Sports Outside the Beltway

Kings-Ducks To Open In London

Its official the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks will open the NHL Season in the United Kingdom:

“Our commitment to grow the game globally has never been stronger,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner, Bill Daly. “The NHL is extremely proud to be represented in London by two great hockey organizations in the Ducks and Kings as well as to be recording NHL history at such a fantastic facility in the 02.”

After three successful Game One events in Japan in 1997, 1998 and 2000, NHL Premiere will mark the first time the NHL will have played regular-season games in Europe.

The home-and-home series will take place on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 8:00 p.m. (GMT) and Sunday, Sept. 30, at 5:00 p.m. (GMT).

I guess the NHL is forced to grow globally becuase the market is at critical mass in Canada and just isn’t growing in the US. It would of made mroe sense to send an East Coast team there as its closer and the time change is slightly less. However, as with any scheduling in the NHL the Eastern Conference has all the power and they use it to screw over the Western Conference in terms of travel. Granted in this case it was more a function of AEG owning the Kings and the Arena influnincing who plays, but the scheduling problems still exist.


NHL Trade Deadline Day

Today brings the NHL Trade Deadline, a national holiday in Canada. Of course most of the trades won’t many anything except to Canadians and the five die-hard American fans, I’ll just bring you some of the big name/impact trades as they happen through out the day. But if you are Canadian or one of the five, visit’s site they will give you everything from Edmonton and Toronto trading 7th round draft picks to the guy traded for a bag of pucks. (oh yes they have a live broadcast too.)

Deals of Note

To NY Islanders: F – Ryan Smyth
To Edmonton: F – Robert Nilsson, F – Ryan Omarra, 2007 1st Round Pick
The inability of Edmonton to reach a new contract agreement with Ryan Smyth forced this trade. Edmonton gains nothing and loses the cornerston of their franchise who has been with the team since they drafted him in 1994. Great move by the Islanders, that will help them in the playoff push. I am suprised Edmonton didn’t get a bidding war going, but it was reported that they refused to deal him to a Western Conference Team.

To Dallas: D – Mattias Norstrom, F – Konstantin Pushkarev, 2007 3rd and 4th Round Pick
To Los Angeles: D – Jaroslav Modry, D – Johan Fransson, 2008 1st Round Pick, 2007 2nd and 3rd Round Pick
This wins the award for most complex trade of the day and most difficult for many Kings Fans. Dallas gets Kings’ Captian Mattias Norstrom a solid (but old school) defensive defenseman to shore up their defensive core, who is under contract for next season. Dallas also picks up Pushkarev who can play bigger than he is, but has attitude problem caused mostly by Russian Clubs who consistently tell him he gets no respect in the NHL and should be playing in Russia. The Kings eat the salary of turn over machine Modry (who is a free agent on July 1st) and get the first right to Swedish prospect defensive Fransson. As for the picks… The Kings net a 1st rounder in the stronger 2008 draft and swap around draft positions in 2007 (the Kings’ original 3rd round pick would be higher than Dallas’ original 3rd round pick based on this season standings. Overall the Kings moved up in the draft board in 2007 while Dallas moved down.

To Colorado: F – Scott Parker
To San Jose: 2008 6th Round Pick
Nothing major here, San Jose just picks up an additional draft pick and frees up some roster and cap space.

To Toronto: F – Yanic Perreault, 2008 5th Round Pick
To Phoenix: D – Brendan Bell, 2008 2nd Round Pick
Yanic, who was unsigned for the frist two months of the season, pays off for Phoenix with a higher draft pick and a defensive prospect to build for the future. Toronto picks up a healthy and effective center for a playoff run in what will be a tight playoff push in the east. This is Yanic’s 3rd stint with Toronto.

To Buffalo: F – Dainius Zubrus, D – Timo Helbling
To Washington: F – Jiri Novotnv, 2007 1st Round Pick
Buffalo adds a talented forward but raw forward (with motivational issues) and a defensive prospect to build for the future and a playoff push. In return Washington gets a low 1st round pick in a weak draft and a talented foward who lacks finishing skills and is prone to laziness

To Detroit: F – Todd Bertuzzi
To Florida: TBA Pending Trade Call with NHL Head Office F – Shawn Matthias, 2007 Conditional Draft Pick, 2008 Conditional 2nd Round Draft Pick
Florida gets a top prospect and picks for rebuilding while giving Detroit Bertuzzi who has only played 7 games this seasons. When healthy Bertuzzi is a force on the ice, but no one knows if he will regain his for and if he can avoid sucker punching other players.

