Thursday, July 03, 2003


Often times a team racked by injuries will go into the off-season thinking "hey, we get so and so, and so and so back, and that's like getting a couple of great free agents for nothing." That's may be OK, but it really only works after a decent season. The Kings weren't decent last season, they were awful. Don't get me wrong. No one is looking forward to the return of... well, we'll get that. Let's start, shall we.


The Kings lost more games to injury last year than any other team in the league. That was bad. However, that meant a lot of playing time for guys like Cammelleri, Frolov, and a host of others. That's good. Their development will be crucial to the success of the Kings over the next few years. However, even more crucial is the play of their top players. They need Allison and Deader to come back strong, as strong as they were when they left. Until Ziggy Palffy remembered he was Ziggy Palffy last season, Adam Deadmarsh had been the teams best player, and that was including all of the games he had missed. This is easily the largest area of optimism this season. The Kings are simply a different team without Jason Allison, and you just can't express how important it will be to have a healthy Jason Allison in the lineup. Here's hoping they stay in the lineup this season.


1. Roman Cechmanek- This guy has been lights out in the regular season for the past couple of years, but has had serious problems in the playoffs. Kings fans would have loved to have had serious problems in the playoffs last year, so at this point, that's not a problem. Also, Kings fans are a rabid bunch, but they're also fiercely loyal. They'll get on players at times, but they want to see the team succeed. Philly fans are a different breed. They seem to take pleasure in watching certain guys fail. Cechmanek appeared to be one of those guys. Plus, Bobby Clarke is an asshole. I think the change is going to be great for Cechmanek. The expectations and the pressure are reduced, and he's not exactly replacing Ken Dryden. I like Huet as a backup. Overall, this was a good deal, especially considering they only gave up mid-round draft picks.

2. Jozef Stumpel- He comes in to replace Smolinski. I like this deal in that it gives the team a little more scoring punch on the second line. He won't ever be confused with Selke winner, but he's adequate defensively, and with the improved (fingers crossed) goaltending, the added offense is worth the small price defensively. Also, this marks the first transaction bringing a player back to a team for which I have his jersey. My Stumpel jersey is now as current as a jersey no longer worn by the actual team can be. So yay for that.


1. Sergei Federov- I'm of two minds on this rumor. I can't imagine a fan not wanting a player of Federov's ability in the lineup. But first, where do you play him? You have, in my opinion, one of the top 5 centers in the game in Allison, when healthy. That Allison, Palffy, Deadmarsh line can be magic when they're all together. You just acquired Stumpel to center the second line. You don't pay that much to a checker. Do you make him a wing? Do you try to put together three scoring lines? Compatibility concerns aside, I have issues with his dedication. He was easily distracted in Detroit, of all places. How strong would his focus be in LA. I just don't like this move when all is said and done, which is OK, because I don't think there's any chance of it happening.

2. Luc Robitaille- Let's face it, Luc has to retire as a King. I think with regular ice time, which he wasn't getting in Detroit last year, he would be a 25 to 30 goal guy next season. This has to get done. He's always been a better player in LA than elsewhere. The rumors lately is that while they agree more or less on a base salary, they're quibbling over incentives. They tried to make it sound negative, but I can't imagine that this will drag on that long. I mean, if you say "he gets X if he scores y" I don't really see a problem. You'd be happy to pay y for a guy who does x. Dave, let's get this done and put Luc back in the Purple and Black,....and silver,.....and gold every so often.

3. The Others- OK, these aren't really rumors, but I'm going to start them. What the Kings really need, in my opinion, and assuming we aren't going to rely on the kids, is a scoring winger, and power play quarterback on the blue line. Guess who's available? Sure there's a host of other guys out there, but right now Paul Kariya and Brian Leetch are on the market. Either or both would be a perfect fit, and Kariya would be great for the "screw you, Ducks" factor. No way do they sign both, and it's a real long shot that they'd sign either. I think Dallas is the only place Leetch would play that isn't on the East Coast. So he's out. That leaves Kariya. It will depend on the market, and there's the issue of having too many left wings (assuming the inking of a deal with Luc). Still, what a coup it would be to get him a little north on I-5. As for other defensemen, they're talking about a bunch, but I think Tverdovsky may be on the radar. He brings the offensive skill that they need to replace Schneider, he's lived in SoCal a couple of times, and once again, his defensive liabilities may be balanced out by the improved goaltending. Also, I think he would be a better defender in Murray's system.


The Kings took some chances in the first round. Brown slipped a lot from where the Central Scouting Bureau had him ranked, and that has to be a concern. On the bright side, they got with a pick in the middle of the first round. He projects to be an Adam Deadmarsh type player, but that's of course asking a lot. The NHL entry draft is the definition of "crapshoot" so here's to keeping your fingers crossed and hoping he pans out. Boyles is a real project, but it's not often you find a center with his size. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I like the selection of Tambellini, if for no other reason than to piss off Red Berenson. Anybody who can lead a national championship calibre team in scoring as a freshman has to have a future in the NHL, no? We'll see, but supposed to be speedy, with a quick hard shot. I like snipers, and let's hope he gets it done. I'm stoked about Pushkarev. He's the type of guy the Wings in the later rounds that turns into Pavel Datsyuk or Sergei Federov. Dave Taylor also decided to retry the Kai Nurminnen experiment by drafting 26 year old Esa Pirnes out of Finlad. He's an offensive minded player, and the Kings hope he can come in and comtibute this season. We'll see. Personally, I liked Nurminnen, and thought he was pretty skilled. I still remember this sweet floating backhanded pass he made over a couple of lines in a game that sent Stumpel in on a break and led to a goal. Hopefully Pirnes will bring that skill, but with a bit better work ethic.

