Tinseltown is a long way from Quispamsis, N.B. But defenceman Randy Jones eased into life as a Los Angeles King thanks to a familiar face.
When Jones was claimed off waivers from Philadelphia earlier this month, the Kings happened to be doing their annual father-son trip. Fortuitously Jones’s parents were about to head home to New Brunswick from a wedding in Hawaii, so dad Butch to join his son as he landed with his new team.
Butch was quickly welcomed to the Kings extended family.
“They were passing out the jerseys before the game against Phoenix and I wasn’t playing, so when he (Butch) put it on, he made a joking comment: ‘Geez, it feels pretty good that I get to wear this jersey before my son does,”‘ Randy Jones said in a recent interview.
“I loved having him here,” he added. “For that father-son thing, it kind of made it a little more comfortable. It was my first road trip with the team, it was just my second day being here. He was new along with me.”
The 28-year-old Jones, who had spent his entire professional career in the Flyers organization, is a self-described “small-town guy.” But he had no trepidation about making the move to California.
“I wanted to get back in the NHL,” said Jones. “Whether it was in Timbuktu or wherever, that was my main priority.”
The business side of the game was largely responsible for him starting the season in the American Hockey League.
Coming off hip surgery over the summer, Jones had trouble cracking Philadelphia’s roster out of training camp in part because he carried a salary cap hit of US$2.75 million. As a result, the cap-challenged Flyers sent him to their AHL affiliate in Adirondack.
At that point, it looked like he might spend the entire year in the minors because the path back to the NHL involved being placed on re-entry waivers, meaning the Flyers would have to pay half his salary if another team claimed him.
However, Jones tried to put negative thoughts like that out of his mind.
“You’ve got to go down with the right attitude and I felt I did that,” he said. “You know, I guess there’s some times when you feel sorry for yourself and whatnot. But I knew that wasn’t going to help me or do me any good.
“I decided to go work hard whether I was there for one day, one week, one month or six months.”
It didn’t end up taking too long for that approach to pay dividends.
Not only did he end up getting claimed on waivers after less than a month in the minors, Jones also scored the winning goal in his first game with the Kings. And the success has continued since – heading into Wednesday’s game in Edmonton, Jones has two goals and four points in six games with Los Angeles.
On top of all that, he’s playing for one of the league’s up-and-coming teams. Jones recalls how tough the Kings were to play in recent years and is thrilled to have the opportunity to help them take a step forward.
“It’s exciting for a young team to be doing this well early in the season,” he said of the 13-9-2 squad. “In my eyes and a lot of other peoples’ eyes, it’s not a surprise. Hopefully we can just keep it going and move on here for the next 60-some games.”
A positive and upbeat guy, Jones doesn’t seem to have much trouble looking forward.
However, he is willing to admit that it was a little tough to move on from the Flyers organization, which signed him as undrafted free agent back in 2003. During six seasons in Philadelphia, Jones won a Calder Cup with the AHL Phantoms and appeared in more than 200 NHL games.
“Sometimes there’s mixed feelings,” he said. “I know for myself, after being in one place for so long, you can get into a comfort level and everything just feels like home. When you move situations and move cities and move organizations, there’s an adjustment you have to make.”
Fortunately, he’s found another home where the fit seems just right.
“For the most part, it’s actually been very easy for me,” said Jones. “Just because of how the guys have treated me and welcomed me – along with the coaching staff and management. It’s been super so far and I couldn’t ask for anything better.”