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A LOOK BACK AT 2008 (PART I)

Tuesday, 12.30.2008 / 3:38 PM / Features
By Thomas LaRocca  - LAKings.com Staff Writer
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A LOOK BACK AT 2008 (PART I)
The year 2008 was a year that saw the close of a 2007-08 season spent at or near the bottom of the NHL standings, a coaching change, the selection of the second highest draft pick in franchise history, the second departure of one of the greatest players in team history and an accelerated youth movement that saw numerous rookies make contributions to the 2008-09 edition of the Kings, a version that enters 2009 a game below.500, just a few points out of a playoff spot.

Through it all, believe it or not, the Kings concluded 2008 with a 33-35-11 mark in the calendar year with a chance last night to finish at .500, last night, however, the team fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 2-0.

JANUARY
The Kings, after closing 2007 with one of the worst months in franchise history in December (4-11-1, with an eight-game losing streak), the Kings posted a respectable 7-5-1 mark for the month, going 6-2-1 to close out January with a three-game win streak from Jan. 10-15. Interesting, the Kings had a win by seven goals (9-2 win over Chicago on Jan. 1) and a loss by seven goals (7-0 loss to Nashville on Jan. 8). In addition, J-S Aubin made his acting debut in a memorable commercial with Ryan Miller, Rob Blake set a franchise record, Jack Johnson and Anze Kopitar represented the Kings at the 2008 NHL All-Star Weekend and Jason LaBarbera made a very memorable save vs. Dallas.

The year got off to an amazing start as Ladislav Nagy had his finest game as a member of the Kings, tallying his third career hat trick and Alexander Frolov set a career high with five points (2-3=5) as the Kings scored nine times to rout Chicago, 9-2. It was the most goals the Kings had ever scored at STAPLES Center and the first time the Kings scored as many as nine goals since Nov. 16, 1995 at the Forum.

With the Kings out of the playoff hunt, Kings fans closely monitored the World Junior Championships where Wayne Simmonds (WJC Feature), Jonathan Bernier (WJC Feature) and Thomas Hickey (WJC Feature) won Gold for Team Canada, while Oscar Moller (WJC Feature) won the Silver.

Aubin, starred in this commercial for Amp Energy Drink and it was an interesting month for LaBarbera, who was pulled vs. Nashville (7-0 L), sets a career high with 48 saves vs. Toronto (5-2 W) and then defeats Dallas (An Interesting Week for Barbs) and makes this highlight-reel save.

On Jan. 15, Blake played in his 781st game with the Kings, passing Mattias Norstrom for the franchise record for games played by a defenseman in a 3-1 win at Edmonton. Blake held the record at the time he was traded to the Avalanche on Feb. 21, 2001.

J-S Aubin and Ryan Miller square off.

The Edmonton game was the first of a three-game swing through western Canada from Jan. 15-19, also playing at Calgary and Vancouver. The team had some down time on the road and did some team building, going curling and dogsledding and when the team returned home, Dodgers Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda dropped in for a Kings game on Jan. 24 (We Play for LA: Kings and Dodgers).

Meanwhile, Kopitar was named to the All-Star Team and Johnson, a Young Star, punched their tickets to Atlanta to participate in the annual NHL All Star Weekend (All-Star Coverage). Kings Vision's Heidi Androl was there to capture all the sites and sounds with her All Star Report I and II. In case you were wondering, here is a link to the Kings history of All-Star game participation.

In Manchester, Gabe Gauthier and Peter Harrold were named to the AHL All-Star Game, while Teddy Purcell was named a starter and took home MVP honors.

The month came to a close with the Kings signing Raitis Ivanans to a contract extention for two years, giving the Kings enforcer a place to call home after bouncing around so much early in his career.

FEBRUARY

In the second month of the year, if Kings fans wanted to see their team, they might have had to watch on TV as the Kings played just four home games and concluded an eight-game, 15-day road trip through Philadelphia (3-2 OT Loss), the New York Islanders (3-1 W), New Jersey (6-3 L), New York Rangers (5-3 W), Detroit (5-3 W), Pittsburgh (4-2 L), Columbus (3-2 W) and St. Louis (4-2 L), posting a 4-3-1 mark. The trip marked the longest road trip since 2002-03, while the nine points earned on the road, set a club record for most points earned on an eight-game trek.

Overall the Kings finished the month with a 5-6-1 mark (winning three of four from Feb. 5-10), was active at the trade deadline, saw the debut of Brian Boyle and Erik Ersberg and closed out the month with a memorable overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Brian Boyle made his debut and scored vs. New Jersey.

