A LOOK BACK AT 2008 (PART II)

Wednesday, 12.31.2008 / 5:36 PM / Features
By Thomas LaRocca  - LAKings.com Staff Writer
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A LOOK BACK AT 2008 (PART II)

LAKings.com took a look at the first six months of the 2008 year yesterday and today will conclude a look back at 2008, a year that comes to a close with the Kings a game under .500 at 15-16-6 for 39 points and in a three-way tie for 11th place in the conference, just three points behind Phoenix and the eighth and final playoff spot.

The year comes to a close with the exciting emergence of Jonathan Quick, prompting the trade of Jason LaBarbera to the Vancouver Canucks last night...more on that later. Without any further adieu, here is a look back at the second half of the year 2008.

JULY
Unlike the previous year where GM Dean Lombardi felt he had numerous holes to fill on the Kings roster and signed Kyle Calder, Ladislav Nagy, Brad Stuart, Michal Handzus and Tom Preissing, the Kings were quiet during free agency, choosing to promote from the prospects within the organization.

There was still a lot of change for the organization, however, as the Kings acquired Denis Gauthier and a second round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for prospects Patrik Hersley and Ned Lukacevic and legendary defenseman Rob Blake signed with the San Jose Sharks on July 3. In addition, the Kings allowed free agents Kevin Dallman, Jeff Giuliano, Jon Klemm, Nagy, and Brian Willsie to test the market and find new teams to play for.

The Kings, still without a head coach yet doing their due diligence in interviewing candidates, hosted a development camp where Kings fans got to see some of the bright future of this organization as the Kings hosted Development Camp (Full Coverage | Roster). That bright future proved to be not so far away, as Oscar Moller, Trevor Lewis, Wayne Simmonds, Drew Doughty and Quick all participated in the camp and have seen time with the Kings this season. Those five prospects have combined to score 12-22=34 and posted a 2-3-0 mark with two shutouts so far this season while all five players are 22 or younger.

Thousands of Kings fans logged onto LAKings.com to watch a stream of the Kings Development Camp Scrimmage and the Kings then re-signed Gabe Gauthier, Erik Ersberg, Matt Moulson and Joe Piskula, while naming Terry Murray (Feature) the Kings 22nd Head Coach in Team History and re-signing Peter Harrold, who would provide depth and flexibility in the team's lineup, playing both forward and in defense during the 2008-09 season.

To close out the month, the Kings acquired Richard Clune from Dallas for Lauri Tukonen and began an affiliation with the ECHL's Ontario Reign.

AUGUST
The month of August was another somewhat quiet month for the organization, but the Kings filled out the rest of their coaching staff for the upcoming season and saw the return of a former King coach, signed numerous prospects - including two first round picks - and celebrated the 20th Anniversary of one of the most influential trades in the history of sports.

Dustin Brown threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers Game (Photos) and former King defenseman and Assistant Coach Mark Hardy returned to the Kings coaching staff. Hardy, 49, joined Jamie Kompon and Bill Ranford (Goaltending Coach) on Murray’s coaching staff. Hardy followed a 15-year NHL playing career – which included two stints as a Kings defenseman (1979-88 and 1992-94) – with a successful coaching career that includes serving as a Kings Assistant Coach from 1999-2006. Click here to take a look at the history of the Kings coaching staffs.

The Kings signed 2008 First Round Draft Pick Drew Doughty, signed two Russian prospects and came to terms with the Kings second first draft pick of 2008, Colten Teubert. LAKings.com then celebrated the induction of former King radio color analyst Cammi Granato (All-Time Kings Broadcasters) into the USA Hockey Hall of Fame

Finally, the Kings celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Kings trade with the Edmonton Oilers that brought Wayne Gretzky to Hollywood. Check out LAKings.com's complete coverage.

SEPTEMBER
September was a busy month for the Kings. Dean Lombardi outlined his plans for the organization at the annual Breakfast with the GM, the Kings held Ice Crew auditions, said goodbye to an actor who starred in one of the greatest hockey movies of all-time, held rookie camp and training camp and started a 3-2-3 post season with a historic split squad game as well the annual Frozen Fury.

To start the month, Lombardi hosted season ticket holders at the annual Breakfast with the GM where Lombardi let fans know his goal for the organization: "Our goal here is to try and be a top team for a long time," Lombardi said. "We want to be in that Detroit model, where everyone says they are in the top four every year."

Off the ice, the Kings hosted their inaugural Ice Crew auditions (video) and the Kings signed Jarret Stoll and Brad Richardson to multiple-year contracts.

On Sept. 26, Paul Newman passed away at the age of 83. Newman gained stardom in the 1950s and never lost the movie-star aura, appearing in such classic films as "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Exodus," "The Hustler," "Cool Hand Luke," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting" and "The Verdict." Newman was also the star of the best hockey movie ever made, “Slap Shot,” released in 1977.

