Friday, June 20, 2008

You build from the net out

And Dean Lombardi has committed the Kings to doing just that. They had a tremendous first round tonight. In Drew Doughty, the Kings selected a defenseman who, alongside Jack Johnson, can lead the Kings power play for the foreseeable future. Thomas Hickey will figure into that as well. And in case you thought those guys were too small, they dealt Cammalleri, took Colton Teubert with the 13th pick, and added a third rounder next year in the process. Teubert is 6'3", and has knack for cracking skulls that dare skate through the crease.

So the Kings future includes the top goalie prospect from juniors, the top college goalie from last season, and a top four defense corps of Jack Johnson, Thomas Hickey, Drew Doughty, and Colton Teubert. The only problem I see with that group is that it only includes two Americans.

Last season the Kings, as a team, were bad. But they were fun to watch, at least for me, because they had guys I could pay attention to that were interesting players. Johnson, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Patrick O'Sullivan. This year they'll work Teddy Purcell, Matt Moulson, and Brian Boyle into the mix. Hickey may make the big club, and Doughty is very likely to be in L.A. next season.

The Kings aren't going to win the cup next year. They may not even make the playoffs. But the tide is turning, and the team is moving in the right direction. Now let's sit back and see what Dean does with the other boatload of picks he has in this draft.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Night to Remember

I am an Angeleno. I've lived in Illinois for almost ten years now, about seven of those in Chicago, but no matter how long I make this part of the country my home, it will always feel temporary. I will never stop being an Angeleno (I know, technically I grew up in Temple City/San Gabriel, not Los Angeles, but it's a regional thing). I rarely read the local papers here, unless I'm reading something about the Illini, or laughing at their coverage of an incredibly minor earthquake. I don't want local news. All I know about what's going on Chicago can be attributed to listening to Morning Edition on NPR, which covers some local news.

But the first thing I do every morning when I sit at my computer is pull up the L.A. Times website. I never watch the Cubs, Sox, Blackhawks, or Bulls, but I watch every Angels game, every Kings game, and the Lakers when they're on regular cable. My blood is completely Southern Californian (with a pinch of Montana thrown in there on my dad's side).

That's why what I did Friday night was so special. Due to some earlier travel plans for work that fell through, I had a plane ticket home last weekend, and I used the trip to take my parents to see John Wooden and Vin Scully live and on stage with T.J. Simers, with whom I have a smidgen of history and for whom I have a fondness. It's a night that won't soon be forgotten by anyone who attended, or by the folks at the two charities, for whom the event raised nearly a million dollars.

About 13 or 14 years ago, I was at the L.A. Open at Riviera, on the balcony overlooking the first tee when Byron Nelson walked out. I can't remember why exactly he was there, but the crowd around the tee spontaneously gave him a rousing ovation. I said to my dad at that time that there are a few people in town who would get the same reception almost no matter where they were. John Wooden and Vin Scully were among them (maybe to a lesser extent Magic, or Dave Taylor at the time). When they entered the stage Friday night, the place erupted in a standing ovation before Wooden and Scully even made it out from behind the curtains.

Simers was terrific, with his typical playful irreverence, but was massively overshadowed by the two legends, who gave as good as they got all night long. They traded jabs with Simers, regaled the crowd with stories from the Dodgers' and Bruins' past, and talked about their upbringing, their families, and philosophies for a successful life. It was a great event from start to finish, and the opportunity to spend it with my parents made the night even better.

My dad hasn't been in the best of health over the last few years. I won't go into details, but he can't quite do some of the things that he used to do. That's why the weekend was so special. I got a chance to play golf with him, something I thought I'd never be able to do again, but his condition has improved a bit recently. We watched the U.S. Open on Saturday afternoon, and headed down to Anaheim for the Angels game on Saturday night, something we did all the time when my brother, sister and I were growing up, but something we hadn't done in six or seven years. It was the perfect fathers day/birthday weekend.

The only unfortunate part of the Wooden/Scully event is that it likely will never happen again. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. There are no two figures in the Southern California sports landscape who are more iconic and legendary. If you missed it, you should really try to catch one of the replays on Fox Sports. It may not feel like it felt for those of us lucky enough to witness it in person, but it would be a good start.