Handzus’ big turnaround

Just getting to this now, from a couple days ago…

It would be a massive understatement to say that Michal Handzus had a rough 2007-08 season. In the first season of a four-year, $16-million contract, Handzus struggled in his first year back from ACL surgery, totaled 21 points in 82 games and occasionally got demoted to fourth-line duty. Handzus has had a major turnaround this season. He had seven goals and 10 assists in 37 games and is a playing a valuable role as the center on the third line with Alexander Frolov and Wayne Simmonds. Terry Murray, who also worked with Handzus in Philadelphia, had this to say about Handzus’ play this season…

MURRAY: “I really like our veteran guys. That’s not really to pat one guy on the back, but the veteran guys have been tremendous on this team. Because I have been in scenarios where it’s been a divided locker room with those veterans and those young guys, and this has been pretty special here with the players like Michal Handzus coming here and going through a tough time last year, recovering from a couple of bad seasons and just not being on top of his game. But this is the player that I know. Very dependable, a guy you can rely on in key situations and who comes through for you, time and time again.

“Off the ice, and in the locker room, we’re seeing and hearing a much more involved player. He’s verbally saying the right things and encouraging players. He’s been a great mentor for Simmonds. He spends a lot of time talking with him during the games, and you can see that in Simmonds’ development. It’s been accelerated because of Handzus’ performance. He’s just a great person, a great leader and an important part of this hockey club.”

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  • wavesinair

    gotta love the zus. that certainly explains why that line has been so constant. i’m not a huge simmonds fan but i can see now why murray has kept them together. i’d still like to see brown play with zus and fro though. it’s be a killer line.

  • Shaddow44

    I agree, Waves, I’d love to see Brown on that line also. Gotta give it to ‘Zus though. Coming back from an ACL tear is nothing to shrug at. It takes a long time to get the confidence back in the knee as well as the strength and range. It’s good to see him playing so well and even better hearing that he is so good for the young guys. Just what this team needs.

  • Will Hutchison

    Handzus is really a pro’s pro. He seems like a classy guy from what I’ve read and seen of him; it is fantastic that he has taken the time to share with Simmonds some of his experiences and provide pointers that can help a young guy improve. Their chemistry on the ice is apparent, and the two of them working together can only help the Kings as Simmonds grows into a complete NHLer. What a bonus! Not only do the Kings get the Michael Handzus of old, but one of their top prospects gets a first rate mentor as well.

    I see Simmonds a being a huge part of the success of the Kings in years to come. Over the first third of the year Simmonds has improved tremendously, his d-zone play in general, and his transition game in particiluar, are remarkable for a guy who was playing major junior a year ago. These are effort areas where hustle can make up for a lack of finese at times, but still require a great deal of focus to play well and not get burned through over-pursuit.

    While I really don’t see Simmonds becoming a big point producer, its obvious that he will develop into an excellent NHL player. Someone who is hard to play against, is more than competent in their own zone, and can take the play to the other team with speed and physical play.

  • Anonymous

    Rich I was reading the blog for the Minnesota Wild and their writer said that they are again in trade talks with the kings for Gaborik. Is there truth to this and what are you hearing?


  • Mike

    nice to hear all the good words about handzus after reading horrible comments here and at other blogs about how he’s a bust and lombardi failed and wasted money. he is easily worth the money, and come playoff time his true value will show even more.

  • Rich Hammond

    Well, Gaborik has always been an option for the Kings. It’s not as though talks had some dramatic ending and then they picked up again. I wouldn’t get too excited about it right now. It’s part of the dozens — if not hundreds — of talks that take place pre-deadline. You’re wise to read anything Mike Russo has to offer. He’s one of the best.

  • nykingfan

    Major props to Zeus. He’s been one of the best players this year on the Kings. I can’t believe the turnaround from last year to this season.
    Management was right about Zeus becoming the player he was after going through the surgery. It took him a year, but it’s well worth it for the Kings. That contract looks better and better each day. It certainly seems like a terrific free agent signing by DL.

    I think Simmonds belongs right where he is. That line has been so consistant against the other teams top line. They are all defensively responsible and chip in with some goals.
    Talk about giving props…Frolov deserves some as well. He really seems to have taken to the defensive responsibilities he’s been given by TM.
    Again, that line has been the best line for the Kings from day 1 this year.

  • Quisp

    Rich, thanks (!!!) for the Mike Russo tip. Incidentally, his blog led me to his recent column in the MN paper, which apparently (according to the blog) has pissed off a lot of Wild players and management, and I think would be an eye-opening bit of perspective for Kings fans:


  • markisonfire

    To be honest, it would be nice to get Gaborik, but I’m not willing to trade any of our good players to get him.

  • Quisp

    I guess Zoos is in the shop window.
    Talk him up and trade him.
    I like Zoos a lot, and I was hard on him in the summer, but he has played much better and looked like he’s regained a lot of confidence.
    I don’t want Gaborik, but it sure seems like we’ll get him.
    I would imagine that if Minny has the space, Lemaire would be confident that he could get the best out of Calder, Zoos, and Preissing. We’d get a man ready to score tons of goals, but not so keen on defending.
    Plus, we have Boyle and Lewis not currently with us.
    Maybe Dean has figured out how to get rid of some salary and set the Kings up to finish bottom 5 again, and from there he can draft the player he thinks we need.

    I’d like to know where we are in Quisp’s playoff 13-game mini-map to the playoffs with two more games to play in our 3rd batch of 13.

    Oh yeah, 17 points for 4 mil a year is not so good. I think Hudler has that in goals, 2 weeks ago no less.

  • Damen

    The amazing thing about ‘Zus is how much better he has been in the face off circle this season compared to last. Odd that a bum knee would affect face offs. Just shows how some guys, specifically the big centers, use their whole body to win face offs.

