Forum answers II

Here’s the second set of “open forum” answers, on a wide variety of topics. Thanks again for all the good questions…

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Question: With JJ out for the next 3 months, do you think that the DL and his group will try to do his contract now. It seems like this would be a good time to do it. What kind of numbers would you guess that he would be getting, to me 4 yrs, @ $16m. Now this is a long shot, but, if the Kings were in the playoff hunt say in Dec/Jan, do you think they would put a offer in to Mat Sundin (if he isn’t already signed by then).

The injury won’t really have any impact on Johnson’s contract situation. Lombardi could negotiate any time with his agent, but it’s much more likely to happen after the season. This season, for Johnson, is a lot like O’Sullivan’s 2007-08. He has a chance to break through and be an impact player, so both sides will wait and see what happens when he comes back. And no, I don’t anticipate Sundin ever being in the Kings’ plans, playoffs or not.

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Question: I wanted to ask you your thoughts on the status of Lombardi. 1. Do you think he will complete his term as GM 2. If so, do you think he will be extended 3. Do you see any merit in the rumored Luc vs Lombardi conflict

1. Lombardi is in the third year of his five-year contract, so he’s safe this year and probably next year as well, both because of the money situation and because the Kings have made it clear that they support his “go young” approach. If significant progress isn’t made between now and then, however… 2. Entirely depends upon what happens in the next two years or so. It’s easier to predict the stock market at this point. 3. Mike Milbury was very bold with his opinions, but I would have liked to see him give a few specifics about what he believes Luc is doing. I’m told there has been some internal debate regarding how quickly young players should be brought along, but unless Milbury, or anyone, makes specific claims, it’s hard for me to comment on anything.

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Question: I believe O’sully should be on the #1 line with brown and kopitar, he brings a ton of speed, pucks skills, and a great shot. With him skating with those two, it will also give him a little more room to work with. Do you think this change will occur?

Yes, it will. Remember that the rest of the team had an entire training camp to get in game shape, learn each other’s tendencies and, most importantly, learn Terry Murray’s system. O’Sullivan has had about a week. Based on the last couple games, he looks to be in shape and ready to play more minutes, and as he gets more comfortable with the system, it’s a good bet that he will go back to playing with Brown and Kopitar.

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Question: Curious to know how LA will use their ECHL team in Ontario in terms of prospects. I only see Jeff Zatkoff as presently being the lone prospect on their roster. Heidi is just great to look at. The new camera angles are interesting. Are they trying to give viewers more of a feeling of being at the game? I’m glad they are at least trying to make it better to watch on TV, more people may stay home and save the extra scratch than go to the game IMO.

Have the Manchester Monarchs made their final cuts yet? I’m not certain. They play their season opener this weekend. The second-tier/younger prospects, those who aren’t playing junior, will find their way to Ontario. Being able to send players to two ECHL teams will pay off most in terms of the goaltenders. This way, both Zatkoff and Taylor can get a lot of work. Ontario could also help the Kings in terms of injured players who need a quick rehab assignment. Now they don’t have to fly all the way to Manchester in order to get in a couple games. As far as the “rinkside view,” clearly they’re trying to give fans a unique view. If nothing else, at least they’re trying something. Nothing they do on TV, though, will ever replace watching a game in person, so the Kings probably don’t have to worry.

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Question: what do you think of Thomas Hickey…he was our 1st round one year back… why isnt he being considered for a roster spot?? was there big hype about him in training camp?? how is his development coming along??

Hickey was considered for a roster spot, but Drew Doughty fared better. Remember that he’s a 19-year-old defenseman. Doughty, at 18, is making it look much easier than it is. A player has to be very, very special to make it as a teenage defenseman in the NHL. Karl Alzner, drafted one spot behind Hickey, got sent down by Washington. Hickey would be in the AHL if age rules allowed it. Hickey’s development seems to be coming along fine. He would be better served playing in the NHL, against a higher caliber of player, but the Kings will keep close tabs on him there. Next year’s training camp should be very important for Hickey.

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Question: Do you think Boyle is playing primarily on the 4th line because Murray wants Boyle to establish his physical game first? Can Richardson be sent down without clearing waivers?

