Forum answers II

The second set of questions and answers. Keep them coming, if you wish!

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Question: Question related to Dean: has his interaction with AEG changed at all since he first took over? With L.A. Live and everything else, it would appear that Leiweke is spread even thinner and cannot exert his lack of hockey acumen on the Kings’ front office as in years past. Does DL really have complete autonomy on hockey decisions or does he have to go to AEG before any deal is made?

Answer: A good question, but a complicated one. Basically, yes, Leiweke is less hands-on with the Kings than he was in previous years. The day-to-day decisions are in Lombardi’s hands, but bigger issues still require corporate approval, as they do (to varying extents) with all teams/business. AEG met with Lombardi and gave him a budget at the start of the summer. Lombardi made the call to hire Terry Murray, but brought Murray downtown to meet AEG brass and get final approval. If the Kings make a move that would put them over their budget, it would require AEG approval. So to say Lombardi has “complete” autonomy wouldn’t be accurate, but he probably has a normal amount, and probably more than Dave Taylor did.

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Question: is there any place to find ref stats I would love to see what ref in the past 2 years has # 1 refd the most games #2 called the most penalties for and against the kings and so on PS my 5 year old son love`s Bob Miller and Jim fox because he thinks they are the real Bert and Ernie from sesame street

Answer: It would be sort of interesting to see, wouldn’t it? But no, those stats aren’t kept, and it would be exceedingly difficult to chart, since you’d have to know which ref called which penalty during a game. If you wanted to take a look at which refs are most valued in the league, look at who gets the plum playoff assignments. That’s always a good indicator, in any sport. Bob and Jim as Bert and Ernie? Wow, that had never crossed my mind, but I just looked at a picture and, yeah…

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Question: How would you feel about the Kings possibly going for someone like Kovalchuk? What do you think would be good to offer Atlanta in a trade? There’s been some media comments on the topic lately.
Thanks

Answer: Grabbing Kovalchuk would be a tremendous move for the Kings, unless Atlanta was asking for the farm. That should be a very interesting situation to follow, since it seems likely that he will be moved at some point. Kovalchuk makes more sense than Gaborik, for a number of reasons. The Kings obviously have a lot to offer any team in trade talks. There’s now a fairly deep well of draft picks and prospects. I’m not familiar enough with the Atlanta system to know what they might be looking for in trades.

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Question: The attendance seems to be way down this year despite an improved team and better schedule against more favorable teams. Obviously the economy and the price hike are major factors, as well as a majority of Monday night games, but is the Kings’ marketing dept. (and how is that for an oxymoron?) at all concerned and contemplating a price rollback next season? Since they only seem to announce the attendance when it is a sellout (and memo to the Kings – how childish is that, by the way?) what is your perception of the crowds this season? Management should be quite concerned when games vs. Detroit and Toronto fail to fill the building.

Answer: I hadn’t noticed that they no longer announce the attendance during non-sellouts. Is that true? That’s fairly embarrassing. Management should absolutely be concerned about the small attendance numbers. Raising ticket prices after a last-place season was not a good move. I don’t care how low their average prices were compared to other teams and I don’t care how about how many “affordable packages” they offer. Clearly the Kings couldn’t have expected the general downturn in the economy, the rise in gas prices, etc., but they’d be having a problem even if the economy was perceived to be strong. You just don’t follow a last-place season by putting your hands deeper in your fans’ pockets. I’d be surprised if they lowered prices next season, but a freeze might be in order, right

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Question: What’s the sense around the Kings from the coaches and management about the quality of the team? Are they expecting to be able to make the playoffs, or is the focus on getting better individually with a focus on 2 or 3 years from now? How do some of the “disciplined” players react to the “punishment?” Do they accept that they need to improve or sulk? Is there any sense the group is starting to get tired or frustrated, or is there a positive “vibe” going around? Are Murray’s tactics that appear confusing really just misunderstood and, in a sense, just sowing the seeds for the future; or is he out of touch with the “new NHL” and players he doesn’t “get?”

Answer: 1) Well, when you talk to coaches and players, you’ll never hear anything except, “We’re trying to win every game and make the playoffs.” If they’re being honest with themselves, they’ll say that this is probably the second stage of Lombardi’s development plan. The younger guys are starting to break through — although it remains to be seen how many of them will stick — and Lombardi is conserving enough salary-cap room to make some high-profile additions in the next year or two. Realistically, the focus is on the next couple years. 2) I haven’t seen a lot of sulking. Most players are pretty good at hiding their frustrations, although O’SUllivan lets it out from time to time. Most players know that they won’t gain anything by publicly lashing out. 3) The “vibe” didn’t seem real good in the locker room after practice yesterday, but that’s very subjective and very subject to change. “Frustration” can easily be mistaken for “determination to get better.” 4) It seems like Murray is still trying to figure out this team. For the most part, that’s understandable. Remember that you and I have been watching a lot of these players for years now. We have preconceived ideas of what they can and can’t do. Murray had none when he came in. He’s had the last three months to get to know these guys and what they can and can’t do. The question is, is he learning and adapting fast enough?

