This was going to be a longer conversation, but we got interrupted by yesterday’s sudden flurry of activity, so I decided just to post what we have.
The last time I participated in a proper roundtable of Kings’ bloggers, it was back in 2010 on Jewels from the Crown. The participants were RudyKelly (then of Battle of California, since retired), Connie Kim, and me. Here are some highlights:
RudyKelly: I was wondering if you guys wanted to have another round table on what the Kings need to do in the off-season (Kovalchuk) to help get them back in the playoffs (Kovalchuk). Last time it seemed more like we just answered questions without interacting with one another, so maybe this time we try to be a little more conversational? Also, Kovalchuk.[…]
Quisp: My opening question would be: Rudy, every other word out of your mouth is Kovalchuk. What the hell is the matter with you?
RudyKelly: I know. If you traveled into my head it would sound like that scene from Being John Malkovich. (“Kovalchuk Kovalchuk?” “Ah, Kovalchuk!”) But in my defense, I’m absolutely in love with Ilya Kovalchuk. If I could marry a man, I’d marry Ilya. […] I want to eat ice cream with him and playfully dab some whipped cream on his nose with my spoon. We’d both giggle and then Tugboat would come in and bury his face in the carton and we’d both exclaim, “Oh, Tugboat!” I know he’s going to command a lot and I know it’s probably not a good idea for our long-range plans; I absolutely do not care. […] All I’m saying is that if Ryan Smyth is the reason I don’t get Ilya Kovalchuk, I’ll murder someone. Probably you. I’m just letting you know.[…]Connie Kim: Man, you have some issues to work out. […]RudyKelly: I’m a passionate man. Too passionate, some might say. What do I think? I think I don’t know another way to live.[Rides off on motorcycle.]
And now it’s three years later. Gone are Ryan Smyth, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Colten Teubert, Michal Handzus, Peter Harrold, Oscar Moller, Terry Murray, Jamie Kompon, Jack Johnson, Erik Ersberg, Alexander Frolov, Fredrik Modin, Teddy Purcell, Jeff Halpern and Sean O’Donnell. And suddenly in their place there’s Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Dustin Penner, Slava Voynov, Willie Mitchell, Alec Martinez, Simon Gagne, Jordan Nolan, Dwight King, Kyle Clifford,
Kevin Westgarth and Jonathan Bernier. And Darryl Sutter. Oh, and the Stanley Cup.
QUISP: How about a roundtable via email some time before 1/19?
RUDY: Fo sho.
QUISP: Haven’t heard from Niesy, but I’ll start the ball rolling. Question #1: How’s retirement?
RUDY: It’s pretty cool up here in Heaven, I guess. Kinda churchy, though. It’s a good thing I mandated that my dog had to buried with me otherwise I’d be pretty bored.
QUISP: Question #2: Who will be the least prepared King to start the season?
RUDY: Is it cheating if I say Kopitar? But in all likelihood it’ll be someone Richards or Willie Mitchell since apparently they’ve been fishing and hunting all winter. One person I’m not worried about is Jonathan Quick, who I think has been fine for a while and just wasn’t “medically cleared” so he could keep working with Kings personnel during the lockout.
QUISP: Yes, it’s cheating to say Kopitar, because he’s obviously in game shape, aside from the knee thing. Question #3: did Earl ever get you all that back-pay from BoC?
NIESY: [arriving] I’m in…uh, what do you want me to start answering?
QUISP: Question #4. How over the top am I about Loktionov? [judge for yourself: original post here.]
RUDY: Andrei Loktionov is most likely done as a Los Angeles King. The Kings have too many wings and want the flexibility to rotate out Richardson / Clifford / Nolan / King at the beginning of the season without having to send down Nolan or risk one of the other guys
(yes, even Westgarth) toward waivers. QUISP: I don’t know why anyone wants to hang on to Westgarth at this point. Nobody will fight him and he’s generally a huge liability whenever he’s on the ice. Sutter didn’t use him much, and not at all in the playoffs. Keeping all four of Richardson, Clifford, Nolan and King, there’s only room for Westgarth until Kopitar is healthy. I don’t see how he stays.
RUDY: I think the Kings made a decision over the summer that their long-term answer at 3rd line center was Linden Vey, not Loktionov, and so they signed Jarrett Stoll to man the position until they trade him for cap room and plug Vey in. That might happen next off-season.
I love Loktionov and it kills me that he won’t be a King long-term but it’s not like he never got his shot with the Kings. Twice when he was called up he got injured and then last year he (like everyone else on the team) didn’t do very much. He’ll catch on somewhere and do pretty well and make all of us pissed. That’s what happens when you’re a good team.
QUISP: What possible reason could Lombardi have for not including (petitioning to include) Loktionov on the cup? I’m especially interested in finding a way not to think he’s a colossal asshole.
RUDY: The Cup thing baffles me. The only thing I can think of is if the NHL told them they could petition for 2 guys and they decided that the guys who had been there all year were more deserving. Like they would have petitioned Loktionov but were told it wouldn’t go through. It’s probably more likely that Dean’s just a colossal asshole because, well… he kinda is.
QUISP: I think I have gotten pretty good at reading/speaking/translating Lombardi over the last 6 years; and I am getting the distinct impression that something unpleasant occurred here behind the scenes. The official story — that DD2 and KW were “with the team all year” — is just bizarre.
NIESY: Lombardi had a radio interview where he sighed in a sort of dismissive way because fans were upset about Loktionov not being on the Cup. You could just picture the eyeroll. Since they didn’t even try to petition, but added Roski later, I’m leaning asshole.
It’s not hard to figure out why people care — a player’s name is on the Cup forever. And contributed more to that season.
