Guess what? There’s even more from today’s conference call with Kings GM Dean Lombardi. In the following riff he talks about the team’s young defense – starting with the play of Keaton Ellerby and then moving on to Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov and other guys manning the blueline…
“As a collective unit it’s the youngest in the league. It’s essentially one veteran. So it’s an ongoing process and that includes Drew and Voynov. So it’s not only the kids Ellerby and Drewiske and Muzzin – who are just sowing their oats. But you’ve got Voynov and Drew playing clearly expanded roles. You know this is the first time in Drew’s case where he’s killing penalties, he’s not being sheltered; he’s playing against top players. His minutes have grown, and the same with Voynov. So you start there, with your top guys, and you watch the evolution of that. Eventually (at the end) the role you envisioned with those two, to be your Sutter-Chelios, Niedermayer-Pronger type-thing, where those are two top guys. But both of them are still very young. So they’ve kind of been accelerated into that role – and overall, I think they’re handling it very well.
“But you can see the evolution, in both of them, having to become complete players. They never killed penalties last year, and at least with Willie Mitchell there you were able to shelter Voynov when he had to play against top players. But that’s not there right now. As far as the other two kids, you see like any other learning curve - obviously Muzzin, his game last night was pretty special for a young player breaking in. But the learning curve, as we all know, never goes straight up. To see him fitting in and doing some of the things he’s doing is certainly a good sign. And Ellerby - we knew all the work that was done before we traded for him, knowing where his game was. The key for him is, because he hasn’t been in our system or come through our development program, is a little bit of going back to basics and getting a foundation. That’s what you start again - ‘be hard to play against, keep your gaps tight, get your stick in the lane,’ and start there. Instead of like when he broke into the league as a young player, a high draft pick, and come in and save a franchise. We’re already seeing improvement with that.
“The other thing with Ellerby is it’s a different system again. All the coaches had dissected him before we traded for him, and there were definite variations in the system that he played there versus what’s expected of him to do here. So he’s adjusting not only in terms of going back to basics as a player, getting his confidence, find an identity, but also there’s some system things that he’s working on. I think we’re seeing progress every day. These last two games have been two of his better ones, and that’s to be expected. So, like Drewiske, he never stops as far as the type kid he is. He’s just a dog out there. I don’t mean dog in a bad sense. I mean dog in that he just never quits. Overall, I think if you saw the way they’re playing you’re thinking a veteran not a kid. But, it’s kind of accelerated in a hurry. I give those kids a lot of credit, but there’s still a lot more of this war that they’re going to have to get through.”
Believe it or not, there is still much more coming from Lombardi later this hour.
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