Here’s the second set of Open Forum questions and answers…
Andrew asked: Did you get a much, or any rest during the Olympic break? What’s the biggest thing holding the Kings back from being an elite Western conference team, ala San Jose and Chicago? In light of Bernier’s recent start, many people are once again talking about his “projection” as opposed to Quick. One major opinion seemed to be that Quick will be a servicable #1 goalie, but not elite, while Bernier could be an elite NHL goalie. Who is starting in the Kings net 5 years from now? Your thoughts?
Answers: 1) Thanks for asking, and yes, a bit. I got to spend the first week of the break relaxing a bit and having a fun little trip. 2) The biggest thing is consistency — like, for instance, not having a dreadful late-season game against Nashville at home! — but I still think the Kings need a dynamic forward. We see San Jose a lot, and watching that Chicago game, it struck me how talented they are, and how they can impact a game just because teams have to be wary of all the skill. The Kings have done a good job of getting some hard-nosed players who can score — Smyth, Williams, Brown — and Kopitar is approaching that “wow” level, but there’s still one more piece needed there. 3) It’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? There’s just no way to predict. I don’t think there’s a single NHL team, right now, that could have predicted its current goalie situation five years ago. In 2005, the Kings were staring down Garon, LaBarbera, Hauser, Brust and Fukufuji. Not one of them is still around today. Based on the way things are going now, I still think Bernier has the most upside, but we’ve yet to see what Quick can/will do in the playoffs. Ask me the same question in a year, and I think the answer will be clearer.
Noel Vasquez asked: 1) What team would you rather face in the first round ? (knock on wood) 2) How would you predict, in the west, 5th 6th 7th 8th place will be sorted out for playoffs?
Answers: 1) I can’t even skate all that well, so all of the teams would destroy me. As for the best matchup for the Kings, I’d probably say Phoenix (although we haven’t had a good look at what Kings-Colorado looks like, matchup-wise). 2) Right now, I’d say 5-8 will be Kings, Colorado, Detroit, Nashville, but the three remaining Kings-Colorado games will go a long way in determining that.
ArcticFox asked: One thing that I don’t feel very secure in is watching the defense…some d-men are more popular than others here on the insider do you think TM might start looking to mix it up on the blue line after a few rough games this week? And I love Bagnall’s game, where do you see him on the kings depth chart moving forward? Thanks Rich!
Answers: 1) Perhaps, but there’s not much shaking up to be done. Doughty, Johnson, Scuderi and Greene aren’t going anywhere, and I don’t think O’Donnell is either. That leaves Jones, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see a change there but that’s not really much of a shake-up. 2) Barring a trade, the only real spots up for grabs going into next season would be O’Donnell’s and Jones’. It’s easy to see a player such as Voynov or Hickey stepping into the Jones spot, and if O’Donnell doesn’t return, there’s going to be quite a dogfight for that spot. Bagnall has earned his keep with solid play and good leadership, but he’s got a pretty deep pool of candidates to beat out.
Stop the Puck asked: Do you think that a few more shaky game from Quick will cause some unrest in the locker room knowing that an equally capable goalie is 3000 miles away? If so, do you think the coaching staff made a mistake in not starting EE to avoid this situation entirely? But then I can envision another problem because calling up Bernier for good now will almost unquestionably alienate one of the two for next year and beyond, which is exactly what the Kings are trying to avoid. I guess if you could just comment on this developing dynamic, if you think it could cause a problem down the stretch.
Answer: I got kind of dizzy reading that… Quite a few hypotheticals there! You’re starting with the assumption that Quick is going to go in the tank, so it’s a little tough to project out from there. The bottom line, and this goes for anything — hypothetical or reality-based — is that the coach (unless he has some strange self-hate tendencies) is going to do what he thinks is going to help the team win. Some players are going to play, and they will be happy. Some players aren’t going to play, and they’re not going to be happy. If they’re real professionals, they deal with it. If their teammates believe the coach is trying to win, there aren’t going to be conflicts. As long as the coach is picking the player that gives him the best chance to win, there’s no alienation, because it’s merit-based, and thats the best bottom line a coach can draw. When a coach tries to over-think these things, and manage personalities, that’s when he starts to lose the room.
mattmonforton asked: 1. How is the overall feeling in the room now that the playoffs are just around the corner and we have a good chance of being in them? Any anxiety or stress that you can notice or are these guys just having fun with it? 2. What kind of music have the guys been playing before these big playoff atmosphere games to get pumped up? Any one guy in charge of music or do guys alternate? I could see Greene or Doughty taking control of the tunes for sure! 3. If/when the Kings make the playoffs and you had to choose, who would you want them to play and why?
