Kings Fans Fail Reading Comprehension

(Course 101, offered this past Spring, covered how to speak Lombardi. This semester we look at the locution of Terry Murray.)

Folks have been reading a lot of Terry Murray quotes lately, not just reading but reading into. That's fair enough. I'm as into literary interpretation as the next guy (probably more into it). But I want to address problem areas I see cropping up again and again, especially with regard to the current "situation" with Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier and Erik Ersberg. These are effects that can either help or hinder us in our ability to extract meaning from the text.

[UPDATE: I wrote this without a thought as to who the Kings were playing tonight and certainly without the knowledge of who the starting goalie for Phoenix would be]

CONFIRMATION BIAS

"is a tendency for people to prefer information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses, independently of whether they are true." (Wikipedia) This would also include the tendency to interpret (for example) a Terry Murray quote as confirming one's own belief, and ignoring or condemning any other interpretations.

For example:

Quick is going to play. We have Ersberg. He’s our number two guy here, and Manchester, they’ve got work in front of them. They’re in the postseason, and they have to go and play and get as deep as they can into the playoffs, and Bernier is a big part of the reason why they’ve had a great run. That’s where he is. He’s not a part of our team here. I don’t want to get into hoping, wishing, speculating, because he’s not here. It’s as simple as that. We’re moving on.

-- Terry Murray, talking to Rich Hammond

This was in response to the question, [paraphrase] does it make sense for Jonathan Bernier to be on the Kings roster now? Murray's answer is pretty clear, but let's go through it sentence by sentence.

 

  • Quick is going to start.
  • Ersberg is the back-up.
  • Bernier is currently in Manchester.
  • Bernier has been a big part of Manchester's success.
  • Manchester has the playoffs coming up.
  • Bernier is not currently in Los Angeles.
  • Murray does not want to hope Bernier is called up, wish Bernier is called up, or speculate whether or not he's going to get called up. Why?
  • Because Bernier is not currently in Los Angeles.
  • So Murray is moving on from the consideration of whether or not Bernier is going to play.  Because Murray can't play him. Because he's not on the roster.

That is literally all he said. And I would add, this is all he can say, or would ever say. He is the coach. He is not the GM. It is not his job to decide who goes up and who goes down. He has to work with the roster he is given. He is not going to second-guess Lombardi and he's certainly not going to do it in public. Consider how he responded to similar questions about Kovalchuk back before the deadline. He was saying, I am happy with what we have and I am proceeding with the current roster. I am not saying that he's speaking in code or that he secretly wishes x or y. I'm simply saying: you have to look at the words he's using and what they mean and be careful not to read your preferred meanings into them.

Now, let's look at some of the interpretations of the above quote, selected from the comments section of the above link (my comments are in bold):

  • "There you have it. We’re gonna live or die by Quick’s sword."
  • "I agree with TM here. Bernier should stay in Manch and lead that team in the playoffs." [He didn't say "should."]
  • "Good to hear Murray say that Bernier belongs in Manchester. Hopefully all the Bernier bandwagon fans get the message." [Didn't say he "belongs" in Manchester.]
  • [in response to me saying, "that's not what he said"] "I guess he meant Bernier belongs up here… get over it, Bernier is down where he belongs."
  • "I am glad TM finally cleared things up" [hahaha] "and let everyone know where he stands. Quick is Number one and EE is the back up." [Murray didn't say "where he stands." He just said what the situation is, who is on the roster and who isn't.]
  • "this interview with TM should hush up all the people who think Bernier will be called up."
  • "TM has proclaimed Quick the number 1 goalie since training camp, and has never refuted that. What makes everyone think otherwise?? Bernier has not been with the Kings 75 out of their 78 games. As TM said, he’s not part of this team, his team is in New hampshire. Quick has done the job. This is getting seriously ridiculous." [I'll have more on the #1 proclamation later on...]

