Well how ‘bout that? Punxsutawny Phil didn’t see his shadow (predicting an early spring), and here I am, alive and well, bringing you the skinny on the Kings’ baby brothers, the Manchester Monarchs. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a little sad that it’s been well over a year since my last blog. I wish I had some sort of clever excuse. I really don’t. But Surly and Scribe have been gracious enough to welcome me back. I promise that this time, it’ll be with a renewed vigor! 

So it’s February, a week removed from the mid-point of the Monarchs season. The AHL just had its All-Star Classic where one of the Monarchs’ young guns, Tyler Toffoli, laced up to represent Monarchs Country down in Providence, Rhode Island. I for one tip my hat to him; mainly for making the roster, but also for braving Providence for three whole days.

Toffoli participated in two events, the Breakaway Relay and the Rapid-Fire Challenge. He lit up both the Abbotsford Heat’s Barry Brust in the former and the Charlotte Checkers’ Justin Peters in the latter at least once. Boy’s got a shot, there’s no question about that. Wings off a fly and all that jazz.

Man, I really miss Oscar Moller. He was equally as sick of a sniper.

But what about the last four months the Monarchs have been playing? They actually started off really well, recording an amazing 5-1-0 record for the month of October. They were scoring goals like it was going out of style with Jones and Manny back-stopping ‘em to victory. The team’s appearance of being nearly unbeatable on paper looked as though it was the real deal.

The rest of 2012 following an amazing start — one of the team’s best — weren’t quite the same story. Goaltending looked lethargic at times, scoring seemed like an uphill battle, and frankly, it was a frustrating time to be a fan. All of these problems added up to them winning 4 of 13 games in November, and 5 of 14 games in December.

Although last night’s 1-4 loss against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins might not bode well for the start of February, January was actually a really good month (a 7-4-0 record). Dare I call it a turnaround? I sure as hell hope so. The past four months, the Monarchs have gone all the way to the top of their division and then down to the bottom. At the current time, they’re sitting tied for third place with the Worcester Sharks.

At least they’re ahead of the St. John’s IceCaps.

As much as I would like to be able to say that the loss of the Monarchs’ resident Stanley Cup winners — Slava, Noley and Kinger — after the NHL season finally started hurt ‘em, I really can’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of ‘em. They’re great players and cool guys. I just felt like they were holding back down in Manchester, never really seeming willing to finish all their checks or take that extra few strides to chase the puck. I mean I can’t say I blame them. I wouldn’t take any unnecessary risks either if I knew that my real season could start any day.

When the Kings’ season started and those guys went on up, we actually got our own little taste of Stanley Cup celebration down in Manchester. The team brass organized an “LA Kings Night” where there was a pre-game ceremony raising a banner bearing the name of all former Monarchs that won the Stanley Cup. They also tailored the pre-game video intro to be Kings-themed with footage of the Staples Center and Kings games to the tune of G&R’s “Welcome to the Jungle” (the Monarchs entrance theme). The high point of the night was the specialty jerseys the team wore; LA black with Monarchs emblems on the shoulders.

Being stranded here on the east coast, the silent auction for the jerseys was pretty much my only chance to get any sort of authentic game-worn LA jersey. Against my better judgement — finances be damned — I put my money where my mouth was and bid on one. I was happy to come away with a game-worn, signed Bodnarchuk jersey!

BodnarchukJersey

Of course as fate would have it, he got called up mere days after I got the jersey, but I’m still happy. I’ve worn it proudly in the jungle every home game since.

So what now? Well, tonight they square off against the Hershey Bears down at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. I’m really hoping that they did some soul searching last night after getting their asses handed to them by former Monarch and current Penguins goalie, Jeff Zatkoff.

Thanks for reading, and I promise to report back soon with more news and insights from the jungle. Go Monarchs and Kings!