Here’s the eighth set of questions and answers. The end might be in sight!
KingsFan asked: Here’s one for you Rich: Assuming no acquistions, project the King’s lineup card on Opening Night next year, including line combinations.
Answer: I’m presuming that I can only include players under contract for next season, plus restricted free agents that the Kings would offer. Based on that, I’ll say…
It’s hard to know what to do with the centers, because Schenn and Loktionov deserve a long look, as do a couple other defensemen.
D B COOPER asked: i am wondering where you were born? are you canadian by birth?
Answer: Actually, I’ve never spent more than about 14 consecutive days outside of the greater Southern California area.
tornado12 asked: 1) Justin Williams had a major injury to his leg (in case you didnt know), and came back so quick. He seems a litle off with his timing and thats to be expected. How long do you think it will take to get that back?
2) What do you see as the Kings major weaknesses right now and what can the Kings do in the summer to address those issues (ie specific players available via FA, trade) that could fill that void.
3) Which prospects do you see making the roster next year? are there any that you see as their last chance with the big club (do or die year?)
4) finally, what happened to Anthony? j/k
Answers: 1) This was the main reason why I questioned whether Williams would be able to return this season, but every injury is different and every player responds to injuries differently. It’s commonly held that players who have ACL surgery need an entire year to get back to 100 percent. We saw that with Michal Handzus during his first season with the Kings. An injury such as Williams’ requires a much shorter recovery time, but it can still take a while for players to get back in game shape. 2) There’s still needs for a top-level sniper and a top-four defenseman. A player such as Kovalchuk or Marleau could fill the first need. The second would probably have to be addressed via trade. 3) One of the defensemen (Voynov or Hickey) probably have the best chance of cracking the lineup next season. Do you mean next season as the do-or-die season? That’s pretty hard to predict. It depends on who gets a shot. For the rest, it’s a matter of proving themselves in Manchester. 4) Maybe he’s still celebrating Justin Williams’ return?
Dave asked: Who would be more productive on the 4th line next year – Ivanans or one of the Ice Girls with a shovel?
Answer: I wouldn’t want to deal with a woman carrying a shovel, would you? One wrong word and you’ll wake up in December.
slovenian fan asked: 1. Does management of Kings plan any preseason games in Europe this autumn?
2. Do you know what father of Anze Kopitar Mr. Matjaz Kopitar is doing in LA? In Slovenia he was very respectful player, trainer and GM, he was also GM of Slovenian national team for some time.
3. It seams that Kopi will be at PPG this season. Where do you think is his celling? Can he, paired with a UFA forward like Kovy or Marleau, pass the 100 PTS in regular season?
4. Is California governor Arnie coming to see any Kings game?
5. Does Kings have their own airplane for road games or the organization just rent it from different companies?
6. How many people are part of kings organization on the road games?
7. And final I am glad that thanks to Anze Kopitar on one side and Mihal Handzus and Juraj Mikus on the other at least Kings fans hopefully do not mix Slovenia and Slovakia.
Answers: 1) No, not this year. The NHL set its European schedule for next season, and it doesn’t include the Kings, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Kings back there at some point. 2) I don’t believe Mr. Kopitar is doing any coaching here, but I do see at the practice ring on a regular basis. 3) I certainly think Kopitar could be a 100-point player. He could be around the 80-point level this season, and that includes a period of this season in which he didn’t produce very well. If he puts together a consistent season with a strong line, 100 points is within reach, I believe. 4) Not that I’m aware of. The girls from “Jersey Shore” did, though. (If you’re from Slovenia, that probably won’t mean a lot to you, and you’re fortunate). 5) The team charters flights from the same airline on a regular basis, so they don’t own the plane and it’s not always the same plane. 6) In addition to the players, it’s typically the three coaches, nine members of the support staff, eight media, and then it depends on whether people such as Lombardi, Hextall and Ranford make the trip. 7) Any line that includes Mikus is a winner for me!
Lowell asked: If you were Ersberg, how would you feel about Bernier – your 3rd string understudy – coming up from the minors and starting in your place? Aside from being a pro and dealing with it publicly, how could it not make you displeased with the coaching staff and want to get lot of L.A. ASAP?
Answer: Honestly, I wouldn’t be happy, but I would be grateful to be an NHL player and I would be motivated to show, at every opportunity, that my coach made the wrong decision and that I should be the one helping the team win. Quitting would not be my first instinct.
