As lunch with Simon Gagne is about to get started — perhaps Philly cheesesteaks, in honor of the Kings’ recent additions? — here’s the second set of the open forum questions and answers…
Kings win, Ducks lose asked: There was mention today on “The Power Play” with Scott Laughlin on XM Home Ice about the LA Kings setting aside a section at Staples Center of 500 seats (presumably in the 300 Level) for a Soccer style “Supporters” section… If anyone here follow The LA Galaxy, they may know of the two main supporter groups that attend all home games (and even some road games)…
LARS (LA Riot Squad) ACB (Angel City Brigade)
I am a huge soccer guy, and think this is a great idea… I love how the Clubs in the sport have a close relationship with the fans in these groups (ie: saluting them after the games by singling them out & clapping for them in unison… I attended the NHL Premier games vs the Ducks in London 2007 (I was in attendance at Bernier’s debut!) and was sorely disapointed that the team (Then led by Rob Blake) didn’t acknowledge us from the ice after the two games that we (a big group of us) flew over 5000 miles to be there to support them! On the other hand, I’ve been to a couple of Chelsea FC games at the Rose Bowl & the HDC over the last few years & witnessed the players appreciation of the travelling fans first hand… I for one would love to see a change towards the soccer support (like in Seattle & Portland), or to start with like at the Home Depot Center shared by these supporter groups & the Galaxy… Rich, is there anyone in marketing at AEG, who can expound on this article in the Sports Business Journal about this phenomenon?
Answer: Like you, I’m very impressed with the way those soccer teams are supported, but I would suggest a couple things. One, I think what you’re describing is fairly unique to soccer, or at least fairly unique to sports that have the bulk of their popularity in Europe. I can’t think of another example, in North American sports, where you see that type of fan-group-within-the-fan-base attitude, with the possible exception of student sections in NCAA football and basketball. So I think it’s wonderful, but I also think it’s fairly unique. Second, and a bit related, I think these sort of things are organic. I think teams can nurture them, but I’m not sure it’s feasible to create them. So if you’re looking to start that, I’d say you start it from the ground up. I could be completely incorrect here, but I don’t believe the Galaxy support groups were started by the management of the Galaxy. They were started by a group/groups of hardcore fans who organized themselves and then sought out a relationship with the team (buying groups of tickets, etc.). That’s the way to do it. Now, specifically to the Kings, from what I’ve read, what they’re basically doing is taking a ring of seats at the top of 200 level, making it a “supporters section” and allowing fans to do with it what they will. Fans can name it, organize it, etc. If that turns into something where that group decides to be the loud, chanting, clapping, cheering group, then that’s wonderful, but I don’t think it’s something a team can necessarily create in a marketing laboratory. I think the Kings understand that, because they saw how it developed with the Galaxy. The Kings are basically saying, “Here are your seats, we want you to create something cool.” I think that could work, but we’ll see.
Adam asked: Second, my question is this – I know that Doughty and Simmonds were very close, even lived together if I am right, and now that Simmonds has been traded, who will be Doughty’s new right hand man? Did he already fill Simmonds’ spot? I know, it’s a funny question, but I just remember them being very close friends.
Answer: Well, yes, they were good friends, but I think this gets a little overblown. It not as though they were inseparable. Incidentally, Doughty actually developed a strong friendship with Mike Richards during the last Olympics, so it’s safe to assume he endorsed the trade.
Serenity Now asked: it is great to hear that several of the Kings have been working hard with Tim Adams. He seems to have made a noticeable difference in Dustin Penner which I am sure all King fans are excited about. Can you tell us if Drew Doughty has been participating in any of these volunteer workouts or if he is even eligible to do so as a RFA?
Answer: Perhaps you saw my answer to a somewhat-similar question above. Just to be clear here, what we’re talking about is not the NFL-style minicamps, where players come in and basically put themselves through full-team practices. At the start of summer, every player — Doughty included — is given a summer plan/program. Some guys stay in Southern California and work with Tim Adams directly, some don’t, but they all have the ability to be on board with his plan. Like anything else in life, it’s up to them to follow through, regardless of whether they’re in Manhattan Beach or Eastern Europe. But again, these are not formal sessions in El Segundo and, as I noted, you’re just as likely to see New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators on the ice in the summer as you are Los Angeles Kings. The fact that Penner is spending this much time working out in El Segundo is a solid testament to him, no question, but every player is different and they don’t all have to do the same thing.
Ed asked: What are your thoughts on the current NHL salary cap system? So far the cap is up to $59 million, with the floor at $48 million. I remember back in 2006 when the Kings had a team payroll of $40 million and we were losing money, annually. And most teams were spending $40 mil on team payroll, with a couple of exceptions, Rangers, Red Wings. With the current system you must over pay players to get to the cap floor (for some teams), and young players are receiving inflated salaries. Where is all this $$$ coming from? Not from the TV deals. Revenue sharing from a few teams actually making money? What happens when they don’t and the salary cap goes down. The $7, $6 million contracts will hurt!
What are your thoughts?
Answer: Makes you wonder, doesn’t it? I don’t want to give the wrong impression here, because I’m not strictly pro-player, anti-ownership, but can someone tell me why, exactly, we lost a season? For this? Owners acted as though their worlds would end if the economic structure wasn’t completely revamped. So they essentially got exactly what they wanted, and now here we are five years later, and they’re spending more money than ever and throwing around ridiculous contracts without, as you noted, any obvious massive increases in revenue. Makes you wonder how dire things really were back in 2005, doesn’t it? Other than the direct correlation between team revenue and player salary, how much has changed? Certainly the revenue-sharing has helped some teams. But you’re spot-on in terms of those big contracts possibly coming back to bite owners one day. That’s the risk, and that’s how (some of) the owners are choosing to play the game right now.
