There was quite a bit of talk on the ice in practice today. It started after about 20 minutes, when Terry Murray stopped a drill and, somewhat uncharacteristically, lectured the team in a raised voice, expressing displeasure about the way a drill was being executed. Then, after drills ended, the players skated to a corner of the ice and met. Matt Greene called the meeting, but all players were invited to talk and share thoughts about the Kings’ recent slump. Afterward, I talked to Greene, Rob Scuderi and Murray about the on-ice chatter.
GREENE: “We just talked things out a little bit, a little regroup with the guys. It’s not every day that you get a chance to talk to everybody, all at once, without emotions flying or anything like that. After a game, especially right now, with us losing games, it’s not the best time to talk, because your emotions are high and maybe the thing that you’re thinking isn’t the right thing at the time. It’s always good to have a meeting maybe when you’re more on an even keel, and guys can express some things without having something else on their mind.”
Question: Is it a matter of, when you’re playing games every other day, it’s tough to catch your breath a little and regroup?
GREENE: “It’s just a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s rare. You might thing that you get everybody in the room, or you think you’re around all 23, 24 guys all the time. That’s not the case. Guys are getting rehab, or warming up in their own ways. It’s not every day that you get the whole group at once, and that you get a chance to talk with level heads, when you’re not just coming down from an experience or getting ready to go into one. So everybody is a little more civil. You can bring up things that maybe you wouldn’t.
“Myself, personally, after a game, if we lose or something, you find yourself getting pretty defensive. If it’s a little more relaxed atmosphere, speaking for myself, I can take criticism a little bit easier. In the same way, I’m less liable to lash out at someone. It’s just a different atmosphere for guys to meet and talk and make sure that everybody is on the same page, which we are. That was never a question. But it’s just kind of a little regroup, a little reassurance for everybody, and a good time for us to get together.”
Here’s what Scuderi had to say about the players-only chat…
SCUDERI: “No shock. I think it’s been a long time coming. Usually, when you go through a slump, you just try to leave the guys alone and see if we can work ourselves out of it. It hasn’t happened, win-loss wise, so we just wanted to reaffirm a couple things that I think everyone knows, deep down inside, but it’s good to get them out in the air sometimes.”
Question: Maybe just try to loosen guys up a little, get them talking?
SCUDERI: “That’s part of it. I think it’s more about attention to detail, and the little things. If you take care of the little things, the big things seem to take care of themselves. If we can get back to that… It might seem like a little play, but usually in a game, it can have a big-time influence.”
Question: Is this sort of a weird time right now? You’ve still got more than four months left in the season, but you also don’t want things to get too far away…
SCUDERI: “Right. As far as the standings go, we’re not incredibly worried about it, but we’re not really happy with it either. It is still early. We’re still technically a winning team, but we certainly don’t like the direction that we’re headed. We’re just trying to do some things to maybe lighten the attitude, lighten the atmosphere, and hopefully that leads to good things.”
While the players met and talked, for perhaps five minutes, the coaches skated at the other end of the rink, shooting pucks and chatting. In general, coaches like to see team leaders taking charge like that, but Murray stayed away from commenting on the players’ chat…
MURRAY: “I don’t know what it was about. I’ve been a part of those in the past myself, as a player. Everybody wants to get going here. Everybody wants to win games, and it comes to a time when enough is enough. We want to build on the good things that we feel we did in the Anaheim game. There were a lot of offensive opportunities. We missed them. We just want to make sure we’re staying with it, though. You don’t want to get frustrated. You don’t want to make any changes on that side of it, when you’re seeing the opportunities that are created.
“On the checking part of the game, we felt real good about the way we played defensively, as a team and as individuals. In our 3-on-3 play, down low, there was some great execution, strong play. We didn’t give up a lot of opportunities to some of the best players in the game, in particular the Getzlaf line. So again, just build on that, reinforce the positive stuff — which is what we did in our team meeting this morning — and when you’re a part of those meetings, as a player, that’s the stuff you’re hitting on. `Just stay with it. Let’s keep working hard. Let’s make sure we’re not outworked in the game, and do the right stuff, and it will break through.”’