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In recent years, the #1 seed in the Western Conference has been synonymous with both the Pacific Division and the San Jose Sharks. It would seem likely that this will be repeated again in 2011.
This article will suggest that not only will San Jose not take the first seed in the West, they will not even win their own division, as it is now the time for the Los Angeles Kings to do just that.
Here are the five reasons that the Kings can take their rightful place on the throne in the Pacific:
Add a hefty $3 million fine and the loss of two draft picks to the list of what New Jersey Devils have lost in their pursuit of Ilya Kovalchuk.
The Devils will lose a 3rd round pick in 2011 and a 1st rounder in one of the next four years as a punishment for trying to test the limits of the rules.
Excessive, sure, but there’s a price to pay for pushing the envelope the farthest, especially when you do the pushing in the direction of Gary Bettman.
What have the Devils already given up?
Yesterday Paul (KK) posted a bit of an interview with Anze Kopitar with links to the rest of it on lakings.com. There were 2 other interviews that were related to Kings fans by Rich Hammond on his blog LA Kings Insider
First was an audio interview with former Kings forward and current TV color commentator Jim Fox as he appeared on XM Radio’s Power Play show. Here are 2 links:
I’m sure most fans outside of Los Angeles will be surprised to hear that the Kings host an annual event for their fans called Hockey Fest. It coincides with the opening of rookie camp and all Kings fans can attend for a small fee. Season ticket holders get a discount.
From Rich Hammond’s LA Kings Insider blog here’s the schedule for this year’s event scheduled for Saturday, September 11th:
For those wondering about what the Kings’ “Hockey Fest” will look like this season, here’s a rundown of exactly how the day is scheduled to go. All events will take place at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. Tickets are available for $20 (or $15 for season-ticket holders).
The fact that the Ilya Kovalchuk impasse will drag out at least another day shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. It would have been naive (read: I was naive) to believe reports that an answer would come from the League today.
This will-he-or-won’t-he question has lingered since the superstar left winger was traded to New Jersey in February. It stayed unanswered through weeks of courtship from the Kings and Devils in July and it could remain that way—God, forbid—if this contract is dismissed once again by the suits on Sixth Avenue.
Somehow, it doesn’t seem like that will be the case this time.
If Nick Kypreos was right on Monday, and this new deal really is two years shorter and more reasonably spread out in terms of payout, this might finally all be over.
But, how do Devils fans feel about that?
I heard a caller on the radio the other day talk about the effect the Phil Kessel trade has had on the Toronto Maple Leafs. Most people think that the trade was a disaster for the Leafs, but I was a proponent of the trade when it first happened. However, I did not think Brian Burke needed to give up 2 first round picks to get Kessel because he had the threat of the offer sheet and only needed to give up a first, second, and third round pick if he were to go that route (I know Burke lashed out at Kevin Lowe for the Dustin Penner offer sheet, but the biggest issue he had with Lowe was that he didn’t approach him first about a deal; he felt blind sided). That being said, I do not want to sit here and discuss how good or bad that deal was. Back to the caller, he made what I thought to be a great point, he essentially said that if Burke did not make the Kessel trade, some of the other deals he made later in the year probably would not have happened since the Leafs would have most likely been tanking the season and playing for Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin. So to judge Burke solely on the Kessel trade would not be fair. You need to look at the effect of that trade on the other moves he has made and I tend to agree with him. Thus, the Leafs most likely would not have made the Phaneuf or Giguere trades, which essentially brought the Leafs their young captain and also ridded them of bad contracts (Blake, and I would argue Stajan, and White as well).
I’m going to avoid calling this a “season preview” as I think I share the belief of most Kings fans that Dean Lombardi will make at least one more move this offseason that will alter the starting lineup. Instead I’ll take a look at the current team to try to identify what I believe are the strengths and weaknesses.