  • "I hope this also halts everyone from wanting Bernier up here now or even thinking he will start over Quick next year." [I like the addition of Bernier not even getting the call next season]
  • "I cannot believe TM talking smack about Bernier not part of the team. If not for Bernier 3 wins I don’t Kings in the playoffs now,he deserve a respect and TM brain dead should be grateful." [smack?]
  • "JQ and EE have brought us here and Bernier has only played a couple of games. I think TM is doing the right thing. If he brought up Bernie and he got shelled how would it look?" [TM is the GM now, I guess]

  • I find it irritating that he absolutely pretends he doesn’t understand the question about Quick’s fatigue all the time, then he procedes to say Bernier is not part of the team. [many, many people misread this particular part of Murray's quote, thinking he was saying Bernier somehow isn't a King, or doesn't deserve to be a King or something]
  • "TM is freaking stupid,if not for Bernier Kings won’t be in the post season. F U TM you freaking ungrateful ****, you should not disrespect Bernier because he the real deal. How can U say Bernier is not part of the team??? how ???"

Okay. So people are upset. People are upset that some people think Bernier is a better goalie than Quick, or that Bernier should replace Quick immediately, or that Bernier is "the savior," or that Quick sucks, etc... The thing is, I don't get the feeling there's any ground-swell of people really thinking any of these things. Sure, there are one or two crackpots saying "get rid of xxx now!" and you can make xxx=Quick or Terry Murray or Lombardi or Jack Johnson or whoever (even Jamie Kompon!) depending on the situation. But that's not the norm. What I think is going on is two things:

1) Everyone is worried about Quick.

2) Some fans are exaggerating the points-of-view of fans who voice this concern. If you say (as I have) that if Quick falters in the playoffs it's likely we'll see Bernier, you get attacked as a "hater" who isn't a real Kings fan but just some "bandwagoner" who thinks Bernier is "the savior." I won't get into the weird logic of jumping on a bandwagon in order to tear it down. It's just much easier to create a straw man to attack than to address the points of someone who is just stating the obvious. What is the obvious? One more time:

If Quick falters in the playoffs, it's likely we'll see Bernier.

But-but-but. Quick is the #1! Quick has 39 wins! If it weren't for Quick, we wouldn't be here! True, true and true. Also true: I like Quick and hope he gets it together. I am pro-Quick. However, let's stroll down memory lane...

Question: With three games in four nights, do you have a specific plan for the goalies?

MURRAY: ``My plan is to play Jason. He's my No. 1 goalie. [...] He's ready to go. I don't see any reason, right now, why I should look any other way, other than playing him at the beginning.''

Question: Do you have a number, in your mind, of how many games you like your No. 1 goalie to play?

MURRAY: ``[...] I want him to play a lot. [...] if you have a No. 1 goaltender, he's the guy that you've got to go with. I want to go with him in a lot of the games. Certainly you want to look at plus-60 games. He loves the work. [...]  He really thrives with that kind of workload, so I'll go with it. As long as things are going well for him, we'll stick with him.''

-- Murray's Goalie Plan, October 10, 2008

Labarbera would start 16 games for the Kings in '08-'09.

Question: Do you have something penciled in with the goalies, as far as how to use them?

MURRAY: ``[...]I want to keep going with Barbs (Jason LaBarbera). He's going to play again tomorrow. [...] We got out for two, back to back with travel. Maybe there's an opportunity for (Ersberg). But -- and I always say `but' -- if Barbs is playing like he is, and he's sharp and alert and feels good and feels fresh, he's my No. 1 goaltender and I'll keep going with him.''

-- The Goaltending Plan, October 16, 2008

It's important to notice how frequently Murray gives himself an out. This is not a criticism. He's very cautious. And he always reserves the right to reward the player who is playing well.

Jason LaBarbera was pulled to start the third period against Colorado on Monday, a move coach Terry Murray attributed to his dissatisfaction with the team in general, not LaBarbera in specific. LaBarbera will be back in goal tomorrow night in St. Louis. He has a 2.98 goals-against average and a .889 save percentage this season. As for Saturday's game against Nashville, we'll see. Here's what Murray said about the situation...