To San Jose: F – Bill Guerin
To St. Louis: F – Ville Nieminen, F – Jay Barriball, 2007 1st Round Pick
San Jose gets a first line winger, Stanley Cup Winner and six time All-Star. He possess a big shot, a mean streak that combine power and speed. He will help the Sharks immensely as they make a push for the Stanley Cup.

To Pittsburgh: F – Georges Laraque
To Phoenix: F – Danny Carcillo, 2007 8th Round Pick
Pittsburgh gets one of NHL’s best heavyweights and enforcers to protect their young stars for the playoff run.

To Philadelphia: G – Martin Biron
To Buffalo: Undisclosed Draft Pick 2007 2nd Round Pick
This deal unloads unhappy goalie Biron to Philadelphia. Biron had lost his starting spot in Buffalo and was going to walk away from the team this summer as a free agent, so they pick up what they could for him. I imagine the draft pick will be determined based on Philadelphia’s ability to sign Biron this summer. (in a minor deal, Buffalo acquired Ty Conklin from Columbus for future considerations a 2007 5th Round Pick to fill Biron’s role as backup for the rest of the season and playoffs)

To Pittsburgh: F – Gary Roberts
To Florida: D – Noah Welch
Roberts is a power forward who loves to crash the net and battle for loose pucks. At 40 years old, he is a short term rental for the young Pittsburgh team to provided leadership and grit from past Stanley Cup Playoffs. Welch is a 24 year old defenseman; he’s a big presence on the blue line (6’4″) with a big shot from the point. With his upside this could pay off for Florida in the long run.

To Vancouver: F- Bryan Smolinski
To Chicago: 2007 Conditional 2nd Round Pick

To Vancouver: D – Brent Sopel
To Los Angeles: 2008 2nd and 4th Round Pick
In both of these trades are to improve Vancouver, currently the #3 seed in the West. Smolinski is a veteran center, who becomes a free agent on July 1st, while Sopel can play like a top 4 defensemen (but is prone to stupid mistakes) and provides additional offensive spark at the blue line. The picks are a wash; Los Angeles got a better deal than Chicago as the 2008 draft is projected to be stronger than the 2007 draft.

To NY Islanders: F – Richard Zednik
To Washington: 2007 2nd Round Pick
Islanders pick up extra offense to sneak into the Playoffs, provided Zednik doesn’t go into one of his prolonged scoring slumps.

To Atlanta: F – Keith Tkachuk
To St. Louis: F – Glen Metropolit, 2007 1st and 3rd Round Picks, 2008 2nd Round Pick
Atlanta gets a veteran scorer (with historic playoff scoring problems), while St. Louis gets a career reserve forward and a bunch of picks to rebuild the time. This deal is mainly to set the price for Bill Guerin.

To Philadelphia: D – Braydon Coburn
To Atlanta: D – Alexei Zhitnik
Philadelphia gets a young defenseman with lots of upside, while Atlanta gets a veteran defenseman with a big slap shot and the ability to play a big man’s game…when he’s motivated to.

To Carolina: F – Anson Carter
To Columbus: 2008 5th Round Pick
Carolina gets Carter, who had been a disappointment from Columbus on the cheap. Could pay dividends for Carolina IF Carter rediscovers his scoring touch.

To Nashville: F – Peter Forsberg
To Philadelphia: F – Scottie Upshall, D – Ryan Parent, 2007 1st and 3rd Round Pick
Nashville sold the farm to get Forsberg, which means this is the year they are really going for the Cup hard. Forsberg is a immense talent and game changer, but recent history shows he is one big hit away from the injured list. By far the biggest risk-reward player out there and really could push Nashville over the top. On an ironic side note, Nashville now has two of the biggest divers in the League on their team in Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya.


Kings European Tour Expansion

Looks as if the Kings’ opening day in London was just the begining. Now it is being rumored that the Kings will also play games in Austria and Slovenia.

The Kings are near an agreement to play two exhibitions in Salzburg, Austria, part of a two-day tournament before they open the 2007-08 NHL season in London, a hockey source in Europe said.

Red Bull Salzburg of the Austrian Hockey League is to play host to the four-team tournament. A spokesman for AEG, which owns the Kings, declined to comment, but the source in Europe said a deal was set and only awaiting final details.

The Kings will split their training camp between Southern California and Europe in September. They will open the regular season with two games at the O2 Arena in London, which was built by AEG, and probably will face the Ducks. The Vancouver Canucks are also being considered for those games.

Besides the tournament in Salzburg, the Kings expect to play other exhibitions in Europe, with one in Slovenia being considered. The Kings’ Anze Kopitar, the first Slovenian-born player to reach the NHL, is one of the top rookies this season.

