CBGB Reports From The Marc Crawford Press Conference
This morning I had the pleasure in attending the Marc Crawford press conference. Below you will find interviews conducted with Marc Crawford, Bob Miller and Jim Fox.
To begin, I owe everything to Mike Altieri. Without his invite, none of this would have happened. He has been very open with me and invited me to come to the press conference on behalf of all of the fans at letsgokings.com
The press conference took place in the Kings locker room at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo. Reporters from NBC, The Score/TSN, The L.A. Times, The L.A. Daily News and even The Fourth Period were on hand. Craig Conroy and Aaron Miller were there to lend their support.
It was the first time I had seen Dean Lombardi in person and when you’re in the same room with him, you can’t help but notice his aura of intensity. He lives, breathes and sleeps hockey.
When Marc Crawford was introduced, I expected the same intensity from him as I have seen from his days behind the bench in Colorado and Vancouver. It was quite the opposite. Marc is affable, relaxed and at times humorous. He stated that he wanted to be part of this organization and that a phone call from Mr. Anschutz sealed the deal.
When MC and DL stood next to each other following the conference, I couldn’t help but think “those two are proven winners”.
Following the PC, several reporters gathered around MC to ask questions.
Q: “How involved are you going to be in player movement”?
MC: “I know that Dean is going to work very closely with me. It’s the most important relationship you can have. The relationship with your direct boss, and he’s my direct boss. I think we’ll work well together. He’s a hard worker. We’ve probably done more assessment here than we’ve done in Vancouver in a long time. He’s got so many great assets that I really look forward to the relationship”
Q: “Have you chosen your assistant coaches?”
Along with Dean, I’m going to start the interviewing process with a number of people. I’ve already spoken to a few people that I have in mind but nothing has been decided. We’re going to look at all aspects. I know exactly the type of staff that I want, I know the strengths that I want in the personnel that will come in here and work for me. One of the beauties of having a little bit of experience is I know myself, I know what I bring and I know what I need to surround myself with.
I think having been in it as long as I have I can see where certain personalities in your assistant and associate coaches can really help get a cohesive group. I think chemistry of coaching staff is as important as chemistry of a hockey club. You got to have a great chemistry because players read that all the time. They want to make sure that you have a cohesive group there.
Mike (Johnston) is under contract with the Canucks. I’m real hopeful that Mike gets an opportunity there. I talked to Mike as a friend… I can’t get into any tampering charges (laughs)
Q: “Dean said Todd (Bertuzzi) had called you… did he have insider info that you were getting the job?”
MC: (laughs) “Todd called me after I was let go from the Canucks, that’s the conversation that Dean was referring to”
Q: “Did you have serious discussions with Toronto”?
MC: “I had discussions with them… and a couple of other organizations. This is really where I wanted to be, not just ‘cause I’m here… this was the exact best fit for me and my family and it’s so important that it matches up at the top and it does here. It matches from ownership, it matches from management, and I really believe that it will match with the players which is probably the most important thing. This is such an exciting opportunity about where we can go. Obviously there’s a lot of hard work to put in to get us there but It’s exciting about that opportunity to get there.
Q: “Have you started looking at the roster”?
Q: “Does a guy like Sean Avery get a second… does he get a chance to turn the page”
MC: “One of the beauties about having people have with some newness to them is that the page is probably much like that, where you’ve got a little bit of writing, you have a little bit of thought about any player. But it’s mostly blank because you want to allow your relationship to grow with people. Whether it’s with Craig Conroy or whether its with Sean Avery. We want to have a chance here to develop a relationship and to make an assessment as we move forward. We don’t have to make any serious assessments until that really first important game which is going to be not until next October.
Q: “As a coach, how long does it take to figure out a player? A quarter season, a half a season?”
MC: “As you go through it, some guys are very quick and other guys are very complicated. And that pretty much speaks about personalities. Some guys are very outgoing and you can get a read on them and they wear their heart on their sleeve and you get more of an immediate read on them and other people are a little bit more interspective and you’ve got to draw a lot more out. A big part of it is seeing them in actual games, seeing them in actual combat. I can tell you this, I know all the Vancouver Canucks much better than I know the Los Angeles Kings but that’s because I’ve had those guys for such a long time. I don’t know if there’s an exact answer.
Q: “In Colorado and Vancouver you had two solid lines. Arguably the Kings only have one solid line…”
MC: “I disagree with that. This playoff has shown that you probably need four lines. When I talk about a four line team, you need some balance, you need to have the ability to put players out against everybody and you look at the strengths of these two clubs that are in the Western conference finals… Edmonton pretty much plays a three lines but they play 6 defensemen almost without fear and Anaheim plays four lines and six defenseman without fear. Being a western conference team, because of the travel, because of the grind of the season, you’ve got to have confidence in a lot of people and I think the more depth you can have and the more balance that you have the better you’re gonna be. Having said that, you need star people to be stars and we’re going to need our best players to be the best that they can be because I don’t think you can ever win without your players being absolutely the best.
Q: “You had Brent Sopel in Vancouver…”
MC: “Yup! I had Brent and I’ve had Aaron (Miller) in Colorado… and I think I’ve had maybe a couple more at some time or another”.