The Kings held Rookie Camp from Sept. 13-17, (Complete Coverage), which was highlighted by a pair of scrimmage games against the Coyotes...Oscar Moller and Wayne Simmonds connected on two goals, while Jonathan Bernier and rookie camp invitee Matt Jones combined to stop 37-of-38 shots as the Kings beat the Coyotes, 2-1 at the Kings-Coyotes Rookie Tournament in Phoenix, Arizona. The Kings were shutout in the second game, 3-0.

Rookie Camp led right into Training Camp (Complete Coverage) as the 2008-09 Kings roster began to take shape. Heidi Androl took a look at the Kings Camp for Kings Vision.

The Kings played their first-ever split squad preseason game, with the Kings defeating the St. Louis Blues, 2-1 in a special exhibition in Kansas City, winning on goals by Wayne Simmonds and Davis Drewiske. In the nightcap, Oscar Moller tallied a goal and two assists to lead the Kings to a 6-4 win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Take a look at the Kings Preseason History.

On, Sept. 27, Anze Kopitar and Matt Moulson tallied power-play goals and Vladimir Dravecky also scored for the Kings but Jordan Leopold, Matt Hendricks and Darcy Tucker scored for the Avalanche as they tied the score late in the third period and won in a shootout 4-3 over Los Angeles in Frozen Fury XI. TJ Hensick scored the lone shootout goal for the Avalanche. With the loss, the Kings fell to 8-2-2 all-time at Frozen Fury (Coverage | Video).

The Kings closed out the month with a trade, acquiring Sean O’Donnell from Anaheim for a conditional pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. O'Donnell made his NHL debut with the Kings during the 1994-95 season and he played six seasons with the Kings until 1999-2000. He played in 381 career games with the Kings, totaling 71 points (12-59=71) and 799 penalty minutes and his 381 games played rank 10th on the Kings’ all-time list among defensemen and his 799 penalty minutes rank fifth among defensemen.

OCTOBER
The Kings concluded a 3-2-3 preseason and got off to a 3-5-1 start to the 2008-09 season, named the youngest captain in team history, signed the biggest contract in team history, came to agreement with Patrick O'Sullivan, who had, up to that point, not participated in training camp, extended the contract of Matt Greene for five years and saw the debuts and first goals of Wayne Simmonds, Oscar Moller and Drew Doughty.

Prior to the season starting, the Kings signed goaltender Martin Jones, a player the Kings had their eye on at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and was impressed by his performance as a Training Camp Tryout. The Kings then played a special preseason contest in Salt Lake City, Utah, a 3-1 victory and came to an agreement with O'Sullivan on a multi-year contract.

On Oct. 8, 24-year-old right wing Dustin Brown became the Kings’ 14th team captain and the youngest captain and first American-born captain in team history (video). Also that day, the Kings announced their extremely young 2008-09 team roster.

Prior to the Kings Season Opener, the Kings signed the richest contract in Franchise history, as 21-year-old center Anze Kopitar agreed to a franchise-record 7-year, $47 million contract, ensuring that the 6-4, 220-pound pivot will remain with the club through 2016.

That night, Alexander Frolov scored to put the Kings up, 1-0, but San Jose came back to win, 3-1. The next night, the Kings hosted the Sharks and dropped a close 1-0 loss to the Western Conference leaders. In that game, the Kings lost young defenseman Jack Johnson for 2-3 months due to a shoulder injury. The loss, which seamed devastating at the time, created a roster opening which the Kings used to claim Kyle Quincy off of waivers from Detroit. Quincey has emerged as one of the Kings best defensemen so far in 2008-09.

“When an injury happens, it allows other guys to step up,” said Sean O’Donnell. “That is the only good thing that can come out of a major injury, it forces other guys to step up and forces the team to not rely on one guy and [management to] look at other options, and they did."

Simmonds scored his first NHL goal against Jean-Sebastien Giguere as the Kings defeated the Ducks, 6-3 on Oct. 20 and Doughty and Moller (both 18 years old) scored their first career NHL goals vs. Colorado in the Kings 4-3 loss. The last time the Kings had two players score their first NHL goal in the same game was 19 years earlier (Oct. 8, 1989: Craig Duncanson and Mikael Lindholm). Doughty, 18 years, 10 months and 12 days was the second youngest defenseman to ever suit up for the Kings and the fifth youngest player overall. Defenseman Aki Berg was the youngest player at 18 years, two months and nine days. Moller is the 15th youngest player to appear in a game for the Kings. Both rookies were playing in their fifth NHL game. Moller also earned an assist for his first career multi-point game (1-1=2).

Jason LaBarbera posted a 3-3-1 mark with a 3.01 GAA and a .886 SV% in October as the Kings No. 1 netminder, earning a 4-0 shutout victory over the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 24, a game in which then-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin dropped the puck prior to the start of the game in a ceremonial faceoff.

