The last week or so while work has near buried me alive, my few respites had me read random threads to get my Kings’ fix. Other than who would be the next Kings’ coach, the biggest news seems to be who wants to be a King, who could stand being a King, does anyone want to be a King to today’s delusion, Kopitar, O’Sullivan and pick your favorite player cannot wait to get off the Kings’ island.
What is it about a being a fan that makes some so fanatical?
I am no longer as sold on Lombardi as I was earlier in his tenure. What I will acknowledge is the man is consistent. He has a plan. He is executing his plan. He will go down with the ship or be successful with his plan. Period.
What is my point?
For those who are so easy to sway with rumors of discontent, is it because you believe the players are that unhappy or is it because you project your own emotions onto the alleged unhappy player of the day. I get it. I just do not buy the rumors of angst and anxiousness of existing players dying to leave Los Angeles. But someone said…
My perception is based in part on a back story from the classic show MASH and something Ken Dryden said in one of the most recommended hockey books of all time, “The Game”. I will start with the former. In the first season of MASH, the show was hardly an instant hit and there was some discord on the set early on. It is my understanding that the conditions on the set were less than optimum and McLean Stevenson was one of the most outspoken of the cast in vocalizing the issues.
Not surprisingly, this did not endear him to the powers that be. Simultaneously, Stevenson found it challenging being in an ensemble cast. He knew he was a part of something special. He also knew he needed to own the spotlight – not share it. I remember learning of this back story in an interview with Loretta Swit. She explained that the studio was all too happy to wish Stevenson well and good-bye considering his vocal ways.
As for Stevenson, he shared with Ms. Swit that he appreciated that he may never have the success and the opportunity to be on a show the caliber of MASH. Even with this appreciation, he needed to be ‘the show' not a part of a show – apparently even one of the most successful and respected in television history. With his eyes wide open, he left MASH and left stage right for “Hello Larry”. Then say goodbye Larry. You get the idea how that choice went.
I suspect that Mr. Stevenson lived no regrets. He knew himself. He knew the risks and acted according to his own wiring. I respect that.
Then, consider the two kinds of goaltenders there are as discussed by Dryden. On the Canadiens, the players were so much a team that an individual player could neither win nor lose all by himself. For a player who was wired to want that load, that need could only be met on another team. A specific story Dryden relayed involved a game where he played especially poorly by his own admission. He would let in a bad goal and a teammate would score. Again. Again. And again. Dryden lamented that after his team won, he thought, man… I cannot even lose by myself.
He continued by discussing Rogie Vachon, his former teammate who moved to the Kings. One of the things Vachon especially relished by being in Los Angeles is having the responsibility of winning – sometimes all on his own. Shots would be many, defense not so much and he could be a game changer. Vachon told Dryden he preferred the lesser team success in pursuit of meeting his own individual thirst to be everything for his team.
Where am I going?
Some really believe, or are easily swayed (take your pick), that it has to be true that Kopitar wants to leave, O’Sullivan’s sole reason for not signing a contract is to make it as short term a deal so as soon as the CBA allows he can fly the coop at the first opportunity. Let’s stop projecting our own disillusionment onto players, who up to now not only have not communicated this, they have communicated the exact opposite.
My favorite O’Sullivan quote, one I have mentioned multiple times is that players can no longer be satisfied with individual success. He himself not only said this to Jim Fox during a late season game. He repeated it in an interview after the World Championship. Shock of shocks, Kopitar, Brown and he are on the same page. Read for yourselves a quote worth reading twice:
“What we're focused on right now -- especially the young core of the team -- is the fact that everyone on the team had a fairly successful year individually but. at the end of the day, that's not what we're trying to accomplish. We want to win and we feel like we're going to be capable of that when some additions are made and things take care of themselves. I can speak for (Anze Kopitar) and Brownie, because I talk to them all the time. We're not satisfied with individual success. . . . I want to try to be more of a leader. It's something that I've talked about with the coaches and Dean, even as a young player to be a leader and just continue to build on the success and try to get better.”
O’Sullivan Post World Championships
For starters, does anyone really think that is the quote of someone who cannot wait to leave? Me either. As to Kopitar, sure he could go elsewhere onto teams winning more now, well guess what… Kopitar wouldn’t be the heir apparent on that unknown team, the #1 center whose own team would be built around him. He can get a ring with Detroit but he better be content to convert to being a wing or going way down the depth chart for awhile. Perhaps a long while. Get the idea?
Ask Jimmy Howard how he feels about it. He won his first NHL game against the Kings and still cannot even make it as the team’s back-up at the NHL level.
I for one get the sense that Kopitar not only wants to be a success. He wants to be the guy while he does it. That means one of two things. If he wants to win some day, then he doesn’t want to be an Islander, Panther, Thrasher … you get the idea. The places where he would win, he would have to wait his turn. Of the up and coming teams, well, how many have been developing not only the depth Los Angeles is beginning to accumulate but have the cap space available for his next two or more contracts. Not too many.
If he wants to be a Red Wing, the fear and curiosity held apparently by many Slovenian teeny bopper fans, and then well, he can win but wait his turn. If he wants to be a Blackhawk, good luck staying long with Toews, Kane and 10 RFAs on their roster and Campbell around with his $8 million cap hit for the next eight years. The Flyers, they will be cap challenged as will the Rangers. Penguins? Get real; he would fight for the third line center there. The Senators, the other infamous team in that delusional fantasy of someone who got more press than they had any right to? Well, with Heatley and Spezza’s deal, no goaltender and no privacy, yeah.. that is a better opportunity for Kopitar.
I readily acknowledge I have no inside information. I do have some basic common sense. When a player relocates his family, plays on a line with two of his best friends and his team has some pretty exciting defensemen being developed, he can live in anonymity and make maximum dollars on his own team who are budgeting for his raises, well… tell me again why he hates it here so much? Exactly.