We're five games into the season, and you start to see what Dean Lombardi was thinking.
The Los Angeles Kings' GM believed the window was opening for his up-and-coming club this past summer, so he sprinkled in a pair of veterans into the lineup in the hope they would help get the team over the hump. There's lots of hockey to be played, but defenseman Rob Scuderi, second on the team with 10 blocked shots, and star winger Ryan Smyth have had an immediate impact.
"Kopy, Justin and myself have been working well together," Smyth told ESPN.com from the New York area, where his team beat the Islanders on Monday and will face the Rangers on Wednesday.
"The big thing I've really noticed is just how welcoming the guys have been," Smyth added. "It's a really young group, but really welcoming. I walked into the room, and everyone here was just so excited. The energy that seems to come off these kids is just awesome. I just want to be another piece to the puzzle."
The Kings have won four straight after losing their season opener to Phoenix. They were a favorite pick of many, including yours truly, to finally make the playoffs this season, and they haven't disappointed so far.
"As far as the whole team, everybody just seems to be clicking," Captain Canada said. "We're doing the little things that make a difference in a hockey game. I know in previous years here, from talking to the guys, they would have lost the close games, and now we're winning the close games. That's something to build on."
Smyth was a player the Kings coveted from a long time ago, as far back as last season's trade deadline, but they waited until this offseason to pull the trigger. Lombardi believed Smyth would be an important addition not just for his top-line skill but also for his character and experience.
Smyth's contract, which calls for a $6.25 million annual cap hit, scared off most teams. (Although in real money, his salary decreases each season, going from $6.5 million this season, to $5.5 million in 2010-11, to $4.5 million in the last season in 2011-12.) Still, some teams ESPN.com spoke to last season were worried about Smyth's durability after an injury-plagued season in 2007-08, his first in Colorado.
Smyth played 77 games last season and had 59 points (26-33) on a brutal Avalanche team. At 33, he has plenty of hockey left. This may end up being a worthy gamble on Lombardi's part.
"I feel really good. Obviously got off to a really good start by going to that Team Canada camp [in August]," Smyth said. "Personally, I feel great right now."
And after years in northern climates such as Edmonton and Denver, Smyth and his family of five (his wife and three kids ages 6, 4 and 1) have had to adjust to L.A.-L.A. land.
"It was a tough go at first, just the transition of trying to find a place to live and all that," Smyth said. "But my wife is very organized, and it took about a week to get the family in and get settled. The pictures are hung up. Now we can relax and enjoy it. The kids have adapted and settled in well at school. All is good."
Kings fans must agree.