[ed. note: Some player names have been awkwardly altered to the player's complete name, in order to engage the stupid auto-tagger.]
RudyKelly: I was wondering if you guys wanted to have another round table on what the Kings need to do in the off-season (Kovalchuk) to help get them back in the playoffs (Kovalchuk). Last time it seemed more like we just answered questions without interacting with one another, so maybe this time we try to be a little more conversational? Also, Kovalchuk.
Connie Kim: Sure, how do you want to do it?
RudyKelly: Well I guess one of you should start since I'm a guest. Maybe kick an opening question to me, I write a little bit, Quisp writes 1,000 words, Connie and I stare in amazement?
Quisp: Well, Happy Kovalchuk to you, too.
My opening question would be: Rudy, every other word out of your mouth is Kovalchuk. What the hell is the matter with you?
RudyKelly: I know. If you traveled into my head it would sound like that scene from Being John Malkovich. ("Kovalchuk Kovalchuk?" "Ah, Kovalchuk!") But in my defense, I'm absolutely in love with Ilya Kovalchuk. If I could marry a man, I'd marry Ilya. I love his play. I love his scent. I want to eat ice cream with him and playfully dab some whipped cream on his nose with my spoon. We'd both giggle and then Tugboat would come in and bury his face in the carton and we'd both exclaim, "Oh, Tugboat!" I know he's going to command a lot and I know it's probably not a good idea for our long-range plans; I absolutely do not care. I'd go up to 7 years or so and ~$7.33 for him, around what Eric Staal got. Anymore than that and I get antsy. But I mean, have you seen that guy? He's amazing. Plus, he's Russian. In conclusion, Kovalchuk. But I may be a tad irrational about him*. What do you guys think?
*Just a tad.
Connie Kim: You'd go for 7 years, over $7mil? Wow...too rich for my blood. I think the days of the big-ass contracts are going out the door.
Quisp: Without addressing the issue of whether Kovalchuk is a good fit for the Kings (see NJD playoff performance), if I felt about him as you do, I would go for a $70MM/ten year deal, as I have said in the past. Start the salary at $11MM, and taper to $1MM. Something like: 11, 11, 10, 10, 8, 7, 6, 4, 2, 1. Cap hit $7MM.
He gets to be the highest paid player in the league for a couple of seasons. Then he can go to Russia after five years and we'll be free of him. That's if it's a good idea to sign him at all. Which I'm not sure about. He sucked in Jersey. He did not play defense the way people thought oh maybe he will when the chips are down. Yes, goals are a good thing. But I'm not sure about the rest of the package.
RudyKelly: You people are out of your minds.
Anyway, signing someone like Kovalchuk (or Patrick Marleau) would probably lead to the loss of my other great love, Alexander Frolov. I'm not emotionally prepared to talk about Fro leaving, but what do you guys think? If he were willing to sign for ~$3.5, would you do it? Is he as good as gone oh please God no?
Connie Kim: Frolov? ~$3.5? I'd make it: $3mil/Year 1 $2.5/Year 2 At max $3mil for min two...
Quisp: Frolov at $3.9MM for 3yrs is doable, and, I think, desirable. Especially if Lombardi pulls off my new pet trade idea: Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll for Jarome Iginla.
RudyKelly: Williams and Stoll for Iginla? That's...interesting. I don't think Calgary would go for it but it's an interesting idea.
Quisp: I think he's supposed to be "unhappy". And they need a center. Williams and Stoll seem like Sutter types. I don't think its out of the question.
Connie Kim: Unhappy with management or just a sad panda?
Quisp: What I'm referring to (and I'm reading between the lines) is this article: Iginla Willing to Waive No Trade Clause. Maybe unhappy is the wrong word. But he's being very careful with his words, in issuing the statement about how he would waive his NTC if they don't want him there anymore, although he would want to stay, if they're committed to winning a championship. Between the lines, I filled in, "but if you're not going to go for the cup, get me the hell out of here."
RudyKelly: There's a consensus that the Kings need to get someone on offense that can put the puck in the net; what about defense? The Kings have two slots open, one on the right side next to Jack Johnson and one on the left next to Matt Greene. The Kings have a plethora of good young defensemen in the system that could potentially fill those spots, but do you think the Kings need to fill at least one spot with a veteran to serve as a stopgap? Someone like Dan Hamhuis or Pavel Kubina or Sheldon Souray or Tomas Kaberle?
Connie Kim: I'm a no on Souray. If we sign someone, I'd like him to be playing instead of sitting in the press box. No on Kaberle unless we don't re-sign OD and the price isn't too high. Kubina wouldn't be the first person I'd think of. Hamhuis? How much?