Boyle, who was named AHL Rookie of the Month for January, was recalled and on Feb. 2 made his NHL debut in New Jersey and scored his first NHL goal against Martin Brodeur and the Devils. He also added an assist as the Kings prevailed, 6-3. Interestingly, Boyle was recalled on an emergency basis earlier that day and had to journey from Manchester, N.H., to Newark, N.J., and arrived at the arena just five minutes before game time.

From Feb. 15-17, the NHL celebrated USA Hockey with their first annual Hockey Weekend Across America, where LAKings.com put together an All-American Kings team.

Frolov tallied a hat trick on Feb. 21, a 5-1 win over St. Louis and the Kings were active at the Trade Deadline, trading Jaroslav Modry, Brad Stuart and Aubin, acquiring a second, third, fourth and seventh round choices in the 2008 and 2009 NHL Entry Drafts.

On Feb. 23, the Kings erased all of a 5-1 deficit in the third period to tie the game at five on goals by Michael Cammalleri, Tom Preissing, Patrick O'Sullivan and Kopitar, but Patrick Sharp scored for Chicago 1:48 into overtime as the Kings fell 6-5 in OT. Ersberg made his NHL debut in relief of Dan Cloutier, stopping 18-of-19 in taking the loss. The OT goal was the first NHL goal he surrendered.

MARCH
The Kings posted a 5-6-3 record during the month, going 3-0-1 from March 20-27, helped Heal the Bay and tied an obscure record, but the month will be remembered by Kings fans for the emergence of Ersberg.

Ersberg had a great month posting a 5-4-2 mark with a 2.34 GAA and a .931 SV% (340-of-365) while posting two shutouts: Ottawa on March 6 and Phoenix on March 27. His performance led some fans to ask the question, Who is this guy?

Ersberg is cheered after a shutout after his first home start as the Kings defeated the Ottawa Senators 2-0.

On March 6, Ersberg stopped all 40 shots he faced vs. the Ottawa Senators to earn his first NHL win and shutout as the Kings blanked Ottawa, 2-0, behind goals by Frolov and O'Sullivan. The 40 saves were the most ever by a Kings rookie goaltender in a shutout.

In mid March, the look to the future continued as Hickey, T.J. Fast, Moller and Linden Rowat were all named as WHL First-Team All-Stars, and on March 27, Ersberg continued his torrid March stopping all 38 Coyote attempts and Kevin Dallman, Kopitar, Brown and Blake tallied goals as the Kings defeated Phoenix, 4-0.

The Kings took time out of their busy schedule to Help Heal the Bay, (video) as The Kings Care Foundation, in partnership with Heal The Bay, hosted their first-ever beach clean-up event near Redondo Beach Pier. Joining the important volunteer effort were Kings’ players including Blake, Kopitar, Brown, Derek Armstrong, O’ Sullivan, as well as President of Business Operations Luc Robitaille, and other Kings staff members and Bailey, the Kings mascot.

To close out March, the Kings tied an obscure NHL record as goaltender Daniel Taylor made his NHL debut in relief of Ersberg in a 7-2 loss vs. Dallas, becoming the seventh different goaltender to suit up for the Kings in 2007-08, which tied an NHL record. The 1989-90 Quebec Nordiques and 2002-03 St. Louis Blues also used seven goalies in one season. Aubin, Bernier, Dan Cloutier, Ersberg, LaBarbera, Jonathan Quick and Taylor all saw action in the Kings' net. In addition, Taylor became the 11th different goaltender for the Kings from 2006-07 and 2007-08, which set an NHL record for most goaltenders used in back-to-back seasons. Barry Brust, Sean Burke, Yutaka Fukufuji and Mathieu Garon were the four other goaltenders to suit up for the Kings during that two-year span.

And don't forget about Kings Madness. In the spirit of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, LAKings.com launched Kings Madness, a month-long competition in which you the fans decided who the "fans favorite player" was in Kings history...and Kopitar upset Luc Robitaille to win the inaugural Kings Madness Tournament as Kopitar cornered the Slovenian vote.

APRIL
The Kings played in just three games posting a 1-2-0 in the month with the lone win snapping a huge winning streak by the Sharks, a Robitaille record was broken, a King retired, the Kings reached a franchise milestone and numerous awards and signings took place.

In addition, LAKings.com played an elaborate practical joke as Heidi Androl was Fired. Don't worry Kings fans, she wasn't, but it didn't stop a number of fans from sending in angry emails, even prompting emails from the Kings own HR department!