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Question: So having said that, what do you think about Lombardi’s future plans with Frolov?

Answer: I cut down your original question, all of which had to do with Frolov. He’s always been something of an enigmatic player during his time in L.A. When Terry Murray talked yesterday about Frolov’s enormous potential, and how he wants to see it come out, I almost had to shake my head. I’ve lost count of the number of people in the organization who have said the exact same thing over the last five years or so. In a way, Frolov might be a victim of his own potential. He has so many skills, so coaches and management have a very high standard for him. He never seems to hit his “ceiling” in the eyes of his coaches, whether it was Andy Murray, Marc Crawford or Terry Murray. Is that unfair? Maybe. It’s been a fascinating thing to watch. As far as his future, I do believe it’s notable that when Lombardi talks about his “core” for the future, Frolov is rarely included. Does that mean he’s definitely leaving when his contract expires? Of course not. But a lot of teams will be interested in him, and how he fares over the next couple years will determine how badly the Kings want to keep him.

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Question: What is you opinion on Zeilers hit on Foote? Was it clean? Did Zeiler deserve the suspension? How would you react if the teams were switched around?

Answer: Cracking down on dangerous hits is fine, but the NHL seems a bit inconsistent in the way it hands out punishment. A three-game suspension for Zeiler was fine. Was it the most awful hit in the history of the NHL? No. Could it have gone without a suspension. Sure, but it’s hard to argue strongly against it. The thing is, a few nights later, one of the Oilers delivered an awful hit on Patrick O’Sullivan, and got nothing more than a minor penalty. O’Sullivan skated off and returned to the game later, but what difference should that make? Perhaps it’s just my perception, but there seems to be something of a lack of consistency in the way punishment is handed out.

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  • Datacloud

    To combine two of your answers: I could see Frolov going in a package for a player of Kovalchuk’s prowess.

  • mrbrett7

    Kovalchuk may be able to be “had” for something like Frolov, one of the goaltender prospects, a defensive prospect like a Hickey and a first. It might take more than that…but Atlanta is SO bad right now, and just doesn’t have much going on for them.

  • Ersberg

    I think DL would do something like mrbrett7 suggested, but it’s the second, and probably the more trickier part to the deal: Kov agreeing to re-sign long-term after his contract is up.

  • Nick

    The Thrashers don’t need a goaltending prospect. They have Pavelec and Lehtonen already…they might be trading a goalie rather than acquiring a new one. They need a center, depth up the middle has been their issue for some time (going back to when they had Kovalchuk and Hossa in the playoffs a few years back). I’d say Frolov, something like Lewis or Boyle, a good D prospect, and a pick (pref. 2nd rounder) would possibly get the job done. Depends on how desperate Waddell is to move him, really. Kovalchuk has a few knocks against him that might knock his pricetag down a tad, but it’s going to take a lot to get him.

    One thing though, if Murray put Fro in the doghouse for his defensive lapses, then he’s going to take Kovalchuk behind the barn and shoot him. It seems like the Kings staff, from Murray to Lombardi, are more interested in two-way players rather than purely offensive players. I don’t know if Kovalchuk would really be on Lombardi’s radar given the cost.

  • stepa

    Why Atlanta nead Frolov if they have Kovalchuk ?

  • Josh

    the only way lombardi would go after kovalchuk is if he signs an extension…hes signed through 2010…if we traded prospects for him just to see him bial in 2010 its a waste…i would LOVE to have kovalchuk as I think he would be the amazing left winger we need to play with kopitar…but realistically…i see lombardi signing him in 2010 more than trading for him

  • Garrett

    Hi Rich,

    First let me say how cool I think it is that you do these open fora so we can ask questions and get your educated answers.

