I got some more clarification today from the Kings regarding one of Dan Cloutier’s accusations, that he and his pregnant wife were essentially forced to stay in a hotel room in Manchester rather than an apartment.
Here’s what the Kings say…Cloutier was put in a hotel upon his arrival, and when his wife arrived, they were upgraded to a “suites hotel.” After the standard 28-day period, the Kings asked him to stay in the hotel, which they say is “not out of the norm,” and then Cloutier was injured. The Kings say Cloutier then decided to move to a different hotel, and the Kings say they aren’t sure why. Then finally, they say Cloutier decided to get his own place in Manchester, before he was recalled.
So, that’s that. Also, I got an e-mail from Kevin Woodley, who is the contributing editor for a publication called Goalie News magazine. Kevin passed along a story about the situation that he wrote several months ago. I’ll attach the article below, but you can check out Goalie News here.
No practice today, since the team is flying to Nashville, but I have some good notes from Don left over from yesterday, so I’ll post those throughout the afternoon.
Cloutier has to fight back from AHL
Dan Cloutier was chomping at the bit for a shot at redemption, eager to prove a woeful debut last season in Los Angeles was the product of undisclosed injury, not ineffectiveness. He wasnt given a chance.
Placed on waivers and sent to the AHL after only playing half of two games in the preseason, Cloutier may never get that chance with the Kings. The way things have gone since joining the organization a year earlier that may not be a bad thing, as long as he does get another shot at the NHL.
I had no idea, especially since I was having a pretty good camp, so thats why I was surprised. They just said I had to find my groove again, they think Ive lost it from not playing, said Cloutier, not wanting to say whether he felt the move was predetermined. Thats why I was disappointed because for them to say I dont have my groove after just two half games, thats where I find it hard to understand. Thats tough, especially with whats gone on in the last year. Im not sure how to take it.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi re-iterated the need-to-play as a reason for the demotion during a conference call, pointing out Cloutier has only played 37 NHL games and had two surgeries in the last three years.
Last year he did not have a good year due to a combination of injuries or whatever, Lombardi said, adding Cloutier came to camp healthy, but still needed game action to get his confidence and rhythm back. We just felt this was the best thing for him and will give him a much better base to try and come back and be the goaltender he was before we got him.
It certainly didnt help Cloutiers cause that 19-year-old rookie Jonathan Bernier was having an outstanding camp (see sidebar), or that the Kings learned the hard way last year that demoting Jason Labarbera, who also struggled a bit in preseason, meant leaving him in the AHL all season.
Whether demoting Cloutier was a good way to restore confidence judging by his tone and statements he was feeling stronger mentally and physically every day in practice with the Kings, the answer appeared to be no its hard to argue with Lombardi about Cloutier not being the same since the Kings got him from the Canucks last summer for two draft picks.
What Lombardi didnt talk about was the role the Kings may have played in the erosion from three-straight 30-win seasons in Vancouver to a 6-14-2 record, 3.98 goals-against, and 86.0 save percentage in L.A.
The injuries Lombardi referred to was a hip labrum that tore in October but wasnt operated on until December, by which time it was bone on bone. Cloutier accepts some blame for trying to play through an injury that basically made it impossible to push right to left in the butterfly, but two former Kings teammates told the Goalie News he was pushed by the team to keep playing and, in the words of one, not make excuses.
The whatever Lombardi referred to could very well be forcing the 31-year-old to abandon his longtime helmet-and-cage setup in favor of the fiberglass masks used by most goalies. Again, Cloutier wouldnt use it as an excuse, but anyone who talked to him about his old helmet, which is admittedly more prone to direct blows and possible injuries, knows he never switched because he felt he couldnt see in a mask. Most telling perhaps, is that the helmet and cage was back in training camp.
In camp I was finally back to normal, where I could do the things and my confidence was building every day in practice and I was really looking for ward to this year, Cloutier said. Even my teammates noticed it and were telling me about it, so it was nice I was finally just moving in the crease a lot better and thats why its a little disappointing, I thought I was getting to where I wanted to be at. I guess Ill have to do it down there first.
So far though, the only thing Lombardi has regretted publicly is the two-year, $6.2-million contract extension he gave Cloutier last summer. Now that it could keep him stuck in the minors like Labarbera last year, if the Kings recall Cloutier and another team claims him, Los Angeles is still on the hook for half his remaining salary Cloutier may regret it too.
I said if you dont have any plans for me why dont you buy me out, said Cloutier of the demotion meeting with Crawford, Lombardi and Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall. They said I was still in their plans.
Cloutier, who was also dealing with being sent across the country with his wife pregnant and soon unable to fly, didnt sound convinced.
Ive been pretty lucky in the past that every person I have worked for, or played for, what they have said is the truth and theyve been pretty honest with me, he said. And now I really dont know what to think.
An uncertain future aside, Cloutier pledged to take his best to the AHL, but isnt sure what to expect in the more scrambled league, especially behind a young team. Veteran Sean Burke found it almost impossible to adjust his game after Tampa Bay demoted him last season, but was solid in the NHL after the Kings claimed him off reverse waivers.
Theres not really much I can do, Cloutier said. But Im not the type of person who will go down and not care. I still love to play hockey. Im going to go and do my best, work hard and according to them, get my game together, and hopefully people notice.