Thornton says goodbye

On April 3, the Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks, 4-2, handing the Sharks their first regulation loss in 21 games. The win vaulted the Kings past the Tampa Bay Lightning (which lost to Washington, 4-1 that night) and into 29th place in the NHL, giving Tampa Bay the highest chance of securing the first selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and highly regarded Steve Stamkos...speaking of that Washington-Tampa Bay game, Alexander Ovechkin scored two goals for his 64th and 65th goals of the season to break the NHL record for most goals scored by a left winger, a record previously held by Luc Robitaille, who had 63 goals as a left winger.

If that was not enough, the win gave the franchise 3,000 regular season points. At the time, the Kings had posted a 1262-1440-476 mark in 3,177 games.

Following the season finale, a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, a tearful Scott Thornton said goodbye to the NHL and retired and the Kings announced their Award Winners for the 2007-08 season. (Kings Award History). Purcell and Boyle capped impressive rookie seasons by being named to the AHL All-Rookie Team with Purcell being named AHL Rookie of the Year. The Kings signed prospects Moller, Alec Martinez, Jeff Zatkoff, Davis Drewiske and Bud Holloway and the Monarchs season came to an end in a four-game sweep in the playoffs.

MAY
With the Kings season concluded, LAKings.com covered the World Championships as numerous Kings represented their country at the annual tournament, Bob Miller fulfilled a life-long dream and finally went to the Indy 500 and, since we were bored - heck, there was nothing else going on - LAKings.com took a look at the numerous hairstyles of Jim Fox through the years.

Brown and Patrick O'Sullivan skated for Team USA, Kopitar for Slovenia, Ivanans for Latvia and Lubomir Visnovsky for Slovakia.. In addition, Robitaille served as Assistant GM for Team Canada, while Mike Johnston served as Assistance Coach and Darren Granger served as Head Equipment Manager, check out our World Juniors Coverage.

Bob Miller went to the Indy 500, fulfilling a life-long dream, we chronicled it here on LAKings.com: "The only race that I follow is the Indy 500," Miller said. "I think it goes back to when I was growing up and my dad always had the 500 on the radio. I remember listening to Sid Collins, the Voice of the Indy 500." Not surprising that Miller, the "Voice of the Los Angeles Kings" would remember fondly listening to Collins, the Voice of Indy 500. Collins worked for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network from 1952-1976

Later, LAKings.com took a look at the Hair of Jim Fox.

JUNE
June turned out to be a very busy month for the Kings organization and a month which would shape the organization for the 2008-09 season and beyond.

Derek Armstrong tossed out the first pitch at a Dodgers game (video | photo gallery), Bob Miller took a look at the Kings Top-10 playoff goalsand former King Mattias Norstrom announced his retirement on June 10.

Also on June 10, Marc Crawford. the Kings 21st head coach in team history, was relieved of his head coaching duties after coaching the Kings for two seasons, posting a 59-84-21 mark from 2006-08. Crawford was hired on May 22, 2006

The Love Guru

Two days later, "The Love Guru" starring Mike Myers held its premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The film featured Myers in the role of Guru Pitka, who is hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs' owner (played by Jessica Alba) to help reunite their star player Darren Roanoke (played by Romany Malco) with his estranged wife. In the film, Roanoke's wife is romantically involved with Los Angeles Kings' goalie Jacques Grande (played by Justin Timberlake). The Leafs and Kings also face off in the film's version of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals, in which real life former Kings' captain Rob Blake makes a cameo appearance as an alternate captain for Los Angeles.

In honor of Jacques Grande, LAKings.com took a tongue-in-cheek look at the Best Mustaches in Kings history, spoke with Blake about his acting ability and went to the "Blue Carpet" for the premiere.

At the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi was wheeling and dealing, and LAKings.com was there to bring you the news directly from Ottawa. Check out our Draft '08 Coverage. Using their highest NHL entry draft selection since 1986, the Kings selected Drew Doughty, the draft’s No. 1-rated defenseman, then dealt forward Michael Cammalleri to Calgary for a first round pick that was traded to Buffalo and used to select Colten Teubert.

On day two of the draft, the Kings selected seven players and acquired forward Brad Richardson from the Colorado Avalanche during Saturday’s draft. Here is a look at the Kings 2008 Draft.

The Kings would buy out the contract of Dan Cloutier and then made a splash on the trade front, acquiring Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene from the Edmonton Oilers for Lubomir Visnovsky in a trade that really shored up many of the Kings weaknesses as June came to a close.

Check back tomorrow for Part II (July - December) of the Kings 2008 Year In Review.