Hopefully this doesn’t interfere with the fan favorite preseason ritual, Frozen Fury at the MGM Las Vegas. Although with Luc Robitaille planning and promoting a charity poker tournament for Frozen Fury 10, it is unlikely that the event is experiencing a planned cancellation. Not of this is set in stone until the official announcement which is expected in March sometime, but it hasn’t stopped season ticket holders in my section from starting to put together a travel package for all the games.


NHL European Opening Day

Rumors have surfaced that AEG will open it’s redevelopment of the Millennium Dome into the O2 with not only Justin Timberlake, but AEG owned Los Angeles Kings.

According to multiple sources, the Los Angeles Kings will open next season with a pair of games at The O2 in London. The O2 is a state-of-the-art arena scheduled to open with a series of Justin Timberlake concerts in early July. It is operated by Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), which also owns the Kings.

L.A. will open its London swing with an exhibition contest before the two regular-season games. The Ducks and Canucks are two teams believed to be in the running to accompany the Kings to Great Britain.

Given the large numbers of European players in the NHL, it makes some sense that the NHL try and get the European Fans engaged in the game. I am skeptical as the NHL has failed to expand the market in America and is already maxed out in Canada. Much like the United States, the passion of Europe lays elsewhere in soccer. Ice hockey in Europe sees its best talent leave for the US and relegated to billboards on skates.

The other part is as a King’s Season Ticket Holder, it’s a win-loss proposition. I lose some home games to go to, but I guess its an excuse to go on vacation to London.


Aces Mark Carries Bailey and Bavis Memories has an article about how the friends and family have of Ace Bailey and Mark Bavis have moved forward since their deaths on United Flight 175:

When tragedy strikes, you can do one of two things: 1) Let grief consume you, or, 2) move forward, despite the endless strides and rocky roads that lay ahead.

For the families of two Los Angeles Kings scouts, Mark Bavis and Garnet “Ace” Bailey, two passengers who were killed on United Airlines Flight 175 when it crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, they’ve come to realize that though five years have passed, their loved ones aren’t forgotten.
Lew Mongelluzzo, an Ottawa Senators scout who hails from Philadelphia, clearly takes the city’s nickname, “The City of Brotherly Love,” to heart.

Mongeluzzo, who owns and operates the thoroughbred-racing stable, Team Power Play Racing, simply combined his two favorite interests to keep the spirit of both Bavis and Bailey alive. Mongelluzzo decided to purchase a New York-bred colt that he named Aces Mark in honor of his two peers.

“I’m not a Boston guy, so I don’t go way back to when they (Bavis and twin brother Mike) played high-school hockey,” Mongelluzzo said. “Mark and I would see each other in the rink, we traveled together, and we’d discuss players. It was a good friendship. We’d have a coffee, have a beer, and discuss players. That’s the kind of friendship we really had.”


Kings Lead in International Firsts

Well the Kings haven’t had a memorable season, it is a seasons of firsts. After Anze Kopitar became the first Slovenian-born player in the NHL, Yutaka Fukufuji became the first Japanese-born player in the NHL.


Kansas City Penguins (Part II)

Yesterday I mentioned Pittsburgh Penguins Ownership visiting Kansas City in AEG’s attempt to lure them to the City. Well AEG just pulled the goalie for an extra skater, offering free rent and equal management stake in the new arena.

The Pittsburgh Penguins could play rent-free and be equal managing partners in the new Sprint Center if they move to Kansas City, under an offer unveiled Thursday by the arena’s operating group.

Tim Leiweke, president of Anschutz Entertainment Group, said the Penguins would not have to buy into the management agreement. The $276 million Sprint Center is scheduled to open in October.


“We are not trying to steal the Penguins,” Leiweke said. “We have been very respectful of their process. We understand that this is Pittsburgh’s to lose, and we respect that.”

Anschutz officials, including former Pittsburgh star Luc Robitaille, met Wednesday and Thursday with Penguins owner Mario Lemieux, his partner, Ron Burkle, and other team representatives.

“They have told us they will make a decision within 30 days,” Leiweke said. “We will know within 30 days whether they are going to work out their issues in Pittsburgh and get an arena built, or whether they will ask the NHL for permission to move the team to Kansas City.”

Leiweke lives up to his nickname of “Lie Weekly” given to him by Kings Fans, with that kind of deal on the table, you are trying to steal the team. With this offer on the table and the lack of a solution or even an offer close to this in Pittsburgh for the team, the ownership would have to be really loyal or really stupid not to jump on it. I guess we will all know in 30 days.

