Jul 1, 2011, 9:21 AM EDT
Before we get into the NHL free agency blitz, we wanted to get a better look at the new Flyers acquired in the deal that sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles, returning Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, plus a pick. We asked Rudy Kelly of Battle of California a few questions about Simmonds and Schenn, as well as for his thoughts on their new two-way stud center.
The700Level: What was your initial reaction to the trade news, and how have your feelings changed since getting over the initial shock, if at all?
Rudy Kelly: When I first heard I was pretty shocked, seeing as how you guys had just traded Jeff Carter. I assumed it was fake until Bob McKenzie tweeted about it. Then I was really, really bummed. Wayne Simmonds has been my favorite player since Alex Frolov left and is pretty much everything you could want in a young player while Schenn will be great one day. Plus, I always thought Mike Richards was kind of an asshole. I’m pretty happy with the trade now but at first I was sad.
The700Level: How would you describe Wayne Simmonds on the ice? What qualities can we look forward to, and what should we be concerned about (ie, strengths and weaknesses)?
Rudy Kelly:Simmonds owns. He’s turning 23 in August and has already entrenched himself as a dependable, solid right winger that can chip in offense now and again. He’s 6’3″ but only about 190 pounds. We all assumed he’d add weight as he got older but I think he’s just kind of skinny and he’ll never really be a power forward. He makes up for his lightness by being very quick and slippery along the boards. He’s fast but, more importantly, he moves fast around the ice. He can translate his speed to game situations. He’s very good at getting the puck in deep and recovering it, then dishing it over to a puck possession type. He’ll never score 70 points in the NHL but he’s good in front and around the net so he’ll fit in nicely on the Flyers.
Weaknesses? There was a rumor he and Doughty liked to party but I’m sure your organization will have no problem with that.
The700Level: To what degree are you pissed that the Kings dealt Brayden Schenn?
Rudy Kelly: Not as pissed as I thought I’d be, since we basically fast forwarded his development 5 years with Mike Richards. Richards is who everyone compared Schenn to. I think the only difference is that Schenn is a little more subdued. Schenn is awesome and everyone hoped he’d eventually be the 1B to Anze Kopitar’s 1A. Now it’s Richards.
The700Level: What are your early impressions of Schenn?
Rudy Kelly: Schenn was progressing nicely and I didn’t really agree with him getting sent down. Terry Murray felt Schenn needed to work more on his positioning defensively and repeatedly brought up a goal the Kings allowed when Schenn was on the ice against the Sedins (why the f*ck you’d put your 19-year-old center out there against the Sedins is a different matter, but I digress). I’m not 100% Schenn will be an elite point producer at the NHL level; he likes to hold onto the puck while he waits for the play to develop and that doesn’t seem to work for too many people that aren’t Joe Thornton. (The only guy I know that does that a lot and isn’t huge is… Mike Richards.) He’s smart, though, and he’s very good at finding space on the ice to create plays. He’ll be a very good player, a guy who can get 50-70 points while also matching up against the other team’s top players. He’ll grow and eventually fill the role Mike Richards filled on your team.
The700Level: Where does Mike Richards fit in on the Kings? What are your expectations, and to what degree do you think he makes them a more viable Cup contender?
Rudy Kelly: Mike Richards gives a ton of options for Terry Murray. Richards and Kopitar can score, they can compile assists, they can play defense (they finished 8-9 in the Selke voting this season) and they can lead a team. They mesh well, as Kopitar is larger and more placid while Richards seems quicker and more fiery. The Kings can continue to use Kopitar against the Joe Thornton’s and Ryan Getzlaf’s of the world while Richards can face off against the Datsyuk’s and Crosby’s of the league. Either one could take tough minutes or benefit from the open space provided by the other. Richards will likely headline the penalty kill while Kopitar runs the power play. Either one of them can do it all and when you put both of them together… I’m getting the vapors just thinking about it.
In terms of contending for a Cup… yeah. I mean, anything can happen, you guys know better than anyone, but I think a core with Kopitar & Richards down the middle, Drew Doughty on the back end, and the Jonathans Quick and Bernier in net can win a Cup. Now it’s just about finding the right pieces to surround them.
The700Level: You guys OK with having so many former Flyers involved in the operation of the team, and now our former captain?
Rudy Kelly: Not as worried as I’d be if it were a bunch of former Rangers. (The only one I don’t love is John Stevens and that’s because his eyes are too close together.)
Thanks to Rudy Kelly (get it?) of Battle of California.
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