First, a Happy Birthday to Jim Fox, who celebrates No. 49 today. Most likely, he started the day with a large cup of Jamba Juice and will end it with a choice bottle of wine. All the best to Jim!
Here’s the first set of answers. Feel free to keep the questions coming…
Question: Ultimately, what do you think Dean Lombardi will do with Alexander Frolov? Does he get signed to a long-term extension or will he trade him? I can’t see how trading one of our consistently top scorers whose one of the strongest guys on the puck is going to do in the long run.
Answer: Ultimately, I really don’t know. I do know that there are two major issues at work here. One is, do the Kings want Frolov to be part of their long-term core, and the other is, how much do they think he’s worth? The first question is starting to sort itself out. Dean Lombardi, publicly, has had questions about Frolov’s desire to win. Frolov seemed to make some real strides in that area this season, at least in the Kings’ eyes, and if he can maintain that, it greatly increases the chances that Lombardi will want to give him a big, multi-year contract. The bigger problem, though, is that there’s an artificial deadline in place here. The Kings and Frolov can start talking extension on July 1. If, by the start of the season, it becomes clear that the two sides are far apart financially, Lombardi is going to have a big decision to make. Does he hold on to Frolov, especially if the Kings are in a playoff race, or does he trade him, so as not to lose him for nothing? I tend to think that because the Kings should be playoff contenders next season, they won’t deal him, which means we’ll be sitting here having a very similar discussion in 12 months…
Question: Considering how well JMFJ performed in the World Championships, would that be considered as a coming out party for him. Another thing, could that have been Jack showcasing(trade bait) himself or the Kings for other teams who might be interested in trading him in a package deal for a top 6 forward?
Answer: Sorry for getting off topic for a moment, if there’s one term/phrase I hate the most, it’s “E3.” Second place would go to “showcase.” It’s one of those buzz phrases that gets thrown around by fans and media, and I just don’t get it. What’s the theory behind “showcasing”? A coach is going to jeopardize his team’s success to give more minutes to a particular player for trade purposes? A player is going to sandbag at certain times is order to make himself look more attractive at others? I really don’t get it. Perhaps I’m naive, but I just can’t see Terry Murray saying, “I don’t really like Kyle Calder, but Dean is trying to trade him so I’m going to put my team at risk and play him on the first line.” But that’s not to take away from the question. I definitely agree with you that Jack Johnson could use this tournament as a coming-out party. He had a rough, rough season, mostly because of his shoulder injury, and he was rightfully frustrated. Next season is going to be a huge one in Johnson’s development, and he couldn’t have asked for a better jump-start than the one he got from playing in the World Championships. With a full offseason of health and strong conditioning, there’s no reason why Jack can’t take a big step forward in 2009-10.
Questions: 1. Rich last year there were 2 rookie games vs. the Coyotes in Phoenix, I remember hearing that this year there would also be games but in LA, do you have any info on this? 2. If Bernier comes into camp and really impresses how do you think Terry Murray will handle the situation? Will he keep 3 goalies on the roster to start the season? 3. Whats your opinion on the kings signing lower end UFA’s like a Chris Neil or Travis Moen? 4. Does Hickey definetly make the team next year? 5. Do you think Acevedo will atleast get a look in LA next year? And which prospect who wasn’t on the team last season will make the most impact in the upcoming season in your opinion?
Answers: 1) I know they had been rotating those games among L.A., Anaheim, San Jose and Phoenix, but I haven’t heard plans about this year yet. Just going off memory, it does seem like this would be the year that the Kings host
2) No, I really don’t see them keeping three goalies on the NHL roster at the start of the season. It’s a logistical nightmare, in terms of playing time and practice time, and since all three of the top contenders (Quick, Ersberg, Bernier) are eligible to go to Manchester, there’s no reason to keep three goalies at the NHL level. I think it’s still very likely, barring injury or a training-camp collapse, that Bernier will start in Manchester. Quick’s success this season gives him a leg up. Ersberg’s experience and age gives him a leg up. The Kings would prefer their young goalies to spend two years in the minors, and this would be Bernier’s second year. It all adds up to Quick-Ersberg in L.A., but that’s not set in stone.
3) It’s very important to have that strong third, “shut down” line — something the Kings have lacked for years and years — but I think the pieces are already in place for that. Handzus and Simmonds are two-thirds of what could be an outstanding third line. I don’t know if there’s a winger on the current roster who is a natural fit with those two, but it would be better to find an internal candidate rather than signing yet another third-line player. That’s the problem with this current group of Kings forwards. Too many third- and fourth-line players, not enough first-line players. Do you really want to add another “fringe” player? I’m not sure.
4) Definitely? No, not by a long shot. At the moment, you’re looking at Doughty, Johnson, O’Donnell, Quincey and Greene. So you’re looking at two open spots, and you’re looking at guys such as Harrold (although he could stay at forward), Drewiske, Hickey, Martinez, Voynov and Teubert. That also assumes that the Kings don’t sign another veteran to fill a 6-7 spot, which I think is at least a possibility. So it’s going to be quite a battle in training camp. Hickey will have a good chance, but I wouldn’t call him a lock.
5) Azevedo is probably more likely to get a midseason call-up, or something like that. It’s hard to see him breaking camp with the team, but a year ago, I never would have guessed that both Moller and Simmonds would break camp with the Kings. So we’ll see. The second part of the question is harder to answer because so many young players cracked the roster, if only for a short period (such as Trevor Lewis). It sort of depends on how you define “impact.” I could see a guy such as Richard Clune coming up and playing a role, although not a huge one. I could see Hickey come in and playing big minutes. As for that Moller/Simmonds wild card, I’ll go with Loktionov. No evidence, just a hunch.
