November 20, 2009 9:19 am

Open forum answers IX

Before I head out to the 10 a.m. practice, here’s the last of the open forum questions and answers. I threw them all in this one, so it’s really long. The questions were very good and entertaining. We’ll do another one next month, and I’ll announce it further in advance than just one day next time. Thanks for all the questions!

Check back for update from practice soon…

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Question: How come Jonathan Quick didn’t get a new mask for the 2009-2010 season?

Answer: I’m not sure. Maybe he likes the one he has? Goalies always have two masks at the ready, in case one breaks, etc.

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Question: Which of the players get pumped up by the music they hear during the game and what are some of their favorite songs to hear in game situations? I’m sure many of them will say that they ignore everything but the game, but you know they’re listening…

Question: Fun question. I really haven’t the slightest idea. The music in the locker room goes all the way from hard rock to country, so I have yet to figure out the pattern there. There’s no way they can avoid the music in some of those arenas. I think I saw paint peeling off the wall in Atlanta.

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Question: 1. Why does the Kings Organization continue to treat Alexander Frolov like trash by playing him on the third line? 2. How is Ivanans still a Los Angeles Kings? 3. Why doesn’t the forth line get at least ten minutes of ice time? 4. Why is Jack Johnson still in the lineup? 5. Why does the Kings Organization fail to see that Peter Harrold is the fifth best defensemen on the active roster, but yet doesn’t see playing time as a defensemen? 6. Why are two first line scoring forwards, Frolov and Simmonds playing on a line centered by a defensive forward, Handzus? 7. Why can’t the Kings Organization see that if you cannot play a player at least ten minutes a game, they shouldn’t be on your team?

Answer: Well, every single one of those questions is akin to “When did you stop beating your wife?” but at least it gave you an opportunity to express some interesting opinions.

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Questions: 1. Someone already asked you about possibly converting JJ to a forward, same question about Randy Jones – has it ever been brought up before? Was his versatility a factor in his being picked up by the Kings? Given what we saw over the last few games (granted, a small sample), he seems to be better on the offense. 2. Are there any real close friendships on the present team and what would you say were the most noteworthy from your past experience? 3. Who is Frolov’s roommate on the road and has he made any new friends since Avery’s departure? Kinda want to take a stab at it myself and throw Zeus’ name as a likely candidate given age, status and background… Right or wrong?

Answers: 1) Well, with all respect to the question, it seems like the new fad is to take every defenseman who can move the puck and say, “Make him a forward!” Not only is it not quite that easy, but there’s also a significant value for having defensemen who can move the puck. At this point, there are plenty of forwards. The Kings would be better served to help Johnson improve his defense. 2) There’s really nothing that stands out. It seems to be a pretty open room. You’re just as likely to see Doughty, for instance, talking with Simmonds or Quick or Richardson. 3) I really don’t have that information at my fingertips. As a veteran, he might have his own room but I’m not sure.

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Questions: 1. i know that you are unable to reveal everything for obvious reasons, but i’ll you again what i asked you on the ITK a few weeks back: did you approach the kings or did the kings approach you to do this…? yr q&a w/luc seemed to be some sort of catalyst, no…? were the wheels in motion prior the yr interview…? 2. what do the kings need to do from a media standpoint to further improve/develop relationships throughout the hockey community…? we know about the east coast reporting bias (forget about highlights on west coast games after 10pm est…)…is this something that you/the kings recognize/accept/are challenged by from a publicity point of view…? 3. is it really…i mean…really…high-time for d.l./t.m. if we don’t make the playoffs…? what’s tim leiweke’s attitude and expectations for this year…? possible q&a…(?)… 4. what players are you watching around the league early on…? what rookies do you like…? 5. i guess it was time to put away the pica poll and stop worrying if they were gonna retire yr byline for you…once again, congrats on all of yr success and i look forward enthusiastically to how things progress with you and yr latest venture…thanks for taking the time and energy to do this…

