Season Preview with Kelly Hrudey of HNIC

Continuing with our season previews this week, we visit with another returning guest from last year – former NHL goaltender and long time LA Kings fan favorite, Kelly Hrudey.

Fans here probably remember him best as the blue bandana wearing goalie from the ’93 Stanley Cup Finals. Yet, north of the border he’s been a member of the legendary Hockey Night in Canada crew for over a decade now, both on television and satellite radio. Thus, the man loves to talk about hockey!

In fact, Hrudey’s plans for his post-NHL career were so well known towards the the end of his playing days, Dean Lombardi (then with the Sharks) once asked him “Why do I want to sign a 35-year old goalie who wants to be a broadcaster?”

In the interview below, we lean on his experience between he pipes to get some perspective on several goaltending related issues going on around the league, as well as some predictions for the Western and Eastern Conference standings.

MM: Roberto Luongo recently relinquished the captaincy in Vancouver.  What do you think about goaltenders wearing the ‘C’?

KH: I still think it could work. Maybe he wasn’t the right guy for it.  From what I understand, he’s very good with the media.  However, he’s not one of the guys who is really hoping to have to do it either.  He just does it out of necessity because I think he recognizes the importance.  There are people that are more interested in it. 

For instance, I loved doing the media when I was a player (shocking!).  So, the role of being captain, wouldn’t have been a bother to me.  As an example, I used to do pre-tape a couple of hours before games if anybody wanted.  I always felt that couldn’t throw me off because if I was so poorly prepared that I couldn’t do a five minute interview with our TV group, then I had bigger problems.

But, I understand some players don’t – a guy like Paul Kariya just didn’t like media the day of the game.  And I get that, if that’s how he wants to prepare.  If it happens in some other city with a different goaltender, I think it can work.

Is there a goalie in the league right now who you think can handle it?

Marty Turco.  He’s incredibly bright, really thoughtful, engaging.  I could just list off about 30 qualities the guy has and why he would be a really good candidate.

What about on the ice - Chicago just replaced Antti Niemi, who won them a Cup a few months ago, with Turco…was that a good move?

Well, I think it’s a necessary move, simply because of their cap issues.  If there wasn’t a salary cap, that wouldn’t have happened at all.  They would have been more than happy to keep Niemi.  But, unfortunately, he had arbitration rights and he used them.  That’s where it took them.  But, Marty is so steady.  I think this is going to be a real good fit for both he and the organization.

How about Niemi landing in San Jose - is that going to help keep them near the top of the Western Conference?

With the team they have, that’s the type of goaltending they need. They just need steady goaltending in San Jose. They’re so strong. They keep getting younger, bringing in great talent. So, their organization is just top notch, from top to bottom. I’ve had this discussion now with several GMs across the league, ‘What do you really need in the net now?’ Do you need a marquee guy like Luongo or Kiprusoff or the other top guys, where you pay them big money? Or, do you just need steady (goaltending) and at a better price point, so you can build your forwards and your defense up. I think I’m actually leaning towards the latter. Just build a great team around it and make sure your goaltender is real steady and that he doesn’t blow games for you.

Back to the media for a minute, Dan Ellis (Tampa Bay Lightning goalie) got himself into some hot water this summer on twitter. What are your thoughts about professional athletes using social media, considering the backlash that can come with it?

Well, first of all, I didn’t find what he said to be offensive at all. I think he was just stating a fact. I wish Dan would reconsider (coming back to twitter) because he’s one of those great athletes out there that is really clever with it. I thought he used it extremely well. There is a slippery slope involved, of course. But, just because there is one minor incident…I wish he’d go back and do it again because he’s a good guy. I think he sent a lot of really important things and he had a real good connection with the fans. For others like him, I hope they don’t feel like ‘Oh boy, I better stop now.’

This is the way of the future. When you want that interaction between the players and the fans, as soon as they something that you might not agree with, that’s no reason to jump all over the guy.

