Hey, everyone. It’s Dan Mount and I’m here with the weekend NHL headlines. I usually try to get them up by Friday, but it’s been a busy holiday season for me. Once we get into the New Year, I’ll get back to my usual Monday and Friday routine. Thanks for bearing with me and I’m hoping you guys had a great holiday season.
This week’s column talks about the surprising start of Kings rookie goalie Martin Jones and a programming suggestion for those who love international hockey. As always, I love getting feedback from the readers. Leave comments below or you can send them to me on Twitter @DanMountSports.
The Kingdom of Jones
At the start of the season, the Los Angeles Kings were one of the favorites to make a deep playoff run. They have all the tools in a solid defensive core, timely scoring and the great goaltending of Jonathan Quick.
However, those plans took an early hit when Quick strained his groin in the middle of November and the Kings were set to rely on the newly acquired Ben Scrivens to shoulder the load while Quick was away. Those plans changed when Scrivens was lost due to injury for a short time. It was up to a freshly-called up Martin Jones to fill in and he did so as he won his first eight starts before losing 5-2 to Dallas on Dec. 23. Jones tied the mark for best start by a goalie with Philadelphia goalie Bob Froese. (He won his first eight starts in 1982-83.)
Jones came out of nowhere and even I didn’t have a ton of information on him. I decided to go to an expert about the Kings and I asked for some background from Ryan Cowley of the excellent website dedicated to the Los Angeles Kings, Make Way for the Kings.
Ryan said that Jones going undrafted was a mystery as he had a very successful career with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. He went 45-5-4 in 2008-09 before following it up with 36 wins the next season. Jones did eventually end up with the Kings and went to the AHL farm club, the Manchester Monarchs.
Manchester has done a great job being a top farm team for Los Angeles as it has churned out a ton of players that can get plugged into the lineup. Their head coach Mark Morris (who also was the head coach at Clarkson University) continues to develop talent that can step up if someone on the Kings gets hurt.
It’s also a testament to the Kings’ front office led by General Manager Dean Lombardi and assistant GM Rob Blake. Let’s also give their scouts their due as they continue to find diamonds in the rough. Lombardi and the front office may be the best in the league. It shows that the team can take an undrafted guy like Jones (which is the puzzling thing out of this whole situation) and he can be successful.
Despite Jones’ stellar play, he may get sent back to Manchester because of contract situations. Scrivens has a one-way contract with the Kings and can’t be sent down without having to go through waivers. If he was placed on waivers, any team in the league could claim him. Jones has a two-way contract and that means he can go back and forth between Manchester and L.A. and no team could claim him.
Quick will be back soon enough and he is the projected starter for the team and for the Americans at the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Scrivens is a solid backup and it will be nice to have the luxury of a guy who has been successful so early on that’s waiting in the wings. I have a feeling will be hearing from Martin Jones a lot more before his career is over.
Something to watch
While people may be talking about the upcoming Winter Classic and the Olympics, let’s not forget about the World Junior Championships taking place in Malmo, Sweden. The tournament boasts the best players aged 19-21 that aren’t already playing or NHL teams. The favorites are Canada (despite losing 5-4 to the Czech Republic) the United States and Russia (who have scored 17 goals in its first two games).
I always like seeing these young players in this tournament because the level of hockey is very high and you’ll get to see a collection of potential future NHL stars. The games are on the NHL Network in America and TSN in Canada. (NHL Network uses the TSN feed in its coverage.)
I know some people have some down time during the holidays, so I figure I would give them a list of games to watch for the early part of the week.
Anaheim at San Jose, 10:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network Canada, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Comcast California): These two teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs. (They’ll play again Tuesday in Anaheim at 8 p.m.)
Los Angeles at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN, TSN2, Comcast Chicago): A potential Western Conference final preview.
Philadelphia at Vancouver, 10 p.m. (Rogers Sportsnet, Comcast Philly): Two teams that have turned it on as of late.
Toronto vs. Detroit at Ann Arbor, Mich., (The Winter Classic) 1 p.m. ET (NBC, CBC): The Winter Classic. Enough said.
It’s that time of the week where I give the best, worst and weirdest with my First star, Worst star and Who blew up the Death Star?
I go to the USHL for this one and Aidan Muir makes a late goal of the entry with this one.
I missed this one last week, but Pittsburgh’s Deryk Engelland headhunts Justin Abdelkader of Detroit.
Who Blew up the Death Star?
Two words… “Butt goal.” Mike Smith of Phoenix gets victimized by this laugher in Buffalo.
That’s it for this week. I’ll try to have something about the Winter Classic before the game on Wenesday. Take care, everyone. Special thanks to Ryan Cowley or Make Way for the Kings.
Dan Mount is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.