Okay, faithful “Perspectives From The Cheap Seats” readers, I’m gong to come clean and have you save me $100 for a psychologist visit…
I admit it. I may go to hockey hell as I balance my logic that losing is the right recipe to be better in the short term and the long term. This has been a rough season for my hockey sensibilities. I have been bashed by the local media, fans, my family, and my friends for supporting the whole #LoseForHughes scenario. Nothing makes sense right now…
Up means down, left means right, East is West, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli can’t score and Kyle Clifford can, losing to the Ducks and Sharks is a good thing, blah blah blah…
I blame it all on Willie Desjardins. Of course I do, because I have been doing it since November 26th. My open letter to Willie D. was greeted with emails from a ton of you and some of our favorites in the media telling me to give Willie a chance, that “no coach can lead this uncoachable team”, and, of course, the irrational logic of “who else would the Kings have hired?”
On Saturday the greatest thing happened in the form of dueling articles from Curtis Zupke and Lisa Dillman. Missed them? Take a read: LA Times / The Athletic. Vindication overwhelmed me as I read juicy quote after juicy quote from Ilya Kovalchuk. Nearly everything I said all year via these Perspectives columns was validated from Mr. Kovalchuk. I wanted to hug him. He let me know that I wasn’t crazy, at least not hockey crazy.
After my daughter called me out at my own birthday party later Saturday night after the Kings won for being a “Ducks lover”, I looked for comfort in the reader emails that confirm people have seen the light and now support the Willie D. disdain. Here are some of my favorites from the Perspectives Mailbag...
Q: Who would be a better Tank Commander, Ron Burgundy or Willie Desjardins?
—Dan O., Bakersfield, California
ML: There is nothing more enjoyable than listening to Ron Burgundy’s amazingly biased commentary of Kings games. How great would it be to have him do the coaching this year? Just imagine his postgame scrums. No one can be a better Tank Commander than Willie Desjardins. Go ask Vancouver fans.
Q: Have you written your Willie Desjardins coaching eulogy yet? How long is it? Will it be safe to read at work?
—Charlie P., Beirut, Lebanon
ML: Two versions are ready. Both are hovering around 2,500 words. I need to cut it to 1,100 words max. Also, I started a third version in case Willie can’t tank the remaining seven games properly.
Q: If the Kings get Jack Hughes in the draft, will the team hang a banner in Willie Desjardins honor?
—Stan G., Hollywood, California
ML: Anaheim and Nashville would. However, the Kings should invite Willie to the sweater retirement ceremony 25 years from now. A top two pick in June would not be possible without him for sure. If you want to be sick to your stomach, just remember that this clever Tweet was posted only 23 months ago:
Q: Hello, is Igor from KHL. Is very clear to all here in Moscow that Kings coach no like Russian guys. I was thinking that Russia, USA, Canada all friends now.
—Igor P., Moscow, Russia
ML: Willie D. might be the epitome of coaching senility. One minute he’s praising Kovalchuk’s work ethic and character and the next minute he’s scratching him. In all honesty, it’s fairly obvious that Willie learned his coach-speak from Crash Davis from “Bull Durham”:
It’s easy to see Willie went to the Crash School of Cliché Speak. I found 149 Willie D. interview videos on NHL.com. He only has three or four of types of things to say after each game. I doubt he remembers what he said yesterday, today. Look at this postgame video from the December 15th OT loss to the Penguins (a game in which the interim coach cost the Kings a victory with his blunders):
Regardless of the how or how not this Kovalchuk-Desjardins feud ends, Willie D. has a history of bullying Russian players. He benched Nikolay Goldobin immediately after scoring his first goal in Vancouver and played the primary role in Nikita Tryamkin’s decision to go back to Russia. This from Tryamkin (aka the next Chris Pronger):
“I have many times [to communicate with Desjardins] and it’s been superfluous. Yes, not even a lot – almost always me. And did not understand why. I spend a good game, and for five or seven minutes to the end I’m put on the bench without any explanation. It was very strange.”
Any of this sound familiar, Igor?
Q: You must be feeling pretty good that Kovalchuk confirmed that John Stevens’s pre-season was a disaster and that the Kings got off on the wrong tracks.
—Nick C., Studio City, California
ML: You mean when I wrote this on November 5th?:
“JS spent the preseason tinkering with lineups until team chemistry was shot.”
And then Kovalchuk said this:
“It was really slow … the (first) few home games we didn’t play the way we wanted to. But our training camp, I think, was really bad with the schedule. Split squad and everything.”
Yes, Nick. Feeling good. Really good.
Q: How does this whole Ilya Kovlchuk situation sit with your Mad Scientist theory? The way he was treated this year without support from management, you would think that all other free agents would look elsewhere to sign.
—Sam S., Covina, California
ML: Kovalchuk said emphatically:
“It’s another challenge for me. I’m even going to be more motivated now. It happens. I don’t think it’s true. Like it’s not fair to me but I’m not going to cry on the pillow.”
Remember everyone. Ilya Kovalchuk and Artemi Panarin played on the same line together. His son is named “Artem.” He’s going to recruit Panarin like no other and they will be reunited. He’ll do it to prove himself to the league, to Kings management, and Russia that he is NHL elite. Mark my words. Rob Blake is playing 3D chess when everyone else is playing checkers.
Q: So, one day last week I come across an article when Rob Blake was leaning from Dean Lombardi and Los Angeles area restaurants and such and I started thinking “Does he deal with ordering food the same way he signs NHL coaches? Does he just order in from the cafeteria? Or call in for delivery from Grubhub or DoorDash so he doesn’t have to leave the building?
—Mark H., New York, NY
ML: I had a caustic follow-up joke here, then I remembered that our GM hired Willie D. over the phone without meeting with him and plucked John Stevens from within the organization. So yes, he never left the building to hire a coach. This time, he’s going to have to recruit, recruit, recruit to get one of the up and comers out there.
Q: What time is the parade in Downtown LA to celebrate WD’s firing?
—Stephania P., Denver, Colorado
ML: Yes, these are my readers.