Monarchs notes

The Monarchs finished the regular season with a 1-0 overtime loss to Providence. Yutaka Fukufuji took the loss but saved 29 of 30 shots. In his second game, Brian Boyle did not record a point and had two shots on goal. The Monarchs, the top seed in the Atlantic Division, will open the playoffs with a seven-game series aginst Worcest. Game 1 is Wednesday at Manchester.

In addition, Jason LaBarbera has won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award this season for lowest goals-against average. This is the second time in three seasons that LaBarbera has won the award.

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Boyle’s debut

Boyle made his debut with Manchester tonight in the Monarchs’ 4-1 victory over Worcester. He had a minus-1 rating, took one shot and drew a minor penalty for roughing. Unfortunately that’s about all you can tell from the boxscore, and I wasn’t about to pay six dollars for the webcast of a minor league hockey game. Six dollars? It does look as though Boyle played forward, because the Monarchs had six defensemen in the lineup. He was definitely playing forward at the time of the goal, because Kemp and Tverdovsky were also on the ice.

For those who asked about a contract, and specifically why Boyle didn’t sign an entry-level contract, Gann basically gave you the answer in a comment below. It’s because the Kings want Boyle to play in Manchester, and he wants to play there as well. The fact that he’s in a Monarchs jersey right now should tell you that an entry-level deal isn’t far off, and might already have been agreed to in principle.

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Johnson to play in Worlds

Jack Johnson, by all indications, has officially been selected to play for Team USA in the IIHF World Championships. The roster will be announced Monday, but on its website, USA Hockey features a picture of Johnson and says he will be included in a conference call after the team is announced. That’s what you would call strong circumstantial evidence…

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Monarchs update

There were a couple things in the Union-Leader that I thought might be of interest to Kings fans. First, defenseman Jeff Likens, a college teammate of Joe Piskula, is performing well for the Monarchs and all but assured himself a spot on their playoff roster, according to coach Mark Morris.

The paper also made note of potential line pairings for the Monarchs, and a number of the names will be familiar to Kings fans:

Noah Clarke-Marty Murray-Tim Jackman
Lauri Tukonen-Patrick O’Sullivan-Trevor Lewis
Petr Kanko-Jeff Giuliano-Matt Ryan
John Zeiler-Gabe Gauthier-Matt Moulson

Sounds like a pretty good group, as far as the AHL is concerned.

Also, Jason LaBarbera apparently will be able to play in the playoffs

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Goaltender analysis

It’s time to look at the Kings’ goalies. Fill in your own punchlines below. Going back for one moment, thanks to a couple readers who pointed out that defenseman Peter Harrold is actually a restricted free agent this summer because of some fine print in the CBA. Now on to the goalies:

BARRY BRUST (2-4-1, 3.70 goals-against average)
Contract status: Restricted free agent
It’s impossible to blame Brust for his struggles with the Kings. He’s an AHL goalie at best who was thrust into a difficult situation. He had his moments with the Kings, although they were fleeting, and he has put up solid numbers in the minors, so hopefully he won’t be too scarred by his experienced here. But with young goalies Jonathan Bernier, Jon Quick and Jeff Zatkoff all sitting in the Kings’ organization, I’m not sure how much of a future Brust will have in L.A. The internal competition could be tough to overcome in the next couple years.

SEAN BURKE (6-10-5, 3.12 goals-against average)
Contract status: Free agent
Signed as a stopgap measure, at the height of the Kings’ injury problems in goal, Burke provided an immediate boost but then showed why he was a 39-year-old goaltender playing in the AHL before the Kings grabbed him. Burke allowed at least three goals in each of his last 13 full games and lost his last 10 decisions. There’s really not much analysis needed. At his age, Burke is capable of having a good game now and then, but his skills are eroding, as they do for every goalie at some point. Give him credit for lifting spirits in February, and pat him on the back for a solid career, but it’s pretty much finished.

DAN CLOUTIER (6-14-2, 3.98 goals-against average)
Contract status: Signed through 2008-09
Looking back, it’s easy to see that there was something wrong. Early in the season, even in preseason, Cloutier was shaky early in games and had problems defending the near post. He never looked like his former self, the guy who one had a 2.27 goals-against average in Vancouver. I’m not convinced he was physically ready to start the season. I’m not sure why the Kings thought it was worth giving him a two-year extension before he played a regular-season game. I’m also not sure why they didn’t keep Jason LaBarbera around as a third goalie until Cloutier proved he was OK (which, of course, he never did). So it started bad, and got worse when the hip condition was discovered. Cloutier is, by far, the most important King going into next season. He should be 100 percent physically. If they can get him turned around mentally and keep him focused, he could be solid. Otherwise he will be a $3.1-million anchor.

