Forum answers, Part 1

Here we go, just taking them in order posted. I’ll try to answer about 10 at a time or so. For the most part, questions that pertain to the draft and free agency should be handled by Lombardi, and I’ll be trying to set up a Q&A with him in the near future…

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“What in the world do you think DL may do with all those draft picks? If we finish last, do you think he’ll pick twice in the first round or maybe wheel and deal some?”

If there’s one thing we know about Dean Lombardi, it’s that he loves his draft picks. Can’t get enough of them. That said, I would not be surprised to see him deal one or more of them, if it meant getting a player (particularly a defenseman) in his prime. Getting the Dallas first-round pick in 2008, rather than 2007, backfired, because the Stars have been so strong. There’s no way he will trade the top pick, but anything else could be in play.

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“I would like to know, how realistic is it to expect Bernier to be the No. 1 goalie next season? Or is Ersberg the more immediate future? Or should the Kings go out and sign or trade for a No. 1 goaltender?”

Is it realistic for Bernier to be the No. 1 goalie? Sure. Is it realistic to expect him to play 65-70 games? Probably not. If Bernier is going to stick with the NHL team next season, the Kings will need to find a solid, 1A caliber guy who can help. That’s probably Jason LaBarbera, but I’ll also be curious to see how Ersberg looks over these last 15 games. The thinking going into this season was that Ersberg would need a year of North American seasoning and be NHL-ready in 2008-09. That could end up being the case. We’ll see.

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“what is the kings plan for the rest of the season? since they sent all their young talent back to Manchester, I guess they believe they are better served down there than at the NHL level? can they not stay up here, then go beck to the AHL once the NHL season is over? What are they planning on doing with Cloutier? He obviously is not NHL material anymore and cant even play well in the minors, can they just cut him?”

The Kings’ plan for the rest of the season is exactly what it was 12 months ago. Play out the string, without hope of making the playoffs, and get the word out to all the players: you’re playing for a spot on next year’s team. That’s where the motivation comes from. I wouldn’t say “all” of the young talent has been sent to Manchester, but Lombardi has a very specific theory about young players. He doesn’t want them to be overwhelmed in the NHL and have their development stunted. Personally, I think he goes overboard on that at times, but that’s what he thinks is correct. I don’t think you’ll see Dan Cloutier in a Kings uniform next season. A buyout is possible, or he might choose to play overseas, as Oleg Tverdovsky did.

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“Do you think Cammalleri will be traded, either by Draft Day or by next the Trade Deadline? Do the Kings feel Brian Boyle has solidified a roster spot for himself next fall? I have been impressed with Matt Ellis thus far, not necessarily by his skill but by his work ethic. How does Lombardi feel about him? Is he an option next season?”

If the Kings don’t sign Cammalleri to an extension this summer, I would not be surprised, at all, if he got traded. The first choice is to keep him, but as everyone saw last summer, contract negotiations with Cammalleri and his agent are not going to be easy. I wouldn’t say Brian Boyle has “solidified” a roster spot. Not at all. I do think he will get every chance to earn a spot in training camp. I haven’t talked to Lombardi about Matt Ellis, but he does seem to have the potential to fill an “energy line” role nicely.

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“What are the plans for Brenier after QMJHL wraps up? Manchester? Is there, was there, concern of Bernier’s average numbers in the Q this year? Who are the worthy UFA goaltenders expected to be available this year? What are the plans for NCAA standout Goalie Jeff Zatkoff? Let him finish out his senior year or sign him to play in Manchester next year?”

Unless Lewiston gets eliminated early in the QMJHL playoffs, it’s pretty unlikely that Bernier will end up in Manchester. In fact, I don’t believe the Kings are planning to see Bernier in a Monarchs jersey this season. There was definitely concern about Bernier, but more about his mental state than his physical game. The Kings seemed resigned to the fact that Bernier would slump a little when he first got sent back to junior, but that period seems to have passed and they think he will be fine. Theodore and Huet are probably shaping up to be the top free-agent goalies. And I suppose there’s a chance Zatkoff could sign and end up in Manchester, but I doubt it. There’s a lot of goalies in the system and, before anything can happen, he actually has to sign.

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“After watching alot of these games this year, what department is the most to blame for this abysmal season. Forwards, defense, goaltending, the defensive effort of the forwards perhaps? Thanks.”

If we’re talking purely about players, I would say the order of blame goes defensemen, goalies and forwards. As you mentioned, the defensive effort of forwards has been an issue at times as well. Injuries contributed, somewhat, to the goaltending issues.

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“Why are the Kings calling up Jon Klemm, when there are so many kids in Manchester that can use NHL experience?”

In part, it goes back to Lombardi’s philosophy about not using players in the NHL until they’re ready. He doesn’t want players to be overwhelmed, or develop bad habits, before they’re ready to play in the league. The chicken-egg argument is, “Players can’t be experienced until they get…experience,” but that’s a fine line that Lombardi and Crawford have to toe.

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“Why is Cloutier still playing? At his best he was never good enough to get this many chances. Why should Ersberg not play the last 15 games to see what he could do especially since the kings have a tough remaining schedule.”

Good questions! He’s playing now because LaBarbera is hurt and they didn’t know what they would get from Ersberg. Ersberg’s first game was great, but it was only one game. We’ll see how his next couple games go. If LaBarbera doesn’t come back, I would expect that Ersberg will get every chance to earn the majority of the final 15 games.

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  • Joe Dirt

    Thanks much for sharing your insight Rich. I hope you’re right on the last questions. I would like to see more of Ersberg as he looks 1000% more fundamentally sound than Cloutier.

  • imamonsta

    Thanks Rich but one thing, didnt Bryzgalov sign a 3 year extension with Pheonix recently?

  • Lou

    Rich,

    I think a factor in keeping the young prospects in Manchester is that they are in a playoff run. I think Manchester is still 2 points out out of the playoffs. I think the Kings management believes the high pressure experience of a playoff run will do them good in their development and likely will serve as a “binding” experience for them.

  • Mike

    Rich,

    Great comments. We’ve missed you. A few comments i had were that I don’t think DL regrets taking this year’s first-round pick as opposed to last years because of how stacked this year’s is. A 27-29 pick would be better off this year than a slightly higher pick in last year’s draft, I think.

    Also, Bryz was re-signed by Phoenix so Huet is about the only decent/good FA goalie available.

    With all of that said, it’s great to have you back.

  • tantrum4

    Hey Rich,

    Do you have any indication weather it will be Ersberg or Cloutier starting tonight? It just may make up my mind weather to watch the game or not….

  • ryan oliver

    Thanks alot Rich for taking all this time. Very much appreciated.

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