There was a surprise guest at LA Kings practice today.
When all was said and done, the full picture surrounding Bernie Nicholls‘ appearance was still a bit cloudy. However, in his own words, it was 22-below back in Ontario yesterday, so he couldn’t get here fast enough.
When asked how long he’ll be here, he offered a simple, “I have no idea.”
For just about every other question – including his possible interest in helping coach the Kings – he provided a much more detailed answer, working the small crowd of media like the seasoned vet that he is. It was a mixture of stories, laughter and opinions.
Nicholls was all smiles and looked fit as a fiddle after spending an hour on the ice with the team. Here’s a full transcript of the conversation that ensued afterwards…
On coming out to LA – “I talked to Darryl a little bit when he got hired. I always like being out and being with the guys. He just asked me if I wanted to come, kinda help out and talk to the guys, just be around to see what we could do.”
Impressions on what he’s seen from afar and then up close today – “I think the team is playing really well. I’ve played for Darryl twice, so I know what he’s all about. Seeing the guys earlier in the season, it’s a different team (now). I think they’ve always worked hard, they’ve always played great defense. But, for a skilled team, it’s sad to say this – but, they were terrible to watch. They may get 15 shots in a game and you’re going, ‘Wow. They have too much skill and too much offense to do that.’ I think Darryl has allowed them to create offense. Darryl’s mentality has always been the same – work hard, no matter what aspect of the game. And Darryl, he was an offensive player. He understands how to create offense. He’s allowing players to do that. You can see the big difference. They’re always going to be able to play good defense and their goaltenders are great. Now, if you can get them to create an offense – and eventually goals will come from it – then, it’s going to make them that much better.”
On how much often he’s watched the Kings this season, in between hunting trips and of all his outside activities – “I watch them all the time because I have the NHL package. Sometimes it was 10:30 at night. Still, I’ve always enjoyed watching the Kings. I went to Europe with them (back in October), which was great. So, in knowing the guys a little bit, you always root for them. But, I always watch them. You can see a huge difference in the way they’re playing now.”
On any messages he delivered on the ice during practice - “Darryl just wanted me to talk to the guys today, individually or just talk to them, encourage them. If I had any input with anything, just give it to them. For the most part, I think they’re playing great. If I can say anything to help them get a goal or two or help create something, then I’m more than happy to do that.”
On where he’ll be during the game tomorrow night – “Probably watching it somewhere around or down underneath. I did this with Darryl before, in San Jose. When he coached there and I retired, I stayed on and just helped out, did anything. I watched the games and came in (the room) to talk to the guys between periods if I saw something. If I had any kind of an input, I’d give it to them.”
On helping the Kings with their power play – “I always have input on that. I’ve done it my whole life, watching their power play. The funny thing, I don’t know what they went on – it was like 1-in-25 or something – but, you know what, it’s so close. They could have easily scored 10 goals. Sometimes you’re snake-bitten in that department. Maybe you just try something different, or anything, I knew when Darryl came on board it wouldn’t be long before I would see the third or fourth line on the power play. And I think it was the third game, the fourth line was out there! That’s alright. It’s just hard work. But, you have to outwork the opponents. Yeah, you can have some ideas what to do. If he wants that from me, I’d be more than happy to put in my two cents and I will talk to guys about certain things I think could help them. But, it is a fine line between scoring and not scoring. Like I said, it’s tough when they are 27th or 28th (in the league). But, with the talent they have, they very easily could be better than that.”
On if he’s more interested in day-to-day coaching or consulting – “I love consulting. These guys, coming in and working with the guys and doing whatever it is – I really enjoy that part. Being involved, player wise, stuff like that – that’s really good. Being on the blackboard and the video and stuff, I don’t know if I’d like that as much. The other guys do a real good job at that. If I can just be hands on, player wise, I like that part.”
On Sutter as a coach now, versus when he coached Bernie – “I love Darryl. I had him in Chicago when he was a little younger – and you guys will see that side too. (Everybody laughed quite a bit) One thing I’ve always said about Darryl, he wears his heart on his sleeve. When you get him around the rink and it’s hockey time, he’s as intense as anybody…He has one thing in mind and it’s to win and work hard. That’s what I love about him and that’s what these guys love about him. I talked to these guys today and everybody, man to man, they love what he’s all about. How can you not like somebody that’s passionate about the game?”
More to come from Kings practice later today, including full quotes from coach Sutter and Anze Kopitar [update: link added below]. To read comments on the coaching situation from last week, please see the article linked below.