Answers: 1) There’s really nothing I can’t reveal, and I’ve talked about it quite a bit on radio/podcasts. The short answer is, I’ve been told the Kings — particularly VP of communications Mike Altieri — had thoughts about doing this for quite a while, with other writers. I sent them an email when Mark Cuban wrote a blog item about teams essentially hiring writers, and that started a discussion that went for months, on and off. The Q&A with Luc was totally unrelated. The job didn’t even come up. 2) Well, West Coast teams are never going to avoid the fact that the media power base is in the East. You can be in a hotel in San Jose, look at the USA Today and not get West Coast scores, (presumably) because the paper is put together in the East. The answer, though, is to win. If you win, you get attention. Simple formula. 3) There aren’t any ultimatums on the table, if that’s what you’re asking. My opinion is that there has to be progress. It looks as though this team is going to challenge for the playoffs. I predicted ninth in the West, because I thought that was a fair progression given the strength of the West. 4) It’s always impressive to watch Kovalchuk, and he put on quite a show. Evander Kane looked really good too. Of course, that game was a blowout for Atlanta. 5) Thanks…I really appreciate that.

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Question: Do the Kings have any plans to get more kids playing hockey in SoCal? I guess this is in direct comparison to the program the Ducks have right now. They have a high school league they have put together (only 2 teams mind you) but they are out there buying rinks, building new ones, and getting kids playing. We do a lot of community work, but what specifically are we doing around getting more kids playing puck so we can get some Cali kids drafted into the NHL?

Answer: Well, I know the Kings do a lot of the community stuff you mentioned. I really don’t know the extent of it, because I’m a lot more focused on the hockey side of the team. As far as generating interest, I’d give the same answer I gave above: win. A winning hockey team in Los Angeles would generate excitement, and more kids would go to their parents and want to play hockey.

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Questions: 1.) Why change, and which picture does your wife/family prefer? 2.) Now that some time has passed, any dish on the Joe Caligiuri situation? Understandable if you are not at liberty to answer. 3.) I’m oddly curious … does Nick Nickson smoke? (Living outside of LA- I find myself listening to Nick/Daryl online a lot more than I’m able to watch Bob/Jim on Center Ice. Nick has that rich, resonant, baritone voice for radio- that unfortunately often comes from smoking. So why do I care?? Because if so- tell him to stop! … I want him to be around a long long time to call more Kings games. One of the game’s best. 4.) On plane travels- I imagine players sit seperate from coaches, and likewise media/announcers (Bob & Jim & Nick & Daryl & you) sit seperate from coaches and players? Or is it all just a happy Kings staff family free-for-all. Can you describe a typical road flight?

Answers: 1) Oddly enough, I think my driver’s license photo is my best picture. Weird. I’m not sure what to make of that. 2) It’s really not a matter of time passing, or of not being at liberty to discuss things. I’d rather not get into it at all, but for the sake of giving you an answer, in general, if you speculate on why a private person is no longer employed by a company, and that company isn’t going to confirm the reason, there’s the potential to open yourself to some legal areas that I have zero interest in entering. I’m not interested in dish/gossip. 3) I certainly don’t think so. He’s just blessed with a good voice! 4) I answered a previous question with a similar answer. I made it clear to the players that the flights are their private time. They’re completely respectful to me, and I want to respect their time. I will say that I always sit seperately from the players.

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Question: Are you loving all this attention you get now? How has your stardom affected your life?

Answer: Stardom? I definitely don’t think of it that way. I’m fortunate to be doing something that I enjoy, and I want to do the best job I can do every day. If “attention” means that people enjoy the work I’m doing, that’s great news. It’s never going to be my goal to be a celebrity, but if people enjoy my work, that’s very gratifying.

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Questions: 1. How does it feel to be a trailblazer in sports reporting? What you are doing in terms of coverage of a team without backing from a media company is unprecedented (or is it?). Have you reflected on this significance? 2. Are there any safeguards (contractual or otherwise) that protect you from a situation in which it is NOT in the best interests of the Kings for you to report things as you see fit? 3. How has your new role changed how you report? Do you feel as if you have more/less license to offer your opinion? Are you able to write at a higher level because your focus is only on the Kings? 4. Any intentions of doing feature articles or original content (i.e., analysis or op-ed) rather than strictly reporting?