Question: Rich… Frozen Fury 12. Are you in?
Answer: I’ve been wanting to go for years now, but it always falls on a Saturday when I’ve got something going on. It seems like this year will be the same. Can’t we get that thing moved to a Friday for one year?
Questions: 1. If you were a GM and had a green light from the owners to acquire ANY one player without any conditions, who would be the top three on your radar? 2. A slight twist on the above… Given that the Sedin twins are a package deal, would you be interested in going after them and possibly trading Stoll (or ???) to accomodate this trade?
Answers: 1) I assume you’re talking about players who are at least rumored to be on the trade market, otherwise it would be easy to just go down the list of top players and say, “Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby.” I don’t know how realistic it is, but I’d really like to see the Kings make a push for Kovalchuk, even if it costs a lot. There aren’t many game-changers in the NHL, and if the Thrashers make him available, that would be quite a move. None of the other names that have been put out there overly impress me. Those players who signed the massive contracts two summers ago — Drury, Gomez, etc. — will be out there, but they look like hamburger next to Kovalchuk’s filet mignon. 2) I’m a big fan of the Sedin twins, but you’re looking at a massive amount of money there, plus I think there would be riots in Vancouver if they left. Unless Mike Gillis really screws things up there, I can’t see the Sedins leaving.
Questions: Do you think that, despite the injury, Jack Johnson had a tough time dealing with the emmergence of Doughty and strong play of Quincey last year? He seemed to struggle with the fact that he had slipped down the depth chart. Moving forward, where does that leave him and the kings? I still expect big things of him but I wonder if he has more Aki Berg than Rob Blake in his future. I know you don’t like to speculate on the rumors surrounding Gaborik, Kovalchuk, etc., but are there any 3rd or 4th line UFA’s that you think would improve the team next year?
Answers: 1) I wouldn’t read too much into the “depth chart” aspect of it. Johnson averaged just over 20 minutes of ice time, which was essentially equal to Quincey and O’Donnell. Defensemen get moved around so much, and play in so many different situations, that it’s not really even possible to have a depth chart. If there was a mental issue with Johnson, it more likely had to do with the injury, the fact that he missed half the season and that he never seemed quite “right” when he came back. Johnson looked outstanding for the first 10 or so games after his return, then really fell off the table. From talking to him, I think that’s where the frustration came from, not from being “passed up” by Doughty and/or Quincey. 2) Perhaps I’m alone on this, but I look at the Kings’ roster and I already see too many third- or fourth-line guys. If the Kings can find a low-priced, defensive-minded winger to put with Handzus and Simmonds on the third line, that wouldn’t be a bad move, but otherwise, enough with the filler players. Lombardi’s resume is already filled with McCauleys and Calders and Willsies, etc.
Questions: How do you see the Kings resolving their LW issue? Free Agency and if so whom? Someone already in the system? Your thoughts. Your impressions on Loktionov. He hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in the Memorial Cup although his first goal was pretty sweet yesterday. Last, who you you like/see the Kings pursuing in the draft? Undoubtedly there will be trades. Do you see the Kings trading up for that special player, possibly trading down or staying right where they are. I think the first three players in the draft are set but after that it gets a little murky at the 4th pick & beyond. A lot of names being kicked around, Schenn, Kane, MPS, who do you like?
Answers: 1) I still think a trade is the most likely option, if we’re talking about a long-term option. It could be that Lombardi doesn’t find what he’s looking for on the trade market, in which case he’s not going to pull the trigger just for the sake of making a trade. In that case, you’re more likely to see a free agent sign for two years, something like that. 2) It’s hard for me to comment on Loktinov, since I’ve never seen him play a regular-season game in person. I do know that the Kings adore him for the attitude he has displayed. He volunteered to play juniors, when he easily could have insisted on skipping that level. His playoff performance certainly helps his cause. 3) The only thing I don’t see the Kings doing is trading up, unless it’s some type of package that just involves giving up future draft picks. I could see them trading down, particularly if Lombardi has his sights set on a less-hyped player. Two years ago, Lombardi had his sights set on Hickey, but feared that if he traded down too far, Hickey wouldn’t be there. So he stayed at No. 4 and grabbed Hickey. It’s certainly possible that Lombardi would make another “off the board” pick, either at No. 5 or after trading down.
Questions: 1.) What do you think of the final 4 teams so far? Which team do you think will win the Cup? 2.) You may have answered this already, but if you were in Lombardi’s shoes who would you select at #5? 3.) Who would you like to see the Cubs make a trade for, both realistically and unrealistically?
Answers: 1) My pick, at the start of the playoffs, was Detroit over Pittsburgh (again), so at this point I can’t really go back on that, right? From a fan’s standpoint, I’d rather see Chicago vs. Pittsburgh, because I really like the way the Blackhawks play and I think that would be an entertaining series, but I still think it’s Detroit-Pittsburgh. 2) Well, first you have to tell me who goes at No. 4, assuming it’s some combination of Tavares, Hedman and Duchene in the top three. Personally, I’m more intrigued with MPS than with Kane, but that’s probably because I know less about the Swede. From what I’ve seen/heard, he seems pretty dynamic. 3) Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen. I was leading the Jake Peavy charge during the winter, and even though I still have reservations (on different levels) about Zambrano, Harden and Dempster, this team is not going to win anything without a stable bullpen. Gregg has a weekly blowup, Marmol is fantastic but inconsistent and Heilman just feels like a house of cards. Very rarely do I feel secure with a late-game lead.