Michal Handzus bears very little resemblance - in terms of both looks and personality - to the player whom he briefly replaced as a Kings alternate captain this month.
| HighlightsMatt Greene
’s hair is light red, and his personality is that of a jokester. He’s kind-hearted but quick with a quip. Handzus has darker, Eastern European features and is usually the most stoic of the Kings. He has, however, laughed.
There have been witnesses.
So when Greene went down with a lower-body injury on Jan. 9, and the Kings needed a second alternate captain to go with Anze Kopitar, it was a bit surprising when Handzus drew the assignment over some of the Kings’ more outgoing players.
Surprising, of course, to everyone associated with the Kings.
"You know what? He does speak up," said Kings winger Wayne Simmonds, a frequent linemate of Handzus. "He may not be the loudest guy outside of the locker room, but in the dressing room his voices his opinion. He's a big leader on this team and a lot of guys look up to him, me especially. I played with him for my whole first year, and a bit of this year too, and I learned a lot.
"A lot of us young guys look up to him, because not only does he talk in the locker room but he also leads by example. He goes out on the ice and he leaves it all on the ice."
Handzus might be the most misunderstood Kings player. He doesn’t score a lot - he has 11 goals in 52 games this season - and doesn’t play a flashy game, but his defensive acumen and smart play make him perhaps the team’s least dispensable player.
Need a faceoff win? Send Handzus out. Need a penalty killed? Send Handzus out. Need to bring a young player along the right way? Pair him with Handzus.
All Handzus does is work hard every game, for little glory, then recede into the shadows when reporters show up in the locker room to talk to the game’s "stars."
Not that Handzus minds, particularly. He always has a thoughtful quote for reporters who swing by his locker, but he’s just as happy to let his play speak for itself.
"One of the biggest things for a leader is that you have to show it on the ice," Handzus said. "You have to lead by example. That's the most important thing. You can talk as much as you want, but if you don't show it on the ice, yourself, it doesn't really matter. So I think it's about being strong in practices and games and being consistent.
"I will try to be a little more vocal too. Over the past, in my career, I've been quiet, and I think here I'm more vocal than I've ever been. That's one thing that I've tried to do. You can be vocal, but it's still about whether you're doing everything right or not."
Kings fans had to be wondering what they were getting in 2007-08, after Handzus signed a four-year, $16-million contract. He was preceded by a strong reputation, but he was also just a few months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Continue to Part II.