The next set of questions and answers. Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend…
Question: What’s DL’s current feelings about Handzus? Is it too late to buy out or trade him? Would he garner any interest? Hasn’t the acquisitions of Stoll kind of made Handzus obsolete?
Answer: It was pretty clear to me, early last season, that the Handzus signing wasn’t a good one. He was signed to be the No. 2 center and obviously his play wasn’t anywhere close to that. If you’re looking for positives here, Handzus is a tremendoously hard worker, and from everything I’ve ever been told, players come back much stronger in their second year after ACL surgery. As for your questions, yes, it is too late to buy him out now and no, I don’t think any team would have any interest in that salary based on his play last season. Stoll doesn’t necessarily make Handzus obsolete. Handzus is still a better option as the No. 2 center, assuming he can play at that level.
Question: You may have already gotten this question but where do you see Gauthier fitting into the line-up? I was a little surprised by this move. Does take away a chance for any of our young guys?
Answer: I think it really depends upon what the Kings do here the rest of the summer. The Rob Blake fiasco turns everything upside down. At the time of the trade, I saw him as an either/or guy. He could either stay with the Kings or go through waivers and play in Manchester. Now, I think it’s slightly tilted toward him staying with the Kings, but we’ll see. I don’t believe, however, that it will impact the young players. Guys such as Doughty and Hickey will get a chance to make the team based on their merits. They won’t be held back by Denis Gauthier.
Question: 1. Is Purcell going to be the 2nd line guy replacing Cammy? I hope this is not the case, I wouldn’t mind seeing him on the 3rd line, working his way up to the 2nd line, much like how Sully started on the 3rd line last yr, and finished the season up on the 1st line with the Cammy Injury. 2. I have a fear that after all these losing seasons, guys like Frolov,Kopitar, Brown are going to get fed up with the losing and demand trades to a winner. Should I be worried that in 2 yrs, if the Kings are still 27-30th in the league, these guys will be on the market?
Answer: 1) Your situation is the more ideal one, I agree, but the question becomes, who’s the second-line right wing? There aren’t a ton of options out there right now? Would you rather have Kyle Calder in that role? Matt Moulson? This is the reason I’m a bit surprised the Kings didn’t sign an NHL-ready right wing to a one-year contract. But perhaps they think Purcell is ready for the challenge. 2) If the Kings are still 27-30th in two years, Dean Lombardi won’t have a job and his still-to-be-hired coach won’t either, so the Kings will have more problems than just players wanting to be traded. But in general, I understand the point. However, these guys you listed — Frolov, Kopitar, Brown — are the guys who are specifically challenged to help the team start winning. So in a way, it’s up to them.
Question: 1.) Do you think we’re having problems signing Top-End free agents ala Briere, Drury last year, and I wouldnt say top-end but Orpik because LA doesnt have a winning tradition and also not having a coach yet this year. 2.) Do you think DL is making the right moves to get this team in the right direction? If Rich Hammond was the Kings GM what would you have done at the draft/free agency? Trade Cammy? Sign Richardson? 3.) Will the Lubo situation hurt us with future signings/trades? 4.) How likely is it that Calder and/or Handzus will be either traded or bought out later this season if they dont put up respectable numbers? Pretty pathetic when your 3nd line center is the top paid player on your team. 5.) Where do you see us in the standings by the end of this next season? I think we’re gonna be close to the bottom or somewhere near a playoff spot but definitely not in and probably picking somewhere between 4-8.
Answer: 1) Lack of winning tradition? Certainly. Lack of a coach? Maybe, but not a huge deal. It’s pretty simple. Every player has his priorities. Some guys want money. Some guys want to win. Some guys want the challenge that comes with being a specific role. Some want multiples of these things. The Kings need to find guys who are less concerned about winning right now and less concerned about huge seven-year contracts. That can be a tough sell. 2) I don’t like to get into the second-guessing game. It’s Lombardi’s plan and I’ll sit back, like everyone else, and see what happens. I’ve got no problems with the Cammalleri or Visnovsky trades. The only thing I’ve said, as I said above, is that I might have taken a look at a top-six winger to replace Cammalleri, at least in the short term. 3) I think this has been asked and answered a few times now. 4) I don’t see a buyout for Calder. He’s overpaid a bit, yes, but when he’s healthy he can contribute. If Handzus is as bad next season as he was last season, they might have to do something about that. They won’t be able to trade him. 5) Impossible to say. My guess is that things might start rough but that it could end up looking like a pretty good team at the end of the season. I wouldn’t bet on playoffs, but there are always surprise teams.
Question: While I believe Blake may have turned down an opportunity to go to San Jose previously, a 2 year deal @ $4.5 – $5 million per year in San Jose would make sense for both Blake & the Sharks. The Sharks get a solid veteran defensemen and would not be tied to a long term contract. Blake would be on a competitive team located 1 hour away from his So Cal home.
Answer: SJKingsFan gets the prize for posting this at 9:59 a.m. Thursday. Unfortunately, I have no prizes to give out…
Question: Last year, Manchester was left hurting for a couple more veterans for their squad. Are Richardson and Gauthier possibly the vets to be there? Isn’t Manchester left with even more holes as a number of players will be moving up to the Kings? And who is going to fill those holes for the Monarchs?
