Friday, December 19, 2008
Friday roundup: Quincey stars in L.A., Sundin speaks and Wings look for mojo
Last season, the waiver pickup of the year was goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.
This season, while still early, it may just be Kyle Quincey. In a move that didn't exactly turn many heads in mid-October, the Los Angeles Kings picked up the 23-year-old defenseman off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings. And they've been head over heels ever since.
"This is an example of not only getting a good player, but also of our infrastructure working," Kings GM Dean Lombardi told ESPN.com on Friday.
When Quincey went on waivers, Kings pro scout Rob Laird made his case. "This guy can play," Laird told Lombardi.
"He was right on," Lombardi said of Laird. "That's a great job by a guy that works in the trenches and goes out there and works his butt off."
In 28 games with the Kings, Quincy has 18 points (2-16) and is a plus-6 while playing between 20 and 25 minutes a game. Who knew top-four defensemen grew on trees?
"He's been paired with Drew Doughty of late and they've been pretty darn good," said Lombardi. "Quincey is just solid. He does everything well. He's not glamorous, but defensively, he makes the right reads. He's shown he's tough, he sticks up for his teammates. He's heavy in traffic, whether it's along the walls or in front of the net. He makes the right decisions. And offensively, he's really good at getting pucks through to the net.
"He's shown us a little bit of everything and he's just getting better."
It's not like the Wings to goof up like this, but the reality is, they are so deep in that organization, they ran out of roster room for Quincey. One could argue keeping 46-year-old Chris Chelios over Quincey was perhaps an oversight, but that shows you the class of Wings GM Ken Holland and his loyalty to his veteran players. Other players around the league notice that kind of thing. That's why everybody wants to play for the Wings.
Which is another reason the Kings are thrilled to have Quincey. He got to rub shoulders with the Wings and saw how a Cup-champion team works.
"We get the benefit of a guy who is only 23 years old, but has experienced what it's like to be around a lot of winners," said Lombardi. "Being bred in that organization is another bonus."
Best part of all? Quincey makes only $500,000 this season and $550,000 in 2009-10. Steal!
It's been a long haul for you Kings fans out there, but keep your chin up. Things are looking good. Doughty, Quincey, Matt Greene and Jack Johnson (who should be back around the All-Star break) are youngsters on the blue line. Up front, you've got youthful talent in Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Oscar Moller, Alexander Frolov, Patrick O'Sullivan, Teddy Purcell and Wayne Simmonds. In goal, well, that's not so great right now. Perhaps Jonathan Bernier will be the real deal after some AHL seasoning. We'll see.
The Quebec Nordiques, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and now, the Canucks. Getting Mats Sundin to Vancouver was as easy as Eh, B, C, right?
"It was definitely a factor," Sundin said on a media conference call Friday when we asked him about his affinity for the Great White North.
"You said it. I've spent my whole NHL career in Canada," said Sundin, who on Thursday chose the Canucks over the New York Rangers. "Toronto has been my home for over 13 years. I do see myself as enjoying living in Canada and knowing that Vancouver has a great hockey franchise, great hockey fans. That's an environment that I've liked being in during my career, where I know people care about their hockey team."
In Toronto, however, some of those avid hockey fans are none too pleased with Mr. Sundin. It angers many of them (including my brother-in-law and lifelong Leafs fan, Mitchell) that he blocked a trade at the deadline last February and prevented the Leafs from at least getting a return on his impending departure.
So, come Feb. 21 in Toronto, when Sundin and the Canucks visit, it should be an intriguing scene at Air Canada Centre.
"The Toronto Maple Leafs will always have a part in my heart," Sundin said in response to a question from Toronto Sun columnist Mike Zeisberger. "It's always going to feel like coming home when I come to Toronto. For me, it was an unfortunate situation at the deadline last season. I have all the respect for the Toronto Maple Leafs as an organization and the fact that they tried to do what was best for the Maple Leafs. I was in a different situation.
"In saying that, I look forward to the game in Toronto. It's going to feel good coming into Air Canada Centre. But playing against the Maple Leafs, I'm sure is going to be tough and interesting. We'll see how it goes."
But Mats, why didn't you waive your no-trade clause last season?
"First of all, I have all the respect for Toronto Maple Leaf fans," said Sundin. "I think hockey is no bigger than in any country other than Canada. I was so proud of being part of the Toronto Maple Leafs for 13 years and being part of a great tradition. I just hope [the fans] respect my decision as a player. And knowing that at the time of the deadline we still had a chance to reach a playoff spot, I just didn't feel that it was the right time to leave the team. I hope the fans in Toronto respect that."
We might have had too much eggnog already today, but here's a prediction: a warm and loud reception for Sundin come Feb. 21. He played his heart and soul for that franchise. Move on, Leafs fans.
Big Wings win
We felt the need to catch up with Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Friday after his team's huge 6-0 tongue-lashing of the powerhouse San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.
"The big thing is that it was obvious the quality of the opponent helped our team get prepared," Babcock told ESPN.com. "We got some saves early, and then we were emotionally engaged. We've got a good hockey club. We're a proud group. When you're playing the best team in the league, you're most likely to step up. Most teams in the league do that against us every night."
The problem for the Wings is that they don't play the Sharks every night. Motivation is always tough on defending Cup champs in the first half of the next season, and you're seeing that with Detroit. In our opinion, right now, the emotional level of the team is not the same as last season. On Thursday night, we got a glimpse of that old spirit, and we suspect you'll see it again on New Year's Day at Wrigley Field. Do you think Nicklas Lidstrom and the boys want to lose on national TV to Patrick Kane and the kids? Watch out for the Wings that day.
What Babcock must surely hope is he gets more of that fire in the second half of the season and we believe he will. Mind you, if 21-6-4 and second place in the Western Conference on Dec. 19 is considered a disappointment, we can think of about 27 teams in the league who would take that in a heartbeat.
But for the Wings, it's not about wins and points. It's about finding that mojo from last season. They're not playing as well defensively, Chris Osgood isn't stopping pucks, and the fire just isn't there overall for a full 60 minutes on most nights.
It will, however, come back.