Quisp: I have to think one of the kids will get promoted next year. No idea which one. It would be nice if Colten Teubert went to see the wizard and came back with a brain. Jacob Muzzin? Jumped right in, in Manchester. Thomas Hickey or Viatcheslav Voynov? I keep thinking the Kings need a UFA defenseman more than a UFA forward. But that assumes Schenn, Moller, and one of the d prospects are ready to fill spots we would otherwise have to spend big money on. And I don't know if that's realistic.
Connie, I wonder if O'Donnell will retire.
Connie Kim: Yeah, [O'Donnell's] whole thing was taking it year by year. But, honestly, do you think the guy wants to retire now?
Quisp: Maybe he wants to play another year. But what would the Kings be willing to do?
RudyKelly: I see Sean O'Donnell coming back but only as a 7th guy, someone to sit in the room and look like an old goat.
Quisp: I can see the 7th D scenario. I guess I'm okay with that. But we would still need another vet UFA (or trade) defenseman, wouldn't we?
RudyKelly: The Kings need a defenseman that can skate 19-20 minutes a night for the next few years until we can get a handle on where Hickey, Teubert, Voynov and Muzzin land. I like Pavel Kubina because he can man the power play, he's right-handed, and he's kind of old.
Quisp: Don't know if another power-play QB is a high-priority. I can imagine a lot more of Johnson/Doughty next year. Yes, there has to be a second pair, but I guess I would double-shift one or both of JJ/DD in tandem with Hickey or Voynov. If one of those guys isn't going to make it, I'm not bothered by Stoll back there. Just not Williams. Anyway, I have already dealt both of them to Calgary, as you know.
RudyKelly: Quisp, going back to your point about Schenn: do you think he's ready to go? If so, what do we do about our center situation? I don't see how the Kings keep Kopitar, Stoll, Handzus AND Schenn up at the same time. (Combined total for those four: $17.5.) If we were to sign Kovalchuk, we could pair him with Schenn and Brown. Just saying.
Quisp: Schenn's salary is mostly bonus, and I have no idea what he has to do to earn it. Point is, it may be that Lombardi can spend the Schenn part of the bonus cushion without worry.
I don't know if Schenn's ready-ready, but he's not eligible for AHL duty, and I can't really see him playing another year of juniors. He could, I guess, but hasn't he basically done all he can there? I think he'll end up with the big club, playing wing and a little center. You could put him between your friend Kovalchuk or your other friend Frolov, and Brown.
As far as centers, yeah, it's going to get interesting, with Kopitar, Stoll, Handzus, Richardson, Schenn, Andrei Loktionov and Moller -- seven guys -- two of which (Loktionov and Moller) are top-six players, two are hybrids (Richardson, Schenn), two are basically 3rd line centers (Stoll and Handzus) and one who is a natural top line center (that Kopitar guy). Complicating matters, Stoll, Handzus and Kopitar can't really play wing. The others can. But you're not going to have Loktionov on the team unless he's playing top six and power play, so he's likely to start the season in Manchester. Moller is more or less in the same boat, but with more experience and more sandpaper. Schenn and Richardson, I think, will make it and be utility knives.
(Parse/Loktionov/Moller was the best line in the AHL -- and it's easy to see why -- before the call-ups and injuries split them up. That's a great line. I love all three of those guys. They're using Trevor Lewis in the LW spot now.)
Quisp: Loktionov is as much "my boy" as Moller is. Not that we have to divide them up into whose boy is whose. I also have "feelings" for Clifford, Parse, Geordie Wudrick, Voynov and Muzzin, not to mention the more high-profile Schenn, Hickey, Teubert. Or, you know, Bernier.
Quisp: Like I might have said, he could be our forward O'Donnell. Wise old crusty guy. He will be 34 when his contract expires next summer, so I think the ideal would be to sign him for one year at $2MM (or so) and then if he wants to continue, in 2012 (if the world doesn't end), Lombardi could give him a contract with incentives (since you can do that for 35+ geriatrics).
Quisp: So, if I understand you correctly, you're thinking:
LW2 - Stoll - Brown
LW3 - Handzus - Simmonds
LW4 - Richardson - RW4
Scuderi - Doughty
Johnson - D4
D5 - Greene
Quick - Bernier
LW2 - Kovalchuk, Marleau or Frolov
LW3, LW4, C4, RW4 - Richardson plus Cliche/Elkins (maybe) and two others TBD
D4 - UFA or trade (Kubina, Kaberle, Hamhuis, Souray, etc.)
