Our bi-weekly feature on LAKings.com. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide (formerly of Hockey Wilderness), Cheryl Adams of Hockey Broad, and Dimitri Filipovicof Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
Give your own answers and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. Pass or Fail: The Stadium Series
John Hoven @mayorNHL - Seriously, how is fail even an option here? More than 50k people were at an outdoor hockey game in Los Angeles! So, pass and then some. The Kings, who already had a history with outdoor games, dating back to their 1991 preseason game vs. the Rangers at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, knew it could work. But, this time around they took it to an infinitely larger stage and it received rave reviews across the country. In fact, most media people agree that it was the best of the outdoor games played thus far this season. Yes, the had some challenges with the concession stands, and parking was tough on some. However, in 20 years from now nobody will talking about those trivial things that come with such a festive spectacle. Considering all that could have gone wrong, this showed the entire NHL that California is a region to be reckoned with and sets the stage for all the warm climate states to put on a Stadium Classic game - whether it’s Anaheim, San Jose, Dallas, Phoenix or Florida. When the game comes to Anaheim Stadium in a few years, I'm sure it will be packed house once again. Huge pass.
Bryan Reynolds - Absolute fail. While the spectacle of ice in southern California was pretty cool, the entire concept of the outdoor hockey game jumped the shark three years ago. Of course, people will continue to flock like lemmings to them, because they don't understand that the reason we play professional hockey inside is because indoor arenas, built for hockey, provide the best sight lines. If hockey was meant to suck, they would play it in baseball stadiums all the time. The stadium series was, honestly, a stroke of genius by the NHL. Any time you can get that many people to lose their minds about a regular season game between the Islanders and Rangers... good on ya. It's just difficult to believe that people just keep eating whatever the league feeds them, and then ask for more. "You can't have the Winter Classic (in itself a stupid concept), but we'll let you play in this cheap knock off."
And I swear, if I have to hear Yankee Stadium called "one of baseball's great shrines" one more time, I may give up and become an Oilers fan.
Whoa. Let's not get crazy here.
Cheryl Adams @HockeyBroad - As a whole, so far I've really enjoyed the Stadium Series. I went to the Winter Classic at the Big House and it was a great experience, so I'm really looking forward to attending the Blackhawks/Penguins game at Soldier Field in a few weeks. The LAK-ANA game was of particular interest because of the whole novelty of pulling off an outdoor hockey game in southern California. With the success of that event, it shows that the NHL ice-making wizards can make it happen in other "non-traditional" hockey markets such as San Jose, Raleigh, and Nashville. While putting games in those markets might be viewed as a gimmick, it cannot be denied that it helps drive attention to those markets - not to mention the tourism dollars that benefit the host markets.
If you look at the history of both the Winter Classic and the new Stadium Series, the bulk of the games have been played in the Northeast Corridor (Boston to DC) and just 5 of the 20 teams involved have been Western teams. (Detroit counts as one for the West in the 2009 WC; but as an Eastern team for 2014's WC.) Of those 5 teams, Chicago has been represented twice, which is not surprising, due to the team's success. But there are plenty of good and exciting teams deserving attention in the West, and hopefully, if they aren't repped more frequently in the Winter Classic, they'll get more opportunities to play in or host Stadium Series games.
Six outdoor games per season may be a bit much, but it would be nice to see three, max four, outdoor hockey games per year. I think that so long as the experience remains unique in some manner - i.e., not returning to the same venue, not having the same teams in these games every year (looking at you, Penguins and Rangers; you've both had 3 appearances, time for you to wait a couple years) - it will keep being a good draw for the fans and also continue to be special for the players.
Dimitri Filipovic @CanucksArmy - I’d say that it was a “Fail” in my books. Listen, I love hockey very much, and basically eat it up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, regardless of the form its in. I watched all of the Stadium Series games this year from start to finish. So it wasn’t a complete and utter disaster, or anything like that..
But I could do without the gimmick. I still think there’s a place for having one game to be played outdoors per season, with that being the Winter Classic game. Have the 24/7 series on HBO, build up to it, and then have some extra meaning and importance to it (like serving as some light viewing for myself while I’m nursing my hangover from the previous night).
