Conroy’s homecoming

Craig Conroy, who had five goals in 52 games this season with the Kings, put two in the net in his debut for Calgary…against the Kings, of course. That’s remarkable in itself, but let’s look inside the numbers.

Conroy took 25 shifts, the most of any Flames forward. Yes, that’s correct. He had barely been a member of the team for 24 hours and got the most shifts. Of course, Calgary coach Jim Playfair was an assistant during the last two seasons of Conroy’s first stint in Calgary. Anyway, Conroy played 19 minutes, 21 seconds. He cracked the 19-minute mark with the Kings ONCE this season, in a 7-4 loss to Phoenix on Nov. 30. In his last game with the Kings, Conroy didn’t log one shift on the penalty kill. In his Calgary debut, he logged 4:04, the most of any Flames skater.

And he scored two goals…hmmm, interesting, isn’t it? Was Conroy simply energized by the opportunity to stick it to the Kings? Did he just not fit in Crawford’s system? Or was he not utilized properly this year? Only time will tell.

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Trade targets?

Since it’s bound to become a topic in the next couple weeks, here’s a rundown of the Kings’ roster and how long each player is locked up for:

Impending free agents:
Derek Armstrong
Sean Avery (restricted)
Barry Brust (restricted)
Sean Burke
Michael Cammalleri (restricted)
Noah Clarke
Yutaka Fukufuji (restricted)
Mathieu Garon
Raitis Ivanans
Tom Kostopoulos
Jason LaBarbera (restricted)
Aaron Miller
Marty Murray
Richard Petiot (restricted)
Brent Sopel

Signed through 2007-08:
Rob Blake
Dustin Brown
Kevin Dallman
Mattias Norstrom
Scott Thornton
Oleg Tverdovsky
Lubomir Visnovsky
Brian Willsie

Signed through 2008-09:
Dan Cloutier
Alyn McCauley

Signed through 2009-10
Alexander Frolov

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The Conroy trade

For those who haven’t heard, the Kings today traded center Craig Conroy to Calgary for center Jamie Lundmark, a second-round pick in 2008 and a fourth-round pick in 2007.

It’s far from a shocking move, as Conroy’s name has been floated in trade rumors for several months now. After a while, it became a question of only where Craig would go, what the Kings would get and when it would all go down. Lundmark, who is 26 and joining his fourth NHL organization in four seasons, isn’t a franchise player, but Kings GM Dean Lombardi loves his draft picks and is set upon improving the Kings’ depth.

Plus, there’s the simple fact that Conroy hasn’t been very good this year. He is, quite frankly, one of the nicest people, inside or outside the sports world, you’d ever meet, but his production and ice time dropped off this season big time. I asked Dean Lombardi what the problem was, and his answer was along the lines of, “If you figure it out, let me know.” Conroy is 35 — even though the Kings’ press release tried to give him an extra year — so it’s possible that his level of play is simply falling off because of age, but he just never seemed to mesh with Marc Crawford’s system.

The bottom line is, when a guy like Craig Conroy is getting third- and fourth-line minutes, it’s time for him to move on, regardless of the reason.

So that’s that.

Also, I asked Dean about more potential deals, and he indicated that he will remain active in the market. Knowing how open Dean is to making bold moves, I asked him if any guys on the team were considered untouchable, and he gave a refreshingly honest answer as he explained that it’s his job to listen to all offers that come his way and might improve his team. He related it to the recent rumors that the Kings might trade Visnovsky.

Lombardi said: “If a guy calls you up and says, `Would you move Visnovsky?’ well, what kind of question is that? How do you answer that? I’m not doing my job if I don’t listen. Do I want to move him? No. But I say, `What are you offering?’ and the next day it’s in the papers that I’m shopping Visnovsky.’ That’s exactly what happened with that. You always listen. I mean, Chris Pronger got traded. Who thought that would happen?”

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Beyond the box score

A couple things from tonight’s game:

Kevin Dallman took a hit on his third shift of the game and didn’t return. The wire story didn’t mention it, so I’ll assume it was just precautionary but since I’m not with the team I can’t say for certain. Also, Alyn McCauley took three shifts in the first period, had one, 12-second shift in the second period and called it a night.

