I'm starting to hate that phrase. Even when coaches don't use it, I now hear it in my head. Parse, Richardson, Westgarth, Drewiske, they each have slots which are "theirs to lose."
I understand how the idea is useful. "It's his job to lose" essentially means, (1) the player has earned some higher status by paying dues in one way or another, and (2) there are higher expectations for that player now. In a way, it's kind of back-handed. "It's his job to lose" carries a connotation: the player can't win this job, but he can blow it and lose the job. Purcell had a job that was his to lose and he lost it. Labarbera, too.
My problem, in this case -- and the reason I'm bristling even at the implied whiff of the phrase -- is that it's being applied to some players who have earned, to date, either very little or nothing.
What’s for breakfast? " LA Kings Insider
If Kevin Westgarth already has one spot nailed down, and if the Kings seem prepared to start out Brad Richardson in a fourth-line role, that leaves Clune in a race with players such as Trevor Lewis, Oscar Moller, Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov, among others, for a regular spot in the lineup.
Kevin Westgarth has played exactly nine NHL games. One year ago, he was sent packing long before Clifford, who was the last player cut. Clifford outplayed Westgarth in the AHL playoffs last year (at least in the games I saw in a tiny streamed box on my computer), despite being a teenager, seven years younger, and making his professional debut. Westgarth has been "working on his skating"? Is he a better skater than Clifford? Does he have more offensive upside than Clifford? Not even close. Yes, he's bigger and he's older. And he might actually be the right man for the job. But to say that he's locked down his slot is just silly. Especially since, if that were the case, it would reduce Clifford's chances of making the team (as well as Schenn's and several other players') to slim and none, before camp has even started.
Jonathan Bernier played three games for the Kings last year and was nothing short of brilliant. If the Kings had dropped those games, they would likely not even have made the playoffs. Three games, playing for a team that is struggling badly at a critical time of year, and he knocks all three out of the park. Why isn't Bernier "a lock" for back-up this year? (answer: he is. But we're just not saying it.) Westgarth played nine games two seasons ago and did nothing, and somehow he's shaken off all the question marks. He's "earned" that role.
How am I supposed to believe that?
Brad Richardson, who really earned my loyalty last season, after having a total throw-away season the year before. But he's somehow in a position of privilege on the fourth line? Why didn't Oscar Moller get that "his job to lose" designation, the season before last, after leading the Kings power-play for three-months before losing basically the rest of the season to injury? Brad Richardson certainly earned another at-bat, but I am supposed to believe that if Richardson is outplayed in camp by Moller, Schenn and Clifford that Richardson will still be on the opening night roster?
If you assume Westgarth and Richardson are in, look what you have:
Smyth - Kopitar - Brown
Parse - Stoll - Williams
Ponikarovsky - Handzus - Simmonds
(LW4) - Richardson - Westgarth
How many of those guys is Richardson going to outplay in camp? I would be surprised if he outplayed any one of Clifford, Schenn, Moller or Kozun. Kozun is too young, I think. The others? If Clifford outplays Richardson, Clifford goes back to juniors?
Same with Westgarth. Clifford, Nolan and Clune are competing for enforcer or annoyer roles (yeah, Clune is really in a class by himself). Shouldn't we wait to see how they do in a head-to-head comparison?
Maybe Murray is trying to light a fire under Clifford by saying that Westgarth "has the job," or under Moller by saying Richardson has more or less earned it. Or Schenn re Parse. And maybe he wants to see how Westgarth and Richardson (and Parse and Drewiske) handle the pressure of people gunning for their spots.
But that doesn't entirely make sense. Because he wouldn't have to say it to a reporter. He could just say it in the room. Or say it by how the lines are put together.
Today Murray "clarified" the situation. Re Richardson's 4th line unit of Lewis/Richardson/Westgarth:
Here, there, everywhere " LA Kings Insider
"Yeah, I wouldn’t look too hard at that one," Murray said of Richardson’s training-camp line. "Again, I’m looking at (Scott) Parse. I want to give him a great opportunity. I know Richardson had that role last year, the utility player to move around, kind of like Peter Harrold. Richie is where he is right now. He’s just going to work through training camp, and if anybody slips, I know that he can play center, he can play left wing, and he’s a very versatile, good player to have. He’s going to contribute on the penalty killing. He’s an important player to have."
Opportunity for Parse " LA Kings Insider
"He needs to gain my trust. He needs to show me that he can bring that every day, in practice and games, so that I can trust him, to keep going with him, and he can respond to that challenge. I’m going to give him the opportunity."
In other words, Parse could be 2nd line LW, or he could be the utility knife. Or Richardson could be. "If anybody slips." The lines are never set, or, they're set until they're not. Just like Quick is our #1 until he's not, and, as Quick himself said yesterday (to Rich Hammond), it doesn't change anything for him. Saying Quick is our #1 does not mean Quick is our #1 even if he proceeds to suck. Then he's #1 the way Cristobal Huet was #1 in Chicago.
I know It's not Murray's fault. He's speaking to reporters, and he speaks in non-binding generalities. Which we then take way too seriously, or too literally.