Dancing in the Reign: Roster Set, Bernier Extended, Thoughts Leading Up To Saturday’s Opener
We’re just four days from the puck dropping on the 2010-2011 season. The Kings will stay on the West side, but head North for a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Vancouver Canucks. This will undoubtedly be a good test, and a tough one at that for a Kings roster icing a couple of new veterans and a handful of fresh prospects. You couple the seething anticipation surrounding this year’s club with an opening night match-up against the team who eliminated us from the playoffs, and you better expect the Kings to come out hard. Don’t think for a minute that playing Vancouver doesn’t add a little more intensity to the lineup. The Kings are looking to start a crucial season as their development into an elite NHL club continues to drive, and it starts against the team who sent us packing last year. As Saturday night’s opener approaches, I’ve got some last minute thoughts below:
This year’s opener will be more successful than the last. Yes, you remember that debacle against Phoenix. It would be difficult to play worse than the Kings did in the opener last year. The hype surrounding that team was a bit premature. They were in Los Angeles against a comfortable Phoenix Coyotes opponent, and were expected to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Media and public relations piled on extraneous pressure and pumped up egos that needed to be tamed. Most players were affected by it, but each in their own way. Escorting the players into Staples Center like it was the freakin’ Grammys while completely exposing them to the public just two hours before the game had disaster written all over it. I was looking over my shoulder in hesitant anticipation for the players to jump on floats into a parade down Figueroa. Good fanfare, but added unnecessary distractions to the team. Expectations continue to skyrocket leading up to this year’s opener, which is why starting on the road is a good thing. Better to have distractions of opposing fans than too much hype. Extra pressure is often built in front of the home fans after a long summer, playing with clear heads against an important opponent is an attractive fit.
Turn back the clock. Not literally, we’ve got another month or so of evening daylight. However, the Kings will be rocking the retro gold and purple uniforms that were worn by the franchise from their inception in 1967 until 1988. The uniforms were tweaked a few times during that 21-year period, but nothing substantial. The jersey piping and number borders were the only subtle changes, and I’m not sure which specific set the Kings are going to unveil. The Vancouver Canucks are celebrating their 40-year anniversary this season, and both teams will be donning vintage sweaters for all four match-ups this year. Too bad they’re not celebrating 20 years, I’d rather see the 90′s silver and black.
Roster Finalized to 23 Players today. The Kings announced the set roster they’ll be working with to start the season. Most notable are the prospects who survived training camp. Forwards Andrei Loktionov, Kyle Clifford, Brayden Schenn, and Trevor Lewis will be competing for long-term spots, and defenseman Jake Muzzin will get time on the blue line. Scott Parse, who was tabbed as the favorite to take the second-line left wing spot, looks to be starting the season on injured reserve as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury. Look for one of these forwards to be assigned to Manchester once Parse returns, unless that player is Kyle Clifford, who is qualified to return to the Barrie Colts of the OHL unless he plays in 9 games for the Kings. The competition between Brayden Schenn and Andrei Lotkionov for a 4th line centerman spot should continue to play itself out. Not to say this year’s results have any long-term impact on the two, but could ultimately pinpoint which player is ready to have a solid impact this season.
Bernier’s Extension. Smart move by Dean Lombardi here, not to say it wasn’t expected. Jonathan Bernier, who was slated to become a Restricted Free Agent at season’s end, is now locked up for the next three years. Granted a two year extension through 2013, Bernier is now allotted plenty of time to continue his growth at the NHL level. The best part about Bernier’s extension is the buffer zone now provided to Jonathan Quick. This is long-term, and this is Quick’s season. To have both goaltenders signed for the next three seasons gives ample time to decide on a franchise goalie. Who knows? Maybe they’ll end up as a solid tandem and become a good rotation. They’re both just too good I think, no?