|Dustin Brown organized off-season workouts that helped bring the team closer together.
Will there be a summer sequel?
Last July, more than a dozen Kings players came together at the team’s training center in El Segundo for two weeks’ worth of training and team bonding. The experience was cited, early and often, by coach Terry Murray as a big part of the team’s cohesion this season as the Kings made the playoffs and finished sixth in the Western Conference.
This week, as players conclude their exit interviews with management, it will be time to scatter to home cities, to get reacquainted with family and friends after a grueling seven-month hockey season, but will the players reconvene in July?
Team captain Dustin Brown
, who, along with alternate captain Matt Greene
, organized the summer session last year, said he would like to do it again.
"I think it’s a good idea," Brown said. "Even last year, it was optional. It wasn’t a mandatory thing, but a lot of guys showed up. I haven’t talk to Greener and we haven’t really discussed it, but it’s something I’m sure we’ll come up with. Me and Greener, we talk pretty regularly. I live here and he lives here for a lot of the year, so I’m sure we’ll do it."
Organizing two dozen or so hockey players can be a bit like herding cats, particularly when so many players have permanent homes in Canada, Europe (Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden) and the East Coast of the United States.
And while training camp doesn’t start until the second week of September, and NHL teams cannot compel their players to work out until then, Murray said he would stress, in exit interviews that started Wednesday, the importance of summer work and the benefit he believes the players got from bonding together last summer.
"That will be the primary message," Murray said, "what has been done here in the last couple years, and how well you guys have come together, and the chemistry. The locker room is so solid, and where it all started, in my mind, was through July, working out together for those three weeks, where you guys really became teammates.
"Now it’s going to get harder. That first step, to get to the playoffs for the first time in a lot of years, is the easier one of the two. It will be very difficult, next year, to make that step to go deeper into the playoffs. It all has to start right away. You don’t want to back away from the routine of living a pro life. That is important for young players to understand, and for veteran players, who have backed away from that routine over the last couple years maybe, to understand that and get right back at it."
Until July, at least, most players will have time to rest, although some will keep playing.
Jack Johnson has committed to playing for the United States in the IIHF World Championships, which start next week, and Alexander Frolov is expected to play for Russia. Wayne Simmonds has been rumored to be a part of Team Canada.
Brown said he will have oral surgery to help correct a problem with his teeth, while Anze Kopitar
said he will soon start the type of offseason work that helped him, last summer, improve his stamina and pace of play this season.
"I think most of my training I’m going to do back home," Kopitar said. "Now I kind of know what I need to do. This past summer was a really good indication to me, to really get to know my body and know what I need to do to perform at the highest level." Brad Richardson
, a native of Ontario, Canada, has played in Southern California for two full seasons now, but said he will take some time, at the start of the summer, to truly enjoy the area for the first time.
"I’m going to stay here for a little bit and get to enjoy L.A. a little bit and do some stuff," Richardson said. "I’ve never really been anywhere besides Manhattan Beach or El Segundo. I’ll hang out here for a little bit, and then I’m going to be back in July to train for a couple weeks. I haven’t really thought about it a lot yet, or made plans, because it’s been so quick, but there aren’t too many better places to live than down here."