Perhaps lost in the all the hoopla surrounding the Kings defense this year – which included the loss of Willie Mitchell, Slava Voynov’s legal issues, the emergence of Brayden McNabb, retirement of Robyn Regehr, and trade for Andrej Sekera – was an under-the-radar performance by Jamie McBain.
Originally selected in the second round of the 2006 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, he arrived in Los Angeles amid the strangest of circumstances. Having played four NHL seasons – most recently for the Buffalo Sabres, following a trade there in 2013 (ironically, for Sekera) – the 27-year-old former college blueliner provided some punch to a Kings offense that was lacking in offensive depth without Voynov in the lineup.
Naysayers will likely try to point out it was a small sample size, yet in the 26 games he suited up for Darryl Sutter this season, McBain seemed to make a difference, at least offensively. The Kings scored 3.03 goals per game with him, compared to 2.48 without him. To be fair, they also allowed 2.46 with him, up slightly from the 2.38 they surrendered when they opted for a more defensive-minded lineup.
Given the organization already has plans to add Derek Forbort to their crop of NHL defensemen for next season, regardless of what happens with Voynov and Sekera, there is perhaps little room for a McBain sequel. If they’re looking for potential offense without a huge salary cap hit next year, it will more likely come in the form of Colin Miller. Still, nothing is set in stone at this point.
McBain sat down with MayorsManor this week for 10 questions about his past, present, and future…
On his memories of Manchester:
“It was a quick little stint [in the minors], which is usually a good thing. It brought me back a little bit to when I first became a pro, though. It helped get that hunger back and get your body ready for the next level. It was a good experience, even though it’s not a place where you want to be; but, when you’re there, you make the most of it… Even though it was tough to really connect with anybody a whole lot, being how short of a time I really was there, it was a great group of guys and they were very welcoming to me right from the get go; especially considering I came in late, where they all connected during training camp and things like that. The guys were great, as was the coaching staff. I enjoyed my little bit of time there.”
On if the outdoor game was the high point of his season:
“Absolutely. It’s an experience that most teams in the league don’t even get the opportunity to do it. So, to be in the place where they were having it and to be in the line-up at that point, it was a pretty special time and it’s definitely something I’m never going to forget… When I did end up finally signing and going to Manchester, it was such a humbling experience. It put things into perspective about how fast things can get taken away from you and how you have to do make sure you’re doing your part , as much as you can, to make sure that you can stay in the league and do whatever’s possible, because at any moment, all the sudden, you can be sitting without a job… Everything before singing with the Kings was the low point – not having a job, going to Arizona’s camp and [finding out] they didn’t have a spot for me, being in limbo up until the end of October; that was the lowest point that I’ve ever had in my career, so far. I don’t really have much to complain about once I got to L.A. and that opportunity. Like I said, I was sitting at my house in October and watching the regular season start, without a job. That was the lowest I could go.”
On not playing over the final six weeks of the regular season:
“Every guy wants to play and expects to play and contribute if their name is called, but I knew the situation I was in. That’s why I was called in the first place, because of injuries. When I did play, I felt I played well and that was also being relayed from the coaching staff, as well. I understood the circumstances of the guys that they did have in the lineup. And with the trade they made for [Andrej] Sekera and other components like that, I knew where I was. I knew my role as a seventh guy. As much as you want to be in there, you understand that. I just tried to make sure that I pushed myself every day and stayed ready in case my name did get called. It’s always frustrating when you have to sit back and watch. With the end result, too, it’s tough to swallow for everyone in that locker room. Losing isn’t something the Kings are used to.”
On the communication coming from the Kings’ coaching staff:
“Part of it just comes with the business. Guys get traded away from teams and get traded to teams. You always know that’s a possibility and when it does happen, you have to roll with whatever the new circumstances are. The Kings were very good about communicating; with John Stevens as the D coach, he was the one I had most of my communication with. He did a great of making sure that I was staying focused and staying ready. He was always reminding me that if something was to happen, they needed to be ready to step in and make sure I was ready to help the team. Communication was always there; that was never an issue. It made things a lot easier. He made sure you knew where you were at all times… The Kings definitely stressed video and making sure the communication was there, more so than I’ve had the past. From my experience, that was very helpful. It kept the lines of communication open and helped to make sure everybody was on the same page.”
