Forum answers III

Getting back to yesterday’s great open forum questions…

—–

Question: How would you describe this team’s ‘compete’ level? Watching the playoffs this season, the kings don’t seem to show anything near that. I know no one can say what would happen to the team if they actually made it, maybe the adrenaline would really flow. But seeing how they were so close and just couldn’t finish, age aside, can this team develop more of a killer instinct? They seem to have a lot more desire than past kings teams, but what would you say about their overall seriousness towards pushing over the playoff threshold? Thank you very much.

Answer: Well, what I saw from the Kings this season was very consistent with most young, talented teams. You see success in spurts, and a lot of inconsistency. I would take issue, a bit, with the idea that the Kings were “so close.” True, they didn’t officially get eliminated from playoff contention until April 2, but they had long since been eliminated, for all intents and purposes. The issue, for the Kings and for all young, developing teams, isn’t so much the games in late March and early April. It’s the games in January and February, those midseason games that you have to grind through and bring your best effort. The Kings closed February with a 2-5-2 record, which hurt. It’s not getting “up” for the big games. It’s getting up for the games that don’t seem big. That comes from young guys learning how to play at the NHL level.

—–

Question: How has Bernier handled his development within the organization? I’m not sure if we sometimes take his quotes out of context but he can sometimes, in print, seem like he feels entitled to the #1 goaltender spot. Sure he’s a competitor and a very talented prospect but, if all goes according to plan and he spends another year in Manchester, do you think he asks for a trade or bolts for greener pastures? What’s your take on Bernier’s “character”?

Answer: Lombardi addressed this in the last in-depth interview I did with him, and it does seem that there are some issues similar to the ones you bring up. I don’t know if it’s necessarily a sense of entitlement on Bernier’s part. It seems more accurate to say that he’s dealing with a bit of adversity for the first time in his career, and he’s not sure how to handle it. As Lombardi pointed out, top prospects such as Bernier as accustomed to having everything come easily to them. Couple that with the typical, shall we say, “fragility” of a goalie’s psyche, and you have the potential for a problem. But it’s way, way, way premature to even think about Bernier not being in the Kings’ system. He’s not even a RFA for another two years, and he’s not going to be traded.

—–

Questions: 1. what’s yr take on the coyote/balsillie/bettman situation?
what do you think will ultimately happen, who will be the owner(s) and where do you see the franchise playing in the immediate future? also…what is gretzky’s factor/influence in the whole matter?
2. what is yr opinion on contraction for the league? do you think it’s on the horizon and what teams do you see being dissolved and/or relocated?
3. if you could interview one current and one former NHL’er (posthumously is o.k., too) that you haven’t had any previous or substantial contact with, whom would they be? why?
4. i see the upcoming draft day and days immediately following the event to be the busiest we have seen…maybe ever…in terms of movement and activity. how do you see it playing out?
5. it appears as though that the NHL is a very “clean” league in terms of HGH/steroids/PED’s, etc….in yr opinion, is there a problem? was there one previously? because of the five month open window period when testing is not conducted (right now), is there any plans for it to change to year round? do the kings have somebody on staff that monitors and/or suggests fluid/supplement intake?
6. is there anybody on the kings current roster that you can envision as a head coach someday?

Answers: 1) This was answered before, but I think the Coyotes will stay in Arizona in the short term but eventually move. There will be a long court battle though. It’s a real murky thing, and a slippery slope in terms of the NHL trying to assert authority over team ownership.
2) I think there should be contraction. Taking out Phoenix and one of the Florida teams, or Atlanta, would be a good start. But I don’t see it being on the horizon. I don’t think Bettman has any interest in cutting teams, or in cutting the revenue tha goes along with them.
3) Actually, I’ve never had a substantial interview with Gretzky, so it would be fun to sit down and get his perspective on where hockey in L.A. has gone in the last 20 years. As for current players, I’m not really sure. It might be interesting to talk to Chris Chelios about how much the game has changed during his long tenure in the league.
4) Maybe, maybe not. I thought that the first day of free agency two years ago would be a ridiculously busy day, but it turned into a flop in terms of the expected excitement level. It’s probably a 50-50 bet, in terms of it being a huge day or just another draft day, on which the Kings pick fifth.
5) Perhaps I’m jaded by what we’re seeing in baseball, and what we’ve heard about NFL players, but I just find it difficult to believe that the NHL is as “clean” as we’re led to believe. I really hope it is, but I think it’s terribly naive to believe it. I have no first-hand evidence either way. As for changing things, that requires a change to the CBA, and whathever is going on at the moment, good or bad, both the league and the players seem happy with the status quo.
6) That’s hard to say, given that the roster is so young. Sean O’Donnell seems to have the temper and the perspective to do it, but I have no idea if he has the interest.

