Since the Kings have their first preseason game after only two days of training camp, the beginning of training camp meant very long days for the coaching staff of the Kings. Eight hours on skates without a lot of time between sessions for the three groups of players – that’s a long day. Terry Murray said they restructured training camp because of the early preseason game and got rid of the Rogie Cup (the competition between training camp teams in their scrimmages at the beginning of training camp), since there wouldn’t be time to play enough games to determine a winner. With the first game so early, the Kings need the practice time to get into game form.
One of the nicest things for Kings fans this year is probably that they have a clear number one goalie (Jonathan Quick) who has proven the ability to stop the puck and give the Kings a chance to win every game he plays. When it became clear that Jason LaBarbera (last year’s number one goalie at this point of the season) wasn’t working out for the Kings and Jonathan Quick was brought up to the NHL, coach Terry Murray refused to name a number one goalie. Murray had to do this on a regular basis, since some members of the media seemed determined to have him name a number one. Clearly, Quick did a lot to prove himself to Murray and the fans last season and he is the clear number one. As Murray said at the end of the first day of training camp, “Our number one goaltender is Quick. He’s the guy.” He continued by saying that “There’s no gray area in that for me. Right at the start of training camp – it’s his to lose; it’s his to keep.” Murray made it clear that Quick is the guy in goal this year for the Kings as far as he’s concerned.
Though everyone knows it’s easier to come into a position when no one is expecting much and your team is already so close to the bottom of the standings, Jonathan Quick did play very well for the Kings last year. It’s clear that the players and coaches have confidence in Quick to give the Kings a chance to win every game he plays, which is really all a team can ask of their goaltender. Many players have talked about how being able to trust your goalie can help a team play better. That’s why most of the best teams have great goaltenders. Kings fans are definitely hoping that Quick will be able to be the goalie to lead their team into the playoffs for the first time in years.
The focus of the players this year is clearly on getting to the playoffs. Those really paying attention at training camp probably noticed the shirts some of the players were wearing under their practice jerseys. They say “Only Reason We’re Here” on the back. Though the meaning of this seems pretty clear, a couple of the players were asked about the shirts and said that what we suspected is definitely the reason they’re here. The Kings want to be in the playoffs this year. They’re tired of having long summer breaks and going home in the beginning of April. They want to be in the playoffs, not watch them. When I asked goaltender Erik Ersberg if he’d watched any of the playoffs, he said he didn’t and “I want to watch it from the ice.” Clearly, that’s how every player wants to see the playoffs and it’s a good attitude for the Kings to have. They’re ready to move forward and believe they will be playing in the postseason this time.
Rob Scuderi, who won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, is one of the new Kings at training camp. When asked about the mood at the Kings camp, he said, “It’s a real nice attitude. It’s really not that different from where I came from. Maybe we have a little more experience in Pittsburgh, but it’s the same type of feel. The guys are hungry to do more, they’re hungry to win.” Scuderi went on to say that it’s a good feeling and that it’s clear that the team wants to win and they want to win now. They’re sick of waiting. So are their fans. The Kings are ready to play postseason hockey. Their fans are more than ready to start watching playoff hockey live again from their seats in Staples Center. They haven’t been able to do that since 2002 and 7 years without a playoff run is a long time for fans who continue to go to support their team in spite of the outcome.
Will the Kings be in the playoffs in 2010? Only time will tell, but the players and coaches clearly believe they can make it and most of the members of the media seem to agree. The main disagreement seems to be on where they’ll finish (6th? 8th?) and how far they’ll get in the playoffs. Some seem to believe the Kings will get out of the first round. Personally, I think it’ll go more like the Penguins’ first run in the playoffs with most of their current group (out in 5 games), but even that will be a huge step up and a much needed playoff experience for the young Kings team.
As a side note, I’m sure many of you were as curious as I about why Rob Scuderi was absent with the Penguins visited the White House last week. Scuderi explained that his daughter Kate’s 2nd birthday had to come first. He said, “Disneyland did take precedent over the President for probably the first time in history.” I’m sure President Obama would understand. Not surprisingly, Rob also said, “I would have liked to have gone, but it was an awful lot of flying for one day and I wasn’t going to miss my daughter’s birthday.” It sounds like he’s one father who has his priorities in order where his family and his team are concerned (anyone who watched the playoffs last year noticed how Scuderi is willing to sacrifice himself to block shots to make sure his team succeeds).