As I get ready to head out to practice this morning — 11 a.m. start — I don’t want to forget about the open forum questions and answers, so here is the second set…
Question: for those of us out of LA and major hockey markets (Austin for me), how do Williams and Smyth look? Any evidence that Williams is getting his legs back, so to speak, and any evidence that Smyth is losing his grit and tenacity? Also, do you have an impression about how these guys are with the younger players? OD seems to have taken to his role of mentor but I have not heard about some of the older, more experienced players.
Answer: Williams scored the best goal — at least of what I saw (which wasn’t everything) — of the Kings’ preseason in the first game, when he did a little toe drag and went to the net and scored. Smyth’s best work has been in front of the net, either with screens or looking for the puck himself. The Kings will need to see a lot of each of that type of thing from both players. As to the “evidence,” I respect the question — because it’s a good one — but you’re asking me to make judgments off practices and three or four preseason games, which is sort of like judging baseball players off the first week of spring training. We’ll see how things look over the first few games. As for “mentors,” they don’t get older or more experienced than O’Donnell, and really there isn’t another guy on the team older than Ryan Smyth (33), who is still feeling his way. A guy like Matt Greene, even though he’s only 26, has the feel of a veteran leader.
Questions: What are your thoughts on the Kings second line and how long does Murray stick with them if they struggle (or may be what does he do if they do)? Also, how do you see the rotation of the 4th line playing out? Who plays? Who sits? And do you feel the movement of in and out will hurt players like Lewis? I have asked this before so I am not sure if you have answered it, but are you planning on having Game Day chats? These have always been a lot of fun and a great way for all of us to interact during the game.
Answers: 1) How long? I really have no idea. The length of the leash would probably depend on how well the rest of the team is doing, if other lines needed to be shaken up, etc. As I said in response to a previous question, I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Oscar Moller get a chance. Alexander Frolov could be bumped up as well, but then that puts a hole in the third line, which Murray likes a lot. 2) Right now it’s Ivanans, Richardson and Lewis, without much room for “in and out” because Harrold is the only spare, and he’s now practicing on defense. We’ll see what happens when/if they send Martinez back and, more importantly, when Clune comes back. If Lewis does well, he could still end up centering that line with Clune and Ivanans. 3) I’m glad that you enjoy them. My intention is to do them, but I hesitate to promise it because quite obviously I’m in a new role here, and I don’t know exactly what my workload is going to be like during games. I’ll do my best to get them going.
Question: Rich, How much would a person of your experience and position make at the Daily News compared to a newspaper in Fresno?
Answer: I honestly haven’t the slightest idea how much someone would make in Fresno. I’d like to be able to answer, but I’ve worked at three newspapers, and they’ve all been in the Los Angeles market so I have a very poor perception of what pay scales are like outside this area.
Question: When is Lombardi’s contract up and is management talking to him regarding renewal?
Answer: Lombardi signed a five-year contract in 2006, so he still has two full seasons to go. By normal standards, that would be quite early to be talking extension, and if any talks have taken place, I don’t know about them.
Question: what do you think the players expect from themselves this season? Do they legitimately believe that it’s the playoffs or bust?
Answer: Well, if you mean “playoffs or bust” as in, they’re all going to retire if they don’t make the playoffs this year, then no. The Kings were angry last season when they didn’t make the playoffs. Every team is. Look at Colorado and Phoenix this season. Most everyone expects them to finish at/near the bottom of the West, but I assure you that they’re not thinking that way, as San Jose and the Kings learned. The best way to answer this is probably to say that the Kings look around the room and think they have as good a chance as any other team. I don’t think they could honestly think that in the past couple years.
Question: If Purcell struggles, who’se in line for that spot?
Answer: In no particular order, I’d say Oscar Moller, Trevor Lewis or Alexander Frolov, although that would mean breaking up the third line as well.
Question: Do you really see Gretzky coming on board after his noted falling out with Anschutz years ago that led to his trade to St. Louis? And if he did join the front office, how would that work with Luc since the two are known not to be that close?
Answer: To the extent that any bad blood existed, there’s a lot of water under the bridge, in both instances. We’re talking about things that happened more than a decade ago. Gretzky has participated in several Kings events in recent years, including Robitaille’s jersey-retirement ceremony. Of course, he was already in the building, coaching the Coyotes, but he didn’t have to participate if there was bad blood, etc. One thing you see, in any business, if that you don’t have to be best friends with someone in order to work toward a common goal. I have no real idea what the Robitaille/Gretzky relationship is like these days, but I don’t think it would be an obstacle.
Question: What forwards from the minors do you expect to come up first? Most look inexperienced (I guess by definition).
Answer: I suppose it depends mostly on need. If something happens to Ivanans, for instance, you’ll certainly see Westgarth here before Loktionov. If the need is for someone in more of a scoring role, you’re more likely to see a guy like Oscar Moller. Typically though, the Kings tend to reward those who are playing well in Manchester at the moment, and base it less on prospect rating.
Question: Where does Frolov end up? Resigned, traded at the deadline, UFA. He obviously has top 6 forward potential but has not brought it every game. You think DL’s thought of him being an enigma are completely true? And do that he will be a King next year? I just dont see where he fits in if hes not playing top 6 minutes, especially at a 5+ mil salary which he will command in the offseason. Frolov out, Kovalchuk in???
Answer: I think your assessment is very solid, all the way through, at least until you get to the Kovalchuk part, because I think the odds remain in favor of him staying in Atlanta. The interesting thing will be to see what happens if the trade deadline is approaching and a) Frolov hasn’t been re-signed and b) the Kings are very much in the playoff hunt. Does Dean Lombardi bite the bullet, keep Frolov and risk losing him in the summer for nothing, or trade him, in a type of deal that usually brings back young players and prospects, etc.? My instinct there would be to say, keep Frolov, take your chances in the summer.
Question: Do you need an assistant Rich? On a more hockey related note, Which arena/city are you most excited about visiting during the road trips this year?
Answer: I need several assistants, actually, but they wouldn’t be paying jobs, trust me. I’m looking forward to all the trips except Detroit. Just kidding. (Not really.) My favorite cities, among the ones I’m headed to this year, are Chicago, Vancouver, New York and Boston. I’ve never been to the other Canadian cities, so I’m excited to see those.