I should have mentioned before… A heartfelt “thank you” to all the “thank you” messages and e-mails I have received. They are very much appreciated. The interaction with all of you passionate and knowledgeable fans is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job, so as always, I greatly appreciate all your continued support. So here’s the second part of the “open forum” answers…
Question: -Does getting Tueburt and Doughty change DL’s focus on FA? -Do you think he’s done trading for a while? -Any thoughts on the Kings plans for Ellis? -After the first round, what do you think was DL’s best draft pick or move?
Answer: I don’t think it changes his focus this summer. I think he always had half an eye on the idea that Doughty might play for the Kings next season but there’s really no expectation that Teubert will, so it shouldn’t alter his free-agent plans. Since we’re talking about “Trader” Dean Lombardi here, it’s hard to say if he’s done trading. I still wouldn’t be stunned to see a Visnovsky deal, but I think teams are more focused now on seeing how free agency plays out. As for Ellis, I would expect him to compete for the same type of role he had last season, a third- or fourth-line winger. Exactly where he fits will largely be determined by how some of the kids look in training camp. As for the final question, there’s something about Geordie Wudrick that grabbed me. Maybe it was just because they had him on for a TV interview, but he seemed very excited and motivated and he’s got good size and a strong style of play. I’m eager to see how he develops.
Question: any word on how guys who finished the season with injuries (like Johnson, Blake, Frolov) are doing?
Answer: The only one I’m not sure about is Frolov. (According to the comment, he talked about surgery at the draft party. But he seems to be OK…) Blake is back on the ice in El Segundo from time to time, apparently skating at 100 percent. Johnson just had your common broken foot, so I wouldn’t think there are any problems there. I believe he’s still taking classes at the University of Michigan this summer. That was the plan.
Question: Q1: Funny but Andy Murray would be a perfect coach for this team. Any chance of him returning. Q2: perhaps next to bad drafts, the Kings inability to develop or trade for quality goalies has to be another weakness. What do you expect the Kings to do short and long term for netminders.
Answer: You’re not the first person to note the irony that Andy Murray might be a good coach for this team. I’ve always said he would probably do very well as a college coach or in a situation similar to that. But no, that ship has sailed. He won’t be back with the Kings. The Kings’ inability to develop or trade for quality goalies has been a problem throughout the 40-year history of the franchise! It’s something Dean Lombardi takes note of often. The short-term plan is to go with Jason LaBarbera and Erik Ersberg, unless one of the young goalies is clearly ready for the NHL. The long-term plan is to let Jonathan Bernier, Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff battle it out and see who rises to the top. That process will start next season and it should be quite a competition.
Question: I would love to know what Lombardi thinks of Richardson. Was this done because the center he wanted was off the board? What does DL like about him?
Answer: Unfortunately, my post-draft call with Lombardi got cut a little short. That’s not a complaint, since he actually took time away from his dinner to talk. So we didn’t really get into Richardson, but I believe your analysis is correct. I know the Kings were targeting a center if they had kept that No. 28 pick. Once that was gone, Lombardi probably looked at the available centers and thought Richardson was a better fit. That was my thought as well. Next time, I’ll have to get into what exactly Lombardi likes about Richardson.
Question: Is Lombardi not aware that when free agents are looking at teams to sign with, it’s probable that those players will want to know what coach they’d be playing for? Why on earth is he waiting until AFTER the free agent period to focus on finding the right coach?
Answer: It does surprise me a little as well, but again, I think it speaks to the fact that the Kings aren’t going to be players for the huge free agents on the market. When Lombardi gives the pitch to his free agents, it will be about helping the Kings build a winning team, taking pride in building something, etc., etc. If players ask, I’m sure Lombardi will tell them that the plan is to hire a coach who will relate well to players and who can build a winning team. I really don’t think the Kings will lose out on a free agent simply because they don’t have a coach in place. Most of the time, it’s more about the organization than the coach.
Question: 94% on Doughty was very impressive, how did you know? With all the changes can you give us an update on potential line combinations and parings for next season, and beyond?
Answer: Thanks, but I can’t give up all my secrets, right? Just kidding… I talked to people who had a very good understanding of the situation, let’s put it that way. Line combinations are really hard to predict, especially when there’s a new coach in place. I thought the O’Sullivan-Kopitar-Brown line worked very, very well and is something the Kings can keep together for a long time. Those guys get along very well and are on the same page. The second line is a little rougher. It seems as though the Kings have had sort of a hard time finding the right fit for Frolov, and that will become very important next season. I’m wondering if a Frolov-Handzus-Purcell line would work, something like that. The rest of it is completely up in the air. There are tons of guys who could fill those third- and fourth-line roles, so there will be a lot of competition, which is good.
Question: I am curious as to your reaction to the draft selections and moves compared to your experience on the day you spent in the “war room” when Lombardi and staff were evaluating draft selections.
Answer: As I said above, the “war room” stuff that day was only regarding lower-round prospects. So the bigger names were not discussed that day. I will say that Futa and Yannetti talked a lot that day about the need to be flexible and adjust to things that happen during the draft. I think we saw a lot of that over the weekend, in terms of the Kings thinking on their feet and making trades. So that was one thing they stressed that day, and it ended up happening much like they predicted.
Question: Considering how much he’s had to say about him in the past, I was surprised DL wasn’t in on the Jokinen sweepstakes. Does he now see him as damaged goods, or was the price simply too high?
Answer: Again, it’s just not the right time for something like that. Phoenix gave up two NHL defensemen and a draft pick for a player with a $5-million-plus contract who will be an unrestricted free agent in 2010, right around when this master plan of Lombardi’s should bearing fruit fully. So it doesn’t make sense right now, in that context.
Question: -Hypothetically, if Brad Stuart wanted to return, would Dean be interested in his services? -Other than Purcell, Boyle and Moulson, which prospect should we expect to see in Kings jerseys this year, and which prospects will getting their first tastes of the NHL and building up their frequent flyer miles from Manchester to Los Angeles? -Do you have any idea who the Kings may want to assign to the Ontario Reign? -Where do you see Hickey, Martinez, Doughty and Teubert playing this year (or most of it)?
Answer: 1) Yes, and it will probably come down to money. Namely, how much of it other teams will offer to Stuart. 2) Other than the three you mentioned, I think either Doughty or Hickey has the best chance of sticking with the Kings. Doughty probably gets the edge at this moment because Hickey is recovering from his ankle surgery. The wild card might be Alec Martinez. The Kings like him and he might be more NHL-ready than previously anticipated. Keep an eye on him. 3) It’s way too early to think about who’s going to Ontario. First they have to figure out who’s going to Manchester. Then the ECHL talent will be split between Ontario and Reading, I presume. 4) Teubert, most likely, will go back to juniors. The other three will get a crack at the NHL. Doughty and Hickey would go back to juniors and Martinez would go to Manchester.
Question: if you assume Johnson, Harrold, Blake and Lubo as our four, who do you specifically see filling out our defensive corps. Are there names you can see them going after either via trade or free agency. I can’t help but think that in order to give the new coach a chance, our defense will have got be a lot stronger than it was last year.
Answer: I think the top-six defensemen would be filled out by Stuart, if he re-signs, plus one out of the three of Doughty, Hickey and Martinez. Preissing is there also, don’t forget. At the moment, Stuart is the top free-agent defenseman, in terms of fit. But you’re absolutely correct in saying that the defense has to be stronger. On the other hand, it can’t get much more pitiful than it was last season, right?