YUTAKA FUKUFUJI (0-3-0, 4.37 goals-against average)
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
Take what was said about Brust, and multiply it by two. Fukufuji wasn’t even ready for the AHL this season, yet found himself in the NHL because of injury problems. Fukufuji’s debut was fun, and got some attention because of his status as a Japanese groundbreaker. But I don’t see much of a future in the NHL for Fukufuji. He showed some decent instincts but he’s listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and, well, he’s neither. He might serve as a decent depth guy for the organization, but don’t count on seeing him in the NHL.

MATHIEU GARON (13-10-6, 2.66 goals-against average)
Contract status: Free agent
In two seasons, I never quite figured out Garon. There were times when I was certain he was on the verge of grabbing the No. 1 goalie spot, and then he immediately fell on his face or got hurt. Here’s what I conclude from that: some guys are just better as a 1-A or backup goalie. They thrive in the role and things start to fall apart a little when they get the No. 1 spot outright. Garon might be in that category. He might. I’m not sure, and he might go to another team and prove me wrong. But it just seemed as though he had the capability to be brilliant in short bursts, but perhaps he’s not the guy you want to rely upon for 70 games. From talking to him at the end of the season, I got the impression that Garon will move on, even if the Kings want him back.


Even though he didnt play for the Kings, its worth noting that Jason LaBarbera had a MVP-caliber season in the AHL and that hes a restricted free agent this summer. Unless a major shakeup in goal takes place — and I wouldnt be stunned by that, knowing how frustrated Dean Lombardi has been — I would fully expect LaBarbera to be on the roster next season, maybe even as the No. 1 goalie. Its also worth noting that in the middle of the season, there were discussions about brining Bernier out of juniors to the NHL. Ultimately they decided against that, but it speaks to how desperate the situation was. So heres the (brief) recap of the contract situations:

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Barry Brust, Yutaka Fukufuji, (Jason LaBarbera)

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About Willsie

Again, thanks to everyone who has read and commented on the team analysis stuff. One of the fun things about doing this is getting some responses from readers who can add things that I have overlooked or just plain don’t know. Along those lines, I wanted to share an e-mail I got today from a reader, who reacted to my analysis of Brian Willsie, which was mostly critical.


It’s not like I’m a supporter of Brian Willsie, but your analysis felt a bit incomplete to me. You identified that his overall minutes and shifts per game didn’t change much from the year previous, which is true, but there was one key factoid you missed that might better explain his sharp decline.

With the Capitals
* 4 minutes 19 seconds of powerplay time per game.

With the Kings
* 43 seconds of powerplay time per game.

With Washington he played 82 games and had 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points. Of that he had 21 powerplay points with 8 goals and 13 assists, so at even strength he only had 11 goals and 9 assists.

With the Kings he played 81 games and had 11 goals and 10 assists for 21 points. Of that he had 4 power play points with 2 goals and 2 assists, so at even strength he only had 9 goals and 8 assists.

The powerplay served as his bread and butter with the Capitals — accounting for nearly half his 41 point total
from 2005-2006. So you take that away and he’s exactly what Kings fans saw this season, a 20 point player. So it
might not really be a regression so much as Willsie merely being consistently mediocre, you could say.

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Boyle update

A lot of people have been asking about Brian Boyle, and I’ve been holding off on posting anything until I heard something definitive, but unfortunately there’s not much definitive to say. Word out of the Kings’ camp today is that negotiations with Boyle have begun and that they’re hopeful of getting a deal done. It doesn’t seem that anything is imminent. The Jack Johnson deal took about three days to get done, but there was a sense of urgency there because both sides wanted to see him in the NHL before the end of the season. Boyle’s comments in the Union-Leader indicate that he would like to play in Manchester this season, but it’s far from crucial for either side. Boyle has talked about finishing his studies, so that’s another factor.

Jeff Solomon, the Kings’ director of hockey operations, is handling the talks, as he usually does. Dean Lombardi and Ron Hextall are keeping tabs, but both are headed to Russia for the World Championships and to keep an eye on the Kings’ interests overseas. This also means that my sit-down with Hextall and/or Lombardi has been delayed a bit, but will take place when they get back in town.

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