What the **** is "character"?

I want to start by looking at a recent post by one of my favorite Kings writers, Gann Matsuda. I would tell you to subscribe to him, but if you're here, you probably already do. (I put some things in bold:)

Los Angeles Kings: Do Their Problems Run Deeper Than First Thought? " Frozen Royalty
Another problem appears to be a lack of accountability among the players, as murmurs about that could be heard in the dressing room following the Kings’ 3-2 loss to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs on January 10. Murray has seen this before with other teams, and tried to put it into the proper perspective. "You can talk about this stuff [such as a lack of accountability], but the veteran hockey clubs in the league, the veteran teams I’ve been on, I know exactly what [is meant whenever that is said]," Murray explained. "But when you’ve got a young hockey club like this, it’s part of the process of dealing with that and learning how to become accountable, and how to hold a player accountable."

"That’s not an easy thing to do," Murray added. "If you’re standing in there as a player and you’ve got 19 teammates, and you’re going to challenge somebody for something that happened, or for not doing something the right way, you’d better know what you’re talking about and you’d better be able to go out there and do it yourself."

"That only comes from true experience and a good, veteran hockey club, because you can push yourself away from your team as a young guy if you just stand up and start to say things that are not correct. It’s a fine line, and I don’t think we are quite there with that veteran group in there yet to be able to step up and have that personality to [say] the right thing."

  • I have a minor complaint about the alluded-to "murmurs," which is that Gann is being cryptic about something that -- given the way gossip works blogs work -- it might be a good idea to report rather than allude. My guess is that Gann has something he would like to be specific about, but is pulling back. I empathize on both counts, but "murmurs could be heard" is the kind of thing that can literally be turned into anything the reader wants it to mean. Any pet theory can be fed with that kibble.
  • "...you’d better know what you’re talking about and you’d better be able to go out there and do it yourself..." -- Okay, now you've got my complete attention. The fact that Murray uttered these words tells me that, at minimum, (1) one or more Kings players are criticizing other Kings players, and (2) either the critic (a) is able to back up his words with his own play, in which case it's okay with Murray, or (b) is not able to back it up with his play, in which case it's a problem. That leaves it unclear whether the player is or isn't "walking the walk" as well as "talking the talk." Until:
  • "...because you can push yourself away from your team as a young guy if you just stand up and start to say things that are not correct..." Unless Murray is just pulling insinuating hypotheticals out of his large intestine, I think you have to conclude that someone "young" is calling players out and is "not correct."
  • "Not correct" is different from can't "go out there and do it yourself."
  • I don't think there's any reason to make mountains out of molehills. Players talk, they are human, they disagree, they argue. When you're winning, everything is wonderful and lots of sins are forgiven. When you're losing, not so much. Now, if you told me the Kings have dropped however many games in a row and they were sitting there like bumps on a log, saying nothing, then I would be worried.
  • "Standing up and saying things that are not correct" is not the worst thing in the world. Actually, I would say it's part of the learning curve. When we say, "the Kings are a young team," that's what it looks like. People making mistakes on the job.
  • That being said, I can't help but wonder who he is talking about. Who is standing up and saying these "incorrect things" and who is he saying them about?
  • "Young guy" rules out Marco Sturm, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Michal Handzus, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. I also think it rules these guys out as the object of the criticism, unless the critic is especially insane. I really don't think, for example, Kevin Westgarth is calling out Michal Handzus.
  • That leaves Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis, Westgarth, Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Davis Drewiske, Peter Harrold, Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier.
  • I'm going to cross Clifford, Westgarth, Lewis, Drewiske and Harrold off the list, because -- well -- I think they want to continue to play in the NHL.
  • That leaves Kopitar, Brown, Simmonds, Richardson, Doughty, Johnson and the goalies. But it can't be the goalies, can it, because of "you'd better be able to go out there and do it yourself."
  • So: Kopitar, Brown, Simmonds, Richardson, Doughty and Johnson.
  • At this point, it's not especially easy to cross names off, because I don't know these people; I only know how they present themselves to the public. Who knows, Richardson or Kopitar could be a******s in private. But my guess is, no. (Especially since Richardson was a healthy scratch for the Toronto game, so it would take an extra special boldness to go down in your street clothes and call people out.)
  • With that asterisk, I'm crossing them off. We're down to Brown, Simmonds, Doughty and Johnson.
  • Which, frankly, sounds about right.
  • ...and not just because the cliche of Jack Johnson is that he's arrogant* (or that it's been noted elsewhere that he's been much more vocal this year) or because Doughty looks like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds, or even because there have always been questions (posed by me, for instance) about whether Brown has enough experience or even the right kind of personality to be the captain of this team at this point in his career...
  • It sounds right to me -- those four names -- because one of them is the leader, and the other three are self-evidently extremely strong personalities, commonly regarded to be the center of and the future of the team (not to mention the fact that they are each RFAs -- well, Johnson signed, but would have been -- this summer). They would have to butt heads. How could they not? Actually, you want them to. 