On if what he learned from Stevens this season:
“He pushes all of the little things in the game; any small thing that can help your game, especially with video. He’s a big video guy, so the games I was playing, we were able to talk after each game and he made sure we were going over things maybe he thought I could do differently and vise-versa, where maybe I saw something compared to his plays. It was really good to just sit down and dissect each game, each shift – even when I wasn’t playing, we’d review practice habits and the little things in the game. For example, we’d talk about line rushes and almost using the lines to your advantage. There were small things that maybe you don’t really think of right away that could actually make a difference in games, ultimately.”
On his exit meeting and the possibility of returning to Los Angeles next season:
“The meeting was good. I had kind of already had little talks here and there, regarding where I was, so there really wasn’t a whole lot of surprise in any of the conversations that we had. Overall, it was all positive talk. We just kind of reelected on the season, especially where I ended up the season. I was very happy with the way things ended and where we were at… [No contract talks], nothing yet. From the exit meetings – and I’ve already known this, anybody who looks at the paper knows – they have pieces that they have to get in place first. With the salary cap the way it is – even last year, me getting called up, it needed to be for the least amount of money possible – they had to find some money within the salary cap. I know they have some pieces they have to figure out first and they have to figure out the salary cap issue. If things come together and maybe if there’s a spot for me, that would be great. After they figure out there things first, we’ll have to see where the chips fall… Anything is possible. I loved my time in Los Angeles. It’s a first class organization and there are reasons they’re as successful as they are. It’s one of those things where it all depends on other organizations and the Kings, as far as what teams offer me. It’s tough to say exactly what the future is going to hold. But, definitely, if it comes down to it and that is the case, where it’s kind of the same scenario as it was this year, where I do have to take a two-way type thing to choose an organization, L.A. is definitely a place where I would love to be.”
On what he thinks his year in L.A. might mean for his future in the NHL:
“I think we’re in a better position this summer than we were last summer, that’s the hope at least – even though last summer I had come off of a full year of playing. Given the change of scenery, and an organization like L.A. bringing me in, hopefully that helps propel my career forward. Maybe other teams will be looking at that. When I did play [this season], I felt pretty good about my game. Once free agency hits, you never quite know what’s going to happen. I learned that last summer. I’m just hoping to be somewhere other than my couch this coming October.”
On the frustration of May and June, where you’re in limbo once again:
“I know that nothing can happen until July, so there’s not much that I can sit here and worry about. Nothing is really possible. I think once July rolls around; maybe a little bit more stress will roll in. Until then, I feel good about where I’ve come from, even just in this last year and the things that I’ve learned. I’m hoping the end of this coming summer isn’t as stressful as last year was.”
On finishing as a plus-4, the first time he was a plus-player since a 14-game stint with Carolina his first NHL season:
“If I look at my plus-minus in Buffalo, I think I was a minus-13, but I had the second-best plus-minus rating among defensemen… I think it’s a stat that is flawed a little bit, but at the end of the day, it shows that you’re on the ice for more goals than against goals. It’s tough to argue it a whole lot. It’s one that you definitely want to be in the positives. I hadn’t really focused on it a whole lot in the past, but this year I almost wanted to make that my main focus, especially being the situation I was in – I didn’t want to come in and be a risk to the team. I made sure I took care of my defensive responsibilities first. Funny enough, it actually creates more offense, which is not surprising… maybe it was just the organization and the team itself. I just didn’t want to hurt the team at all when I was in the lineup. I wanted that to keep me in the lineup, not put up goals against and become a minus player.”
On reaching 300 career games played this season and 100 points:
“I think all the milestones mean something to me, and they should mean something to a lot of guys. It’s a big step; 300 games is one of those things, going back to my summer, I was thinking I might not get to play in the NHL again. It was kind of scary, so being able to hit a mark like 300 is a big deal. And 100 points, that’s big too, being that I’m an offensive-minded, point-producing guy, where I expect to put up points. To hit that marker was a big deal too, so I was excited to hit both of those milestones this year in Los Angeles.”
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