(Written by Donna Sarasin and David Ward)
The Kings have had plenty of time to ponder their strategy for the new season. Realizing at the end of the prior season, after missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, changes needed to be made to turn the tide. No time was wasted as within two weeks after the regular season ended, Kings General Manager Sam McMaster, was fired and replaced by Assistant General Manager Dave Taylor on 22 April 1997. Taylor promised Kings fans that he would be the one to bring success to the Kings franchise by developing prospects, pursuing quality free agents plus utilizing the entry draft picks to create a franchise of the future.
Previous to this season, Mathieu was not thought of as a big scorer by many, but he is
out to prove those people wrong. With the injury of Alex Tanguay, Mathieu has stepped
up to pick up the scoring void left by him. Mathieu is in the middle of a nine game
scoring streak and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. He now shares the team scoring lead
with Tanguay at 19 points. Mathieu is more of a finesse-style player, quick and agile. He
has good breakaway speed and though he is a natural center can play both wings as well. If
he had not had a drop off in scoring after mid-season (he scored 28 of his 34 points last year
in the first half), he might have gone higher in the draft. But at 97th, the Penguins took what
could turn out to be a steal. At his current scoring pace he will surpass last years point total
in another 12 games. I’d look for Mathieu next year at the Penguins training camp as he could
develop into the scoring center the Penguins will need when Ron Francis leaves.
Alexandre Mathieu, Halifax Mooseheads
C, 6'2", 180 lbs.
4th round, 97th overall, 1997 Entry Draft.
97-98 Stats: 14 Games, 8 Goals, 11 Assists, 19 Points, 6 PIM, -1.
96-97 Stats: 70 Games, 12 Goals, 22 Assists, 34 Points, 16 PIM.
One of the best teams in the pre-season had its share of troubles the
past few games against Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington to name a
few. Only Buffalo and Dominik Hasek proved to be an unworthy foe. That’s
when Captain Vinny Damphousse broke out of his usual early season drought.
The two goalies, Moog and Thibault, have both played well, but it seems
Moog has so far been the starter while Thibault is the backup. It seems
coaches Vigneault and King have really done wonders with Montreal’s
defensive system, which had been complete chaos under Mario Tremblay. Moog
has also been a calming influence on the blueliners, shouting instructions
to them during the game.
The Canadiens are not like the Bruins, Capitals, or Flames, who all have
a significant number of rookies or young’uns in the lineup — only C
Sebastien Bordeleau and D Brett Clark are with the team. Fortunately,
though, these are two good rookies — especially my boy Bordeleau!
Bordeleau can do it all. He’s got the offensive skills to dazzle the odd
time, and he’s good defensively for a rookie, too. He’s also good on
faceoffs, and can take important draws in his own zone. Again, he played
too many games last year to be considered a rookie and a Calder candidate.
Unfortunately, he’s playing on the fourth line right now with Thornton and
Bureau. Occasionally, he steps up to the third line to play with Brunet and
Stevenson or Richer.
It’s several weeks into the regular season, and last year’s worst team
has been a pleasant surprise. Yep, with their 12 new faces/rookies, they’re
among the best teams in the NHL, record-wise! With their current 8 game
road trip, they are now 5-2 after winning 4 straight. Not to mention, they
already have 3 shutouts — 2 by last season’s sieve Jim Carey, and 1 by
Lord Byron Dafoe. Let’s give a round of applause to coach Pat Burns,
Now, how about those rookies… Per-Johan Axelsson. That’s all I have to
say. Forget Samsonov, Thornton, Mann, and all those other over-hyped Calder
candidates. It’s the PJ Axelsson show! He’s got excellent speed, agility,
moves, plays with intensity, and is good defensively. Who is PJ Axelsson,
you ask? Well, he’s not that much of a surprise, but he just didn’t receive
all that hype I mentioned. Truth is, he had a great season with his Swedish
Elite team, Frolunda, where he scored 19G, 15A, 34P, 34PIM in 50 games. As
is usually the case with Swedish players, their numbers often don’t look as
good as they should because of the Florida Panthers/NJ Devils like trap
system that’s so popular in the Elitserien.
Currently, Axelsson is playing LW on Boston’s “top” line (as if you can
really call a line with C Tim Taylor and RW Rob Dimaio a top line). At
least Pat Burns calls Tim Taylor his top center — he still can’t believe Read more»
Warren Luhning, the sole rookie on this seasons’s Islander roster, is in jeopardy of being sent down to the minor leagues, probably Kentucky (AHL). His play has shown that he is either not ready to play this season at the NHL level, or he simply does not possess the talent many thought he did. It could simply be a case of the jitters. Who knows? One thing for sure, he is not doing himself a favor with his poor play. Luhning, who played for Michigan University, last year appears to be shell shocked by the level of play in the NHL. Luhning is not a flashy player, but he has the ability to score twenty goals a season and throw his body around. He has played two of three games and has registered no points on three shots and no penalty minutes while playing mostly on the third line with Sergei Nemichinov and Mike Hough, two veterans with scoring and checking ability, a similar makeup to that of Warren Luhning.