Fred asked: How does Bettman still have a job? I know he serves at the discretion of the owners, so how does AEG feel about him and does Luc solely represent the Kings at League meetings? I see a league that is light years improved from 15 years ago in terms of player quality yet which still has a P.R. problem, a laughable to non-existent TV contract (for those of us with DirecTV who amazingly haven’t been able to get Versus all season long) and a standing in pro sports that is now behind not just NFL, NBA and MLB but also NASCAR, golf and tennis. Will his 15 minutes ever be up so someone competent can get in there and drag this great sport into the 21st century, or do we have to wait for clueless, dinosaur owners like Anschutz, Snider and Jacobs to die like Wirtz finally did in Chicago for change to occur?
Answer: We came out of the Olympic break, when the NHL was supposed to make a huge splash, and buildings in Dallas and Nashville were only two-thirds full, at most. That’s a bad sign.
Belinda asked: When road games are not televised, do Bob and Jim still travel with the team and watch from the press box? And with the success of this year’s team, have you noticed more local media (aside from the Times’ Helene Elliott who is back covering road games) at home or road games and practices?
Answers: 1) If all of the road games on a trip aren’t being televised — such as the December Calgary-Edmonton trip, for instance — the TV crew will not go. In the case of the recently completed trip, the crew flew out for Chicago, then flew back to L.A. rather than going to Dallas. 2) In terms of print media, there’s really only the Times, my former chain (Daily News, Press Telegram, Daily Breeze, etc.) and the Register. The Daily News typically has a reporter at home games and the Register almost never does. A few TV crews showed up before and after the Olympic break, but otherwise, not really. The biggest increase has come from the Kings’ accommodating attitude toward bloggers, who make up the majority of the media group at games.
lindsey asked: If you were running the Kings, the league or a marketing dept., what would you do, if anything, to make the sport more popular? Ban fighting? Get back on ESPN? Market the individuals instead of the teams? Tell Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell thanks and goodbye? Discreetly allow performance-enhancing drugs like the other sports do? It seems like the hockey fans in L.A. are the most passionate and knowledgeable yet continually frustrated by the lack of respect the team and sport gets. Is the coverage justified because of how little the team has done in its history or should we expect more based on how they’ve done this year?
Answers: 1) No, yes, yes, yes and no. That was easy! Just kidding. Exposure is key, as is making the game as fan-friendly as possible. Look at the Olympics. The games were exciting and they were exposed to a large audience, and people loved it. I’m not saying the NHL can match the Olympics, but what’s the biggest talking point in the NHL right now? Suspensions. That’s not good for anyone. 2) I’m not sure if you’re referring to local media or national media or both. In terms of national media, yes, I’d say that a team has to prove itself in order to get “love” from the national media. Locally, and I say this as someone who has lived here my whole life, L.A. is a bandwagon town. Other than the Lakers, every team is “hot” when it wins and ignored when it loses. If the Kings make the playoffs, I assure you that you’ll see camera crews hanging around. I saw it happen with the Ducks. As soon as the Ducks stopped winning, bye-bye cameras.
zoe asked: Does the end of downtown development and the Kings’ success this year increase the chance of AEG selling the team to a more sports-minded company? What more do they have to gain by owning? A new owner would obviously keep the team at Staples, so AEG would still make money without having to complain annually about all the red ink. I dread the day when the Kings win the Cup and I have to watch Bettman and Leiweke congratulate each other while taking credit.
Answer: You might remember that, a couple years ago, AEG talked to the owners of the Boston Celtics — and perhaps a couple other parties — about buying a minority share of the team. Speaking completely in the hypothetical, I don’t think it’s a guarantee that a “new” owner wouldn’t want to move the team — there are a lot of wealthy Canadians who would probably love to buy and move a team — so I’m not sure that AEG would risk losing a tenant and all of the bodies that it brings downtown. Even if the Kings, themselves, lose money, they’re still a good vehicle for AEG to cross-promote and bring people to the downtown area.
Robert Mays asked: If you were the typical sports fan turned on to hockey after watching the Olympics and then you gave the NHL a chance when play resumed, how would you feel about the sport by seeing Cooke’s hit on Savard that sidelined him for the rest of the season and Ovechkin’s hit on Campbell that sidelined him for the rest of the season? I like good, clean contact, but Cooke’s 0 game suspension and Ovechkin’s 2 game suspension while their opponents are done until October would frustrate me. Add in Washington’s management saying they still have no problem with Ovechkin’s hit even though he was penalized and suspended and it smacks of a league out of control and beneath the other pro sports.
Answer: I hadn’t seen your question before I answered a question earlier, but we’re on the same page. The Olympics were supposed to fuel excitement in the NHL, and what’s the big topic, just two weeks later? Suspensions. That’s just brutal. I mean, I won’t even get into the issue of clean contact vs. dirty hits, or the reaction of management, etc. On a basic level, it’s just sad and counter-productive that we’re here, in the most exciting time of the season, and the biggest headlines are about off-ice issues.