Tying up some of the loose ends on the questions, before starting on some extensive player evaluations…
Pesus asked: Do you know if DL or TM or any players read this blog?
Answer: I honestly have no idea.
egold44 asked: It seems like the Kings are turning a corner depth-wise where their healthy scratches aren’t realistically fighting for playing time as much as serving as utility guys during injury stretches and practices, especially on defense. Since it’s better to play a guy in the minors than have him sit in an NHL press box, how will DL approach what appears to be a new phase? What’s your sense of how comfortable Kings management is with carrying a player like Drewiske who is scratched half the season, as opposed to letting him play in Manchester? (Harrold seems to be more of a utility guy with less upside from further development in the AHL, but his contract is now up.) If it were a perfect world with a healthy roster and the assumption that new free agent signings won’t be healthy scratches, who do you project the Kings will carry on their roster as “regular” scratches next season? Do you go out and spend the CBA minimum on certain vets that will most likely be healthy scratches, or carry and scratch younger players at the risk of them not developing as much as they might in the AHL?
Answer: Well, there’s no perfect answer here. No player wants to be a healthy scratch and, in truth, it’s not good for the player or the team to have any particular player parked for a long period of time. You look at Peter Harrold, who didn’t get into a game after Feb. 28. At some point, it almost becomes a Catch-22. When it gets to April, you’re hesitant to put that guy in the lineup because it’s been so long since he’s seen NHL action. Yet, the only way he’s going to see action is if you put him in. Ideally, you’re in a situation where your healthy scratches rotate into the lineup on a semi-regular basis, but the Kings, particularly on defense, stayed very healthy in the second half of the year and were happy with the six defensemen they had. Now, to answer your question going forward, if you must have players who sit for stretches, you’re correct in saying that you don’t want kids sitting out. Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov were grade-A examples this season. They were much better served by playing every night at a lower level. Now, a guy like Davis Drewiske will be 27 in the fall. He’s not going to improve much by going to the AHL. Same for Harrold. I hesitate to use the word “ideal,” because it’s not idea, but the lesser-of-all-evils idea would be to have that type of versatile, slightly-older player who is also mature enough to handle sitting out for long stretches. To their credit, both Drewiske and Harrold had the perfect attitude for the role. It’s delicate, no question.
Synergy asked: What sort of roster changes do you imagine we may see next season? Trades, rookies making the team, free agents acquired or lost.
Answer: I’m really not trying to be flippant, but you’re asking me to predict the future, and I don’t have the slightest idea. As I said in response to one of the first questions, Dean Lombardi doesn’t even know right now, and if he doesn’t know, I sure don’t. I would guess that only mild changes would take place, with at most one or two outside additions.
LB asked: Rich, what is your best guess – will Bernier be moved this summer if the right offer(legit top 6 forward) comes along?
Answer: Honestly, you can take the name “Bernier” out of there and replace it with anyone. A GM, if he’s doing his job properly, does not look at players emotionally. He evaluates his options, in terms of trades, and if he believes trading a player will make the team better, both in the short term and long term, he will do it. I understand that you’re looking for a definitive answer, and I understand why, but there is no definitive answer. It’s a cliche, and not a particularly good one, but remember, Wayne Gretzky got traded (twice, in fact).
LBlocal asked: Hammer, Summer plans… Any vacations on the horizon?? ‘S.L.O. Town’ doesn’t really cut it, eh?
Answer: Nothing big. Maybe a couple trips to visit friends. SLO is perfect for two weeks. Just enough time to get my annual fix, then it’s back to the big city.
deadcatbounce asked: Rich, hope there’s still time for another question. In a recent post after the Kings were eliminated, you wrote, “I’ll be heading over to El Segundo shortly for the start of the Kings’ postseason interview sessions. Every player comes in for an “exit meeting” with coaches and management, and after those meetings some players are made available to the media for an interview to discuss the season.” Does this imply that only certain players are authorized to speak to the press and, if this is the case, why?
Answer: I’m sure you didn’t intend it to sound this way, but your question kind of makes the situation sound more sinister than reality. It’s not a matter of “authorization.” Players’ exit meetings with coaches and management can drag on for a few days. Some guys come in at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, some come in at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday. Typically, a team will try to set up a time for media during which a chunk of the roster is expected to be around at the same time. As it turns out this year, none of the players were around — except for Kyle Clifford, I believe — on the day we talked to Lombardi and Murray. I could request to talk to any of them at any time right now, but after 6 1/2 months, there’s not a lot left to discuss, and last year’s exit-interview interviews weren’t exactly scintillating.
Pobo asked: Do you keep up with Matthew Kredell at all? If so, how’s he doing?
Answer: I traded notes with Matt at the start of the season, and he seemed to be doing well, so that was good to hear.
Irish Pat asked: 1.) In an earlier question from Dominick you replied that you wouldn’t write a book as it would be uninteresting. No Royal Ascent? Your loyal readers would embrace it as would hockey fans around the world… 2.) Any chance for a possible Jim Fox Q&A this summer? Looking back it’s one of my favorite features… 3.) I’m sure you love what you do, however I’m curious if you’ve ever been bummed that you had to miss out on an event because of your job. As an example, the Coachella Music Festival or in the future, perhaps a Cubs playoff game (don’t worry, I knocked on wood for you)?
Answers: 1) Good catch! Although I did say, “Not at this point,” so “Royal Ascent” is still a future possibility. 2) Jim has given us a lot of his time in previous summers and he’s been very gracious to do it. I understand that he’s going to be doing some traveling this summer, so perhaps we can do a similar Q&A with a Kings personality. 3) Sure, it happens quite often, actually. But I’m certainly not going to complain about it. The summer affords a lot of freedom, and the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.
Dan asked: In your opinion, do you see Clifford as a Darren McCarty type? One who has the ability to put in 5-15 goals potentially but also protect the team at the same time (assuming he learns to keep his hands up to protect himself)?
Answer: I hadn’t thought of that specific comparison, but that’s not bad! Actually, I think he might have a bit more scoring potential than McCarty. Long term, Clifford probably fits nicely into a third-line role, and if he’s on a line with two other guys who can move and crash the net, I don’t think 15 goals is out of reach for him at all.