Here’s the second set of today’s Open Forum questions and answers…
jjallday asked: Rich, do you think that the kings will or still need to make a move to get a bit more consistent scoring?
Answer: Yes, in my mind the need is still clearly there for a top-six left winger. It was there last season, it was there last summer and it’s still there. Will they make that move? Yes, at some point they will. I don’t know if it will be before the trade deadline this season, or during the summer. Everyone knows they took the swing at Kovalchuk and didn’t connect. Making a move for a big scorer like that is a major, major decision — in fact, ultimately, I think it will define Dean Lombardi’s success or failure — so the Kings have to be sure they’re making the correct move. Some would say they have already waited too long, in terms of waiting for the “correct” player. I wouldn’t argue that point, but that’s the theory behind it.
DB6 asked: Rich, after seeing helene’s twitter the other day regarding the 3 stars not being chosen by the media, i was wondering who actually selects the 3 stars to the game. Is it just a select few from the media or is Bailey sitting in the back pulling names out of a hat?
Answer: I’m not sure if the question is in reference to home games, road games or both, but at home games, to my knowledge, the stars are always selected by Nick Nickson and Daryl Evans, although they give some jurisdiction to someone (I’m not sure whom) in the case of, for instance, selecting someone who scores a goal in overtime. On the road, it varies widely. Almost always, a media member is identified in advance and makes the picks. So far, in only one city — and I can’t remember which city — have I been asked to vote for the stars, in the sense that “the media,” collectively, would vote for them.
andy asked: The Kings did the popular post-game salute to the home crowd on opening night and then I do not believe it has been done again since. Why did they discontinue this practice? Also, did you know that Mike Murphy was a candidate for the Kings’ GM position before Lombardi brought it to our attention?
Answers: 1) They actually did the stick salute after the second home game, against Vancouver. At the time, I asked Dustin Brown about it, and he said it wasn’t something the team planned to do every night. It was sort of a spontaneous gesture, and my sense is that the Kings didn’t want it seen as being, in a way, “robotic,” or forced, by doing it after every game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen again at some point. 2) No, I had no idea. At that time, in 2006, when I was still at the Daily News, I was busy with Dodgers and five other things, so my pursuit of that story wasn’t particularly fierce.
Pokeys asked: Of all the Kings prospects in the minors, juniors etc… who do you think has the best chance of being an impact player? Is Martin Jones the real deal in Manchester? Will Justin Azevedo ever get a chance at the big time? Is Jordan Weal of Tyler Toffoli a “blue chip” prospect? Is there anyone on the Kings radar who might not get the press these others are getting who could make an impact?
Answer: I appreciate the questions, and understand why you would ask them, but I also hope you understand that it’s completely impossible to definitively answer them, or give anything more than a hunch guess. If you’re in the hockey world, the surest way to drive yourself crazy is by trying to predict/project what an 18-year-old player will look like at age 20, and what a 20-year-old player will look like at age 22. There are just way too many variables, and a wide range of factors — skill set, mental makeup, roster depth at position — that can factor in. I know there are folks who fashion themselves as prospect experts, and I’m sure they do a fine job, but there’s no science. For me to tell you who is going to be an “impact player” three years from now is little more than a coin flip. Based on what we’ve seen, I’d have to say Schenn and Voynov are the two prospects closest to making an impact. The rest of the kids you mention…they’re kids. They have have their high points and their warts, and that’s what the development process is for, to see how it all shakes out. I couldn’t tell you whether Jordan Weal will be a “blue chip” player any more than I can tell you what this week’s lottery numbers will be. The best way to track it is to follow their stats and success at the various levels. They usually tell a big part of the story.
Major Frank Burns asked: 1. What’s the hardest part about traveling with the team? 2. Would you say you are optimistic or pessimistic about a possible CBA agreement as it is due to expire after next season?