-----

Question: It doesn't look like you've lost any confidence in LaBarbera...

MURRAY: ``Not at all. Nope. He's going to play in St. Louis.

-- Back to LaBarbera, October 23, 2008

Murray does not like having two goalies who are more or less 1A and 1B. He likes to give one guy the ball and let him run with it, give him the mantle of "#1" and let him rise to the occasion.

Say one thing for certain about Terry Murray: he's not being wishy-washy with his goaltending. Jason LaBarbera will be back in goal tonight, barring any last-second changes, and will be making his eighth consecutive start even though he's been pulled from two of the last three games.

-- Back to LaBarbera Again, October 27, 2008

MURRAY: ``Yes, Barbs will go back in. It's that kind of a schedule right now, when we're playing every second day, that clearly your No. 1 goalie is able to handle the workload. The game that he played back-to-back, at Nashville, I thought he was, as far as being alert and strong and moving and doing all the right stuff, he was fine that way. So physically, he's in good shape. He's ready to play and wants to play.''

-- October 29, 2008

LaBarbera has a 3.01 goals-against average and a .884 save percentage, numbers that hardly scream for him to stay in the lineup, yet there remains intense debate about how much of the blame LaBarbera deserves for those numbers. Terry Murray has been unbending in his support of LaBarbera, but Murray indicated today that it might be time for Ersberg to get a game. The Kings host the Ducks on Tuesday and the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

-- November 2, 2008

[MURRAY] (Re: goaltenders) "LaBarbera is our number one guy. There was no doubt that Ersberg was going to get a game, and he played well in this game tonight. Our plan at the start of the year was to play both goalies and that's the way it is still going to play out."

-- November 4, 2008

G Jason LaBarbera made 23 saves for his second shutout of the season and the fourth of his career, and he isn't making it easy for coach Terry Murray to settle on a goalie. G Erik Ersberg made 10 consecutive starts during a recent stretch and played well, but Ersberg has now been pulled from three of his last four starts.

-- Inside the Kings, December 6, 2008

I note this because I forgot Ersberg had been pulled so often. He would win a couple of games the following week, after which he will manage two wins in starts from December 2008 to the present. That's right. Ersberg has won two games he started in the last sixteen months.

For the season, Bernier and Quick have identical 2.63 goals-against averages. Bernier has a 5-4-2 record with a .904 save percentage while Quick has a 5-5-1 record with a .922 save percentage.

-- Monarchs Update, December 8, 2008

Murray expressed satisfaction with LaBarbera's last game and a bit of concern with Ersberg's recent play and his ability to hold up under heavy work.

-- Tuesday Afternoon Update, December 9, 2008

I would also note that since November, 2008, when Ersberg finished his ten starts in a row, Murray has severely cut back on the work he has given EE. Which is why we are now looking at Quick starting his 71st game. [UPDATE: though he appears to have locked down his 40th win tonight.] [UPDATE: never mind.]

Here's what Terry Murray said about his decision to start Jason LaBarbera in goal tonight against Colorado...

MURRAY: ``I really liked his game against Columbus. Not only was it a shutout but he was in control. He absorbed shots and helped set up breakouts. He was very focused and into the game. And on top of that he put up a shutout.''

To follow up, I asked Murray if he was back to making goalie decisions on a game-by-game basis...

MURRAY: ``That's a hard thing to answer. I played Ersberg 10 games in a row, and physically I think it was pretty demanding for him. The only experience he had at the NHL level was a very few games before this season. It demands a great deal of intensity and focus, and it seemed like in his last start, he got worn down and wasn't quite as focused. I'm not sure if he needs some time to regroup. I'll watch him in practices and see how he responds. He was a different person in the net (in his last game) than what I'm accustomed to from him.''

-- Murray Talks Goaltending, December 9, 2008

(On sticking with LaBarbera in net):
"Sometimes people have to work through things. I think it's important that we all understand that ... When you really look at the first half of the game, we just didn't have it, so let's work through it and learn something out of it as a group."