    I have a few questions, things I have commented on recently, and just wondered your opinion:

    1) Now that the season is more than a quarter of the way over and neither Dustin Brown nor Anze Kopitar have met the expectations everyone had for them coming into this season, why does Terry Murray refuse to break them up onto separate lines? It’s not even like they are playing particularly well together so it would seem like the dam is about to burst. Why not break them up instead of simply trying different wingers with them? I would really like to see Kopitar playing with Frolov and Moller. With two very creative players like them I think Moller could really score a lot of goals and they could be a dangerous trio. As for Brown, why not try him with Stoll and O’Sullivan? It seems like O’Sullivan is just being wasted on the third and fourth lines, but with those two they cold be a very efficient “energy line”, I think.

    2) Do you also get the feeling that Dustin Brown has been far more reckless this season in going out of his way to make hits? It seems to me like he is just trying to lead the league in hits for the sake of leading the lead in hits.

    3) What is wrong with the offense? Okay, that is way too broad of a question, so let me put it this way, why is it that the Kings are getting so many shots in most games and way outshooting their opponents, but they aren’t scoring? I know they are taking bad shots, but these guys are too talented for that. Is it part of Terry Murray’s system to take dumb shots the goalies can gobble up?

    Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I would think DL would try and sign Gaborik as a free agent after this year, he’s friends with Kopi and I think he would love LA life. I say go for it, only if he can prove he can stay healthy.

  • shadowalk

    Enigma? Frolov has scored more points in each season(except last season) 31-48-54-71-67(in 71 games). And he has never been on the “top” line, nor had 1rst line type linemates. Could it be, that strapping the team on his back may be more than a second line player, even a great talent like Frolov, is capable of?

  • mrbrett7

    Thank you for the answer Nick…I was unaware of what Atlanta had in their system.

    Insofar as our prospects go…we have alot to offer if we choose to go that route. At this point, I wouldn’t be adverse to trading a few of them, IF, Kovalchuk can be inked to an extention as part of the deal.

    If I had my druthers though…Teubert doesn’t go anywhere.

  • Nick

    To follow up on what I was talking about earlier, I would definitely be interested in taking on Lehtonen. It’s a good risk, at this point, I think. He’s not going to come cheap but his pricetag could be way down and he’s still a potential franchise goalie. Or we could take a shot at Pavelec if Atlanta is more willing to deal him. At some point soon they’re going to have to make a decision about those two though.

  • Nick

    Frolov played on the top line the first year after the lockout. Frolov – Conroy – Demitra was briefly a fairly elite line.

  • deadcatbounce

    Doesn’t Kovalchuk have holes in his defensive game, too?

  • Reb

    I have insight for 2 of the questions above.

    The first, regarding AEG and Leiwike. He did an interview with the Los Angeles Business Journal back in September. “I believe the Kings are going to have a very good run in the very near future with this young team. And I will enjoy that the most, because people doubt our passion for the hockey team. That will be our crowning acheivement, winning the Stanley Cup. And we will win it… I can absolutely guarantee you – and yes, it’s a guarantee – this young team within two years will be the dominant team in the NHL Western Conference. I know we suck, but you have to trust us. This nucleus of young kids in two years will be the envy of the league. And we’ll keep them together because we have enough money.”

    Second, regarding attendance. They do announce it, as there has only been 2 sell-outs that I am aware of this season. They usually announce it during a break in the 3rd period.

  • Belinda Weathers

    I am pretty sure Reb’s reply regarding the attendance is incorrect. I go to every game and have only heard the attendance announced at sellouts. I am in my seats the entire game and always pay attention to what is going on so would not have missed the P.A. announcement every single game. Rich, in your ample free time can you find out from the Kings their position on this?

  • Paul from Oxnard

    Sort of related to the attendance question…

    A number of programs on the NHL on XM radio station earlier this week were talking about how TV ratings for a number of NHL teams in American cities had gone up noticeably. Some teams were way up. The Kings were reported as up 33% over last year. So I think the low attendance is more indicative of the economy and not a lack of interest by the fans. Clearly people are watching the Kings. There’s just more of them doing it from home this year.

  • Craig

    The Kings were reported as up 33% over last year? I guess the Rinkside View did its job, eh?

  • Paul from Oxnard

    And just so everyone knows I wasn’t pulling that TV rating thing out of thin air:

    http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/media_entertainment/sports-wrap-nhl-teams-on-ratings-power-play/

  • THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS

    Paul,

    Don’t you think that LA’s attendance may also be a result of losing seasons followed by price increases and the price-gouging on concessions?

  • Paul from Oxnard

    @Surfers: Never said I didn’t think that. It’s been very hard to be a Kings fan these last few years. But I think it’s fair to say that some fans who went to games in previous years are watching on TV this year. It’s not like they’re gonna win the Stanley Cup this year, so it’s probably not the “casual fan” who is tuning in.

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