Off the ice, the Kings hosted their annual Meet the Players Party, Jeff Zatkoff earned ECHL Player of the Week honors and Brown signed a partnership with KABOOM!

NOVEMBER
Things started to come together for this young Kings team in November, posting a 7-4-2 for the month, riding a four-game winning streak from Nov. 6-13 as Erik Ersberg began to challenge LaBarbera for playing time as the Kings No. 1 goaltender. The Kings held their annual Golf Tournament, made an appearance on the Price is Right (Video | Anaheim Prank | Photos) and the Kings went "Back to Black" during a busy November.

Jeff Zatkoff was named ECHL Rookie of the Month for October and on Nov. 4, Denis Gauthier played in his 500th career NHL game as the Kings fell to the Ducks, 1-0 in overtime. Chris Pronger scored the lone goal of the game, 40 seconds into overtime after a power play had just ended. Erik Ersberg suffered the loss, stopping 26-of-27 shots. J-S Giguere stopped all 35 Kings shots he faced in earning the win.

The Kings won consecutive games over the Dallas Stars on Nov. 11, a 3-2 SO win at STAPLES and a 3-2 win over the Stars at Dallas on Nov. 13. During the first game vs. the Stars, Brown had one of, arguably, the best games of his career.

Prospect Martin Jones was named CHL Player of the Week, the Kings celebrated Russian Heritage Night in a 5-2 win over Washington and defenseman Peter Harrold moved to forward for the first time after the suspension of John Zeiler for his hit on Adam Foote, in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 22. That night the Kings went "Back to Black: introducing a new third jersey.

The Kings then hit the road for the first time with a back-to-back on Nov. 25 and 26, falling 6-2 at Calgary and then a big rebound victory, 2-1 over the Edmonton Oilers.

The month came to a close with the Kings Television Color Analyst Jim Fox having the Chicken Soup named after him at Redondo Beach Cafe (Photos).

DECEMBER
The last month of 2008 became a month of change for this young Kings team. Jason LaBarbera and Erik Ersberg continued to alternate starts until Ersberg suffered a groin injury and LaBarbera struggled in his absence, opening the door for the emergence of rookie Jonathan Quick and closing the door on the Kings career of LaBabrera, who was dealt to Vancouver.

Despite an 11-game stretch in which the Kings won just three games, Los Angeles finished December with a 5-7-3 mark, losing 2-0 to Columbus on Dec. 29, a game that could have left the Kings with a .500 mark for the month and for the 2008 calendar year had the club been victorious.

On Dec. 6, LaBarbera and the Kings shutout the Blue Jackets, 3-0, in what would be LaBarbera's final win in a Kings uniform. On Dec. 11, Dustin Brown earned his first career hat trick in a 6-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues. Four days later, Matt Greene scored his fri st goal as a King and Teddy Purcell scored his second NHL goal as the Kings opened up a 2-0 lead on San Jose. The Sharks, however, came back to tie the game and win in the shootout, 3-2. The win gave the Sharks 52 points after 30 games (25-3-2) - the most at that mark by any team in NHL history. The 1929-30 Boston Bruins had the previous record with 51.

Despite hanging tough with the Sharks, the Kings lost Erik Ersberg for the remainder of December with a groin injury.

In the Kings first game without the injured Ersberg, Patrick O'Sullivan and Brown scored for the Kings but New York defenseman Michal Rozsival scored on a penalty shot in the second period and then scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory in Los Angeles. Since the NHL introduced the five-minute overtime period in 1983-84, the only other player to score on a penalty shot in regulation time and then win the game with an overtime goal was Anaheim’s Steve Thomas on April 1, 2003. Thomas scored both goals for the Mighty Ducks in their 2-1 overtime victory in Nashville.

The Kings then assigned Oscar Moller to Team Sweden to participate in the World Junior Championships and the Kings then hit the road for their first road trip of the season, a three-game trek through, Buffalo, Detroit and Columbus. The first game was a tough loss for the Kings, falling 5-0 at Buffalo, a game in which would mark the last appearance in a Kings uniform for LaBarbera. Quick would start the last two games of the road trip and the last five games of the 2008 year, recording two shutouts, 3-0 at Columbus on Dec. 23 and 4-0 at Phoenix on Dec. 27, posting a 2-3-0 mark in six appearances, with a 1.73 GAA and a .937 SV%, stopping 143-of-152 shots.

His performance earned praise as Quick was named the NHL's Third Star of the Week for the week ending Dec. 28, and with Ersberg fully recovered from his groin injury, led to the trade of LaBarbera to the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 30.

The Kings will enter 2009 with a 15-16-6 mark, three points out of a playoff spot with many of their prospects making significant contributions to the club with more young prospects on the way.

Next year should be a good one for the Kings...and don't forget to download our January Wallpaper.