Answers: 1) That’s a tough question. There’s really nothing tough about traveling with the team, per se, as opposed to traveling commercially. In fact, it’s so much easier that it’s almost beyond explanation. The sheer number of days can grind you down a bit, but I have nothing to complain about compared to the players who have to physically exert themselves at a high level every day. 2) I actually am optimistic, just because I’m having a hard time, at this point, seeing what the major, line-in-the-sand differences are going to be. Essentially, the owners got everything they wanted six years ago (I know I’m exaggerating, but they did very well for themselves). When I look at the NFL and NBA, I see major, major divisions. Perhaps the NHL just looks more favorable in comparison, but at this point, I don’t know that the divisions are so deep that the owners and players would risk another catastrophic labor stoppage.
Barrie G asked: Still waiting on the questions I asked in the last forum (you ran out of time to answer them all I believe) Who is the burger “king” on the team? Or the top “foodie”? What is the favorite burger joint in LA? Ask the guys what their favorite restaurants are in other cities or locally? I am sure all the Kings fans would love to have some more SoCal choices on their dining list per the palate of “pros”.
Answer: At the risk of throwing cold water on something that’s clearly meant to be fun, you’re quite unlikely to hear players talking about fast food. The diet that they’re under, at least when they’re under the watchful eyes of the training staff, is very strict. To the extent that you hear players talking food in the locker room, post-practice, it’s usually about going to Subway for a sandwich. Sean O’Donnell was the major “foodie”of the past couple years. It came up the other day, in some context that I can’t remember, and Anze Kopitar was mentioning how he wasn’t much of a cook. In general, when players have meals on the road, whatever local steakhouse chain is nearby is probably a safe bet for that night’s dining.
torndado12 asked: 1) Any chance of another insider suite this year? and if so, could we have like 2 mos notice so we with jobs outside the area can schedule something? 2) Whos your team MVP so far? unsung hero? 3) If the Kings dont make the playoffs, do you think there will be pressure from the top (ie- ownership) to make changes? 4) Whats your take on current points system with all the 3 point games and shootout format? do you like it as is or do have preferences? 5) What rule changes would you like to be seen implemented next season?
Answers: 1) Yes, there’s definitely a chance of that happening. There is another event scheduled for late in the season, at the ESPN Zone, that I will be involved with, but that’s a postage event. I’m trying to judge whether the demand is there for another “suite night” this season. If so, we might have to go for it, and yes, we will be more sensitive in terms of giving people more time to plan for it. That’s a very good point. 2) I’d have to go with Jonathan Quick, although my wild-card choice would be Ryan Smyth. He has exceeded expectations and, at times this season, he has single-handedly kept the power play going with timely goals. 3) What type of “changes” are we talking about? Roster changes? Coaching changes? I’d say the former would be much, much more likely than the latter, but I wouldn’t consider any to be particularly likely. 4) I don’t have a huge problem with it, but if I were to make a change, I would probably try to give more emphasis to regulation wins. The fact that a team gets two points for beating a team 6-0 in regulation, and other team can get one point simply for losing in a shootout, there’s something that doesn’t quite sit right with me there. I don’t know what the proper formula is, but that’s one tweak I would make. To be fair, I think this season’s change — eliminating shootout wins from the “total wins” tiebreaker was a good step. 5) To be honest, other than the stuff that we’re talking about here with the points/standings, I don’t know that I’d make any changes.
KingsFan asked: Hi Rich. I’m curious as to the extent that the local pro sports teams collaborate with one another. I was thinking during the recent losing streak that it would be neat to have Kobe Bryant come in and talk with the Kings team about his experience as a winner, competitor etc., and perhaps give guidance on how to handle the losing streak (especially since the Lakers were stinking up the joint at the same time.). Is the collaboration concept you think the teams would benefit from, have interest in, etc?