Q: “You brought out the best in Brent and then he left”
MC: “That was the new cap world. You couldn’t keep everybody at certain prices and you’re forced as an organization to make decisions. Brent’s had nothing to do with talent it had all to do with the number at the end of his contract and it didn’t fit into our organization. That happened with him and Marek Malik.”
Q: “You dealt with two relatively young goaltenders in Vancouver and you’re dealing with two young goaltenders here. Would you prefer to bring in a veteran goaltender?”
MC: “You deal with whatever you have. I think I’m the best head coach for goaltenders in the National Hockey League. I say that because I have a son as a goalie. I’ve watched him develop and gone to so many goaltending camps with him that I’m really comfortable now with where the new breed of goaltender is coming from and how they’re developing. It’s the one position in our sport where much like the other sports there’s position coaches and they speak a whole different language, they have a whole different set of criteria for what makes them great. Obviously they have to have a lot of what the great goaltenders of the past… whether is was Rogie Vachon or Patrick Roy have… the fact that they’re great teammates. I think I can add a great balance to that but I do think that the relationship between the goaltender and the head coach is very important. Almost as important as the relationship he has with his position coach which is so important with all of these new goaltenders that are growing up.
INTERVIEW WITH BOB MILLER
CBGB: “What do you think about the hiring today?”
BM: “I’m excited about it, As they say it’s a clean slate and players have a chanc now to show what they can do and there’s a whole new situation here with the Kings and I think its always exciting to say “lets wipe everything off and start anew and see where we go from here” and here’s a coach in MC who has been successful, has won a Stanley Cup, has won at every level as far as Coaching. Also from being in the Western Conference, knows the rigors of travel and everything else that he can relate to this team and I think that’s going to be a benefit”.
CBGB: “What do you think he brings that Andy Murray didn’t?”
BM: “Well, until I’m around him all the time and see his practices, I don’t know. There seemed to be the feeling that with Andy that sometimes he pushed the players a little too hard and that’s why we had good starts and then seem to fade in the second half of the season. I think with Marc being in a West Coast market he realizes how you have to pace the team and I think that’s what we’re going to see from him.”
CBGB: “Towards the end of the season, you got as emotional as Bob Miller can get on the air. You asked the question to Dean Lombardi and that was “what do you think happened?”
BM: “You mention the night I did say a few things afterwords. I think it was after a 5-0 loss to Colorado. That night I just didn’t see a team respond at all, at home, on their own home ice, and came out and let the other team dictate the pace of the game and the style of the game and the physicality of the game and I saw no opposition from the Kings. All of us are so passionate about having this team win it just bothered me that in our own building that we came out as flat as that. I’ve always hated to hear players say “We came out not ready to play” or “we were flat”. And I say in our own building in a game that important, why does that happen? I don’t know. Without being in the locker room, I don’t think I can answer exactly what went wrong.
I know DL was going to talk to players and did talk to players to find out why things like that happen, but that particular night were talking about, I felt the team just decided they weren’t going to play for Andy Murray. To me, it seemed obvious that they weren’t going to play for Andy Murray.
CBGB: “Where’s the book?”
BM: “The book is supposedly going to come out mid-October, the last I heard. We’ve got photos to pick out now and put in here. I’m kind of at the mercy of the publishers timetable.”
CBGB: “We appreciate all your years of hard work”
BM: “Thank You”
INTERVIEW WITH JIM FOX:
CBGB: What do you think of the hirings?”
JF: I think so far in my experiences which have been brief with Dean Lombardi, it’s been fairly impressive. I think he’s as intense… you know when you think of general managers, you always think of kind of front office, business types. He has an incredible intensity to him and I’ve actually enjoyed my discussions with him. You ask him about a two on one and he’s got a… how I’d play it, this is the way I’d…. he’s got a lot of theory behind it. Deep thought. I enjoy that.
With Marc Crawford I’ve known him a loooong time going back to Junior hockey. I think his competitiveness, which I guess you lose a little bit as a coach because you always have to be more controlled, but he’s always been a very competitive player. I think that’s the word that comes to mind when I think of Marc Crawford. He was never a star player he was always that role player but he was one of those guys that you just hated to play against and was all because he wanted to win.
CBGB: Bob Miller asked Dean “what happened”, what do YOU think happened?
JF: I think it was… huh… an accumulation of things. The biggest, the easiest thing to look at from a numbers standpoint was the special teams. Early in the season for the first 25 games the PK was in the top 5 and once that slid along with the PP, you got into a situation in the new NHL, it became even a step above that this year.
I think when you look at it from a standpoint of injuries… I know that people will say that’s an excuse. I say yes it can be termed that, it also can be termed the reason. We send players to the Olympics and we come back with Demitra and Frolov hurt. Now it happened to a few teams. It did happen to Vancouver. Did they make the playoffs? No. They lost Jovo before the Olympics, they lost Salo during the Olympics, they lost Ohlund during the Olympics. Those types of things happen, that’s why I think its an accumulation. The record will tell you that.
“I think you can make that argument that the direction of the coaching staff… was the message getting across, or was it being avoided or whatever you want to call it, by the players? I think that was a part of it.”