Top 6: Right now the top 6 forwards of the Kings appears to be Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth, Wayne Simmonds, Jarret Stoll, and Justin Williams. Micheal Handzus and newly signed Alexei Ponikarovsky could also push for playing time on the top 2 lines, depending on their production. Last year the Kings were tied for 9th in 5 on 5 goal scoring ratio at 1.07, tied with Pittsburgh. They were 7th in the league on the power play scoring the 5th most PP goals in the league with 64.
There are a lot of very good reasons to peg the Ottawa Senators at 10th in the East this year. Can the geritocracy of Alfredsson, Gonchar, and Kovalev be dominant over the full course of an 82-game schedule? Is Peter Regin for real? Have Michalek and Kovalev’s injuries fully healed? Will anyone on Ottawa’s defense corps hit anything this year?
Does Ottawa need to buy Pascal Leclaire a Popemobile to ensure his safety off-ice?
Also casting a long shadow over Ottawa’s chances at making the playoffs is the improvement of other teams in the East. While I may have my doubts about the various alchemies being employed in the Southeast Division and New Jersey, I think it is fair to say that the East is now beginning to resemble the West in that the distance between the eighth seed and those on the outside looking in will be much closer than at any time in recent memory.
Two seasons ago I was watching the Minnesota Wild play the Calgary Flames when Brent Burns was dubbed by Jim Hughson as a rising defensive star who was in the same class as Dion Phaneuf and Mike Green. He was a sure thing to play on Team Canada in the upcoming Olympics and had just signed a long-term contract.
Today I ask myself what went wrong. Injuries, to start with. In the last three seasons Brent’s games played have gone like this: 82, 59, 47. Young players, especially those playing on the blueline, need playing time to develop and Burns hasn’t played enough to do that.
Secondly, Coach Lemaire screwed with his head by playing him at wing whenever Jacques felt like it. The Wild, as always, lacked a scoring punch and Lemaire felt inclined to play the gifted defenseman at wing to see if it would ignite the team. All it did was take Burns out of his natural position and forced him to play in a spot where he didn’t succeed.
And finally, most of us are coming to the realization that Burns just isn’t going to be a great player. He’s certainly got the tools, but sometimes I question his makeup. Does he have the grit to make a #1 defenseman? It looked like he did in the playoffs against Corey Perry and the Ducks a few years ago, but I haven’t seen that since.
Burns is a good player, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that I don’t believe he’s going to be a great one, and unfortunately that’s not what the Wild want to hear.
In my column from Friday, I suggested the Maple Leafs take a run at free agent Tim Kennedy after Buffalo gave him the pink-slip. Yet a few hours after posting, this – or the addition of any scoring forward – seemed unlikely. As he often does, though, Leafs GM Brian Burke surprised me with his ability to make the best of a bad cap-situation
A trade with Tampa Bay late on Friday added Matt Lashoff to Toronto’s defense corps, bringing their number of NHL-level d-men up to nine and pushing them within $1.5 million of the cap ceiling. Although Lashoff has only played 63 NHL games over the last four seasons, he’ll have to clear waivers this season to be sent down to the AHL, so it looks like the Leafs want him for big-club duty.
By Saturday though, Leafs GM Brian Burke pulled the trigger on a deal that looks even better than what I was proposing with Kennedy. Left wing Clarke MacArthur – another Sabres product – signed with Toronto for a steal at $1.1 million,after Atlanta walked away from his $2.4 million arbitration award. After posting career numbers in both games played (81) and points (31), the 25-year-old is just entering his prime.
While only a year older than Kennedy, MacArthur already has 208 NHL games under his belt, leaving him far more experienced at this level than Kennedy, who has only played in 79. Add in MacArthur’s points-per-game average at 0.42 over Kennedy’s 0.33, and the fact that Toronto will still hold MacArthur’s RFA rights after this season, it’s clear that Burke is getting the most bang for his team’s buck.
With less than $400,000 left in cap space, it’s looking like RFA Christian Hanson will be the odd man out on the Leafs roster. I’ll keep tabs on this story as it develops.
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