The Stadium Series game were, I thought, kind of whatever. The ice and therefore the play itself was choppy, the view for a fan like myself taking in the spectacle from home was subpar because of how far away from the ice the camera has to be, and I didn’t really care all that much about the “rivalries” that the NHL was trying to sell to me.
I’d like to see them bring the total number of outdoor games down, but being the cash grab that it is, that probably won’t happen. I’ll still wind up watching all of them, but that’s not saying much. I could do without them.
2. The Kings are 2-8-0 in their last 10; just a slump or time for change?
John Hoven - Both. The Kings are in a slump and they do need a change to shake things up. Faced with a similar situation in 2012, they pulled the trigger on the Jeff Carter deal and that took pressure off of everyone. It also set up the chemistry that won them the Stanley Cup a few months later. There are few players of that caliber available in the market place - especially one that easily fits the spot needed in the current LA lineup. They need two things as soon as possible, a top-6 left wing and a shut down defenseman. Because this team is built from the net out, the latter is more important than the former short term. Fix the blueline, see what that costs you, and then use the other assets you have to tweak the forward crop. And for all the fantasy hockey GMs out there, don't look for Lombardi to trade Tyler Toffoli to fix any of his holes before the trade deadline.
Natahn Eide - Just a slump, and we here in Minnesota know the difference between a slump and a season ruined. There's too much talent and skill (enter #fancystats here) to not be able to overcome this set of freak occurrences. The Kings have run into hot goaltenders, poor finishing, a string of teams playing above their station and just plain old great teams. Now, are the Kings going to turn it around and end up with a Presidents Trophy? No, but to knee jerk right now would be astronomically stupid. It'll be fine.
Cheryl Adams - Mid-season slump. Scoring has been the big issue for the Kings as of late; maybe a bit of gripping the sticks too tight as the scoring drought went on. The Olympic break comes at a good time for the team. Half a dozen Kings are heading over to Sochi, where they'll get to play under a different system and the dynamics will be different. As we saw after the 2012 lockout, a bit of international experience can help bring something new to players' games. The rest of the players are getting a bit of rest. Between both situations, it should help players recharge their batteries and loosen things up when play resumes.
Dimitri Filipovic - The Kings are still the league’s best possession team, and it’s because of that fact that I can’t get overly worked up about their struggles. If I were a betting man, they’d still be amongst the very few teams that I’d be willing to bet on to be hoisting the Stanley Cup a few months from now. With that being said, I do think that they need to make some sort of move to bring in another player that can put the puck into the net. When I watch them play these days, they’re way too reliant on Anze Kopitar. He’s a fantastic player, but he can’t do it all.
Considering how close they are to potentially winning it all again, and how can you never take that for granted, I’d do everything I possibly could to acquire a Thomas Vanek (or another player of that mould that’s readily available, *teaser alert*)&
3. Where does Matt Moulson end up?
John Hoven - Moulson ends up with Blues, Sharks or Penguins. The Penguins have depth at defense with prospects and guys ready to play in the NHL, which is what the Buffalo Sabres need. That said, it all depends on what other dominos fall first. The price to get Moulson out of Buffalo is supposedly two assets - most likely a high draft pick (or swapped out with the right prospect) plus a current roster player. The question is, who will pay that price and if teams feel like that is too much to pay for a possible rental, do they go to Plan B? Those teams will also be looking at guys like Briere, Cammalleri, Gagner, Hemsky and Whitney - likely for a lower price.
Bryan Reynolds - Matt Moulson will not be signing in Buffalo. Let's be real here. While the Isles and Sabres both made bold moves in that trade, neither of them can possibly have expected those players to stick around. So, the Sabres have a young goal scorer to trade, rather than a slightly less young goal scorer. Where will he wind up? I'm putting my money on an Eastern Conference team that can't seem to accept they aren't going to win the Cup, so they'll do anything to appease the media and fans in their market. In case it wasn't clear... that's the Rangers. Unless, of course, the Oilers decide their defense is just too talented to waste all the depth the have, and throw Justin Shultz in the mix. You never know with the Oilers.
