As the Kings’ TV color analyst for the past few decades now, Jim Fox has seen the carousel of goaltenders the team has gone through at times. Although it had to be done, nearly everybody in the organization was sad to see Jonathan Bernier get dealt to Toronto. On the ice, his talents suggest he’s a future NHL star, and off the ice he’s a true professional.
Much of our content in the coming weeks will be centered around prospects, the Draft, and the 2003-14 LA roster. But first, we pause to reflect back on last weekend’s trade of Bernier for Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, a second round draft pick and some desperately needed cap space.
“I think it was something that had to be dealt with,” Fox began. “I think the timing was right too. Certainly, the Kings winning the cup in 2012, and with Bernier’s support down the stretches of the last couple years, coming up with big games at big times. But, bottom line is this: you have two goaltenders at similar stages of their careers. Quick’s a little bit older, certainly more experienced, obviously. But it’s not like you have a veteran guy and a young guy just learning, or vice versa, the young guy who’s a stud and the veteran guy who is the backup. You have two guys who are fighting for the number one- that’s healthy for awhile. Then I don’t think it’s that healthy anymore, I think it can become just an issue.”
There’s plenty of truth to that, simply look at a few other scenarios around the league recently.
“(Jaroslav) Halak and (Carey) Price in Montreal, (Cory) Schneider and (Roberto) Luongo in Vancouver,” Fox continued. “It’s not the two goaltenders. It is a story, and it becomes a distraction. You should have to deal with distractions- every team should. Every strong team will, and get by them. Now, having said that, I’m impressed the Kings got what they got. I think they have an NHL player, a second round pick, some cap space… I know there were probably some ups and downs there with Dean Lombardi trying to get that value, because I think we all know and appreciate Jonathan Bernier’s skill and what he’s going to become, but since he didn’t play enough games, can you get that value? I think the Kings got the value.”
Building upon Lombardi’s recent comments, where he labeled Bernier as ‘instrumental’ in the Kings making the playoffs, Fox thinks it was just a case of the young goaltender doing what he’s done the last few years.
“I think it’s the same old Bernier,” explained Fox. “He has a calming effect because of his style. We can talk about it and we can analyze it, but there’s that intangible of you know what, because of his style… he makes saves standing up, and that’s just unheard of nowadays. But I think that lack of movement creates a calming effect. I think certainly down the stretches of years when you’re called upon, when you’re thrown in, you have to do it. I think Jonathan Quick would admit in the last two years, he had segments of the season where he had to go back to practice and work. In order to do that, you might be too tired for games, so you need someone to come in. That’s what Bernier did. He came in and played those games and played very well, and the numbers tell that. I think if you could sense the confidence of the team in front of him, I think everyone was comfortable. There was not an issue of, ‘Oh no, what’s going to happen?’…it was ‘OK, business as usual.’ Completely different style, I don’t know if you have two guys with more different styles, but the feel of the team was the same, and that’s the important thing.”
Turning to Frattin, primarily because he played in the Eastern Conference, Fox doesn’t have a real big book on him. Yet, he was able to share a few early thoughts.
“I know that he’s faster,” he said with a smile. “It’s an area where the Kings want to move up a little bit, in that speed issue…If you’re big and fast at the same time, that’s what you want. But, you can’t always get that. So then you have to go to the next. I think this is completely out of the blue, I don’t have a scouting report on him, but I say he’s a tweener again- he’s your third, second tweener. Probably third liner. But, he’s at the stage of his career where he is going to prove whether he can be a second liner.”
That tweener term has been used in the past for guys like Kyle Clifford, who continues to come into his own as an NHL player. But don’t confuse one guy for the other.
“I think Frattin would be more of the skill, quickness (player). I’m not sure about his physical game,” said Fox. “I don’t look at them as the same type of style. We’ve talked about that with Kyle for years though and you wonder where that’s going to go…I think this year, it’s nice to be able to play up with Kopi every once in awhile, and the coach is comfortable with you there. But it’s every once in awhile. That’s something they’ll figure out. Overall, it’s an upgrade in team speed. I don’t think the Kings, under Darryl Sutter, want to get away from being big and strong and gritty. You want that, there’s a place for that, there is no question there’s a place for that. The Kings won the Stanley Cup doing that, but… you know, get a little quicker.”
And just for good measure, what about Sutter’s recent surgery? That was a little different, eh?
“I knew he went in, I knew that it was high-tech,” remarked the former right wing. “But, I didn’t know they were going to do the robot stuff until after. I heard through the grapevine and I did see the Channel 2 piece also…It was a different atmosphere, no question. It’s an area where, now, he felt comfortable speaking about himself, because it was a personal injury issue. That’s where Darryl’s consistent. He sets the tone during the season – everyone is involved, not certain guys, not individuals, even himself as a coach. But you’re right, it was a different view of Darryl Sutter because he felt very comfortable just speaking about himself.”
Remember, don’t give him any sympathy though. That was Lombardi’s specific instruction.
“If there’s any coach that I know who is like a player, it’s Darryl Sutter. I do admit that, even as an announcer, nowhere near the game, I go to games – and since Darryl Sutter has taken over- feeling like I’m going to play and feeling like the Kings are going to win. He creates that atmosphere.”
For more on the trade, including comments from Lombardi and Frattin, see the links below.
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