*and I'm of the opinion that arrogant is good, as long as it's arrogant with portfolio.

Which brings me to this. Another blog I like, though here we differ:

WHERE IS THIS CHARACTER OF WHICH DEAN LOMBARDI SPEAKS? " S U R L Y & S C R I B E
So, here we are. Amidst adversity. The team has shown a lack of effort, the coach a complete stubborn myopia about adjustments, there is zero accountability (as random players who are playing well get benched or are demoted), we are playing worse than last season, we are hearing and reading about friction within the locker room [link to Matsuda], we have had several losing streaks and more than half way through the 2010-2011 season, we are on the outside of the top 8, looking in. Worse yet, we are going on a lengthy road trip that, absent success, may seal our fate. So, I ask Dean Lombardi. I want to know what happened this season. How can a team fall off the map like this? Do you pin it on the coach? The players? If your focus was bringing in character players with the right skill set to lead and avoid this, did you succeed? Have you failed to address the team’s needs of a second line center and first line left wing for years? What is the plan? I thought there wasn’t "one jerk in the room"? Where is this character of which you so often speak?

  • Nobody goes out there and just "doesn't try". Dustin Brown (and a million others) will talk about "lack of effort", "needing to work harder," "we just didn't work hard enough," etc., but that's gibberish, really. Why do they do it? Because it's a stupid answer to a stupid question. "Why did you lose?? WHY??" "What happened?"
  • Players refer to generic lack of effort because it doesn't ruffle anyone's feathers. It just says, "we as a team are better than this." Imagine the alternative: "We suck. Not because of lack of effort, but because we don't have the skill to compete. Especially the third line. They just killed us tonight." Etc... There's a reason why the sound-bytes always blame "focus," "effort," "playing a full 60 minutes," "being prepared." Are we really supposed to take any of that seriously? Did they not know there was a game that night? Were they confused about the lengths of the periods? No, it's just meaningless.
  • We're not playing significantly worse than last season, as I pointed out in my last post. And even if we were, am I supposed to believe that only being 2nd best or best in franchise history (102 points, 105 points) is acceptable, and everything else is just shite? Based on what?
  • There is an answer to "what happened...this season" / "how did [the Kings] fall off the map?" But no one will ever say it. It is the same answer to the famous trick question, "when did you stop beating your wife?"
  • The answer (assuming that the Kings didn't fall off the map and you never started beating your wife) is "mu." Mu is Japanese and means (more or less) "nice try." Actually, that's just my definition. It translates to a particular inflection of "no." But it's no as in, "I reject your flawed question." Robert Persig once defined it as "unask the question."
  • "If your focus was bringing in character players with the right skill set to lead and avoid this, did you succeed?" To lead and avoid this? No. No, because (1) everyone has losing streaks, and (2) this is what happens when you build a team of leaders with strong personalities. That doesn't equal lack of friction. It equals more friction. It's the difference between the Beatles and Herman's Hermits. It's the reason that, to pick another industry, happy sets don't make for good movies.
  • Shorter me: there's friction in the locker room over this wonderful string of games? Good!
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