Answer: I’m not dismissing the idea — it’s interesting — but I highly doubt you’ll ever see it happen. For one, the Lakers are worried about the Lakers right now, and frankly, I’m not sure how much mutual interest there would be. Further, with all due respect to Kobe Bryant’s accomplishments, I’m not certain how well pro athletes would take to being spoken to/lectured about winning, by a peer. If you’re talking about Magic Johnson or Jerry West, or an all-time, retired great, perhaps. A couple years ago, Tommy Lasorda had occasion to talk to the Kings informally and gave them one of his famous “pep talks.” But to answer your question directly, I’d be very surprised to see a current player, even a star player, invited to speak to fellow pro athletes.
nykingfan asked: Now that it’s your 2nd year covering the Kings in this unique and terrific format, how has the job evolved over the past year? Has the position exceeded both your expectations and the Kings, and if so in what way?
Answer: First, thanks for the kind words. To the extent that the job has surprised me or exceeded my expectations, it would be in terms of the level of support. Kings fans have been wonderful about embracing my work, and the number of emails and face-to-face comments that I have received in the past 15 months has, sincerely, shocked and touched me. There are a lot of kind, supportive people out there, and it’s been a pleasure meeting and conversing with so many. In terms of the job itself, nothing has really changed over the past year, and I’m grateful for that. From day one, the folks with the Kings and I had a very specific plan and strategy that we wanted to follow, in terms of how my job would be done, and I can honestly say that I haven’t had a single complaint. At every turn, the Kings have been true to their word, and I appreciate that very much. In terms of my work, I’m always try to evolve and, personally, do a better job, and that’s something I’ll always work toward.
PK asked: Dean has a very difficult up coming off season considering Zues, Poni, Sturm, and Williams are UFA’s and Lewis, Richardson, and Simmer are RFA’s. Who do you see sticking around next year with Manchester loaded once again?
Answer: Well, the RFA guys really don’t cause that many headaches. Yes, contracts have to get done, but in terms of RFAs, the major decision comes earlier, when a GM decides whether or not he wants to keep the player. You’re wise to cast your eyes to Manchester first, because the number of players who are determined to be ready to step up will, for the most part, determine which UFAs the Kings would seek to keep. The perception is that Schenn will be ready for the NHL next season. Now, are you confident that Lewis and Schenn can be your third and fourth centers (at least)? If so, there’s a much better chance of letting Handzus walk. That will be the most important question to answer. As for the wingers, I’d think the Kings will try to keep Williams in the fold. Ponikarovsky, to this point, hasn’t really fit. Sturm? We’ll see what happens in the next two-plus months, but if we’re putting odds on this, I think Williams has a much, much better chance of coming back.
Scaught asked: Would like your evaluation of Dean Lombardi, I’m not impressed so far.
Prior to his arrival the Kings were competitive under Dave Taylor and crew.
This is year 5 although he thinks it’s 2 I guess. Anyone with a brain could have drafted Drew Doughty. Here is my main issue – the move to get younger, rebuild, etc. should be further along.
He seems to forget other teams can draft and develop young players that are better.
IMO the Kings lack top level team speed and against like teams – Chicago, St.Louis, Nashville, Phoenix it really shows up – agree?
Answer: Respectfully, because I don’t intend to ridicule the question, you’re kind of all over the place here, so it’s hard for me to answer. I’ll try to go point by point. Yes, the Kings under Dave Taylor were competitive, but they were also rarely a threat to make much noise, beyond sneaking into the playoffs as the sixth or seventh seed and hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. On the other hand, I wouldn’t disagree that Dave Taylor and his staff did a better job of evaluating and signing veteran players. Lombardi has the clear edge in terms of identifying young talent but clearly has a much lower batting average in terms of signing veteran players. No argument there. In terms of young players, guys such as Loktionov, Simmonds and Clifford, just to name three, fly directly in the face of the “anyone could have drafted Doughty” argument. Also, Lombardi never said this was the second year of a rebuild. You’re misquoting him. He said it was the second year with expectations of winning. Should the Kings be “further along” in the rebuild? That’s subjective. If that’s your point, I won’t disagree with you. Missing the playoffs this season would absolutely be a step backward, and would be a cause for very serious examination of the overall Lombardi plan. But in comparing the Kings to Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and Phoenix, I would ask you, other than Chicago, what have any of those teams won?