Only four months removed from the franchise’s second Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Kings embarked on an unanticipated journey that shifted discussions of a budding dynasty to topics much more concrete and weighty. But if you speak to General Manager Dean Lombardi, as several reporters did on a Wednesday conference call, the past 10 months were both a challenge to navigate and preventable.
“I think I pride myself on being prepared and having a plan, and it’s been very clear to me that I’ve been negligent in this area, and we’re going to fix that going forward,” he said.
Embedded in that statement is a less-than-covert reference to the arrests of three members of the organization who had been parts of both the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup championships.
“I think in short order you’re going to hear about the announcement of our new conduct awareness program that we’ve been working on – and Dean and his team have been working on – that’s going to address a lot of this,” Alternate Governor and AEG Chief Executive Officer Dan Beckerman said. “But in terms of the saga, I think we had three incidents in the last year, and those three players are not on our team, and we’ve launched this program that you’ll hear about more in the future.”
That program will be designed to better prepare Kings players to eschew the feeling of invincibility brought on by fame and affluence at an early age, not that there needs to be a continued reminder that striking a woman – as Slava Voynov did, as detailed in an October 20 police report – is reprehensible.
“I’m going to talk about this in the next couple of days and what we’ve done here, but it’s really forced me to open my eyes, and I think like anything else, we’re going to get better from this as an organization, I’m convinced,” Lombardi said on Wednesday’s conference call.
One feature of the conduct awareness program will be welcoming Brantt Myhres into the organization as a “player assistance director,” as reported by the LA Times. Myhres, a former NHL player who was suspended multiple times by the league for failed drug tests but has been sober for the better part of the last decade, according to the Times’ report, will serve as a liaison to the players, where “trust and confidentiality will be hallmarks of the program.”
Amongst the secondary aspects of today’s news that Slava Voynov would be returning to Russia, Senior Vice President/Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs Jeff Solomon said that Voynov’s salary would not count against the club’s books.
“He’s not on our team, he’s not on our cap, and he will not count,” Solomon said. He also noted that the team is working in “real time” with the league to fully resolve Voynov’s process. That process is ongoing.
“He’s already suspended from last year, but I guess the bottom line is right now we probably don’t have to do anything, but quite frankly, I really need to work with the league on this process,” Solomon said.
Because Voynov, who is under indefinite league suspension in addition to a team-imposed suspension for suffering an injury away from hockey, carries an LTIR designation as it relates to the salary cap, his $4.17M average annual value was not counting against the Kings’ books at the time of today’s news. Thus, while the player’s status appears to have solidified as he returns to his native country, there won’t be any additional cushion in the club’s financial flexibility.
The team had looked at multiple options with Voynov, including a trade and the termination of the defenseman’s contract.
“When the decision was made back earlier in the summer that the player was not going to play for our team, there were a lot of different ways that that could manifest itself, and the first one we considered was a trade, because that provides you the most certainty,” Beckerman said. “So I think the short answer is we were prepared to terminate him, and up until a short while ago, that was our plan. But this recent development makes that unnecessary.”
The details of the club’s new conduct awareness program are expected to be announced this week.
“I think we’re very good in terms of communicating with our players,” Lombardi said in early June. “We go out of our way to try and know them personally as human beings. I think it’s one of the reasons we’ve always had that family affect around here. But, clearly, we can do more. Maybe whether it’s the coaches and managers, the personnel people, if those people could open up to us, maybe we could’ve been aware of this potentially happening. That’s the first step. The second thing, and this is what I said with the Voynov thing, I walked down to Jeff Solomon’s office and said ‘This is my fault.’ I’ll tell you a story. We neglected to educate our players. We spend time teaching them systems, nutrition, and everything else, but we missed a big step here in terms of insuring that they understand right and wrong and that this has to be reinforced, not only as a human being, but as somebody who is representative of your community. So it heightens the need for this.”