Cloutier, day 2

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.

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  • Kevco

    I was willing to “wait and see” when they brought him back up a couple of weeks ago and he did have 2 goods games. Then he stinks it up for the next few games, gets sent to the bench, but comes out hard against Vancouver. I thought, “maybe”. But now with all this I say buy him out, send him away and forget it ever happened. The more he opens his mouth more more I want him gone.

  • tsaiguy

    This brings up a funny issue…I mean exactly how much sympathy are we supposed to feel for Professional athletes, and the difficulty that they have balancing work with family responsibilities. (I am assuming Cloutier’s wife is still in Manchester unless she can fly again at this time) Granted, most jobs don’t require people to pack up and move across the country at a moment’s notice, but they only have to work half the year and are compensated handsomely for it…I am pretty sure that most of us would probably feel that we were treated pretty well by our employers if they paid for our housing and medical treatment.

    Many soldiers in Iraqw are asked to endure much worse situations regarding distance and family…and most of them don’t get to complain to the media about how badly they’ve been treated.

  • tsaiguy

    I would say that if the Kings are not treating their players up to the standards expected by most players though…then that is a big concern for the organization

  • Irish Pat

    Perhaps both parties involved could have handled things a little better, but what bothers me is that Cloutier asked Lombardi “…if you dont have any plans for me why dont you buy me out”. Wow. That is crap. What does this guy expect? You’re playing for a last place team. Sports is all about- What have you done for me lately?- does he really think any team is going to take a chance on a 31 year old, overpaid, injury prone primadonna after the disaster of a season he had last year? I’m getting the impression he feels entitled to play in the NHL. You signed a contract buddy and haven’t exactly shown your worth. At least show a little humility. One thing L.A. fans can be is forgiving. Look at the Kobe situation. I’ll bet that most Blake haters would chill out if he was helping the Kings make the playoffs (okay, maybe not).Imagine if he were playing in Toronto or Philly. If Cloutier miraculously helped the Kings make the playoffs next season I’ll still boo him.

  • shadowalk

    “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.

    If this is true, and who really knows, then the Kings are not the Classy team they make out to be. There is not the way a pro team should be run. I do wonder who these former players are?

  • Someone

    “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.”

    That does not leave a good impression of the Kings organization.

    Lombardi said he was aggressive in pursuing Gomez and Drury last summer but they didn’t want to play for the Kings. I’m starting to see why…

    This was the kind of stuff that the Kings organization was supposed to be ridding itself of when they blew up the front office two year ago. This does not look good.

    I said yesterday that Lombardi needs to address this directly and instead he gave a “no comment”, instead letting his PR people do the talking. This is a mistake.

    I like what Lombardi has done so far, and I like the direction this team is heading but if the Kings are ever going to be successful they need to attract and retain talent. This needs to be addressed!

  • Dan H.

    Going side to side last year weren’t the goals that really irritated me with him…it was the ones where the guys were in the corner behind the goal line and banked them off his ass and into the net and it seemed like every 3-4 games one of those went in.

    I think there are probably valid arguments, but at his salaray you go to management, not the press.

  • Adrian Lam

    Dan H. said: “it was the ones where the guys were in the corner behind the goal line and banked them off his ass and into the net and it seemed like every 3-4 games one of those went in.
    I think there are probably valid arguments, but at his salaray you go to management, not the press.”

    Remember those same goals early last year, but in most cases he had it played exactly how you’d draw it up and then it would trickle through gear and in — like a guy who was having trouble finding the puck, which the mask partially explains.

    As for going to the press, imagine it was more press from his old team going to him and getting honest answers. Given mask and other situations, going to management clearly didn’t work before anyways.

  • Ike

    Sounds like the Kings have some of the blame. The guy basically hasn’t played at all this season. How can we expect him to be Patrick Roy?

    Bone on bone. Ouch.

  • Daniel

    DL needs to confront this issue head on and immediately. Take from the pages of the Obama School of Conflict Resolution. Hopefully right now he is going to Clout’s and confirming the accusations. Rich, if he doesn’t answer your questions by game time tomorrow, please call him out on it.

    As for Clout’s playing through an injury – I can tell you, as one who has competed on many level in many different sports, if you love the sport, you ‘suck it up.’ As long as you can still get on the field/court/ice you give it a shot. I know there are economic repercussions to teams admitting a player is injured but I have a feeling this was an example of a player sucking it up and the team wanting him to prove he was not hurt.

    Just remember, Kopitar was hurt last year and they did not force him back out on the ice. This year Frolov and Cammi wear injured so bad they could not skate and they got the necessary time off. So, no, the Kings DO NOT mistreat their players.

  • Joey G

    These articles do nothing to refute this very simple fact: when Cloutier had the chance to play, he did not play well enough to keep his job. When he was with the big club last year, he had the league’s worst stats. When he was in the minors and was healthy, he was outplayed by every young goaltender down there. Can you honestly tell me that any team in this league would guarantee a goaltender playing time when that goaltender isn’t getting the job done? Especially when there are others who are playing well?

  • Joey G

    None of this stuff in these articles can refute this simple fact: Cloutier has not played well enough to keep his job. Last year he had the league’s worst numbers. Want to write that off due to mask issues (whatever) or injuries, fine. He’s been healthy this year in the minors and has not performed well. He’s pretty much been outplayed by every young goaltender down there. Do you really think there is a team in this league that will guarantee Cloutier starts when he’s playing poorly and they have other goaltenders who are playing well?

  • Anonymous

    The proper phrase is “champing at the bit” not “chomping at the bit.”

  • PRMan

    I had no idea, especially since I was having a pretty good camp, so thats why I was surprised.”

    This is the biggest problem. He had a horrible camp. He was worse than Aubin, Bernier and Labarbera, but he thinks he was great.

    He still can’t see that ending camp with the worst Save % by far earns you a ticket to Manchester.

  • kings fan

    last i checked, mr. cloutier had the worst stats in the AHL this year. i’m not sure why he is complaining that he didn’t get a chance with the kings. it seems the other goalies just played better. it’s also hard for me to understand how the most overpaid player in the NHL can complain about the way his team is treating him in financial matters such as which hotel/apt he is staying in. if these comments from cloutier are true, then I hope he gets out of the kings organization soon– it’s too bad no team in the league is interested. Now, to the Kings management… they are not impressing me (why did they pay cloutier so much in the first place? It’s a mystery to the rest of the teams in the NHL)… Furthermore, the organization has gone nowhere but downhill since the changes a few years ago. Just look at the standings. Yes, they have some promising young forwards but most of those were drafted by the old management. Anyone know what Dave Taylor is up to these days? It goes without saying that Crawford needs to go also.
    Sorry to those i’ve offended, Cloutier in particular. I’m sincerely hoping for your come-back, but you need to prove yourself in the AHL first– If you can’t even shine there, how you expect the Kings to sit one of their other goalies who happen to be playing reasonably well !!!