Ahh, the topic of many conversations among Kings fans all season long. Marc Crawford, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks, was brought in to try to implement Dean Lombardi’s plan for the future while utilizing his extensive experience as a coach in the NHL. According to his stats, he’s not some schmoe behind the bench, but a large majority of the hockey-viewing population may think otherwise. Now we as fans have no idea what goes on in the locker room, but we are left to wonder what is going on when the players look lost on the ice. There were two long stretches in December where the team looked like it was on a permanent IV of valium that was being pumped into their systems. But, wouldn’t you know it, they bounce back on New Year’s Day with the biggest blowout of the season. This just illustrated to me that these players can fucking dominate when it’s functioning correctly. I mean, look at Detroit, the machine of machines. We can definitely play against them and be competent about it, but just not on a consistent basis. So what’s the mitigating factor in this situation? If you guessed "coaching," well then you get a cookie. But it can’t all be blamed on Crow; there were so many free agents that came into this 07-08 season who were from different clubs, so it’s not surprising that the roster didn’t immediately mesh well. At the same time, it’s easy to retrospectively say that this outcome was predictable, but, to me, it wasn’t. Who knew the team would look like oil and water as opposed to mashed potatoes and gravy.
I wrote earlier in the season of my opinions on Marc Crawford and, after it was clear that he wasn’t going to be fired before the season ended, I realized that management has definitely bought into DL’s plan and has faith in his abilities to bring the Kings from out of the cellar. Crawford has proven in the past that he can win, granted that was with an all-star roster; the current Kings roster is filled with future all-stars, so I’ve come to realize that this might work. Maybe, just maybe, the players and coaching staff can prove their potential next year with less free agents and more homegrown goodness. Yes, we're still projected to have holes in next year’s roster, but it can't get any worse right? Back in December, I also wrote, "I was taught never to question the coaching staff; they have an overall year-long plan of what they want to do and what paths they have to take in order to do so. With the Kings being a professional sports team with millions of dollars being spent every year, the pressure for results is extremely high. Any year-long project is at risk of being cut short if it becomes stagnant for too long." I still believe this wholeheartedly and can accept that this "year-long project" is actually one that will take several years.
The question on everyone's mind: Should Crawford be fired? Umm, I'm going to go ahead and say no. Lombardi wants to build a specific system and to have a constant in a coach (and coaching staff) is something that a young team needs. What's the point of bringing in a new coach every year and giving them the ridiculous task of trying to get this roster to gel together? Who better to get these young kids to work together than a coach who has his name on the Cup? Questionable, you say? Yeah, I kind of agree with you. But is it really better to let him go and search within the slim pool of coaches this summer? What good is that going to do? I’m kind of on the fence with this whole situation with Crow behind the bench, but there are two thing that I wanted to address: (1) line combinations and (2) Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi.
1) Bottom line, I was not happy with his line juggling. They were ridiculous and annoying. I recall something that KingsCast said earlier this season basically wondering how Patrick O’Sullivan was supposed to grow if he was being moved around all the time. How is he supposed to grow as a player with a specific role when he’s being put on different line combinations on seemingly every other shift? Well, I can kind of accept Sully now since he grew into my Sophomore Stud (we’ll just discount the fact that his personality leaves much to be desired). Going back to the line juggling, after awhile I stopped getting pissed and just accepted them. The crazier they got, the more I laughed. There must have been a hat that had a permanent home on the bench with players’ names on slips of papers so that Crawford could just pull them out before the next line change. Who knows what exactly he was trying to do with his odd lines; trip the other teams up? Maybe, what would you do if you were a Dman looking at Handzus, Giuliano, and Brown? You'd be confused too, don't lie.
In an interview at the end of the season, he stated that with his lines, he was trying to find pairs that worked together as opposed to specific lines:
In this day in age with what you’ve got, and what I’ve always done, and you can look at any team that I have ever coached, most of the time it is twosomes.
I'll give him that in that we WOULD see pairs together most of the time, but, at the same time, we would see ridiculous combinations as well. For example, Kopitar, Ellis, and Willsie? (I don’t know if that was an actual line this year, but would you bet against me on that?) Tell me, where is the pairing in that one? What was that? Ellis and Willsie found themselves together on lines before? Did they? Whatever, I honestly couldn’t give less of a shit, Willsie is dead to me. Moving along.
2) Steve Moore and Todd Bertuzzi. Ok, everyone is sick of hearing/reading about this, so I’m not going to spend too much time on this one. But bottom line is that this whole ordeal could prove to become a distraction next season if it doesn’t get dealt with this summer, which it obviously won’t since it’s been 4 years already. But how is a coach supposed to devote the majority of his time and energy helping a young roster grow while he’s dealing with a ridiculous lawsuit? This one is open for debate and much eye-rolling. I’m just going to state my opinion now: Moore and Bertuzzi should deal with this like adults without dragging other people into their mess. Yes, it was an unfortunate situation for Moore since his NHL career was ended with that hit, but don’t blame Crow. Bertuzzi, you too, stop blaming Crow for what you did 4 years ago.
I'm pretty sure I could have written more on this topic, but I don't feel like writing a novel and I'm busy watching playoff hockey. I have a feeling that this topic will get revisited a few more times this summer and quite a number of times next season. Whatever happens, I'm hoping it will be less drama-filled because we will have a few homegrown kids coming into the lineup next season instead of veteran, free agent dudes who are baffled at the awesome weather in So Cal.