    As far as Gabber, his history of injury’s make him such a risk in a trade situation. I’d rather Dean take his chances with Marian on the open market this Summer.

    The Kings might need to move depth for a top flight go to scoring forward, most likely a wing since they are both deep at center and that position has so much defensive zone responsibility.

  • Quisp

    Eat, re mini-map:

    need to be at 39 points after 39 games.


    Well, it looks like in terms of wins and losses we’ve gone 4-5-2 for 10 points of a possible 22.
    26 goals for, and 30 against during the 11 games.
    I think thats about 2.3 goals per game FOR, and 2.7 goals per game against.
    Meaning we need to win the next two, i believe, to be on track.
    Well, it’s definitely possible…
    But with coaching from the Triassic, do we have a shot?
    Sure. Because Triassic coaching is based on fundamentals, and if you do those right you give yourself a shot.
    And, because we have a lot of talented players that can score more than they have.
    Crazy that after how poorly this month has gone in results that we’re still in the game.
    I guess this is a credit to the system and Murray and Lombardi.
    But I still think we could be farther along.

    I also see little evidence that we’re about to start scoring more, though I think we can if Boyle and Purcell are used well.
    Plus, we find the right line for Dustin.

    Could Lombardi possibly be going after another American prospect in VanReimsdyk?
    Would Philly want a Zoos, Calder, Preissing package, and would they ever give up Reemer for it? I doubt it, but I also thought Labs was worth at least a 3rd or 4th Rounder.

  • hokyfann

    I like Zues and the way he plays. I like reading about what a great guy he is in the locker room. I know what kind of guy he is and a quick personal story about Zues: At meet the players party, I was there with my 8 yr old son and 5 yr old daughter–both huge Kings fans and my son loves Zues’ shut down PK play. We were very late to getting to Zues’s line for his autograph and photo. They closed the line and Zues was finishing up with the last fan in line. He was getting his stuff and getting ready to leave. My son was standing next to the rope just staring at Zues with that starstruck look on his face. My son looked at me and said he was bummed he didn’t get Zues’s autograph on his hockey stick. Some how Zues heard him and looked at my son’s sad face. Zues crawled under the rope and took my son by the hand and escorted him to an area for a hand shake, autograph and Zues asked me if I had my camera ready. He put his arm around my son for an AWESOME picture and then chatted with my son for a few minutes. I thought that was really nice and he made my sons day for giving him the special attention. I will be forever indebted to Zues for his professionalism to his fans and for treating my son the way he did. My boy is still on “Cloud 9” and he proudly displays his photo with one of his favorite hockey players..THANK YOU ZUES!!!!!

  • Eat- don’t get too excited about trading all the veterans…. a team needs a few guys over the age of 25 to do well. and remember, lombardi is a big fan of keeping a balance between veterans and younger players. at this point i think it makes a lot more sense to keep zeus than trade him. he’s really bringing a lot to the team.

    also, will hutch, i’m not sure why so many people are down on simmonds. he keeps getting better and better he just needs more time to develop. the fact that his defensive play has been strong enough to keep him around on the 3rd line says a lot about his development. he looks like he could be a flashy player with some nice moves which will eventually translate into more points. have you noticed him trying to get around defenders lately? he’s got some tricks up his sleeve. i think he’s going to become a bigger contributor as he gets better. just give him some more time folks…..

  • Big A

    Nothing to do with Handzus, but I just wanted to drop a link to a new TSN article on Hickey. Kind of a fluff piece, but it’s nice reading all those platitudes nonetheless.


  • mac!

    He has definitely picked up his game this season. He’s playing really well defensively and contributing with some points aswell. And with the mentoring he’s doing, I think he should stick around.

  • Duracell

    Not willing to play when hurt was one of the reasons Lombardi traded Demetra. Gaborik is not willing to play unless he’s 100%, doesn’t sound like a DL type of player.

  • Quisp

    Sounds like Gaborik may have season-ending surgery. See today’s post from the guy Rich and Anonymous discussed above (Star Tribune, Mike Russo). According to the post, possible surgery, possibly done for the year, therefore no trade, no trade value, probably done in MN, and MN will get nothing when he signs this summer for much less than he’s getting now. I for one am glad (not for his misfortune, or for MN’s, but that the Gaborik trade rumors may become a non-issue) since I don’t like him and don’t want him in a Kings sweater.

    Although maybe in this depleted condition, DL can get Gaborik and a high pick for Calder and just put him on the IR. MN will get something instead of the nothing they will get when Gaborik walks. The Kings will never dress Gaborik, just pay his salary, which they can afford; and the net result will be that they are paying MN for a higher pick for Calder than he would otherwise fetch.

    And if Gaborik happens to be healthy at the end of the season and the Kings happen to be in the playoffs, then, as they say, well, well, well…

    Hmm. I have intrigued myself.


    I really don’t want the headache of Gaborik.
    Though it’s crazy to not want that talent.
    Sometimes there’s just too much baggage and with Murray here, there’s really no point because we’re going to play defense first til it pays off or he’s replaced.
    I’m glad Gabby is hurt because there’s less chance of him being traded here.
    There are a ton of other guys I’d rather take the chance on, and too many prospects coming in with tons of talent.
    I’d prefer to go after some of he prospects like Anaheim’s Tangredi, NJ’s Hoeffel, Colo.’s Shattenkirk or even a sleeper like O’Neil, Philly’s VanReimer, or a bonafide player/fighter, or a bonafide agitator with skill (these may be the toughest players to find).
    Don’t forget we have an extra 7th to sweeten the pot.
    Minnesota might even want to shed Gabby salary for a 7th, right?

  • Excellent job.