The LA Kings Insider did us all a huge favor by posting the audio of the Kings' press conference calls in full. There are answers from Dean Lombardi, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and Mike Richards. I honed in on Lombardi's, because the mastermind is always an entertaining interview, and his responses give some hints for the team's future.
As usual, it's also a team philosophy lesson. Here are just a few of my favorite quotes.
Happy that they're angry
Lombardi described about how angry and disappointed the players still are, but he sees that as a mark of the team's emotional progress. They were happy to just be in the playoffs in 2010. Losing to San Jose in 2011 was the first time they went home angry.
"At that time [of the San Jose series in 2011] I said we were progressing, because it clearly was the first time guys were ticked off that the season was over.
Now they're at the conference final level ticked off of basically missed opportunity. And that's progress. To think that they go to the conference finals and they're angry that they're done -- that's a tribute to them having raised the bar so high.
That's what they always wanted, and that's what you strive for. But on the other hand, that's what makes it incredibly difficult for those first couple days."
Pride without satisfaction
A reporter asked about the Kings' WCF appearance in terms of history. In the cap era, most teams that won the Stanley Cup didn't advance far next year. (The Red Wings were the only team that made it back to the SCF, kudos to them.) Did it help them feel better now?
"Only one team has won the Stanley Cup and got back to the conference final, this far, the next year. That shows how hard it is. [...]
You can't condone losing. You never want to do that. But I have to condone their sense of honor -- that they didn't quit, that they fought through, and given the history of it, they deserve to be commended for what they did accomplish.
And they deserve to be commended for the fact that they're not satisfied."
A team that didn't quit
"Particularly one thing about this group, they've shown all along: they've learned every step of the way. They've learned from their failures. Getting where they were was to learn from your failures. Winning the cup was learning to deal with success. There were so many different challenges they faced this year, and they met a lot of them. They just didn't meet the one that ultimately matters to them.
But nobody can say that his group in any way, shape, or form quit.
I don't know how many emails I got from hockey people, other general managers last night, and that was their tone. They said Dean, the one thing about it you can say: those boys do not quit. And that's the culture we set out to build. And we'll continue to try and do so."
Injuries as excuses are a "bad message"
Lombardi was asked how beaten up were the Kings at the end.
"Like any other playoff team. I said that to the guys -- I'm not gonna -- there were numerous guys who weren't made public who were banged up. But I think you start throwing out the names of all these guys who got hurt, and I think it sends a bad message.
Unfortunately, the playoffs, as we're learning -- it's part of their learning. Learning to play hurt versus injured.
I can guarantee you that all 28 of those guys understand that concept. But I'm not in favor of putting out a list and [saying] "Look at all these guys who were hurt." It sounds like an excuse. The only thing that matters is that their teammates know who was hurt and how badly they showed they wanted to win this thing and play through hurt. And some of them were injured, let alone hurt.
But it's not because I'm trying to keep injuries from you, you know, "upper body injury." I just don't think that's what this team's all about. They're not looking for excuses in any way."
New CBA puts Kings in unexpected "vise"
Lombardi was asked if Regehr's contract mean Scuderi won't return, and answered "No." He then launched into a long description of the challenges they face signing eleven players under the new $64.3M cap.
A lot of frustration that his careful management doesn't make this year easier to manage then surfaces, and for good reason. Take this, Bettman:
"It's unfortunate the way this Collective bargaining agreement worked for us, because clearly--you guys have been here long enough to know--one of the byproducts of "going slowly" was to be able to build this thing and keep it together.
We were clearly on that path with $6 million in cap space this year, and brought the whole team back. There's a bit of a vise here that certainly you couldn't have projected, that that number of contracts are up and the cap goes down. Unlike the NFL, for some reason, I'm not allowed to use that space I had this year to do a guy early. [...]
We got a challenge here. But I'm confident that we can meet it. It's something that's unfortunate.
The only consolation teams got was being able to buy out bad contracts. We don't have a bad contract. Not one guy I want to get rid of! So basically we're being punished, in a way, for not having a bad contract. [...]
That said, we'll figure it out, and I think we can do it. But it's a challenge, and this is a little different too. When you see one [contract] get done -- you can't work on one guy in isolation."
Offer sheet danger
Could there be more offer sheets this year?
Lombardi doesn't seem to think there will be more of them than usual, but it's possible.
"Most of the general managers that are building their teams -- I don't want to say the "traditional" way -- you don't see a lot of it, because I don't know how practical that is, a lot of times. OK you had the Weber one last year, but even that didn't work. Most of the times teams adjust, maybe not the way they'd like to, but you're not going to let good young players go for nothing.
[...] If you throw that in the mix, I guess it's always a concern, particularly now that you're a good team. Maybe you're right. But those are the variables that we don't know that make this summer so different."
It's (nuclear) science
Lombardi was asked about balancing the new contract for Scuderi versus Voynov. The GM answered about seniority and the difference between RFAs and UFAs. Then he gave the mad scientist money quote:
"Trust me, these last two three months, when I saw what was happening here, and then losing Willie Mitchell -- I talked about having chemistry projects in the back room before. Well, we've taken this to nuclear science right now, in terms of how you put these equations together."
What do you think of the interview? How do you think the Kings will navigate the "vise" of contracts?