Answers: 1) They don’t seem to have changed at all, in my estimation, but it’s hard for me to judge because I’m around them every day. If there has been gradual change, I’m not going to pick up on it. The only anxiety or stress I see is after rough games (like today, for instance). 2) I’m not in the room before the game, so I really don’t know. I do know that there isn’t one “room DJ,” but I do know that Greene’s iPod gets used a lot. Depending on the day, it can be country or hard rock. I’ve yet to determine the pattern. 3) For me, selfishly? Chicago, because it’s my favorite city, or Phoenix, because it’s close and it’s now even in the same time zone. I’ll settle for anywhere except Detroit.
Daniel asked: 1. Do you talk to any of the scouts for the LA Kings? If so, any thoughts on the current crop of draft eligible prospects? 2. Have you done any preliminary work on stories about local boys Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem?
Answers: I do run into Mike Futa every so often, but the honest answer to both of your questions is that every hour of my working days right now is focused on the current Kings team and the current season. I’ll be excited to get to the draft when the time comes, and I’ve had an eye on the rankings, etc., but it’s not a point of emphasis for me just yet.
BakoCAkingsCondorsGuy asked: 1): Do you believe that the goalie interference/no goalie interference calls in the Kings-Preds game were incomprehensible?
2): Do you believe that the NHL’s decision NOT to suspend PGH’s Matt Cooke for his hit on BOS’s Marc Savard was the right decision?
3): The loss today to the Predators was in part because there is no huge King D-man a-la PHI’s Pronger to clear large forwards from the crease in front of Quick. Do you think it was a mistake for the Kings not to get a large tough D-man for this year’s playoffs, at the trade deadline (knowing of course beforehand they don’t give such a player away)?
4): There are still enough games for Quick to break the single-season wins record… Should the Kings even pay lip-service attention to attaining that record?
5): Would you ever consider giving up this great gig moderating your blog, in order to be a radio or television commentator? And, if the opportunity DID come up for you and you had to give up LA-KI, do you have an assistant blogger to take your place?
6): Could you include a link on the LA-KI home page where we could access the radio link for Kings’ games? So many of us are L.A.-impaired, and that link could make it easier for us to hear your words of wisdom during Game intermissions…
7): Could you start a photograph page for all us L.A. impaired fans to share our Staples and road Game Pictures?
8): Could you include Manchester Monarchs/Ontario Reign links on the LA-KI home page? Us minor league AHL/ECHL fans would love to have easy access from this site to their pages…
9): Did you get that autographed picture of Mr. Dustin Brown with his silver medal, as I asked? (Remember, I said you could hold it for me… !) And, if you haven’t, would you now mind if expand that request to include ALL the medal-winning Kings in one autographed picture, each with their medals, signed at the bottom, posted on this page somewhere for all us loyal hockey-mad Kings-obsessed bloggers to enjoy?
Answers: 1) Inconsistent? Yes. Incomprehensible? No, only because I’ve seen so much bad officiating. The bad call was the first one. To emphatically call that interference was a big stretch, and then to compound the problem by ignoring the same thing at the other end made it 10 times worse.
2) They’re so screwed up with these suspensions that they don’t know which end is up any longer. If that’s not a suspension-worthy hit, I guess I’ve never seen one.
3) Lombardi looked, but I’m not sure who was on the market who would have filled that role. I would not, in any circumstances, have traded a first-round pick or a top prospect to get a defenseman like that, even if it was a position of need. There are guys in the system (Teubert and Campbell jump to mind) who might soon be able to fill that role. For now, they’ve have to get by.
4) It would be nice, but I don’t think so. The immediate focus will be acquiring enough points to crack the playoffs. Second focus will be ensuring everyone is in top form going into the playoffs. If those two things were secure, and a record was in reach, perhaps, but I wouldn’t say it’s likely.
5) Well, I don’t think that will ever be something I’ll have to think about, but I will say that the radio experience was a tremendous amount of fun. I’m a writer, though. It’s all I really know. As far as I know, there is no first runner-up in the Mr. Kings Insider pageant, so I’m really not sure how that would go.
6) Yes, very good idea. I’ll have to look up the proper link for that.
7) That’s a little harder, because you’re looking at a very basic WordPress blog setup here. To be honest, I’m not even sure how that would be done. I know that the blog Facebook page, as well as the Hockeywood site, has the ability to upload pics. Maybe that will be a Year Two improvement!
8) Yes, another excellent idea.
9) Honestly, I’m really disappointed that none of the guys brought their medals around. It’s understandable, since they don’t want to look like they’re showing off — or, even worse, lose it — but Doughty’s medal stayed in Canada and the U.S. guys haven’t brought their medals around.