|Jonathan Quick in retro gear (photo: Ikiri)
Fresh back from a five-day trip to Russia, Marcel Dionne arrived in LA last week to participate in the LA Kings Fantasy Camp. The night before he joined several other members of the Kings Alumni and this year’s campers, I met with Dionne for a one-on-one interview, where we covered a wide range of topics.
[note: His thoughts on Anze Kopitar were posted here]
On his trip to Moscow, Dionne spent time with another Hall of Famer, Phil Esposito. They were there to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Russia-Canada Summit Series – including an outdoor game on legendary Red Square, a contest that featured former NHL greats Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny.
Dionne’s 735 goals alone were enough to give some goalies nightmares. But, add in the more than 1,500 scored by that trio of companions and you’re talking about an unlimited highlight reel of how to pick up points in the NHL. Yet, in this feature, we’ll take a look at the other side of putting pucks in the net – the guys wearing pads and a mask and trying to stop those snipers.
We began with an obvious one, Jonathan Quick – is he the real deal?
When it comes time for the Vezina Trophy to be handed out in June, Dionne doesn’t expect Quick’s name to be called though.
“When a team wins you have a lot better chance to get it,” was the first part of his explanation. “You also have to remember, the Rangers are seen on the east coast, a lot of games. We don’t see the Kings or many other western teams as much. It’s something I dealt with when I was playing in LA too. So, it will probably go to (Henrik) Lundqvist.”
In addition to sounding like somebody who buys into the east coast bias that is so often written about, Dionne also supported his first statement about the importance of winning.
“I consider the top four teams right now to be the Rangers, Detroit is still sniffing around – even though their record on the road isn’t too good – and then Vancouver and Boston…I think the Rangers have been the most consistent team. Lundqvist has played a big part of it.”
When he’s not traveling, Dionne spends most of his time managing his sports memorabilia shop near Buffalo – giving him plenty of time to keep an eye on another great goalie, Ryan Miller of the Sabres.
“I’ve watched him the last eight or nine years. He’s been a very dominating player for them. At the same time, now he’s just having a so-so year. But, he’s still a great goalie. He just needs a team (around him).”
Like many observers, Dionne doesn’t view goaltending as a strength for more than a handful of teams around the the league – “This year, for the first time, I see that goalies are not as predominate as we saw them at one-time, like with Patrick Roy.”
Yet, any concerns he has with the state of goaltending seems to have as much to do with the talent pool as it does with coaching.
“I’ve never been a big fan of coaches pulling goalies. In the days I played, if a guy had seven goals against, he stayed in. Now, you might have a goalie (give up) two or three and he’s gone,” said Dionne. “Unless a goalie doesn’t want to perform or he doesn’t feel like he should be there – perfect example, Grant Fuhr, it never bothered him to have six or seven goals (scored) against him…Like the Toronto goalies, (James) Reimer and (Johan) Gustafsson, every night it looks like they don’t want to be in net. It’s like, if a shot goes in, ‘Am I going to be yanked?’ It shouldn’t be like this. Goalies have to have confidence too. You win and lose with them.”
So, back to Quick and the Kings. With such solid goaltending, could this be the group of players that finally takes the organization to the promise land??
“The Kings were definitely a top-five team to start the year. There were really high expectations. They were strong in goal, they were strong defensively. They were an up-and-coming team,” Dionne explained. “If these guys get loose, look out, the Kings could be a very difficult team to play in the playoffs. If the guys we think should be scoring start to get going, wow – that could be really something. But, you have to get there first.”
To read more from Dionne, please see the related articles linked below.