Yes, that’s exactly why Boyle is on the fourth line. The major criticism of his game is that he doesn’t play as “big” as he should, given his size. Coaches and management know Boyle has skill, but they want him to be a little meaner, for lack of a better term. We’ll see if playing him with Ivanans and Armstrong makes a difference. Good question on Richardson. I’m not 100 percent certain, but I believe the answer is no.

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Question: Rich – during the live chat last night the vast majority of us were complaining about the FSN camera angles they were trying out. Just wondering if you have had an opportunity to check with FSN West to see what their complaint volume looked like.

I’ve asked the Daily News’ TV/radio guru, the world-famous Tom Hoffarth, to look into this. It doesn’t seem to be a popular feature…

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Question: Who’s the best ping pong player on the team? Who’s the best beer pong player on the team?

Word in the locker room is that Derek Armstrong is the best ping-pong player. I wouldn’t bet against him in beer pong either.

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Question: 1) What are the chances that this Kings team surprises everyone and qualifies for the playoffs? 2) When I watch the Kings play, LaBarbera always seems a step or two slow compared to the other team’s goalie. He has incredibly poor fundamentals. I’ve never thought he’s a No. 1 netminder. Wouldn’t it be better to let Ersberg have a lengthy trial run instead since he is fundamentally sound with a quick glove, and he semmed to inspire his teammates when he played last season? With your years of covering hockey, do you agree or disagree, and why?

1. Well, at the moment, the website sportsclubstats.com gives the Kings a 47.9 percent chance of making the playoffs. That’s probably as good a guess as any. In real-world terms, the Kings are in a division with Stanley Cup contenders such as San Jose, Dallas and Anaheim, plus an improving Phoenix team. This Kings team should be improved, but don’t set your sights too high this season. 2. Well, the thing about Ersberg is, people get excited about how he played with the Kings at the end of last season, but look at his numbers in Manchester. In 30 games, he had a 2.92 goals-against average. Terry Murray didn’t designate LaBarbera as the No. 1 immediately, like the Crawford/Cloutier situation, so I have to believe that the coaches saw something in LaBarbera and/or Ersberg that convinced them to make the choice. Whether it’s the correct choice…we’ll see.

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Question: Any insight regarding the Kings plans for Moller, Simmonds and Doughty? If they click are they for sure going to stay or are they headed back to junior regardless of performance?

Doughty isn’t going anywhere, and if Simmonds goes down, it would be to Manchester. Moller is the big question at this point. Based on his first three games, he’s likely to stick around. How he plays over the next week or so will reinforce that, or change it.

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  • Quisp

    Given the way Moller plays — hard, tenacious — I don’t think his play is going to change over the next several games. He’s not going to suddenly become lazy and slow. The thing that stands out for me about Moller is that, unlike some scorers (and Moller is a scorer), he doesn’t disappear when he’s not scoring. He’s still a big part of his shifts. When he starts scoring (and he will), look out.

  • cristobal

    I’d like to see what Purcell could do on a line with O’Sullivan and Stoll. If Simmonds is not ready to go next game, could he be called up to give it a shot? Calder in no way deserves the opportunity at this stage.

    Who else could we possibly see given a shot if injuries make it necessary?

  • do

    Rich it was Al Strachan who put the Lombardi/Luc feud rumor out there.. Milbury just put his opinion about Luc not meddle in the hockey area if Strachan’s rumor actually had some merit (which it rarely rarely does)…

  • cristobal

    I’d love to hear that TMurray sat the Kings down to watch tapes of Peter Forseberg and his incredible ability to use the Cold Shoulder. The Kings have been great physically so far, but if they could perfect the Cold Shoulder throughout all 4 lines, I could see much more scoring coming about. They have the size and skill. Bait those defenders and drop them. This skill can turn games and the Kings would excel if they perfect it.

  • jack

    I might have missed the bus, but whats up with calder? did he have a weak pre season or something? I thought he’d replace simmons on the 4th line at least…

  • cristobal

    One other issue with Labarbara is the slimming down. I’m not convinced slimming down is the best route with him. Being fit is important as a goaltender, but muscle and size are good assets as well. Is the slimming down idea, in a sense, trying to change him midstream? Some goaltenders excel by being steady and smart about positioning and reaction, not athleticism. After all, reflexes are not only tied to physical strength, but are a combination of athleticism and hand/eye coordination. There’s no teaching hand/eye coordination, is there?