D5 - prospect (Voynov, maybe Hickey or Teubert)
D7 - O'Donnell
I'm worrying about getting set for next season since it's the last one we have without Doughty's new cap hit; then we strip down and build back up to take another shot before Schenn gets a new deal. In a cap era you don't so much have a 5-year window to win a cup as you have a 2-year shot, a few years of plateau, then another quick shot. If that means we have to trade Jack Johnson or lose Brad Richardson... well, that's what happens to good teams. We just have to trust that the prospects coming up can fill those gaps.
*I assume there's some sort of double indemnity clause, hence the train.
[Rides off on motorcycle.]
Connie Kim: I'm all for passion. But there comes a time when you have to move on. Let go, Rudy. Just let go.
Quisp: Eh. I don't see the point in letting it go. Which is why I'm re-annoyed by this Qu --
RudyKelly: What? Sorry, I can't hear you over the roar of my motorcycle!
Quisp: Terry Murray told Rich Hammond yesterday that, among other injuries (Peter Harrold, broken hand -- which explains the Randy Jones thing a bit, I guess), Doughty had a sprained wrist among "quite a few injuries," and Quick, Murray says, "he got fell on there [sic] — I don’t remember exactly what game it was — in his crease and had a slight issue with his shoulder."
Now, I know that Murray isn't really saying anything other than "hey we're banged up, it's playoff hockey." But I'm having a complicated reaction to the news that Quick was playing hurt -- which was of course the scenario I had been discussing all along (since November) -- and still it was apparently important to stick with him. In principle, I supported the decision to stick with Quick in game five and six, after he was so not good in four and especially five. But I'm finding it hard not to think TM and DL miscalculated here.
In retrospect, there really is no way Bernier would have done worse than Quick in the last two games, and it's very likely he would have won one or both. And the argument that Quick would lose face and be forever humiliated doesn't hold any water at all now, since he was ****ing injured.
Or am I over-reacting?
RudyKelly: Quick was starting every game of that series. There's no point in getting bent out of shape about it. And shoulder injuries aren't that bad to play through, I've done it before.
Quisp: I'm not bent, really. Just thinking out loud. Playing out all these little scenarios. What else am I supposed to do now? Is it a fact that the Kings were, as many people keep saying, 'never going to win the cup this year'?
RudyKelly: I don't think that's true, simply because there is a lot of randomness built in to the playoffs; I mean, we were 5 minutes away from winning in the 1st round. It's more that it was unlikely and most people are too lazy to build in caveats with their statements.
Quisp: I think it also has to do with peoples' own psychologies. First, you're afraid to believe it's possible, then you start to allow yourself to believe it, then your hopes are dashed and you decide you were wrong to believe it. Like last year's cup. The Penguins win and it's all "destiny" and the fall of the old guard, etc., but it was one Scuderi kick save from OT in game 7. Now, a year later, what if the Wings win? They'll have throw out the whole narrative. Or Philly could win. A team that made the playoffs on the last day of the season. Anything can happen.
RudyKelly: Yeah. Like you said, people don't account for the high degree of randomness in the playoffs. It's why I don't stress about it, if someone plays bad it's not like they choked, they just had a bad series. No point in getting all worked up.
Quisp: Knowing that there's randomness built in doesn't make me calmer, but it stops me (maybe) from delusional thinking or assigning a little narrative of blame.
RudyKelly: Well yeah, I still freak out but I don't get virulently angry. It'd be like me getting mad at a coin for landing on heads.
Quisp: What's tricky about it is that, although there are random events, it is frequently possible to prepare better or worse for those events, thus the "second mistake" addage.
Quisp: It's not that I don't understand Murray/Lombardi's point of view, and it's also true that I am capable of jumping the gun. But, on the other hand...I wonder if Montreal worried about traumatizing poor Rogie Vachon when they chose to start the kid who just played his first NHL game two weeks before the playoffs. I mean, Rogie "earned it." Dryden didn't earn ****, except by winning.
RudyKelly: It'd be fun to somehow read a blog by a Montreal fan back then. I can only imagine the cursing. It'd probably be in 2 languages.
Quisp: Anything we forgot to address? [sound of crickets] Okay, so, say something witty or mean for your sign-off. I don't have anything that fits either category, so I'll just say that I think the Kings should select Scott Bjugstad's nephew in the first round.
*Not realistic but I don't want him to leave.
Connie Kim: "Piledriver." Is what you're calling it these days? Whatever happens, I have full confidence in Lombardi to get the job done.
Quisp: This roundtable is more of a banquet table.
RudyKelly: We got excited, things got carried away.