From a Duck fan's perspective, the Kings have certainly had themselves quite a bold offseason:
Apr. 21 Hire Dean Lombardi as GM
May 22 Hire Marc Crawford as head coach
Jun 21 Trade Pavol Demitra to the Minnesota Wild for Patrick O’Sullivan and a 1st round pick
Jul 1-4 Sign UFAs Rob Blake, Scott Thornton, Alyn McCauley, and Brian Willsie
July 5 Trade 2 draft picks to the Vancouver Canucks for Dan Cloutier
Sep 27 Negotiate a 2-year extension with Cloutier
And then today, Dean the Machine throws another curveball by trading C Eric Belanger and D Tim Gleason to the defending-champ Carolina Hurricanes for D Oleg Tverdovsky and the rights to D Jack Johnson.
Tverdovsky played for the Mighty Ducks on two separate occasions, and was at least for a few seasons was a good-to-excellent player. Perhaps a return to Southern California sunshine will give him a Selannesque reinvigoration. And even though he was an observer for most of last year’s playoffs, the guy’s got two cup rings now--even if he's lucky that's good enough for me.
As for Jack Johnson, well, his only connection with Anaheim was in the days leading up to the Crosby draft. Anaheim had drawn the 2nd overall pick, and consensus opinion was that JJ was the best available prospect. GM Brian Burke surprisingly passed on Johnson to pick winger Bobby Ryan, and the Canes nabbed him with the next pick. Now the jury will be out on the Ryan vs. Johnson draft decision for several years still, but I think the Kings got a mammoth prospect.
Oleg could be a very nice gamble for the Kings, perhaps, as he is likely to play behind the already formidable grouping of Rob Blake, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mattias Norstrom, Aaron Miller, and Brent Sopel. He’s got loads of experience and an above-average skill set; if motivated he could be a nice player for them. I don’t know if people are paying enough attention, but top-to-bottom the Kings could end up with the best blueline in the state of California. And that is saying quite a bit.
Even Dan Cloutier could be a decent move for them, as the Kings have lacked stability in the net since the turn of the century.
Of course, these statements depend on L.A. avoiding a Final-Destination-style slew of injuries, which is of course a shaky proposition. But still, looking across at what the Kings are doing this year, it feels very familiar. Retooling the front office, replacing older superstars with promising kids and role players, fortifying the blue line, juggling options in net.
There is something very Burke-ish going on at Staple Center. On this site they will certainly be the darkhorses this year, but I’m not so sure their day isn’t coming. The Battle of California may be heating up, folks.
p.s. One fun note—I caught one University of Michigan game on TV this year, and Jack Johnson was paired up with Anaheim’s 2007 1st round pick, Mark Mitera. Bet they’re going to have a fun year paired together this year, knowing that they’re soon-to-be cross-town rivals.