When the Kansas City Royals used to be a disaster in the regular season, they’d have this wonderful preseason run where they’d build up the hope of their fans, only to tear it down when games became meaningful.
It really outlined how insignificant preseason games were as a predictor for regular season success.
Why are we talking about Major League Baseball on a hockey blog?
Enter the Los Angeles Kings.
They finished up their preseason on Saturday with another dud in a 3-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. That followed a 2-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights the night before.
No goals in their final two preseason games, a dismal 1-6-1 preseason record, and then even more bad news as Dustin Brown was forced to leave Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury after taking a puck up high.
That’s not exactly what the Kings or their fans had in mind, especially after a summer that witnessed one of the league’s best defenseman re-sign with the club after some uncertainty and the signing of Ilya Kovalchuk to help boost their scoring woes witnessed in the playoffs after being swept by the Golden Knights.
I don’t think we need to panic by any means, but we’ve got to know that puck management in that regard has to be a lot better. We have to sharpen up our game, for sure. Everybody in here knows that, and we’re going to work on it. It’s a big week ahead of us, and we’ll be ready for Friday.
Alec Martinez, meanwhile, pulled out the word “unacceptable” in Game 8 of the preseason. Yikes.
I think it’s twofold. One, it doesn’t matter what it is – you want to be winning games, especially heading into the year. Tonight was unacceptable. I think that it needs to be addressed, and it will be addressed. We’ve already talked about it. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week, because we’ve got a pretty good hockey club to play on Friday. I guess just use it as a learning experience. There are no experiences – the time is now.
Head coach John Stevens told The Athletic his team looked “slow” while taking the blame for the Kings’ schedule catching up to them, saying “some guys were asked to play a lot.”
Doughty was asked what went wrong. He didn’t have an answer.
I don’t know. We don’t have an answer for anything right now. We don’t know why we lost and why we were so poor this (preseason). But if it’s a chemistry thing, then we’re doing something wrong because we had all camp to create that chemistry.
These aren’t exactly inspiring quotes from the Kings; from coach to captain to everyone else.
The news of Brown being out any period of time that extends into the regular season would be a big blow in Los Angeles.
Brown enjoyed a year of resurgence in 2017-18, posting 28 goals and 61 points after not eclipsing the 40-point mark in each of the previous four years (27, 27, 28 and 36, respectively).
The Kings don’t open the regular season until Wednesday, so they have a few days to hit the reset button.
Adversity doesn’t pick sides, nor does it pick optimal times to hit a team. As such, the Kings look like they’ll be dealing with it right out of the gate this season.
The 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago was a little more than four months ago, but since then, the entire tenor of the Rangers’ organization changed. Back then, general manager Jeff Gorton joked about having not been on the first-night draft stage in a long time — because the organization had been without a first-round pick since 2012.
The rebuilding that has happened in the interim has vaulted the Rangers’ prospect pool from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. They made five first-round picks in the past two drafts combined, added four highly touted prospects in trades just this past season and now have the kind of organizational depth that actually has other teams calling and asking about Rangers prospects.
More than front office members standing on any stage, that is proof of how far the franchise has come in the eyes of those around the league.
“Internally, I know we’re excited at where we’re at,” assistant general manager Chris Drury recently told The Post. “You can have all the picks and make the trades, but you have to pick the right guys. In hindsight, getting some feedback around the league, I think organizationally we’re excited about who we got.”
It started the afternoon before that first-round draft night in Chicago, when Gorton sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Tony DeAngelo — himself a former first-rounder — and the No. 7-overall pick in that draft. Gorton then used that pick to take Lias Andersson, the ultra-competitive Swedish center. With the Rangers’ own pick, at No. 21, Gorton took Czech pivot Filip Chytil.
Lias AnderssonGetty Images
Both players got a taste of the NHL this past season — with Chytil, then 18, making the team out of training camp. Both will have ample opportunity not just to make the team at this training camp, but also to pencil themselves in for big minutes under new coach David Quinn.
This past season, Gorton and team president Glen Sather made a bold statement about the rebuilding process and sold off the bulk of their most-coveted assets before the trade deadline. By getting rid of Ryan McDonagh, J.T. Miller, Rick Nash, Michael Grabner and Nick Holden, the return brought two more first-round picks to add to the one they already had in this year’s draft, along with some young players who were very hard to pull away from their teams. That includes defensemen Yegor Rykov, Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek, as well as center Brett Howden.
