Here’s the second part of the event from last night, broken down to give you some highlights of the questions asked and answered. I’ll have one more after this…
The next question was about Jonathan Bernier, and his chances of making the Kings next season.
Hextall said, “Goaltender is a position we’d like to get better at in the near future but we’ve got to be extremely careful with this kid. There are a lot of factors that go into if he will play here. … Myself, in my heart, I think he has a chance, but my greatest fear is bringing him in too early and ruining him. I can tell you if he can stop the puck, but I can’t tell you what’s between his ears. That’s 80 percent of it.”
The next question was about Erik Ersberg and where he fits in with everything.
Hextall said, “Erik was obviously a pleasant surprise. He’s got a lot of ability but he’s nowhere near a proven goaltender. The jury is still out but he has a lot of athletic ability. He’s unflappable but he’s very unproven. He’s got a lot of mental toughness and he’s got an air about him. … He’s absolutely going to get a shot. He’s going to be in the mix.”
There was a follow-up question about Daniel Taylor.
Hextall said, “Two years ago, quite frankly he didn’t play very well and nobody in the AHL wanted him. … He’s one of the most dedicated kids I’ve ever seen in my life. I wouldn’t say Danny is NHL-ready, but he has come a long way in two years.”
A three-part question followed, about the re-signing of Patrick O’Sullivan, the team’s relationship with Michael Cammalleri and the situation involving the ECHL affiliates, Reading and Ontario.
Hextall said, “We’re working out the Reading/Ontario issue. … It’s not going to be a problem. … Sully played extremely well in the Worlds. He’s come a long way. He came from scoring 50 goals in the minors but not doing much else. It’s almost stunning how much he’s improved. He’s come a long way. His work ethic has come farther than I ever expected it would. We’re working on that (contract). … We like Cammy. He’s got a good relationship with the organization and he’s a good player.”
The next question was about which players might be making the jump from Manchester for next season.
Hextall named Boyle, Purcell, Moulson and Harrold as strong possibilities, and also brought up the names of Brady Murray and David Meckler. He said, “We’ve got some young defensemen there, but nothing high end.” He did speak highly of Drew Bagnall, whom he compared to Mattias Norstrom.
There was a follow-up question about Joe Piskula and Lauri Tukonen. Hextall said, “(Piskula) struggled last year. He had a hard time reading the play. I would expect more from him next year. (Tukonen) had three good months then tailed off. He’s got some work to do.”
The next question was a complaint about the London trip and how poor the experience was for fans. I didn’t catch the particulars, but there was a complaint about the “player party,” which didn’t go over well, it seems.
McGowan said, “We blew London. That’s definitely one to grow on. I would like to have done London differently.”
The next question was a direct complaint about the increase in ticket prices in sections 115 and 116.
McGowan said simply, “That’s demand,” and that those sections sold out, and noted, as previously explained, that the Kings are now charging more for tickets at the end of the rink where they shoot twice. “We’re not revolutionary in that area,” McGowan said. Someone in the audience noted that most of the action takes place on the other side of the rink…
The next question was a complaint about the accessibility of players and ended with the refrain of, “When are you the players going to give back to fans?”
McGowan noted that the Kings hold a “meet the players” party and said, “It’s a balance and we feel we’re providing good access.” Robitaille noted the number of clinics the Kings do at local rinks and jokingly told a story about how, when the players used to leave the Forum and walk to the players’ parking lot, he would put his son on his shoulder and tell him, “Pretend you’re asleep.” That somehow led to the concept of “ice girls” and whether they were a good idea. McGowan asked for a show of hands and it appeared to be in the 60-70 percent range. Hard to tell.
The next fan said his season-ticket rep was doing a good job but called into question Lombardi’s use of his “chart” and asked if other teams use similar things. He also asked why ticket prices don’t reflect the team’s placement in the standings.
Hextall said, “Dean started using the charts in San Jose. We know you don’t win based on charts, but that’s how you plan. If you’re not doing this stuff, you’re not going to have a winning organization over time.”
McGowan noted that the Kings ranked 23rd in the league in ticket prices last season.
The next fan said he didn’t doubt that Marc Crawford was a good coach but asked if he was the right coach for this Kings team.
Hextall said, “It’s hard to say, just from looking at (the results) in the last two years, that he’s doing a good job, but we’ve got a hard team to coach. With the crew we’ve given him, you can argue that it’s our fault. He’s done an admirable job. Our younger players have gotten better under his tutelage.”
The next fan asked about the rumor that had the Kings trading for Spezza and Emery, and also asked why controversial replays were not shown on the video board at Staples Center.
As for the video board, Robitaille said, “Some things we can’t show. Sometimes we’re texting (the video-board guy) and saying, `Show more,’ but it’s a league rule. Some things you just can’t show.”
As for the rumor, Hextall said, “That’s the first I’ve heard about it. I don’t know where they got their information, but it’s not good information.”