay Lightning were already poised for improvement in 2010-11. With the tumultuous era of previous ownership already behind them when the sale of the team to Jeff Vinik was completed late last season, gone in an instant were any and all off-ice concerns and the circus went back to being an annual visitor to the St. Pete Times Forum rather than a permanent resident. With the appointment of Steve Yzerman as general manager, credibility returned to the franchise and new head coach Guy Boucher was widely regarded as the hottest commodity on the off-season coaching market.
Without a solitary player move, hockey life in Tampa was good again.
But far be it from Yzerman to rest on the comfort that fans surely feel by him simply not being one of those other guys. The addition of former Flyers forward Simon Gagne headlines a list of shrewd off-season maneuvers for the rookie GM and the revamped roster could very well translate to the sort of on-ice success that will make Lightning followers quickly forgot about three non-playoff seasons gone by.
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from Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider,
The words are practically tied together. When coach Terry Murray says the name Jonathan Quick, it’s almost always followed, in the next breath, by the words “No. 1 goalie.” Murray wants to establish, early and often, that Quick is the Kings’ clear-cut goalie, and eliminate any suggestion of a competition between Quick, Jonathan Bernier and Erik Ersberg.
How long will that last? It’s hard to say. Quick set franchise records for wins and games last season, but Bernier was the top goalie in the AHL last season, and there’s a lot of eagerness to see what he can do at the NHL level. Quick has put himself in a good position, showing up to camp in what one team executive called the best shape of Quick’s career. And a reduced workload should also help. Quick never complained when his game total soared to 72, even when he clearly appeared to wear down late in the season.
Today, Murray talked about his plans for the goalies this season, and Quick talked about his preparation and the upcoming season.
via Helene Elliott of the Fabulous Forum at the LA Times,
Defenseman Willie Mitchell, who signed a two-year, $7-million contract with the Kings as a free agent, said the prospect of playing for an up-and-coming team factored heavily into his decision to choose the Kings over three other suitors—reportedly San Jose, Washington and Vancouver.
He also said the notion of playing alongside Norris trophy runnerup Drew Doughty was “intriguing,” and his high regard for Doughty was reinforced when they met recently in Los Angeles.
“I wore No. 8 in Vancouver. The first day he came in he was like, ‘Willie you can take my number,’ and I think that just speaks volumes of him as a kid,” Mitchell said.
He declined Doughty’s generous offer. “I said, ‘No, you had too good of a year last year. You’ve got to keep rocking that thing,’ ” Mitchell said, laughing.
from Tony Gallagher of the Vancouver Province,
...it seems he’s had another blow to the head, what with the quote he gave our Jim Jamieson on Thursday upon the news of the ultimatum the league gave the Players Association on the Ilya Kovalchuk and Roberto Luongo contracts now thankfully settled.
Quoth Mitchell: “We have a big gap in our union where you have the star player and the blue-collar player. All those top-end guys are getting paid more and more and the bottom-end guys are getting less and less. Maybe if we come to something more level, it might help the rest of our union.”
Now we know what he was driving at but the question is, when did Mitchell become a socialist and when did he start quaffing the Bettman Kool-Aid? No wonder the owners are in such great shape if this is the quality of understanding of the CBA at the player-rep level.
LAKings.com: As you look forward to the upcoming season, what are your thoughts?
Kopitar: After Terry Murray’s first season [going into last season] we said we were going to make the playoffs. Now that’s the goal and we’re expected to be there. There’s going to be a little more pressure, it’s going to be a little more harder, but I think last year’s experience is going to make a difference. We know what we have to do to get there now and know what to do when we get there. It will be a little eaasier with from the experience standpoint, but a little harder from the pressure standpoinit. We have to take that pressure in a positive way and build on that.
a few more questions and answers…
from Rich Hammond of Kings.com,
Whether he ends up being paired with Drew Doughty or Jack Johnson—the two most likely options, heading into training camp—Mitchell will play a significant role in the Kings’ stated goal of improving their 5-on-5 scoring margin.
Mitchell chuckled at the discovery that he, at 33, is the Kings’ oldest defenseman—now that Sean O’Donnell has moved on to Philadelphia—and the Kings will particularly rely on Mitchell during the first month, while Matt Greene recovers from shoulder surgery.
For the past two seasons in Vancouver, though, Mitchell served as an alternate captain, so he figures to become part of the Kings’ leadership group, if only informally.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some great, great minds in the game,” Mitchell said. “I was coached by Jacques Lemaire, by Larry Robinson, and I thank God that I was lucky enough to listen to those guys. They’re great, great minds. I played with Scotty Stevens and (Scott) Niedermayer, and I think I learned a lot of things from those great players and great minds. I hope to maybe help out in that capacity a little bit with some of the young players on this team.”
via Nick Kypreos tweet,
I’m told clubs have been notified they are out of Mitchell race. Look for LA Kings to announce Willie Mitchell soon on a multi year deal.
added 3:00pm, via Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider,
The Kings have reached an agreement with defenseman Willie Mitchell for a two-year contract worth $3.5 million per year.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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