—–

Question: Some of the NHL suspensions this year were on players who did not receive a penalty during the game. In some instances it seems like the extent of the injury to the “victim” is determining the severity of the suspension. I know the league is just trying to protect players. Is there any feasible way to make players a little more responsible for putting themselves into dangerous positions.

Answer: I cut off the second part of your long question/statement there, but I agree with you 100 percent, and I’m glad I’m not in charge of figuring this out, because I have no idea how to change it. Your description of plays, the ones in which a guy is lined up for a legal hit and it turns into an illegal hit because the “victim” turns at the last minute…I agree with that completely. Nobody wants to see players get hurt, in any circumstance, but what is the answer? How do you legislate a player’s intent out there? I don’t like the idea that suspensions can depend upon whether a player is hurt. What kind of message does that send? That you can run a guy, with an illegal hit, but as long as he gets up, you’re in the clear? I think this whole thing needs to be overhauled, but I’m not arrogant enough to claim that I have the correct answers.

—–

Question: Besides the big names that pop up in rumor talks and on message boards. Who do you think is somebody (besides Gaborik or Kovy) that you can see DL realistically acquiring through trade or free agency?

Answer: Honestly, I respect the question, and I understand why people want it answered, but I could probably go through the list of free agents and find 20 potential fits. If I pick out two or three names, all it’s going to do is lead to more rumor and speculation, so I’m going to respectfully decline to do that. It’s fair to say that if you read about any big-name winger being on the market, the Kings are at least going to have a passing interest.

—–

Question: Any chance of bringing Laperrier back?

Answer: Given the fact that Laperriere made almost $1.2 million last year, and the Kings, as previously discussed, have a surplus of third- and fourth-line players, I’d have to consider it unlikely.

—–

Question: What do you think about Manny?

Answer: I read a note last night that mentioned that 10 of the top 15 home-run hitters from 1993-2004 have now been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. That’s just sad. My main thought is sadness about the lack of outrage. If Major League Baseball was outraged, it would demand blood testing for everything. If fans were outraged, they wouldn’t be defending Manny. If players were outraged, they wouldn’t sit in silence. We might as well just throw the thing open and create the Cyborg Baseball League, because nobody truly cares.

—–

Questions: Last season, Terry Murray stressed on improving the defensive play of the Kings. Do you have any insight as to what he will focus on for this season? Have you spoken with Dean Lombardi in the offseason recently? Can you provide any insight as to how he will approach the draft? Is he going defensive or offensive?

Answers: Well, I’m sure this wasn’t exactly the spirit of your question, but it’s not as simple as saying, “Last year we focused on defense. Now we’re going to focus on offense.” As a coach, you’re always going to stress your core values first, and defense is Murray’s primary philosophy. Now, that said, Murray was particularly focused on defense last season because he felt he needed to establish the correct philosophy right off the bat. Perhaps, during next season’s training camp, Murray will open things up if he feels the team is where it needs to be defensively. As for the draft, just based on where the Kings are picking, and based on player rankings, it’s likely that the Kings will take a forward if they stay at the No. 5 spot. Last season, there were a lot of defensive prospects at the top. Now, there are a lot of forwards. On the other hand, in the NHL, as opposed to the NFL or MLB, you’re more likely to pick the best available player, knowing that the player probably won’t be in the NHL for a couple years anyway. So you’re not necessarily drafting on current need.