Answers: 1) I honestly haven’t thought of it that way. My focus every day is to try to cover the Kings the best way possible, and if there’s any self-analysis, it’s in terms of evaluating myself to see if I’m doing the best I can. Teams/leagues have done this sort of thing, to various extents, for a few years, but I can’t really speak to exactly how those situations went. I’m very satisfied with what has been set up here. 2) That’s a good question, but I’m not really sure how to answer it. I mean, there’s simply no prior restraint/review, and I have a multi-year agreement in place. The way I’ve answered this on radio and in podcasts is to say that the Kings and I never had to negotiate independence. We agreed, immediately, that the coverage would have to be independent in order for the partnership to work. There’s a trust involved, on both sides, and I have zero complaints about the working relationship I have had with them. 3) You nailed it with the last part there. There’s such a huge difference when you’re around the team every single day. It’s almost an intangible thing, because you just absorb everything that’s going on, rather than having to play catch-up when the team comes back from a road trip. I feel as though I have a better understanding of what’s happening. I hope that comes through in the writing! 4) I have been doing weekly features for the website (so far it’s been Smyth, Kopitar, Doughty and O’Donnell), and those will continue and I’m thinking of other feature-related stories. The opinion/analysis fits much better on the blog, because it’s often quick-hit stuff and stuff that’s more apt to start a discussion with readers. I will be starting, at some point soon, a semi-regular column for the LAKings.com main website.

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Question: You do a great job on TV. Will you be making weekly appearances to give out the news? Were you nervous the first time you went on the air? I remember you posted that you hoped not to go on TV. Critique your performance on TV and do you hope to do more TV as a result of this exposure? I imagine if it were me on TV I’d look like the guy from Broadcast News!!

Answer: First of all, thanks for the support! The plan, for the TV apperances, is to do them for every road game that FSN televises. Also, I do a radio spot with Nick during one of the intermissions, every game. And yes, I was quite nervous the first time. The good thing is, you can’t ask for a more professional guy than Jim — and Bob, in the first couple appearances — so he helps a lot. I’m sure I can be a lot better. Most of it is getting comfortable with the pacing of it. They say it’s a three-minute segment, but it’s hard to keep track of that in your head. I start thinking, “Am I talking too much? Too little? Should I be looking at Jim or the camera?” and, at the same time, trying to focus on what I want to say. So I can definitely get better.

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Question: Rich how do you get info on scuderi and smyth on the kings day off?

Answer: It’s just a matter of making a phone call. Terry Murray is always good about talking to reporters, so a quick call to him gives me what I need. Unfortunately for him, he can’t even get away from me on a day off!

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Question: I don’t know if any has asked yet, but how is Shenn doing? Do you think we’ll get to see him at any point this year or will DL leave him with Brandon for the entire season?

Answer: He seems to be doing quite well, but at some point I’ll try to get a better answer from that, from someone in the organization who has seen him play this season. I would seriously doubt if you’ll see Schenn in the NHL this season. He got some good confidence out of his training-camp experience, and next September should be very interesting.

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Question: Rich, i just read a blog by Lebrun over at ESPN, who does a nice job btw. Anyways he answered a king’s fan question about bringing up Bernier. He said he talked to DL and he told him hes going to be spending the week in Manchester. Maybe to scout out Bernier or other fowards?

Answer: First, Pierre does a great job at ESPN, so I definitely agree with you there. Lombardi (and Hextall and Ranford, etc.) made periodic trips to Manchester to keep tabs on how things are going. He will be looking at everyone, but if you’re asking if this trip is in direct response to goalie play or Smyth’s injury, etc., no, I don’t think so.

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Question: With the depth of young talent at RW-ie. Parse, Simmonds, Brown, Purcell, and Harrold-where does that leave players like Moller, whose next step would be solid time at the NHL level on the 1,2nd, or 3rd line. I’d also like to use this question in regards to Hickey and Voynov.

Answer: If you presume — as I would — that the two most “NHL-ready” forwards in Mancester are Moller and Loktionov, it works out pretty well, since Loktionov is a center and Moller can play left wing. This is where it helps a team to have flexibility, as players such as Handzus, Richardson and Harrold can play center or wing. In terms of the prospect depth, and where players ultimately fit in, it’s funny how that always sorts itself out. Some guys will rise to the top, and others simply won’t develop into regular NHL players. A couple will probably get traded, and that’s the GM’s biggest challenge: not to trade the wrong ones!