-- December 10, 2008

At this point, LaBarbera has exactly nine days to "work through things."

Ersberg allowed three first-period goals Friday against Edmonton and was pulled, and a couple days later, Terry Murray hinted that Ersberg was fatigued. He might have looked slightly better after Tuesday, when Jason LaBarbera allowed six goals on 26 shots. Here's what Murray said about going back to Ersberg...

MURRAY: ``He looks refreshed. He's had a couple good practices and he looks like he's ready to get going again.''

-- December 11, 2008

The Kings today will recall goalie Jonathan Quick from Manchester. The extent of Erik Ersberg's groin injury isn't yet known, but it's almost certain that he will miss some time.

-- Quick on the Way, December 16, 2008

LOMBARDI: ``We had a lot of conversation. Both [Bernier and Quick] have played well, and so it basically came down to a matter of seniority. Both of them have played well, and they continue to be on the right path. We were hoping we wouldn't have to do this this early. Jonathan (Quick) is a little older and he has paid more dues in the minors. It's certainly not an indictment of Jon (Bernier). He's been pretty good down there too. But there is a concept of seniority. Kids that come out of college these days, for instance, they don't seem to understand that.

``At least (Quick) knows what it's like. He's seen NHL shooters, and that can help him. But so did Jon (Bernier). They have similar experience at the NHL level. It certainly helps though. When you go to the next level, at least it gives him a little leg up. He's a better goalie than he was before. His athleticism is really top notch, but he just has to learn to calm down. With Jon (Bernier), he makes a lot of difficult saves look easy because he's in good position and he's technically sound. Jon (Quick) has been so good athletically that he didn't always have to be technically sound. He just went on reflexes and instinct, but you can't do that up here (in the NHL). You use that athleticism when you have to. He's improved on it, and made a conscious effort to improve.''

-- Lombardi quotes on Quick, December 16, 2008

Ersberg has not been placed on injured reserve, Jonathan Quick has been recalled under emergency conditions.

-- December 16, 2008

MURRAY: ``LaBarbera will play tonight. To be completely honest, I don't know Quick very well. He played one game for me in the exhibition and I made a change because he didn't play very well. [...] Right now he's here as a backup, to replace an injured player. To be quite honest, I don't know if he's ready to play in the NHL and go out and do the job for us.''

-- December 19, 2008

Question: Going forward with Ersberg, at least for the next two weeks, do you feel confident in going with LaBarbera?

MURRAY: ``He's going to play. He's our No. 1 goalie and he's going to play. In talking about Quick, he looks pretty good in the practices and morning skates, but it's a different ballgame when you get to this level. [...] LaBarbera, when he played against Columbus and won 3-0, I thought he could get himself on a roll and keep it going for a month or two months. He seemed to be calm and collected and under control. Then he came back and played in Colorado and it looked like a different person altogether. I'm hoping that in this game he will be able to show us the same game he gave us against Columbus.''

-- Murray on LaBarbera, December 19, 2008

That would be LaBarbera's last start and his last game as a King.

Jonathan Quick will be back in goal tomorrow. I'll have much more on the later, but the short answer is that Quick's "emergency" status can easily be changed via paperwork. In talking to Lombardi and Murray today, they seem very inclined to let Quick keep going.

-- Practice Update, December 28, 2008

[LOMBARDI:] We came right into camp and said Barbs (Jason LaBarbera) was our No. 1 guy. Part of that was because we thought these guys [Bernier and Quick] have to do some time [in Manchester] in order to be properly ready.

-- Lombardi Talks About Quick, December 28, 2008

The Kings have traded Jason LaBarbera to the Vancouver Canucks for a seventh-round draft pick in 2009.

-- LaBarbera Traded to Vancouver, December 30, 2008

Before you get started, I'm not saying Quick is LaBarbera. But I am saying you have to watch what you read into these quotes. If you think it's significant that Terry Murray has "laid to rest" all this speculation re who his number one goalie is, just keep in mind that he called Jason LaBarbera his number one goalie right up to the day of LaBarbera's last game as a King.

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