The Drive for Doughty/Stamkos Watch will feature it's first official battle as the Leafs go to LA to face the Kings. In light of this battle of the titans which features a rematch of the 1993 Western Conference Final which was stolen from the Leafs by Kerry Fraser in one of the most blatant acts of fixing a game in the history of sport I decided to pose some questions to an LA blogger.
RudyKelly is named after the bandana'd fiend that now does intermissions on Hockey Night in Canada. He writes for the Battle of California and manages to make following a terrible team enjoyable with some excellent writing. Unfortunately, he is the first to suffer the Battle Site pratfall of having your writing partner win a Stanley Cup. Better him than me though! Anyway, here's a crash course about a team that the Leafs have not played in two years or visited in four.
1. I read your recent post about Marc Crawford having to go. I figure it's about time since he is probably top 5 worst coaches ever. Did your GM not hear about the famous Bourque over Gretzky debacle? What kind of coach would you like to see follow him?
Too be fair, I'm not sure Gretzky would really work in a shootout. Ed.'s Note: Do not repeat that when in Canada unless suitably armed. I'm really not sure GM Dean Lombardi knew anything about Marc Crawford when he hired him because he seems like the exact wrong coach for a young team. I'd prefer to see someone who is defensive-minded and can teach our young forwards how to play responsibly because you'll see that they don't support our defensemen very well. We also need someone who is positive and upbeat. I'm personally waiting for the Sharks to be stupid and fire Ron Wilson. Hopefully we can pick him up after that.
2. When does the Blake Era in LA End?
I'm not quite sure. All the slings and arrows from the last time he left have kind of healed but he said recently that he considers a team asking him to waive his no-trade clause was an indication they didn't want him around and he wouldn't have anything to do with them.
What would I like to see? Blake traded at the deadline for a 1st or 2nd rounder and then re-signing with the Kings in the off-season for less than the $6 million he's currently making. It's never going to happen, but dreams are what keep us going, right? Ed.'s Note: There are no sports without the delusional dreams of the fans.
3. I see that you guys have JS Aubin as one of your goalies right now despite having LaBarbera and Bernier in the pipeline. How was the goaltending situation handled this year and do you guys really not want Raycroft? We'll take gift certificates to In-N-Out Burger.
Yeah, we have J.S. Aubin, thanks a lot for him. Cloutier had more range than Aubin, and he had a hip problem! Our goaltending situation isn't going too great, what with Labarbera struggling in his return from a rib injury (caused by that fiend Ryan Smyth, but I got him back, hehe) and your country's gross mishandling of the goaltending situation at World Juniors. (I know that was revenge for that Doug Gilmour hit in the playoffs in '93.)
Labarbera was playing excellently in November but, like I said, he got hurt. The exact same thing happened with Garon last year, and Garon again 2 years ago, and Huet before that... you know, at some point you just kind of get used to it. Don't worry, if history's any indication Labarbera will sign with you guys in two years and immediately win a Vezina. We're just waiting for Bernier to come up and kick Steve Mason's ass. And no, we don't want Raycroft. Tell your boys over in Ottawa that we don't want Emery, either. Ed.'s Note: Seriously, Raycroft for a Jack Nicholson autograph. That's our final offer.
4. A few blogs I read thought that the Kings had made some of the shrewdest moves of the summer after they picked up Priessing and Nagy. What steps will they have to take to rebuild the team?
The problem with Tom Preissing and Ladislav Nagy is that Marc Crawford doesn't like them. Ed.'s Note: I wish our coach would hate some players. He plays Jaroslav Modry far more than Preissing and he benched Nagy in favor of Jon Klemm. (Actually, he's benched both Preissing and Nagy in favor of Jon Klemm.)
The two free-agent signings that will be on this team for a while are Preissing and Michal Handzus, who is playing well after taking a little time to get back into game shape after his knee injury last year. Really, the best people the Kings are going to bring in are their talent in the minors, from Thomas Hickey and Oscar Moller in Juniors to Teddy Purcell and Joe Piskula in the AHL. Lombardi's Sharks were built on a slow influx of youth, so I imagine we'll be following the same plan. Or maybe we just say, "Screw it," and offer Marian Hossa $30 million dollars in the off-season. You know, whatever works. Ed.'s Note: Leaf fans await the latest rebuil-on-the-fly plan in fear.
5. Is there anyone that Leaf fans should keep an eye out for other than Kopitar and Cammalleri and Frolov? Also, how is Jack Johnson doing?
Well, Cammalleri is injured right now (he got into a "fight" and tore a rib muscle) so you're going to miss him, but I'd focus on Dustin Brown. You guys are going to really like Dustin Brown. He's a big, tough kid who has a surprising amount of skill. Plus, he's probably going to check Hall Gill and send him flying, and that's always fun. Ed.'s Note: For someone that big it happens to him with regularity. And I know you already know about Kopitar, but I can't stress how much fun it is watching that kid play. I'm glad I'm listening to the Leafs announcers tonight because people always seem flabbergasted at how amazing Kopitar can be.
Jack Johnson is a mystery to me; sometimes, he'll make an amazing defensive play or fly through 3 guys and I'll mutter, "Jesus Christ, Jack," while other times he'll take a retarded slashing penalty and I'll mutter, "Jesus Christ, Jack." He's young and he's still learning the position, but he's done enough to get me very excited about his future.
Bonus 6th question:
This string of failure is punishment for stealing the Leafs' cup in 1993 and giving it to the freaking Montreal Canadiens!
Actually, that was just bitterness.
Hey, I used to hate Toronto because of that series, but then I visited there this summer and found it was probably the nicest and cleanest big city I've ever seen. If I couldn't live in L.A., I'd probably kill myself; but if the bullet failed to kill me and I had to live the rest of my "life" in a hospital hooked up to tubes while I prayed for death, I'd want that hospital to be in Toronto. Go Kings.