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Question: Can you please confirm what all my “sources” are saying in regards to Mikus decorating his room in Wayne Simmonds posters and novelties….thanks!

Answer: Don’t you have that backward? Isn’t Simmonds decorating his room in Mikus posters? Don’t we all?

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Question: Looking at the numbers, the kings and caps are the only teams in the league with 6 forwards in the top 90 scorers, going by points/per game (12 games or more played) . Each of these teams also has a defenceman in the top 90. The kings also have 9 players in double digits, most in the league at this point to my knowledge. To me, that says the Kings are getting secondary scoring, better than almost all of the teams in the league at this point. Does seeing those #’s change your assement, and if not, what would you like to see the kings accomplish on this front?

Answer: Great job with the stats. Really good stuff. And I’ll be honest with you. Yes, it does influence my thought a bit. Perhaps my thoughts are shaded a bit by the way the Kings’ lines are set up. The “checking line” of (for the most part) Frolov-Handzus-Simmonds has combined for 15 goals in 23 games, which any team would gladly take from its checking line, or maybe even its “second line” for that matter. Or maybe it’s just a “feel” thing. When Kopitar has at least one point, the Kings are 13-5. When he doesn’t record a point, they’re 0-3-2. Perhaps that is consistent with other teams’ top scorers, but I can’t argue your stats. Great point.

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Question: what are some of the favorite music selections in the locker room? And does Drew sing as much in the dressing room as he seems to on the bench?

Answer: I tucked this in an earlier answer, but the locker-room music is all over the place. It’s usually on the rock side, particularly after a win, but the other day I went into the room after a practice and there was a slow Johnny Cash song playing. I thought…OK, interesting. Then again, it was the South, so maybe that’s a tribute.

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Question: Hey Rich, did you have to buy a bunch of new suits with this new job for the Kings? My wife thinks you’re a snappy dresser and noticed you always have a different suit.

Answer: Well, tell her thank you for me! And yes, my wardrobe underwent a significant expansion about six weeks ago. I can’t promise that you won’t be seeing the same suits in the future, but I won’t be on TV for a couple weeks, so hopefully they’ll all look new again!

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Question: How many unique visitors do you get on avg in day on this site?

Answer: I honestly don’t know. I used to keep track of that stuff, at the Daily News, on a daily basis, and you can really get caught up in it. As in, worrying about when the numbers go down for a couple days. I’d prefer to just work, and focus on doing the best I can.

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Question: Rich, did you guys in the media get actual, printed Media Guides? Or did you get the cheesy PDF CD ROM us season ticket holders got? I can’t thumb through a CD, and it’s difficult to get a bunch of players to sign it. And who wants a player’s autograph on a crappy inkjet print? A lot of fans (even people like Nick Nickson) collect them. But alas, for us, they are no more. If you guys actually got real Media Guides, could you snag me one? I can meet you at Tommy’s for the exchange. Thanks!

Answer: No, the traditional media guides are gone, apparently not to return. The Kings did provide printed versions of the guide to reporters, but they’re bigger, on 8 1/2 by 11 paper, and put together with spiral bounding, like at Kinko’s or something. I would strongly prefer the old media guides, but it doesn’t appear that they’re coming back.

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Question: There was a question about selling food during the National Anthem…I’m a half season ticket & have not heard the Anthem once yet this year. What gives? The quality of the performers is pretty poor, are they afraid they don’t know the words. Happened a couple years ago.

Answer: If memory serves, I believe they have done the anthem at three or four home games, including the other night, albeit only with the organ. The shift to “God Bless America” came when the Kings wanted to try something different, but the reaction wasn’t very positive. I’d have to agree with you on the quality of performers, most nights. It would be good to see the Kings get one quality singer for most games.

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Question: rich, do you think the avs will give us kyle quincey back if we ask really really nicely?

Answer: The air is thin out there, but not that thin.

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Question: Do you think that it might be a good idea to move Zeus/Brown up to the 1st line to replace the passing/front of the net presence that Smyhie has.. Rather than Fro?

