Dean Lombardi,

Not quite like Gretzky: Kings loading up for new season with former Oilers

Building a team to be a potential Stanley Cup threat can be a tricky affair. You have to mix in your homegrown talent, trade acquisitions, and free agents and hope that your head coach can put the puzzle together to be a success for 82 regular season games as well as a long playoff haul that, hopefully, winds up with 16 victories at the conclusion while the team captain skates the Cup around the ice when it’s all said and done.

For Kings GM Dean Lombardi, his offseason has seen him put together a new Kings roster that’s seen him dump homegrown and drafted talent like Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds in favor of young experience in Mike Richards. He’s also helped his team’s depth by signing former Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. While Moreau figures to be an experienced grinder for the Kings, he’s not the only former Oiler on the roster.

Dubiously, the Kings also added Colin Fraser in the deal that sent Ryan Smyth back to Edmonton. While Lombardi filed a formal grievance over that deal since Fraser is injured, former Oilers like Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll have been mainstays in Los Angeles since coming over in the deal that sent Lubomir Visnovsky to Edmonton back in the summer of 2008. Dustin Penner was brought in at the trade deadline to give Anze Kopitar another big winger capable of scoring goals and he’ll get a chance to show that his poor performance since joining the Kings was just a fluke.

Greene, Moreau, and Stoll all played together in Edmonton on the Oilers Stanley Cup finals team in 2006 while Penner joined them after winning the Cup with Anaheim in 2007. All four players were teammates on the 2007-2008 Oilers that finished three points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. While these guys have chemistry together in different ways, having them join up on a team that, at times, looked awfully tough to beat will make for an interesting experiment. The one thing that can be said about these 2011-2012 Kings is that they know what it’s like to go all the way.

Take a look at what their forward lines and defensive pairings could shape up to be for this season:

Dustin Penner-Anze Kopitar-Justin Williams

Simon Gagne-Mike Richards-Dustin Brown

Kyle Clifford-Jarret Stoll-Brad Richardson

Ethan Moreau-Trevor Lewis-Kevin Westgarth

Drew Doughty-Willie Mitchell

Jack Johnson-Rob Scuderi

Matt Greene-Alec Martinez

The Kings will have other options to use at forward like Fraser, Scott Parse, and Andrei Loktionov with Davis Drewiske on defense as well. With Williams they have a guy who won the Cup with the Hurricanes against those Oilers in 2006 and with ex-Flyers Gagne and Richards, they’ve got guys who lost to Chicago in the Cup finals in 2010. Willie Mitchell was on the Minnesota Wild when they were swept out of the Conference finals in 2003 by Anaheim while Rob Scuderi was an instrumental piece to helping the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Cup in 2009.

When you look at all these acquisitions individually, it might make you scratch your head. After all, four guys from an Oilers team that went nowhere doesn’t look so hot. Throwing them all in the mix together with a host of guys that have won it all or lost in in the finals and you’ve got a team built to be tough and to go deep into the playoffs.

While we’ve seen the Los Angeles-Edmonton connection once before very famously in the Wayne Gretzky trade of 1988, this time around it’s a lot less profile and a bit more dubious. One thing is for sure, Lombardi hopes his L.A.-Edmonton connection can do something Gretzky never could for the Kings: Win the Stanley Cup.

Sabres extend Larsson: one year, $950,000

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Johan Larsson #22 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up before the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year contract.

Larsson was eligible to become a restricted free agent once his contract expired this summer. The Swedish-born player is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 10 goals, 17 points and 74 games. He also finished tied with rookie center Jack Eichel in scoring five game-winning goals.

Overall, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 142 games for the Sabres.

Buffalo acquired Larsson in a trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in April 2013. The Wild selected Larsson in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Contractual details, per the Buffalo News:

Burke: Once a team picks first overall, no more drafting first overall (for a few years at least)

Calgary Flames' President of Hockey Operations & acting GM, Brian Burke speaks to the media as team members show up for NHL hockey season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
AP
7 Comments

Brian Burke isn’t trying to pick on the Edmonton Oilers — no really, he isn’t — but Calgary’s president of hockey ops doesn’t believe any team should get to draft first overall as much as his northern rivals have done the past few years.

“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” Burke told the Flames’ website.