Cheryl Adams - I remember being surprised when the news of Moulson's trade from NYI to BUF first occurred; Moulson had been a consistent 30-goals-a-year guy on the Isle. Moulson's will be UFA and his cap number will be the biggest influences; Buffalo will want to get back a younger player who will be committed to their team for at least the 2014-15 season, and/or Draft picks. I've seen rumors about LA, PIT, and DET all being interested in him. Moulson could land with any of them, but of those three, the Kings would benefit the most from his offensive abilities. I would also think that Moulson would also enjoy playing on a team with his brother-in-law Jonathan Quick.
Dimitri Filipovic - Aaaaand there we go. I’d think that Matt Moulson would be a strong candidate to return to the place where he initially started his NHL career all the way back in ’07. I guess he’d probably carry a slightly smaller price tag than Vanek would, and he’s still a very, very competent trigger man. The Kings are currently 29th in the league with their 13.6% conversion rate with the man advantage, so they could definitely use some help there. Matt Moulson is 4th in the league in goals/60 at 5v4 since ’10 (behind Corey Perry, Ryan Callahan, and Logan Couture). He’d definitely help them put some pucks into the net at even strength, but I think his biggest impact would be felt there.4. Who will be the buyers and sellers (if any) coming out of th Olympic trade freeze?
I’m not sure where exactly where he’ll wind up after March 5th, but it won’t be Buffalo, and considering the platform asking me this question (to go along with all of the other things I mentioned above).. why not LA?
John Hoven - Islanders, Oilers, Panthers and Sabres all looking to deal. Not expecting a lot of action before Olympic trade deadline though. Plenty of deals in early March, where Anaheim, LA and San Jose will be buyers in the Pacific. St. Louis will be a buyer in the Central. Big questions about Dallas and Minnesota, buyers or sellers... or both? Over in the Eastern Conference, Pittsburgh is always buying. Boston will pick up a depth player or two. Detroit will looking for defense.
Nathan Eide - Before the Olympic freeze? I don't think anyone, aside from maybe the Isles trying to offload Vanek, will make a move. There are still too many teams in contention and some moving parts are on the shelf, or could be on the shelf after Russia. Too many variables, teams will hold still.
Cheryl Adams - Edmonton should see some action - they have some players that are very attractive to other teams, and while they have no hope for the playoffs this year, they should be looking to shape up their blue line to be in a solid position for next year; players like Gagner would help other teams down the stretch. Chicago has a glut of players in their system, and with the majority of the team's players under contract for years to come, there won't be a lot of opportunities for players to make the jump to the big club. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bowman trade players who can't seem to stick in Chicago (notably, Pirri and Morin) for picks or a rental that could provide stretch-run/playoffs insurance from another team.
Some teams are very publicly known to be looking to trade just about anyone. I could see some of the bubble teams - Dallas, Vancouver, Ottawa, Carolina - make some moves to improve their chances at this year's playoffs, but I think this summer is going to end up being lot busier than the March trade deadline.
Dimitri Filipovic - That’s a tough question. Because of the “loser point”, there’s so much parity in the NHL at the moment. 18 teams currently have between 59 and 69 points on the year, which is kind of ridiculous if you think about it. While it’s going to make for one hell of a final month of the season - with at least a handful of playoff spots likely being decided in the final couple of days of the campaign - it also makes it tough to decipher what the trade market will be like. Nearly every team has at least an outside shot at a playoff spot, meaning that there could be far more buyers than there are sellers.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - selected as 2012's Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports. As a member of the Professional Hockey Writer's Association, his insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the former editor of Hockey Wilderness, retiring in June 2013 to get a real job, smoke cigars, and spend time with family. He now can be found giving sarcastic commentary about the NHL and Minnesota Wild on Twitter @BReynoldsMN, while continuing his quest to become the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings.
Nathan Eide is a recovering hockey blogger. After 6 years on the job, he's spending the year relearning how to be a fan. In addition, Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude associated with the Edmonton Oilers.
Cheryl Adams is the founder of HockeyBroad.com, and is a writer for TheCheckingLine.com and Puckrant.com. You can follow her on twitter at @hockeybroad.
Dimitri Filipovic (please triple check the spelling, people often mess it up) is the Managing Editor at Canucks Army, and you can follow him on Twitter @DimFilipovic