I won’t even get into calling Luc Robitaille a “Pittsburgh star” when he only played there one season…

Update: In all fairness, you could call Luc a Pittsburgh Star. After all it was he who in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals scored with 0.3 seconds left to force overtime against Chicago in 1995. Thus he prevented the game from ending, allowing Jean-Claude Van Damme enough time to stop the terrorist from blowing up the arena at the end of the game saving his daughter, the Vice President and the world from Sudden Death.


Rob Blake’s Return to Los Angeles

With pending free agency and contract demands the Kings didn’t want to meet, Rob Blake was traded to the Colorado Avalanche. The deal worked out well for Colorado and Blake as he went on to win a Stanley Cup. All the Kings were left with was chronically injured players and prospects who turned out to be busts. Kings fans took out their anger on Blake seizing upon every opportunity to boo him.

But 2006 brought changes to the Kings after a disastrous season that saw the first Kings collapse and fail to make the playoffs while having one of the worst power play and penalty killing units in the league. The entire coaching staff was fired down to the trainer and the revamping of the team began with GM Dean Lombardi and Coach Marc Crawford. Seizing upon the opportunity Lombardi went out and brought Blake back to Los Angeles as a free agent for his leadership and skill on the power play.

While the Kings’ power play has vastly improved over the last season, thanks in part to Blake, not much else has gone right. The team’s record is worse than last year and there is a lack of consistency in the team’s play from night to night. Blake’s welcome by the fans has been mixed between fans who are and aren’t willing to forgive. In the locker room veteran players are glad to have a talented defenseman and proven leader, while the younger players benefit from the mentoring he is willing to provide. Despite the adversity of the season and the actions of some fans, Blake says he’s happy to be back. Of course if I had his house in Manhattan Beach, I’d be happy to be back in Los Angeles too.


NHL Wish List

John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting and Sports Illustrated gives his 8 wishes for the New Year.

1. Show me the games
2. Hear me the games
3. Show me the stars
4. Give me cheap(er) seats
5. Give me the games . . . earlier
6. Lose the trapezoid
7. Lose the new uniforms
8. Give me a goalie

I pretty much agree with his entire list especially number 8:

The Kings’ goaltending has been hard to take. Mathieu Garon has been hurt and Dan Cloutier’s only highlight was going ballistic on the Predators while down 6-0 in the third period on December 23. The fact that Cloutier had to make the statement is subject for another day, but the fact remains: we need a solid goalie! I will be holding the BRING BACK KELLY HRUDEY sign at every January home game. Rogie Vachon is, after all, over the hill.

Actually a bag of pucks would be a goaltending upgrade for the Kings…


Tweaking the NHL Salary Cap

The owners wanted a cap and after losing an entire season they got it. Included in the new CBA were rules to allow a shorter path to free agency and a two-way waiver system to prevent teams from stockpiling players in the minors. Not all of these moves are for the good, shortly Pittsburgh will be face with having to decide which of its young stars to part with after years in the toilet, they stockpiled talent with high draft picks and now have a small window to utilize it. Now the salary cap has created some so called “parity” in the league but has severely limited the ability of teams to tweak their roster before the trade deadline to make a run at the Stanley Cup. Team who are on the verge of making the playoff are generally spending near the cap limit, which prohibit them from trading prospects and picks for a proven veteran player because they cannot absorb the cap hit. Well than I came across this op-ed that provides a reasonable solution, the trading of cap space:

A better solution would be a floating cap, whereby teams have the flexibility to “trade” salary cap space. A team like the [Florida] Panthers could essentially take on a significant portion of [Todd] Bertuzzi’s salary in order to maximize his trade value, thereby increasing the likelihood that they’d be in a much better position to compete in 2007-08 and beyond. While this system isn’t perfect, as long as the money to pay Bertuzzi actually comes out of the Panthers’ pockets, it’s unlikely to be a scenario they’d repeat season after season.

To prevent the salary system from becoming a complete quagmire, salary cap space — or the absorbing of a player’s salary on behalf of another team — would only be allowed for the current system. So, for example, if the Phoenix Coyotes were to want to trade Ed Jovanovski and his five-year, $32.5 million contract, they could only absorb salary for 2006-07, leaving the Coyotes’ trade partner fully responsible for the remaining four years and $26 million.

It comes across as a completely reasonable idea, it will allow teams who know they are in a rebuilding phase to shed large contracts and older players and in return get picks and prospects to build their team up. It’s a solution that would deserve a shot to be tried out and maybe applied to other sports involving caps if it works (because getting rid of salary caps isn’t going to happen).


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.