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Cammalleri's Demotion Angers His College Coach

October 02, 2002|Jerry Crowe; Chris Foster

Michael Cammalleri, reassigned Monday to the minors, was misled by the Kings into leaving school early, his college coach charged Tuesday.

Red Berenson, in his 19th season at the University of Michigan, said that Cammalleri told him that King Coach Andy Murray had promised the All-American center that he would play on the top line if he joined the Kings.

Cammalleri, who led Michigan with 23 goals in 29 games last season, was considered a leading candidate for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, before signing with the Kings on July 25 and giving up his senior season of eligibility.

He was one of four rookie forward signings widely ballyhooed by the Kings, but only Russian right wing Alexander Frolov remains on the roster. Along with Jared Aulin and Yanick Lehoux, Cammalleri will open the season with the Kings' American Hockey League team at Manchester, N.H.

"I absolutely think he made a mistake and I told him that," Berenson said Tuesday. "And it wasn't just his fault. L.A. put him in a tough situation. They wanted him to leave school and they told him he would play on their first line.

"How can you do that? How can the coach of an NHL team call a kid in the summertime and tell him he's going to play on their first line when the kid hasn't played a game of pro hockey and he's 20 years old?"

Murray said that all he promised Cammalleri was that he would play with top-line forwards Jason Allison and Adam Deadmarsh at the start of training camp, which Cammalleri did before minor injuries sidelined the veterans.

Cammalleri, considered a strong candidate to move onto one of the Kings' top two lines, later played on a line with Allison and Ziggy Palffy.

"Everything I committed to, I lived up to," Murray said.

On Monday, after getting the news from Murray and General Manager Dave Taylor that he was headed to Manchester, Cammalleri expressed disappointment but no bitterness. He said nothing about broken promises.

Asked if he had second thoughts about leaving school, he paused.

"I don't think so," he said.

The Kings believe that Cammalleri, bruised feelings aside, is better off playing in the minor leagues than at Michigan. They say he'll play a more demanding schedule against older, stronger, more talented players, and he could be promoted to the NHL at any time.

Plus, he'll make about $600,000, including signing bonuses.

Cammalleri, they say, indicated to them that he was considering joining a junior team in Canada if the Kings didn't sign him, an obvious negotiating ploy and an option that could have earned him unrestricted free agency next summer.

Cammalleri, they stress, made up his own mind to leave Michigan.

Still, Berenson, who spent 17 years as a player in the NHL, doesn't like it.

"It's a business and they all think they know their business," said the coach, whose last five All-Americans have all left school early, "but I'm sure the kid's not very happy right now and I feel bad for him.

"Our team's going to be fine.... You know who I worry about? I worry about Mike Cammalleri. He'll do fine too, but he's missing out on one of the best years of his life and he's going to kick himself down the road.

"You can't buy it back. You can't wish it back. You can't regret it back."

Jerry Crowe


Left wing Denny Lambert was hardly surprised upon receiving the news he was out with the Mighty Ducks. He saw it coming.

"I think my fate was dealt before [training] camp opened," Lambert said.

Lambert, defenseman Jason York and left wing German Titov were all purged from the Duck roster Monday and will be available for Friday's NHL waiver draft. They all had been put with the minor league practice group after the first week.

"I never got to play with an NHL player through the whole camp," said Lambert, one of two enforcers in camp. "There was no opportunity for me to show anything. I don't understand it."

Unlike York and Titov--both busts as multimillion-dollar free agents--Lambert was coming off a solid season in 2001-2002. He was to have made $550,000 this season and $600,000 in 2003-04.

"I thought I was ready," Lambert said. "But after the conversation I had with [Coach Mike Babcock], this comes as no surprise. With him telling me that I didn't show him anything. That was after two days.

"I know I could have added something to the team. This is not a physical team. I'm not talking about fighting, I'm just talking about hard-nosed hockey."

Lambert appeared in 73 games and was part of an effective fourth line. He had two goals, seven points, 213 penalty minutes and finished a plus-one.

But the Ducks finished 13th in the Western Conference, 26 points out of a playoff spot. First-year General Manager Bryan Murray, the team's coach last season, was intent on upgrading the team's talent level and giving the organization's prospects an opportunity.

"It's a tough decision," Murray said. "Who is a better character guy than Denny? He does everything you ask him to do. But we're at the point where our younger players are stepping up a little bit. We have to give them a chance."

Chris Foster

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