QUISP: Part of me hopes DL trades him soon and then when Stoll proceeds to suck it turns out we have no centers. Yeah, yeah, Linden Vey. In two years.
RUDY: I don’t think Vey is 2 years off. He’s only a year younger than Loktionov, after all, and I think it can be argued that he’s outplayed Loktionov in Manchester this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Kings tried to move him and Toffoli up at the same time, or bring Vey up as a winger and move him to center eventually.
QUISP: Yeah, I was just being grumpy. Vey would have been playing already on one of those weaker Kings teams. and then of course he would be heading to Skelleftea this summer.
Question #5: with the cap next season at $64+MM, it seems pretty clear to me that $3-4MM cap hit is going to have to go. I voted for Stoll. What do you think the plan should be?
RUDY: I think the Kings can survive easiest without Stoll but they might decide to jettison Scuderi if he continues to drop off from his play 2 years ago. I’m still waiting for the CBA to shake out to get a better idea of where the Kings stand.
NIESY: I figured we’d lose Scuderi but after talking about it with Quisp, I want them to trade Stoll. Price and production is less than ideal, we have replacements handy, and you need to start pinching pennies for Brown, Voynov, etc.
RUDY: The lack of center depth behind Vey, though, is very concerning. Marc-Andre Cliche? Jordan Weal?
NIESY: What’s interesting with Vey is that they didn’t have him at center in Manchester at first. They put Cliche in the middle and had Vey and Toffoli on the wings, so the veteran could be their d-zone training wheels. Now Vey is racking up points as Toffoli’s set-up specialist (and Holy Moly, Toffoli shoots a lot, it warms my heart to see). Vey might have a future with the Kings at center if they go for balanced scoring through three lines. But looking ahead it seems like the Kings are going to need several cheap scoring wingers (Gagne, Penner, and even Williams may need replacing). Vey can do that too.
QUISP: Lewis was a center. I always kind of thought he would be the new Eric Belanger. Yes, I think Williams will be the next regular forward to leave after Stoll, Gagne and Penner. I guess that’s not very insightful on my part.
NIESY: I’m not terribly worried about center prospects yet. The Kings have Kopitar, Richards, and Carter for a good long while, they could go 1-2-3. (Or 1-3-2, whatever.) Nick Shore is 20 years old and tearing it up for the Denver Pioneers; he could turn out to be a third line center down the road too.
QUISP: One of Andreoff, Dowd, Shore or Mersch (or Czarnik) ought to amount to something.
RUDY: Of course, with the backlog of forwards the Kings have, I’m not sure if anyone is getting called up for the foreseeable future. What do the Kings do with all their wingers?
QUISP: Over the longer term, Toffoli should replace Williams. Pearson or (further out) Schumacher might replace Penner or Gagne.
RUDY: Is there a future for Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford on the Kings?
NIESY: I was going to bring Clifford up. I know he’s had concussions, and he’s still very young, but he’s not nearly as effective as King and Nolan so far. So do you send down Nolan just because you’re over the roster limit? Sutter talks about Fraser being the key of that line, but if Nolan goes, the fourth line is going to have a harder time keeping the puck in the right end. And I want the actual championship roster back.
QUISP: With a full roster, there isn’t room for all three of Clifford, Nolan and King.
Already, Westgarth is obsolete. When Andreoff gets added to that bottom-six mix… well, I don’t think more than two of those guys is likely to stick around. I don’t know if King and Nolan are permanently above Clifford now.
NIESY: Long term, I think King and Nolan are better options, and they should probably stay in the bottom 6. Unless Clifford takes a huge step forward, trade him. (Not to Vancouver, though. I know they wanted him last trade deadline, but that’d be annoying.)
QUISP: Thomas Hickey. Done? I have already stuck my neck out a little to say he should be given a shot, or at least a shot at a shot. But I don’t know. Is this just wishful thinking?
RUDY: One positive from the lockout is that I actually got to watch Monarchs games on a consistent basis. In my amateur opinion, Hickey is better than Muzzin. Muzzin takes bad routes to players and gets caught flat-footed too much for me; he also gets his shot blocked a lot.
NIESY: Muzzin’s got that wild horse like quality that spooks me. I want to put Hickey’s brain inside his body.
QUISP: Then you’d end up stuck with Muzzin’s brain in hickey’s body by accident.
RUDY: Hickey’s biggest problem in terms of getting called up is that they’d probably want any call up to play on the penalty kill and the Kings would probably feel more comfortable with Muzzin than they would with Hickey out there because Muzzin’s bigger. The only defenseman I can see Hickey replacing is Martinez.
QUISP: Penner in a Ducks practice jersey. Do you care?
RUDY: No, I don’t care about Penner being in a Ducks jersey. It’s literally just laundry to him.
QUISP: Rudy, which beer league are you playing in?
RUDY: I stopped playing goalie about 6 months ago because my knees are shot to hell so I’m skating out now. If I drank beer before I played I’d probably die. I’m sitting on the bench thinking, “Man, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it through my next shift,” and then I look up and it’s near the end of the first.
QUISP: Rudy, I meant to ask: which NHL franchises are currently getting the most support in heaven?
RUDY: The Predators, actually. It’s going about as well as all of God’s other plans. You know, I think this guy might not know what he’s doing!
NIESY: Well, if he let you into heaven, I’d start wondering.
QUISP: They told him it was heaven. (rim-shot) By the way, I am beginning to assemble these emails into a false “conversation” interview format, after which I will submit a draft to you both, mostly so Rudy can add witty off-hand remarks as if they happened in real time. This paragraph will of course be included.
RUDY: Sounds scrumptious! Wait, don’t add tha –