Friday, October 13, 2006

Two wins, two losses

So after four games, the Kings find themselves at 2-2, able to beat the bad teams ( Blues and Islanders), and not able to beat the good teams (Ducks and Stars). It's tough to judge too much after these four games. They looked good against the Ducks, had a ton of shots, but came up short. They looked poor against the Blues, and so so against the Islanders, but picked up the points. Against Dallas last night, they played their worst game of the season. Very little flow, got behind early, very poor defensive coverage, and a predictable result.

Obviously the story of the early season has been Anze Kopitar, the greatest Slovenian player in the history of the game. His first goal (see post below), was real highlight material, and he did it against a future hall of famer. He added three assists in game two, and a fourth in game three. He has the game breaking skills that the Kings have never really developed from within (although they were close with Robert Lang before Barry Melrose destroyed him). He is the future, and no matter how bad it gets this season, he's going to be fun to watch.

O'Sullivan has yet to find the net, but he's an exciting skater, and he's got a sniper's shot. The kid is going to be good, but it might take half a season for him to hit his stride. He's like a better version of Michael Cammalleri. Mind you, Cammy is better right now, but when O'Sullivan reaches Cammy's experience level, I think he'll be a much better player.

I said last week that the defense had to add significantly more offense. Well, they have four goals so far, two from Visnovsky and two from Sopel. It's a good start, and it includes no goals from Blake or Teverdovsky (who in all fairness has only played two games, although he's looked smooth with the puck in those games). But the defense can't afford to let down on the other end, and they did that against Dallas, particularly Kevin Dallman who may find himself back in the press box tomorrow night.

Cloutier has not impressed me yet, but he's shown flashes of regaining his form. The problem is that he's already established himself as the pariah of LGK, a stigma that is almost impossible to get rid of. Just ask Joe Corvo and Roman Cechmanek. It's a group that practically prides itself on letting preconceived notions dictate their opions. But it's a long season, and if the worst case scenario is that his play inspires Mathieu Garon to play his way back into the number one role, then so be it.

Lots of hockey left, but it's a young team, and a difficult division and conference. There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Eric Gordon, Jackass

Eric Gordon made it as official as it can get until November when his family went public with his intention to accept a basketball scholarship at the University of Indiana beginning in 2007. Roughly a year ago, Eric Gordon held a press conference at his high school during which he anounced his intention to accept a basketball scholarship to the University of Illinois. He renegged on that agreement. And he did it in dramatic fashion, choosing a bitter rival, and doing it near the end of the recruiting process.

A verbal commitment is just that. Nothing is official until the player signs his letter of intent. But there is an unspoken rule against recruiting a kid who has already verbally committed to another program. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, rules have never mattered much to Kelvim Sampson, be they unspoken, unwritten, or even written. He always been slimeball. So he continued to recruit Gordon, who, along with his family, made a series of public reassurances to Coach Weber and the Illini faithful that he was still a solid Illinois recruit. Other prospects at the shooting guard position cooled to the Illini. I mean, who wants to play behind the top shooting guard in the country?

That brings us to today, when the selfish Gordon finally alerted the press that he would no longer be enrolling at Illinois, and would instead attend Indiana, conveniently coinciding with the kickoff of Indiana's pre-season practices, a televised event at which he'll be the star attraction.

The situation was handled incredibly poorly, and it does not speak well to the ethics of Sampson or the Gordons. It may also not speak well to Coach Weber's ability to recruit, but that's another issue. Players commit early and later change their mind all the time. It's not uncommon. But usually, those kids have the decency to decommit, to re-open the recruiting process, which gives their original choice time to line up a plan B. Gordon did no such thing. He fueled the rumors, strung Coach Weber along, and left the Illinois program high and dry. His parents, especially his father Eric Sr., were complicit in the deception. They must really enjoy getting their name in the paper. As for Sampson, well, we already knew he was an unethical sack of crap, so this whole episode didn't tell us anything we didn't already know.

As for Weber, everyone wants to get the blue chip prospects. For those of us who love college basketball, recruiting is the only story from April through October. But Kelvin Sampson, much like the coach who preceded Weber at Illinois, can't coach. Recruits are great, but you still need a good coach to win games. Good coaches take good talent and beat teams like Bucknell and Bradley in the first round. Bad coaches don't. Sampson's teams consistently underachieved, save for one final four appearance in 2002. And underachieving in the Big 12, a supposed "power" conference that has produced only two national champions in the last 55 years (both Kansas), and none in the last 18, is tough to do. I've lived through the Steve Lavin years at UCLA. I've seen what a great recruiter can do a program when he doesn't know how to coach. I'm completely satisfied with Weber.

But ultimately this falls at the feet of Eric and his family. This situation could have been handled much better, and they failed to do that at every opportunity. Few kids are ever the most hated player by a rival school a year before they set foot on a court, but Eric Gordon just became public enemy #2 today for the Illini faithful. I just pray that the Big Ten schedules a game between U of I and IU in Champaign during the 2007-2008 season. And if Gordon drives the lane and ends up getting pile driven into the floor, I think the pile driver will get quite an ovation from the home that night.

Another exellent take on this right here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Anze Freaking Kopitar

Turns out this guy is pretty good.

The kids call that "sick".