FiG17 asked: Rich, I know there’s still a long time before it will become a more serious issue, but what do you think is the most likely scenario for the division realignment next year? I’ve heard there have been talks of a four division system (although, these days it’s impossible to determine what’s absolute bs and what could have a basis in some sort of fact). I just wanted to know your thoughts… I don’t much like the four-division plan I’ve read about.
Answer: The unfortunate thing is that no matter what realignment looks like, it won’t be great. That’s just a matter of geography. If you take a map of North America, put push-pins in all the NHL cities and look at it, there’s just no way to come up with a setup that makes sense for everyone. In the far West, you’ve got Los Angeles, Anaheim, Phoenix, San Jose and…then what? You can’t have a four-team division, right? Dallas’ travel is brutal. Colorado’s would be almost as brutal. Are you going to pull in Vancouver and take them away from their Canadian rivals? No matter how you draw it up, the teams in the Northeast win because they’re clumped together. And that’s not West Coast sour grapes, it’s just the reality of geography. So really, I don’t have a strong opinion on it. I’d be curious to see what all of you could come up with, in terms of good options for realignment. Because, as you noted, it seems as though it’s going to be a reality.
Brian asked: 1. How do you get an avatar here? 2. Rich, how many groupees do the players get on average? Can a less noticeable guy like Clifford score anything close to what Kopitar can pull? 3. How often do you get confused for the Richard Hammond on Top Gear? 4. Do you usually work from home? 5. How do you get tipped off when someone signs or a trade goes down?
Answers: 1) I think you got a good answer from a couple folks below your question. That’s the sort of thing that you guys have figured out better than I do! 2) For the sake of my soul, I’m just going to pretend as though that’s not a serious question. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but for everyone’s sake, I’ll assume it’s a joke. 3) Not once yet. 4) Well, roughly half of the season is spent on the road, but the home half, yes. 5) It depends. Sometimes through a source, or sometimes the team itself announces a signing/trade before reporters otherwise find out.
CB14 asked: Would you look to give Drew Doughty a long term or short term contract?
What salary do you think Drew’s worth? Both on a potential short term, and long term deal.
Would you trade Drew Doughty if he wasn’t signed by the start of the season and you were offered fair value, or would you wait it out and hope he gives in?
If Dustin Penner has a good season next year, 30 goals 30 assists, would you give him a 4 year contract? Knowing that once he gets paid again he might possibly return to his old physique.
If you were head coach, what would your top 3 line combinations be?
How much of a leash do you think Dean Lombardi will give Terry Murray if the Kings go on a losing streak?
If the Kings fail to make it out of the first round yet again, or not even make the playoffs, do you think Terry Murray and/or Dean Lombardi could lose their jobs?
Answers: 1-3) Wow, only three “Drew Doughty isn’t signed in July” questions, huh? I would give him a long-term contract if it fit within the overall salary structure of the team, and a short-term contract if it didn’t. That’s the only way to answer the question. The rest depends entirely on what salary numbers are being debated/discussed. Essentially, he’s worth what he and the Kings agree he’s worth. There’s no obvious comparable for a 21-year-old who has been a Norris Trophy finalist. The over/under seems to be in the range of $6.5 million annually. And he’s not going to be unsigned at the start of the season, so it’s a moot point. 4) Again, I would give a player a contract that fit. If it fit, then sure. Otherwise, no, I wouldn’t give him that just for the sake of it. 5) Penner-Kopitar-Williams, Gagne-Richards-Brown, Clifford-Stoll-Richardson. 6) How long of a losing streak? Three games or 12 games? 7) I’ve seen much stranger things happen in the NHL, so I’d be lying if I said that was impossible.
james picarello asked: What is the new power play going to look like, and is there going to be a new system for it? and i hope Kopitar doesnt play around with the puck on the half boards
Answer: It seems fairly obvious that Richards and Gagne will replace, in some form, the power-play spots previously filled by Handzus and Smyth. As I understand it, Richards has the ability to play the point on the power play, so perhaps he could get time there. I’m not expecting any significant change in system.
Bluecoconuts asked: Do you have any idea (or even just a guess) what number Gagne will wear? Will he take 12, and Loktionov bump to something else, or will be pick another one? Also, any idea if Martinez is going to get a new number? I thought I heard somewhere that the Kings would like to see him pick a lower number, like the rest of our d-men (except for Mitchell)… Also, is Penner going back to 27, or keeping 25?
Answer: Other than the fact that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Martinez take a lower number — given that Dean Lombardi seems to have a “thing” about players (especially young players) wearing high numbers — I have no idea. That’s the sort of thing that gets sorted out close to the start of training camp. I haven’t heard about anything else yet.
408kingsfan asked: Rich, do you ever get the opportunity to watch video review with the coaching staff? The reason I ask is because last season the Kings first ten games were their best games of the season and it seems like negative changes were made and the Kings struggled offensively from that point on. I just wonder what the logic is in watching something negative and keeping it that way.
Answer: No, I’ve never watched tape with the coaching staff. I’m not really sure how to answer the second part of the question/statement. Is the suggestion that the coaching staff changed something after the 12-3 start, which led to fewer wins? Because if it is, I can’t say I agree with that suggestion.