“You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

The Oilers, of course, picked first overall in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. And after yet another dismal season in 2015-16, they have a 13.5 percent of winning’s tomorrow’s lottery and getting the same privilege again

“Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke.

“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system.

“This is saying, ‘Okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”

And many would agree with Burke.

In fact, many would go a lot further, suggesting the entire system should be rethought.

But the question will remain, what’s a better system? The current one incentivizes losing, and so some teams tank. They may not use the word “tanking,” but they’re sure not trying to win. Not in the short term.

Now, is it a good look for the NHL when teams are built to be bad and we see fans openly rooting for losses? No, it’s not a good look.

But would it be preferable for each team to have the same odds of drafting first overall. Even the Stanley Cup champion?

Imagine for a moment a system that didn’t take the standings into account. You just know there’d be some poor franchise that was chronically unlucky, year after year after year. And you just know there’d be some ultra-lucky franchise, too.

The fact is, as long as the NHL wants to maintain its competitive balance — and remember, there’s nothing the NHL is prouder of than its precious parity — losing teams will be rewarded in the draft.

Burke is fine with that.

All he’s saying is the current system could use a few tweaks.

And if the Oilers win the lottery tomorrow, you can bet there’ll be some.

After firing Boudreau, Ducks GM unloads on core players

6 Comments

When the Ducks were struggling this season, GM Bob Murray took some not-so-thinly veiled shots at the team’s core players.

And after the club’s disappointing first-round playoff exit to Nashville, he was at it again.

The juicy stuff, from today’s presser following the Bruce Boudreau dismissal.

(Video here):

“Let’s face it: I’d like to know where they heck they were in Games 1 and 2. The players are going to have to answer that the next four or five days. Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was the passion, the controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? They’re going to have to be held accountable, too.

“There’s definite concerns in that area, and I think the core has to be held responsible, and they have to be better. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough on them in the last few years, but they’re going to hear some different words this time.”

Murray then shared a few of those “different words” with the assembled media.

If you’re looking for one of the core guys Murray may be referring to, consider Corey Perry.

Having just wrapped the third of an eight-year, $69 million deal with a $8.625M cap hit (that’s a long-term contract, right?), Perry failed to score over the seven-game series against the Preds, and had a team-worst minus-7 rating.

Say what you will about the merits of plus-minus, but minus-7  is minus-7. It’s not good. Hard to see how it could be viewed positively.

Of course, there’s no doubt other core guys are in Murray’s crosshairs. But it’s not just about core guys making big money and failint to produce in crunch time. It’s also about core guys making big money, failing in crunch time and not going anywhere.

Because that affects the futures of the players around them.

Some of Murray’s anger — justifiably — comes with the long-terms deals he’s got on the books, and how they’ll likely hamstring the Ducks this summer. He’s already on record saying this will be an “interesting” offseasonHampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Rickard Rakell and Frederik Andersen are all RFAs, and it’s quite conceivable one or two won’t be with back in Anaheim for the start of training camp.

Had the Ducks made a legit playoff run, it would’ve taken the sting away from (potentially) losing players.

But now?

Consider what Murray said about retaining Rakell, who finished fourth on the team in scoring.

“In keeping certain people, other people may have to go,” he explained, per the Associated Press. “That’s what you get forced into. A couple of big contracts get signed, and you end up following because that’s what you get pushed into, and that’s what they expect.

“We are all guilty of that.”

Blues, Capitals to play exhibition game in Kansas City

Pedestrians walk past the Sprint Center, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. The city was preparing for the third round of the NCAA college basketball tournament at the arena after the region received 6-10 inches of snow overnight. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP
1 Comment

Kansas City is going to host another NHL exhibition game.

The St. Louis Blues announced today that they’ll take on the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 at Sprint Center. Both Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Ovechkin will be there, at least according to the press release.

The Blues last played in K.C. a couple of years ago when they took on the Stars in exhibition play. In 2011, a sellout crowd watched the Penguins and Kings at Sprint Center.

A market once considered a candidate for expansion or relocation — particularly after Sprint Center opened in 2007 — the NHL-to-Kansas City buzz has since died down. Last year, there was no interest from Kansas City when the league called for expansion applications.

Sensing an opportunity to make their team a favorite of all Missourians, not just the ones in St. Louis, the Blues have said they’d like to cultivate their fan base across the state in Kansas City.