So that's my take on the off-season so far. If the Angels don't make some sort of move in the standings real soon, I'm going to be gripping hard until the puck drops. Go Kings Go!


Angels - a bunch
Rangers - a big fat goose egg (nine of them, if you're looking by inning).

Great effort from John Lackey, he was spotting his fastball really well, and he was really snapping off the curve. Maybe his good effort against the Dodgers wasn't just a result of the Dodger's double A offensive lineup.

Bengie Molina has really been smoking the ball lately. He's been playing the same great defense, and he's actually contributing at the plate. I think last season represented a dip from his actual ability. He's not as good as he's been playing the last week or so, but if he finds a happy medium, he can be an overall plus. With some other guys slipping back from last year's performances, that's very important.

Jeff DaVanon continues to hit, and that will make the loss of Fullmer that much easier to swallow. Especially important is the fact that he's doing it at the top of the lineup. They really need a table setter, and he appears to be filling that role pretty adequately. Last night they looked a lot like the 2002 Angels, getting on base, getting some clutch hits, and the big bomb to put the game away.

The home run Salmon hit was a thing of beauty. It loooked a lot like the one he hit off of Felix Rodriguez in game 2 of the World Series last year, although I think that was a fastball, and last night's was a slider that hung. When he gets a pitch up like and drives it, it's fun to watch.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003


Well, the Angels reach game 81 with a record of 41-40. Sounds a lot like 1998, 2000, 2001, etc. They aren't really out of it, but they aren't really in it. That presents a problem. Do they go toward the trade deadline as buyers or sellers? Personally, I'd like to see them stand pat. They have a lot of pieces, especially in the pen, that will be very important if they want to contend next year. Brendan Donnelly has been incredible this year, and while it's unfair to expect him to maintain his level of dominance, he's still a very valuable arm to have in the bullpen, and will be a part of their next championship team when it takes the field in 2004. The weird thing is, he's discussed as bait in buying and selling mode. Weird. Anyway, keep him.

The Offense

Pretty predictable, really. A little more power out of Anderson than expected to this point, but he's been his same reliable self. Tim Salmon has been solid, naturally. Troy Glaus has been all over the map. After riding a May hot streak, he's been unable to swing his way out of a paper bag of late. He did put together a couple of extra base hits, including a home run, last night, so maybe he's working himself back the mean. Darin Erstad's injury was tough to take, especially on defense, but he seems to be getting back into the groove. Eckstein and Kennedy have really disappointed so far, with Eckstein's struggles magnified by the fact that he leads off. The hope here is that the injury to Fullmer, who had really been a key cog to this point, will allow Jeff Davanon to head to the top of that lineup and be the sparkplug that he can be. They're going to need to score more runs, but that's certainly not outside the realm of possibility.

The Gas Cans The Starters

Here's where it gets ugly. Nobody has lived up to expectations in the slightest, except for maybe Ortiz, who got lit up against Texas. This, we can all agree, is the area that needs to get it going. They have no chance if the starters continue to struggle. Unfortunately, it's been equal opportunity sucking to this point, so it's tough to point to a culprit. Unfortunately, the schedule only includes 6 games with the Dodgers, and those are done. Bummer. Oh well, the Tigers lay ahead, so maybe they can get healthy. Really, the bright side is that they haven't really played the AL Central, save 5 games against Cleveland (and it would be great if they could save them, because they took all five). They're really going to have to win about 80% of those games to have any sort of shot.

The Pen

Awesome. That's the only term you can use to describe the success of the Angels bullpen, and they're really the reason the Angels hover around .500. Brendan Donnelly has been absolutely lights out. Best reliever in baseball this year, so far. Frankie had a great June, and looks like he's back on track. I noticed the other day that he was going out of the stretch, even with nobody on. I think this is a great move. It's been his achille's heel, and the more practice he gets out of the stretch, the better he'll be. Weber has been his usual self. Solid, if not dominating. Percival has returned from what looked like a career threatening injury to be lights out in his last ten outings. He's really running it up there in a hurry. This piece can't falter if the Angels look to stay in contention.

The Outlook

As infuriating as this team can be (John Thompson?), they aren't out of it. Assuming the hitters and pen stay on track, it's going to come down to starters. Washburn needs another run like he had last year, and Lackey really needs to step it up. He's been pitching from behind much of the year, and he's been getting killed. Sele is a real question mark, but limiting him to five innings is a great idea. Anything that leads to more innings from the bullpen is OK by me. They just need some guys to go deep enough to rest them in non-Sele starts. They not only need to torch the central, they need to win head to head series with the teams they are chasing. While the Mariners appear to be running away with it, it's not over. They could collapse. Stranger things have happened. What sweet revenge it would be to storm back and steal it like the Mariners did in 1995. That would be sweeter than winning the Series.

No it wouldn't.

I'll try to take an off-season roundup for the Kings soon.