Bernie Nicholls’ presence on the ice today in practice, as a special guest/consultant, was a surprise, and it remains to be seen how long it will last. Nicholls and the team had a bit of a different take on how this relationship came about. The Kings essentially presented it as though Nicholls happened to be in town, so Darryl Sutter asked him to join practice for a couple days. Nicholls said Sutter asked him to come to Los Angeles — Nicholls lives in the Toronto area — and help out the team. We’ll see how it evolves. Nicholls did something similar when Sutter coached in San Jose, and it didn’t turn into anything permanent, but Nicholls sounded as though he would be keeping his options open. Nicholls didn’t really join in any drills today. He skated around and talked to players individually and in small groups.
Nicholls certainly has the on-ice credentials to be a credible voice. For those who didn’t catch it earlier, I did a feature on Nicholls in advance of his “Legends Night,’’ which can be found by clicking here. Nicholls had 475 goals in 1,127 NHL games — including 152 power-play goals — and he’s an affable guy in general. Here’s what Sutter said today about bringing in Nicholls, followed by Nicholls’ thoughts…
SUTTER: “He’s a good resource to have, you know? We’re still trying to find our way, to contribute more individually, offensively. I coached him in Chicago and San Jose and I obviously know what he can offer. He’s in town and available, so it’s nice to have that. We have Nelson Emerson available and in town here. When he’s available and not on the road, he can help us. It’s good to have.’’
Question: Will he be around for a few days?
SUTTER: “Yeah, I’d like him to watch a couple games. He knows some of the young guys. He can help them a little bit.’’
Question: Do you plan on bringing in other past players?
SUTTER: “It’s awesome to have those guys that you’re comfortable with and that know the game. Why not? Why not use that resource when you have it? … It’s not about having the blinders on. It’s about using everything you can.’’
And here are Nicholls’ thoughts…
Question: What was the nature of you coming out here? How did it come about?
NICHOLLS: “I had talked to Darryl a little bit when he got hired. I’ve always liked being out and being with the guys. He just asked if I wanted to come out and maybe kind of help out, just talk to the guys and just be around and see what we could do.’’
Question: How long are you going to be here?
NICHOLLS: “I have no idea.’’
NICHOLLS: “Sure. [smiles]’’
Question: What were your impressions from afar, and then watching close up?
NICHOLLS: “I think the team is playing really well. I played for Darryl twice, so I know what he’s all about. Seeing the guys earlier in the season, it’s a different team. They’ve always worked hard. They’ve always played great defense, but for a skilled team, it’s sad to say but they were terrible to watch. They may get 15 shots in a game and you’re going, `Wow.’ They’ve got too much skill and too much offense to do that. I think Darryl has allowed them to create offense. Darryl’s mentality has always been the same: `Work hard,’ no matter what aspect of the game. Darryl, he was a decent offensive player, but he understands how to create offense, and he’s allowing the players to do that. You can see the big difference. They’re always going to be able to play good defense. Their goaltenders are great. Now, if you can get them creating offense — and eventually goals will come from it — it’s going to make them that much better.’’
Question: What was your message today?
NICHOLLS: “Darryl just wanted me to talk to the guys, individually or just talk to them, encourage them or, if I have any input, give it to them. For the most part, I think they’re playing great. If I can say anything to help them or create something, I’d be more than happy to do that.’’
Question: Do you know where you’re going to be watching the games?
NICHOLLS: “No. Probably watching somewhere around, or down underneath. I did this with Darryl before, in San Jose, when he coached there. When I retired, I just stayed on and helped out, did anything and watched the game, went in and talked to the guys between periods. If I saw something or had any kind of an input, I would give it to them.’’
Question: What about maybe contributing on the power play?
NICHOLLS: “They went, I don’t know what it was, 1-for-25 or something, but you know what, it’s so close. They could have easily scored 10 goals. Sometimes you’re just snake-bitten in that department. Maybe you just try something different, or anything. I knew, when Darryl came on board, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would see the third or fourth line on the power play. It was, I think, the third game when the fourth line was out there. And that’s all right. It’s just hard work. You’ve got to outwork the opponents. Yeah, you can have some ideas about what to do. If he wants that from me, I’ll be more than happy to put in my two cents and I will talk to guys about certain things that I think can help them. But it is a fine line between scoring and not scoring. It’s tough when they’re 27th or 28th (on the power play), but with the talent they’ve got, they could very easily be better than that.’’
Question: Is coaching something you would like to do eventually, or are you happy just consulting?
NICHOLLS: “I love consulting. Coming in and working with these guys, doing whatever it is, I really enjoy that part. Being involved, player-wise and stuff like that, it’s really good. On the blackboard, on the video and stuff, I don’t know if I like that that much. The other guys do a real good job. If I can just be kind of hands-on, player-wise, that way, I like that part.’’