Answer: Richardson and Gauthier are possibilities for that role. So is Matt Ellis, although he’s not as much of a veteran. Manchester is left with some holes, but as I said earlier, in a previous posting, no GM will ever be upset about having holes in his AHL roster. That means players are being moved up to the NHL, which is the absolute goal of every GM. Dozens upon dozens of players will be in training camp in September. Some will make the Kings and the rest of the best will go to Manchester. It always works out just fine.
Question: Do you think Petiot or Tukonen will ever crack the line up? Have they missed their window?
Answer: Yeah, I think that’s a fair statement. Nothing personal against either of those guys, but I’d be surprised to ever see either of them stick with the Kings on a regular basis.
Question: Watching Donald Sterling wake up and actually sign a quality free agent in Baron Davis has reminded me how much I can’t stand AEG and their insulting attitude toward us fans. Rich, have you ever met Phil Anschutz? For if he really cared about winning and we are now entering Year 15 of zero success, wouldn’t he sell by now? Does he at all care that the public perception of him and his company fall somewhere between used car salesman and trial lawyer?
Answer: One time I was sitting in the press room at Staples Center having the pregame dinner, and this very dignified-looking man walked through, with Tim Leiweke trailing behind. I had to ask a Kings employee who it was, and of course it was Uncle Phil. This was two seasons ago, and that was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on him, although I’m told he typically attends a handful of games a year. I can’t confirm that. So no, I’ve never talked to him. He won’t sell. Remember, he owns Staples Center and that fact, plus all the cross-promotion that goes on, makes the Kings a very valuable property, even if they claim to be losing money. I really don’t think he cares about the public perception. If he did, he would present himself to the people. Even Donald Sterling talks to the media now and then.
Question: From the looks of things the ’08-’09 Kings will be no better than last seasons squad. LaBarbara is not an NHL qualified goaltender, and now we have lost out on any ability to upgrade our defence. Rookies aren’t the answer if you’re talking about improving the club. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this subject Rich. I know that you don’t normally give opinion on the state of the club, but being closer to the action than the rest of us I was hoping you could project what you see for next season. Playoffs or no?
Answer: The problem is not this coming year; it’s last year. Last year has turned into this almost-complete void of nothingness that did little more than allow the Kings to draft Doughty and Teubert. And that’s something, but in general, it was a step backward. O’Sullivan became a legit NHL player, which was big. Brown became a huge part of the team, which is also big. Kopitar took another step forward. Boyle, Purcell and Bernier got a little NHL time. But beyond that…? It was a rough year. If the Kings are going to be perceived to be “on the right track,” they’re going to have to start seeing a lot of positives. And that doesn’t necessarily mean making the playoffs. It means that these prospects have to start showing that they’re legit NHL players and the guys who have been making strides (Kopitar, Brown, O’Sullivan, Johnson, etc.) have to show that they have the capability to be stars. If you see that happening, you know you’re seeing progress. That’s how I would answer that question.
Question: Will one of the required characteristics for the new coach to have a proven ability to keep young players level-headed when the going gets tough? It appears that there are at least half a dozen teams with cap trouble, is DL holding back on Bulin to extract a first? Will Lombardi bring in a coach that will be very defensive minded to keep the games close or as competitive as can be? Or will continue with the entertaining game. I suppose this is directly dependent on AEGs long term commitment? What was Gauthier’s attitude with being in the AHL last year? If willing, it sounds like he could be terrific role model for the new boys in Manchester next year. Has DL spoken with Hedican?
Answer: 1) I don’t know if it will get that specific, in terms of a coach having a track record of keeping young players “level-headed,” but I am sure that the primary qualification the new coach must have will be the ability to relate to young players and understand their needs. 2) If any team can get a first-round pick in a Khabibulin trade, he should get Executive of the Year right now. 3) I don’t think Lombardi will hire a coach based on style. I think he realizes the importance of defense, especially after the last couple awful seasons, so perhaps he might lean in that direction, but I don’t see the Kings limiting themselves to coaches who have a certain style. The expectation is that the coach will always adjust his style to the skills of the players on his roster. 4) I really have no idea what Gauthier’s attitude was like. I didn’t hear about any problems with him being in the AHL. 5) Hedican is definitely in that category of players who might fit with the Kings, but I’m not sure what the Kings’ opinion of him is.
Question: As always, my fellow Kings fans are on the ball and have already asked the questions I would have posed. However, I thought I’d go a different route this morning and ask a few personal questions to help us all get a little more aquainted with our favorite journalist. Rich Hammond, what is your all time favorite: 1.) Movie 2.) Band/Album 3.) Book 4.) Hockey player 5.) …and if you knew tomorrow would be your last day on earth (grim, I know) what would your last meal consist of?
Answer: 1) The Godfather. 2) U2. 3) Wow…tough. Hard to beat “Catcher in the Rye” but I also love “Trinity” by Leon Uris. Does Bob Miller’s book count? 4) Another tough one. Because most of the hockey I watched was Kings hockey, I liked watching Tony Granato. In terms of best guys to deal with, as a journalist, the list would include Jason LaBarbera, Mattias Norstrom, George Parros and Lubomir Visnovsky. There are communication issues with Visnovsky but he’s one of the friendliest guys around. 5) No worries. For a time, I thought Thursday was going to be my last day on Earth. Filet mignon, medium, with garlic mashed potatoes, caesar salad and some kind of cheesecake.