When Randy Jones
joined the Los Angeles Kings
on Oct. 29, the deal raised few eyebrows. Now, the waiver-wire acquisition appears to be one of the best "small" deals of the season.
The 28-year-old from Quispamsis, New Brunswick started this season with the Adirondack Phantoms, the Philadelphia Flyers
' AHL affiliate. After being waived by the Flyers, Jones jumped into the Kings lineup for Game 19 and joined the fray as LA began turning heads with its play.
Familiarity gave the Kings the edge on the competition when Jones was waived. Kings coach Terry Murray
was an assistant with the Flyers, Assistant GM Ron Hextall
was director of pro scouting, while GM Dean Lombardi was a pro scout in Philly before joining the Kings in 2006.
"It's a tremendous pickup to be able to get Jones off the waiver wire," Murray told NHL.com. "I personally know his game from the Flyers. I saw him play at a very high-end level."
Jones spent two years at Clarkson College before signing with the Flyers as a free agent in 2003. After years of shuttling back and forth across the street between the Flyers and the then Philly-based Phantoms, Jones knew the men he'd eventually join in Hollywood.
"They're very familiar with me," Jones told NHL.com. "They knew what to expect from me, and I knew what to expect from them. It was an easy transition. I was all smiles when I heard the news."
"It's a tremendous pickup to be able to get Jones off the waiver wire. I personally know his game from the Flyers. I saw him play at a very high-end level." -- Terry Murray on Randy Jones
Jones started his Kings' career with a bang, scoring a power-play goal and adding an assist in a 5-2 victory at Carolina. Three games later, he added a shorthanded goal and another assist in a shootout win at Florida.
His contributions as a youngish defenseman with an offensive upside were welcome as the Kings started strong, earning a 21-10-3 in the first 34 games. Jones had seven points (2-5-7) during an eight game span from Nov. 25 through Dec. 9. Just as folks around the League were taking notice of his contributions as a member of the Kings' defensive top six, a collision with Dustin Penner
in Edmonton on Dec. 15 caused a neck injury and headaches that sidelined Jones for eight games. The Kings had gone 12-5-1 in Jones' first 18 games with the club.
Despite the fact that Jones was not concussed, no injury from the shoulders up is taken lightly these days.
"It was kind of a blindside situation," Jones said. "I don't think he (Penner) saw me coming and I didn't see him. It was a step back for a few weeks."
Since returning Jan. 9, Jones has appeared in nine of the Kings' last 16 contests.
"When I came back, there were still some (health) scenarios that I guess weren't clear. There were some things that kind of came back. This (Olympic) break was great. I'm feeling great and there are no issues from that injury."
Murray liked what he saw after a two-hour practice Friday morning.
"Now that he's come through this Olympic break here and back on the ice, I'm seeing good jump," Murray said. "I'm seeing a rested player, a rejuvenated, totally healthy player. We're looking forward for his play to be getting back to where it was for the (upcoming) home stretch."
Jones' game relies on offensive production and defensive responsibility.
"(The goal is) to be strong at both ends of the ice," Jones said. "It always feels good to produce offensively and chip in here and there and help the team in that end. But when you're a defenseman, your main focus is to keep it out of the net."
Jones is honest about his next step in excelling as a full-time NHL defenseman.
"I felt I've caught myself cheating a few times, and not (being) lackadaisical, but not completely focused. There have been some times where it's cost me and it's cost the team. I need to be strong, alert, keep my feet moving and jump into the play. When I do that, I'm productive and that's when I'm at my best."