“And, again specifics, the goaltending was not as good as it was in December when he was the player of the month. “
CBGB: “You were a player and you played under several coaches. When does a player tune out a coach?”
JF: “It would be difficult for me to answer that. I played for 8 coaches in 10 years. The continuity was probably more of an issue for me. (laughs). I think it’s different now that it was in the olden days. There was more of a chance of a player tuning out a coach because of personal attacks. Coaches would get after you personally I think more so than they do now. The players have more power now. The bottom line is, shelf life is not that long. AM was here for 7 years, that’s almost double the norm. Double the average. It’s such an intense environment that if you’re there daily… in professional sports it goes up a level because it becomes public. You’re judged not only by your boss, but by 16,000 people and who’s watching on TV. The intensity and the pressure… as you can tell I’m rambling… I have no idea. It’s a tough question.”
CBGB: “Craig Conroy’s going to be playing for his 3rd coach in 3 seasons. That’s 3 different systems. How hard is that for a player to adjust to a new system?”
JF: “I don’t think that’s as much of an issue as the transition and the accepting of the new responsibilities or roles you’re put in by the new coach as that coach changes. The style of player very rarely changes. Trust becomes a factor. That’s where the biggest adjustment is because the coach has the guys he trusts and sometimes it takes a while to build that up. If you’re changing coaches every year, then does that coach go to you for that faceoff, does he go to you for that penalty kill, do you have that player?”
“I don’t think the system issue is as much of an adjustment as earning the trust of your coach and if it doesn’t come early enough, that trust….? To accept it. To accept your role and not become a distraction negatively until you can prove to the coach that you can live up to this role that you played for the former coach.”
CBGB: “You’ve been watching the playoffs. In the new NHL speed and physicality seem to be the forefront of the teams that have been advancing. If you were Dean Lombardi, what would you bring in to the Kings”
JF: “Size and speed and the combination of that has always been important. Now, it’s true, there’s a little bit more emphasis on the speed. So the big player used to earn a job just because of size. Now that’s not necessarily the case anymore. You can’t win without skating. The Kings will change their perspective to more of a speed issue. Yeah, you still need the grinders or the veteran, but the new guys coming in are going to have to move.
CBGB: “We don’t seem to have that down in Manchester, do we?”
JF: “I’ll admit, I’m not knowledgeable enough to tell you what’s down there. I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing what’s down in the minor leagues. I know from reading letsgokings.com a lot of people do. A lot of people do a lot of research.”
“The style of player I like is Tukonen, just from the training camps he’s been to. I like his presence on the ice. I think he has decent size. I would not necessarily say he’s a great skater, ‘cause I don’t know that. The other guy which does fit the mold of the new style of player is Anze Kopitar. Big and skilled. I think we saw last year at training camp, at least I did, the skill is definitely there. The breakaway moves he was making. So now we’ve got to get him into that position where he’s gonna get those chances in an NHL game. I’d say he’s closest that the Kings have to the new prototype. 6’3 but skill up the ying yang”
CBGB: “What about Boyle?”
JF: “Very interesting question. I’ve only heard positive things from him. I look at his numbers and realizing the fact he’s spent a lot of time playing defense too in penalty kill situations. But his numbers were real good. Good size. At that size, I think you’re not going to have the speed or quickness….
…Dustin Brown doesn’t fit that mold from the standpoint of skating but there’s always going to be a place for a player like him because he’s able to take the body. I’d like to see him hone his finish capabilities. I think he still needs a little…and he’s still young enough where he can work on it… I’m old fashioned in my thinking. Once you get like 20 years old you’re not really going to improve in a lot… you improve through experience and reading the game and understanding that situation. I think Dustin’s at a position where he can work on that finish skill, meaning that, some of those pucks that go trough the crease… just an inch off… and then just getting a nose for the net. That’s confidence. I hope he can improve.
CBGB: “In the middle of the season we brought up Jeff Tambellini. Throughout all of the injuries they recalled Clarke, Ryan, James, Kanko without giving Tambellini another shot. Was there something that Andy Murray saw in those four games that didn’t warrant another call up?”
JF: “I don’t know the specifics of it, but I assume the process is a little different than that. I’m sure Andy or the head coach has a say, but I think at the NHL level once your player is elevated to your team, you’re just looking to fill a role, fill a spot, get him to help you win the game.
I think with Tambellini probably the evaluation of his game by the pro scouts by his head coach at Manchester, by Dave Taylor and Bill O’Flaherty, they probably had a pre determined evaluation of Tambellini. When he came up, the coach doesn’t have as big an input in that situation. The coach is there to win the game that night. It up to DL and Bill and the scouts to say “is he going to reach the level that we had hoped when we drafted him”. I assume they came to the determination that he won’t. I would…. assume…. that someone did not feel that Tambellini was going to reach that level. It’s not about skating, so it must be about the finishing part or the physical part.”
We then talked about the Bryan Murray Ottawa incident, but everything that could be said about it has already been said.
Then I had to come to work and listen to actresses scream for a horror film I’m casting.
Such a life
Until next time