It’s always interesting, in one-goal games, to look at the shift chart and see who saw the ice late in the game. Lubomir Visnovsky played a whopping 10 minutes, 19 seconds in the third period. Leading the Kings in ice time among forwards in the third period were Anze Kopitar (7:30) and Alexander Frolov (7:10). On the other end of the scale, Konstantin Pushkarev didn’t leave the bench in the final 12 minutes.

Derek Armstrong, usually one of the Kings’ most responsible players, got saddled with a minus-3 rating. Ouch.

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Crawford in Vancouver

For those who might not have seen it today, there was an interesting column in the Vancouver Sun about Kings coach Marc Crawford, his past in Vancouver and his future in Los Angeles.

The shift chart for tonight’s game was interesting. Patrick O’Sullivan not only returned and scored a goal, but earned immediate time alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. O’Sullivan got nine shifts in the third period, just one fewer than Alexander Frolov and three more than Craig Conroy.

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More on Luc

I was sorry to have missed Luc Robitaille’s ceremony, but I thank Ramona Shelburne for capably filling in. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that so many people would attend the event or record video messages for Luc. Any fan who has ever met Luc knows what a class act he is. From a reporter’s standpoint, he’s the first athlete who ever told me, “You have my number, call me whenever you need something,” and that was before I even started covering the Kings on a regular basis. That kind of cooperation is rare and valued.

How classy is Luc? He invited longtime team staff members Pete Demers and Peter Millar — who were coldly dismissed by the team after last season — to the ceremony. How many players would take the time to remember a couple guys whose hard work is usually taken for granted by the players?

Luc’s speech went on for approximately 25 minutes. That’s not shocking, knowing how much Luc always valued his time on the ice… But seriously, he deserved the moment.

Condolences go out to another class act, Dave Taylor, the Kings’ former GM and longtime teammate of Robitaille, who missed the ceremony to attend his father’s funeral.

A light moment came after the ceremony, when Robitaille realized he had forgotten to thank Barry Melrose, the coach who led the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993. Robitaille told reporters that he felt terrible about the accidental snub and promised Melrose, now an ESPN analyst, a lenghthy on-air interview.

Marcel Dionne, Luc’s close friend and former teammate, missed the ceremony due to a family committment. Wayne Gretzky, coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, was in attendance, and a message from the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was played on the video board. TIm Leiweke was resoundingly booed.

And…the Kings lost the game because they started a goalie who wasn’t in game shape. They head into the All-Star break on a seven-game losing streak.

[edit: I should have made that last graph a little clearer. My point was that starting Burke hurt them, because he couldn’t finish and they had to go to a cold goalie off the bench. If Fukufuji plays the whole game, maybe he’s in a better rhythm. Probably not, but maybe.]

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Goaltending update

The Kings assigned Barry Brust to Manchester of the AHL in preparation for the arrival of Sean Burke. Brust has been numbers than Yutaka Fukufuji (and Dan Cloutier, of course) but Fukufuji will stick around as Burke’s backup until Mathieu Garon’s broken finger has healed.

As for Burke, he made his NHL debut on March 2, 1988, when Kings rookie Anze Kopitar was six months old. Here’s what GM Dean Lombardi told the Canadian Press about the situation. Not exacly a ringing endorsement…

“He’s an NHL goaltender,” Lombardi said of Burke. “He’s a character guy. But we’re not sure what to expect. In fairness to him, he hasn’t played a lot this year. … Let’s face it, in fairness to the kids that are playing for us right now, they’re just not NHL goalies. It’s not fair to Brust or Fukufuji, they’re not ready for this. It’s not their fault.”

Burke, who turns 40 on Jan. 29, was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay. He played seven games in the AHL and had a 4.52 goals-against average.

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Andy Murray’s response

I got a call this afternoon from Andy Murray, who was none too pleased with the way he was portrayed in today’s article. He took particular issue with the idea, as written, that he was “often controlling, overbearing and stubborn” and argued the characterization of particular events that took place under his tenure.

We had a productive and lengthy discussion (it clocked in at 64 minutes) and ultimately we agreed to disagree on several issues. The point of the article was to examine the idea that Murray “lost the room” as a coach in Los Angeles, and as part of that, several criticisms of Andy were raised. He took them, and the story in general, as a personal assault, and I attempted to assure him that he shouldn’t. As a side, my editor on the story, who happened to cover the Kings during the first six of Andy’s seven seasons, thought the story to be a balanced look at a complicated situation.

Any reaction from the Kings fans?

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