  • Marc Nathan

    Rich,

    The Monarchs already played their season opener last weekend (a loss) — their HOME opener is this coming weekend.

  • Marc Nathan

    and, with regards to “Doughty isn’t going anywhere…”

    I see you say that with 100% certainty, and I’d personally like to throw in a small, if not viable monkey wrench into that statement.

    After the 9 games, a year of Doughty’s contract is eaten. If the Kings find that Quincey is a legitimate NHL defenseman in the next 5-6 games, and if Johnson REALLY IS coming back in 2-3 months (a complete pipe dream in my head) then it might be worth thinking about sending him back to juniors for the remainder of this season. There is NO QUESTION he’s NHL ready and there is NO QUESTION he’s going to be a valuable member of the team for years to come, but is it worth eating this year when you pretty much know it’s going to take a few major miracles to get this team into the top 8 in the West. Economics have to play SOME part in this equation, like it or not.

    Know that I said it was a SMALL monkey wrench :)

  • brianguy

    not an excuse but maybe they ordered the new banners / billboards for inside and out of Toyota Sports Center (or whatever it’s called these days) but weren’t ready yet, or were still debating who or what to put up. just a thought but I’m sure they have plans to redecorate, even though it makes the place feel woefully outdated. I’m guessing not the highest priority when you have things ilke Patty O’s contract to deal with…

  • brianguy

    do NOT return Doughty to juniors… I repeat DO NOT… it will do him absolutely no good.

  • deadcatbounce

    Doughty won’t be going anywhere because the Kings have nobody to replace him. They’re so woefully thin on defense that they had to go outside of the organization to replace Johnson, and if any of the kids at manchester were ready they’d be here or never would have left. Honestly, that’s probably where Denis Gauthier should be…

  • Mark

    I was really impressed when he was willing to go against Pronger every chance he got instead of holding back. This kid has the guts to stick around. If he can get his foot wet with his first goal he might be a able to help the Kings get to the next level.

  • nykingfan

    It makes absolutely no sense in returning Doughty back to juniors..no matter what Quincey does, or how long it takes JJ to return.
    He has shown during training camp as well as during the 1st couple of games that he is more than ready to compete on the NHL level. By sending him down, you would actually be stunting his growth. He’ll be playing against inferior cometition. What would he get out of that?
    Obviously he moves a year closer to RFA but that doesn’t justify stunting his growth..at least not in his case.

  • Scott Wolf has really lost it

    I remain unconvinced that LaBarbera is a No. 1 NHL goalie. He has never shown those skills although he has been awarded an extended opportunity to do so in his career. He is shaky and often out of position. And we all know a team plays better if they know they have a rock in a goal. Jason is a good guy, but he’s a backup goaltender at best. Garon and Huet weren’t the best either, but they are head and shoulders above Jason, and they were let go.

    It’s time to give somebody else a try … unless the Kings are purposely trying to get the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft? If that’s the case, season ticket holders should ask for a refund.

  • Quisp

    Doughty will not be going back to juniors. It’s not even an issue. Maybe if he suddenly sucks for 6 games, it would become an issue, but that ship has sailed. Quincey (who, I notice is #4 on the Kings depth chart on Hockey’s Future — behind Doughty, Hickey and Teubert) is going to play a lot for the Kings, I predict, and that will have nothing but a positive effect on Doughty. I don’t have the bad feeling about Gauthier that many seem to (that of course could change; I’ve only seen him in two games). I think one can say the Kings are young on defense, but I don’t think it’s exactly right to say they are “thin.” The difference is, with a young defense, you can expect them to get better over time; a thin defense just gets old and thin.

    I’m going to stick by my original assessment of the Kings d: better than last year, and with a little luck (which we have not had so far, with JJ’s injury) we might be able to get the GAA down to around 2.75. Right now, it’s at 2.33 after three games. So far so good.

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