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  • variable

    thanks rich for answering my questions…it’s a minor oversight, but i was wondering if you could answer the final part of the steroids question: “do the kings have somebody on staff that monitors and/or suggests fluid/supplement intake?”

    it’s probably the training staff as a whole…i just thought that maybe management would take further preventive measures since many of the kings seem to workout continuously, year-round…i realize that it’s ultimately the players choice…

    thanks again…!

  • Ed

    Rich – any word on the rumor that Chad Smith is still the Strength & Conditioning Coach of the team and if not, did they find a replacement and do they plan on starting off-season conditioning soon? I know that’s been an issue with the younger players here.

  • Ben Dover

    Rich-

    Did the Kings ever offer a contract to Joe Corvo when he was an UFA with them a few years back or did he leave at his own volition?

  • Quisp

    Hey Rich,

    Quick follow-up: you mentioned back in Forum Answer I that all three of Bernier, Ersberg and Quick were eligible to go to Manchester. I’m assuming you mean that they are waiver-exempt. However, my understanding is that Ersberg is not waiver-exempt since he signed his first contract when he was 25 (in 2007) and would therefore have been exempt for only one season. Also, Quick I think is approaching the cut-off (60 games for him? I think so; and he’s played 47).

    As far as the goaltending situation goes, if I understand things correctly, it appears that Bernier would have to beat out Quick and send him to Manchester basically right out of camp. Because after the first 13 games, Quick will no longer be exempt and would have to pass through waivers, which he would never clear. (Although I guess if Ersberg is the starter in the fall, then Bernier would have more time to be called up.)

    But that’s only if I understand these admittedly very confusing rules.

  • Rich Hammond

    Quisp…good point on Ersberg. I’d have to check the rules on that one. As far as Bernier/Quick, we’re on the same page as far as Bernier beating him out during training camp. Add up all the factors, and they point to a Quick/Ersberg duo.

  • Quisp

    p.s. Loktionov and Taylor Hall vs. Jamie Benn and Tyler Myers this afternoon at 4PM on NHL Network.

  • Buster

    Rich, I wouldn’t go to blood testing, but rather see a hair test (for those that still have it). In most cases the drugs stay in the hair a lot longer than it does in the blood.

  • Westchester Kid

    Good job, Mr. Hammond. It’s nice to find someone who knows what they’re talking about providing this venue and posting such up to the minute information. Much appreciated.

  • Sad for Chad

    In Response to Ed:

    “Rich – any word on the rumor that Chad Smith is still the Strength & Conditioning Coach of the team and if not, did they find a replacement and do they plan on starting off-season conditioning soon? I know that’s been an issue with the younger players here.”

    I know with 100% certainity that Chad Smith is no longer part of the organization but don’t know about a replacement…know his best friend and he was let go by Murray because, in a nutshell, Chad wasn’t from a hockey background. Kings lost a very valuable asset.

  • JPKelly

    I appreciate the question, and Rich’s answer, about the “compete level”. In one sense this what all of us fans are hoping to see blossom in the years to come. I’ve watched nearly every playoff game this season and obviously it’s quite a treat to see such intensity and will to win. I often find myself lamenting “If only the Kings could play like that!” Or wondering “When will the Kings start to play like that?” Or reassuring myself that “Yes, as all great teams had to start somewhere, so the Kings are at the beginning stages of becoming a great team.” If it’s going to happen, it’s going to take time for a core group of players to learn how to play as a team, with consistency, night in and night out; and it’s going to take a system around which that play is structured. These teams that we see do well in the playoffs all have strong systems; they know their own strengths and weaknesses. If the Kings come to show this sort of “compete level” on a consistent basis, and especially if they have playoff success and become contenders, I will relish the memory of these days when we were all wondering, hoping, maybe even expecting. If it doesn’t happen, oh well… I’ll still watch all the playoff games. This is hockey at its best.

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