I tend to believe that if he would have made the comment during the season, when there are more hockey stories going on, it might not have snowballed into such a big deal…

He said he worries more now about money than he ever has. Well, as a fan out there, isn’t that a responsible comment? Would they prefer that he said he’s near bankruptcy? In fact, I would entirely agree with him. I’m really worried and concerned about money all the time. I don’t care if you make $32k or $70mil a year, if you tell me that you worry about money, then I think you’re responsible.

Another controversy this summer was the Canadiens trading Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis.  Did Montreal make the right choice by keeping Carey Price?

Well…wow (pause)…that is one where I think we’re going to just wait and see.  I wouldn’t want to jump on that right away because when you look at it, that’s quite a decision to end up moving Halak considering how well he played.  But, Carey Price, I think a lot of people would agree, has a lot of potential.  I think a lot of people think he has a better upside.  I’m really rooting for him.  He’s a good guy and it’s a hard position to be in when the fans have already turned on you after only two exhibition games.  I’m hoping he can find the mental strength to get through it and it doesn’t crush him.

The Kings could soon be faced with a similar situation, where they have two NHL caliber goalies this year.  How do you see things shaking out between Bernier and Quick as the year wears on?

What a great scenario.  They have a guy who played extremely well last year and they have an up and coming guy, who it looks as though he’s going to be a superstar.  They couldn’t be positioned better.

Coach Terry Murray has gone out of his way to say there isn’t a goaltending controversy.  You’ve been through it though.  At some point, does it start to wear on either guy?

I’ll address Quick first.  That isn’t wearing on you because it’s just the nature of team sports.  You have to be the ultimate teammate, but competitor.  Your play has to speak for itself.  Ultimately, if you retain your job, that’s just because you’re simply better.  Secondly, if the other guy surpasses you, that’s just the nature of sports.  Nothing is handed to you.  So, you have to accept that.

In terms of Bernier, I think he’s shown that he was willing to have an attitude adjustment and improve, to get to where he needs to be.  Now, he’s finally put himself in a position where he’s within striking distance of being a number one guy.  That’s cool.

Craig Anderson seemed to fade a bit down the stretch last year and Colorado stumbled into the post season.  Is he enough to help get the Avs back into the playoffs this year?

I think he is.  He really came back extremely well in the playoffs.  He was just unbelievable and was the only reason they had any life whatsoever against San Jose.

How about Jimmy Howard in Detroit?

I don’t think he’s going to have a sophomore slump.  But, it will be pretty hard to top the season he had last year.  He blew everybody away. I think it’s safe to say he exceeded expectations by a lot.  All he needs to do this year is be really steady, really consistent – steal a few games.  But, I don’t think he’s going to have to be as spectacular as last year.  He was playing behind a really tired team last season and they should be a lot fresher this year.

Nearly everybody is in agreement on the teams at the top of the Western Conference coming into the season.  Most of the debate is around the bubble teams.  Who do you see sliding into the 6, 7 and 8 slots?

I’m going to go with Nashville again, simply because that organization continues to re-tool effectively.  I thought they were going to upset Chicago in the first round last year and it was very close to that happening.  Their goaltender is rock solid too.  I think St. Louis is going to jump back into the playoff picture, they’re poised to do it.  I thought they slipped a little last year and that’s not unexpected for teams that vault into the playoffs the season before unexpectedly.  So, I look for them to come back.  After that, everything is just up in the air to me.  Those are the two I think that will get in.  Who goes away, I’m not sure either.

Do the Edmonton rookies have enough to elevate them out of the cellar – say, above Minnesota?

I prefer that Edmonton continues to stay in last place.  I think that would be the best thing for their organization.  If they had one more killer draft, like they’ve had lately, I think that would put them in a great position.  Very much like what Pittsburgh did for a few years and what LA has been doing.

Who are your bubble teams in the Eastern Conference?

Buffalo is bubble team because I don’t know where they’re going to get their scoring from.  But, their goaltending is remarkable.  Philadelphia is still a bubble team to me, even though they had a great run last year.  New Jersey too.  I still don’t see them as being a top team.  I like a lot of their game, but I don’t see them at the top.

The Mayor
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