Answer: Handzus is an interesting thought, but he wouldn’t take the puck to the net in the same way that Smyth did, so you wouldn’t get exactly the same game there. The reason I didn’t include Brown in the poll yesterday is that he has indicated that he’s much less comfortable playing on the left side.

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Question: what’s your favorite and least favorite arenas to be at, current or not…also who would you say is your favorite all time king? if you weren’t a kings writer, what would you be doing? thanks for all your hard work sir, i owe you a beer or 10…

Answers: 1) Thanks. If we’re just talking about arenas, not cities, there are a lot I still haven’t seen yet, but Phoenix is probably my favorite so far. A really nice arena. I remember liking Vancouver a bit, so I’ll see that one again next week. Least favorite? San Jose. The press box is high, hard to get to and you run the risk of hitting your head on a support beam. Really. 2) Well, it’s the standard answer, but I started watching hockey because of Wayne Gretzky, so I don’t know about “favorite,” but certainly most influential. 3) Well, I was fortunate to have a great job at the Daily News that I could have continued with before this great opportunity came along. Teaching journalism is also something that has held my interest.

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Questions: How do you think the absence of Smyth and Scuderi will affect Terry Murray’s strategy in the coming games? How do you think the team will respond and who do you think needs to step up? Also, does Juraj Mikus like In-n-Out or Tommy’s better?

Answers: I’d imagine the first game probably gave you a pretty good answer to that question! As with many of the Mikus mysteries, that has yet to be revealed. If Mikus chose one, nobody would patronize the other, right?

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Question: Q&A Suggestion: It would be every so nice to know who wrote the question(s) and read the answer(s) in succession. It seems that if the flow was improved, it would be a nicer read. Of course, it would have to be easy for you Rich, since the volume is heavy and time consuming. Just a thought, but as a reader, it would be much nicer.

Answer: Good call. I’ll do that next time, for sure.

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Question: Hey Rich can you let us know if you see a noticeable difference in Fro’s demeanor since playing on the 1st line in the 3rd period. Or if you see one during or after the morning skate with Kopi and Willy?

Answer: If I notice a change in Frolov’s demeanor at any time, for any reason, I’ll definitely let you know…

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Question: I’d be curious to know how DL gets his information on current prospects. He’s on a fact finding mission right now but he can’t go see everyone in the WHL/OHL. Do the Kings scouts give him updates? Does he scout the WJC’s? Is there ever a buzz with the big club about a certain prospect that’s really having a great year in the minors?

Answer: A combination of things. He sees some first-hand, including trips to see the Monarchs and junior players, relies a lot on info from his “deputies,” people like Ron Hextall and Bill Ranford, etc., and scouts who are on the ground regularly. I think the Kings had several people at last year’s WJC, and it’s hard for me to say if there’s a “buzz.” I spend most of my time around the NHL players and coaches, and they’re really only concerned about the NHL Kings.

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Question: Hate to put you on the spot, but what are your feelings about the upper body/lower body injury hedge? Seems to me this is unnecessarily vague and does not really protect the player. It seems to protect the team’s management, if they send a player back before he is truly healed. Think about it, video can be dissected to get an approximate idea about an injury, so that it doesn’t really hide the true location of the injury. However, if a player comes back too soon, the lack of a diagnosis protects the team from charges that they pressured the player to do so. It also allows the team to use ‘fake’ injury designations to help manage player moves. What are your feelings about this?

Answer: Well, it’s complicated. The simple truth is that hockey players “play hurt’ more than players in any other sport. Far and away. So the desire to want to protect players, at its basic level, I can understand that. But it gets a little ridiculous. If a player like Ryan Smyth is going to be out for a month, it’s a bit ridiculous to not say what’s wrong with him. They could even name a body part, and not say which side. Something, anything, that makes it look as though they’re attempting to provide some information. But the league, apparently, is fine with it.

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Question: Any chance of you doing some kind of, 24/7 or a Day IN the Life type of thing with a player or players? would answer a lot of the questions your getting. keep up the great work.

Answer: Good idea, although I’m afraid it might not be as interesting as you think it might be. A lot of time at the rink and napping, the best I can tell. But yes, I’m looking for ways to give readers a more personal look at players, and this forum has generated some great ideas.

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