Gorton then used the first-round picks this June in Dallas to take Vitali Kravtsov (No. 9), K’Andre Miller (No. 22) and Nils Lundkvist (No. 28). Add in highly developed defenseman and third-round pick Jakob Ragnarsson, and the restocking of the system has been staggering.
“If you look back to the draft in Chicago, getting Lias and Filip in that first round, and then the three picks this year, then you addd in Howden, Hajek and Lindgren, a lot of good pieces have been added since Chicago,” Drury said. “And in our opinion, some very exciting pieces.”
For now, Kravtsov is going to stay in the KHL, and Miller is going to play his freshman year at Wisconsin. But along with Andersson and Chytil, there will be opportunity in training camp for showcasing Rykov, Lindgren, Hajek and Howden. They might start in AHL Hartford, but it might not be too long of a wait to see them on Broadway.
Rangers rookies (left to right) Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller and Nils LundkvistCharles Wenzelberg
It’s in contrast to the way the Rangers were for most of the past decade, a team that was doing everything it could to win the Stanley Cup each season. The Rangers wanted to take advantage of the prime of goalie Henrik Lundqvist’s career, and that is why they traded away so many picks to get veteran players. It almost worked. They made one run to the Stanley Cup final and two others to the conference final. But they never could get over the hump.
That is why Gorton felt the stage in Chicago so unfamiliar, and why prospect camps used to be seemingly irrelevant. Now, in just over a year, the organization as a whole has changed drastically.
“My first year, there wasn’t a lot of draft picks at the camps. There were free agents just to fill out the camp,” said Drury, who took over as director of player development in 2015 and was promoted to assistant GM the following year. “I’ve said it another a times, it was a heck of a run by a lot of players. We were close to top of mountain. But now, it’s just time to refresh and we’re all real excited.”
NEW YORK (AP) — The Rangers have avoided arbitration with defenseman Brady Skjei and agreed on a six-year contract.
New York general manager Jeff Gorton announced the deal with the 24-year-old restricted free agent on Saturday, three days before Sjkei’s arbitration hearing was scheduled. Skjei was coming off his entry-level contract.
Skjei is a poster boy for the Rangers’ rebuild as a young, homegrown player counted on to take on an increased role. The 2012 first-round pick has already played 169 NHL games and is going into his third full season.
Playing all 82 games last season, Sjkei averaged a career-high 21 minutes a game and had four goals and 21 assists. He was 10th in Calder Trophy voting for rookie of the year in 2016-17 when he had 39 points.
For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey
Vitali Kravtsov’s development will continue for one more season in Russia after the likelihood arose that a conflict over the final year of his KHL contract would keep the Blueshirts’ 2018 ninth-overall draft selection off the ice for an extended period, The Post has learned.
Sources report that the KHL was prepared to file a grievance if Kravtsov had attempted to buy his way out of this second year of his entry-level deal with Traktor Chelyabinsk. The arbitration hearing process might have taken months, during which time the first-rounder would not have been able to play on either side of the Atlantic. KHL training camps begin in the middle of July. The regular season opens on Sept. 1.
Hence, though Kravtsov and the Rangers were eager for the 18-year-old winger to begin his adaptation to the North American game and lifestyle in Hartford with the AHL Wolf Pack, all parties agreed it would be in everyone’s mutual interest for him to avoid potential litigation and instead play out his obligation. He will be free and clear of his KHL commitment at the end of the season.
Kravtsov, who participated in the Blueshirts’ prospect camp late last month, will thus be unable to join the team for training camp and the Traverse City rookie tournament. He is, however, a prime candidate for a spot on Team Russia’s World Junior roster.
Talks between the Lightning and Senators regarding a potential Erik Karlsson trade have subsided. Indeed, Dallas has re-emerged as the most likely destination for the two-time Norris recipient if Ottawa moves him within the foreseeable future.
The Rangers, though, are maintaining a level of interest in bringing former captain Ryan Callahan back to New York if Tampa Bay feels the need to address looming 2019-20 cap issues. Callahan has two years at $5.8 million per remaining on his deal. General manager Jeff Gorton would presumably be seeking a draft sweetener in conjunction with obtaining Callahan.
No. 24’s recent history of injuries and rehab (including post-playoff right shoulder surgery that will likely sideline him for up to the first month of the season) mitigates against the Lightning being able to securely project Callahan for a 2019 buyout. The CBA prohibits buyouts of injured players.
David Quinn has returned from his sojourn to Sweden, where the head coach met with Henrik Lundqvist. The Blueshirts, who are retaining Lindy Ruff as an assistant, are in the process of finalizing their coaching staff.