Picking up where Part I of the Helene Elliott interview left off, here we go…
Scribe: You are the one handling the Doughty negotiations. G.M. Elliott, what is he worth, dollars, cap hit, years?
Elliott: You know what, it’s a two-way street. You are not negotiating in a vacuum. You are negotiating against a very savvy, and experienced agent in Don Meehan who is going to obviously maximize every dollar he can get for his guy. You look around and there is no comparable. People have said Dion Phaneuf and you look at some of the other numbers that have gone around. There is really nobody in the exact situation. We saw Doughty struggle for some of last season but we also know he can be brilliant at times. He is a franchise defenseman and you don’t find those in a lot of places. You also have to look at your payroll and see whose contracts are up over the next couple of seasons, you have to talk to your boss and say, “hey look, how far are you going to let me go with this?” You have a lot of factors, you have a new CBA coming that you don’t know what the terms are going to be in terms of free agency and all that. There are a lot of moving parts here and it is not an easy job.
Scribe: But if you had to make a decision and you had to put a ceiling on it, what ceiling do you put on it?
Elliott: I see no problem putting him at the level of an Anze Kopitar.
Scribe: Do you know what Doughty wants?
Elliott: Lots and lots and lots and lots of money.
Scribe: If you are Doughty’s agent, are you demanding $7.5?
Elliott: Doesn’t mean I am going to get it but when you sell your house, don’t you ask for a lot of money and know you will settle for something less? That is part of negotiating. You ask for the moon and you settle for a small asteroid. It’s an interesting situation. Drew Doughty is such a rare player. A franchise defenseman. Yes, we know he has his faults but he is 21 years old. He is going to get the idea you have to come into camp in better condition and if he does, can you imagine what he is going to be like?
Scribe: We saw a glimpse of it in year number two.
Scribe: L.A. may be getting a football team. Will you be the L.A. Times sports columnist covering the team?
Elliott: Football? No.
Scribe: What do you think generally of L.A. getting a football team again and what impact it may have on L.A.?
Elliott: I think that is an interesting question that I don’t have an answer for. We have had it pretty good here without having a team, without the blackouts, you get games here so fans have been happy. The quality of my life has not been lessened by the absence of an NFL team but a lot of people would like to see one here. It’s going to be interesting to see how it will be covered with a shrinking paper staff, shrinking space in the paper but I am sure the web presence would be very heavy and you may never see Jim Hill at a hockey game again.
Scribe: Do you consider yourself a Kings’ fan or an objective sports columnist?
Elliott: I cannot be a fan of a team, I am a fan of the game. You cannot go into this being a fan of any specific team. You have to like the game, the people. You know, I get emails from Ducks’ fans accusing me of being a Kings’ fan and emails from Kings’ fans accusing me of being a Ducks’ fan, you have to keep it down the middle and just be a fan of the game rather than any team.
Scribe: Hmm…so, if I ask you whether you are an Anaheim Ducks’ fan or an unfortunate victim in the unavoidable circumstance of covering that team and those were your only two choices, your answer would be?
Elliott: [laughs] Neither.
Scribe: That is too bad. Alright. How is that Anschutz interview request coming along?
Elliott: [Laughs] Yeah. I still would like it known that I did the last known interview with him in 1996 or 1997. I have it buried in the archives somewhere.
Scribe: Do you know what the most important question you would ask Phil Anschutz would be just in case Jacob and I get the interview first?
Elliott: [Pause] Oh, so you can steal my question? [laughs] [Pause] “How committed are you to making the Los Angeles Kings a winning team?” “How committed are you to continuing to own this team?”
Scribe: Where do you think the Kings will finish in the West?
Elliott: You know, it’s just really too early to say. You look at Phoenix and they lose Bryzgalov. Anaheim is not sure if Selanne is going to be back plus their goaltending remains in question and you don’t know what their goaltending situation is going to be with Hiller’s problems last season. I think we need to get a little into training camp and see how things shake out before you can make predictions. The Blackhawks have made some interesting moves and I am curious to see how they will bounce back.
Scribe: Were you surprised they signed Patrick Sharp?
Elliott: No. I think that was a brilliant move. You want him to be there. He is a cornerstone.
Scribe: Shea Weber. Does he stay a Predator?
Elliott: I doubt it.
Scribe: Do they trade him?
Elliott: It’s a cross roads in their existence. They have some free agents coming up and it’s a small market, a small but very fervent fan base. They don’t have maybe the corporate support teams in bigger cities like New York or Philly do. I love it there. It’s a great atmosphere and you really have to give an awful lot of credit to David Poile and Barry Trotz for continuing to build a contending team each year. Look at the defensemen the Predators have developed and brought into the league. They have done an incredible job. At some point, a player like Shea Weber will want to know, “look, are you going to spend a little more, are you committed to building an elite team here or are you going to continue to keep a small payroll?”, in which case you really can’t blame the guy for moving on.
Scribe: Now, if this Hall of Fame journalism thing bored you and you needed a change, tell our readers where a stint with Surly & Scribe would be at the top of your list?
Elliott: Oh, gosh, that would be my second choice.
Scribe: Because you know, we do pay in accolades and we would even put your name on the letterhead. Would that motivate you?
Elliott: If you spelled my name right.
Scribe: What would be your first choice, because I am somewhat offended?
Elliott: Move to an island, one of the Hawaiian Islands and string flowers for lei necklaces.
Scribe: You could do both, be on that Island and still write with us.
Elliott: Ok. That would work.
Scribe: I will find a way to make that happen…Helene, I have never heard Jacob this quiet. Jacob, are you still there?
Surly: I am listening.
Helene: He is so fascinated, he cannot possibly add anything…
Scribe: This level of silence has never happened before. This is a momentous occasion.
Helene: I am witnessing history.
Surly: Would this be the conclusion of your questions, Bobby?
Scribe: Yes it would.
Surly: Alright. Well, Helene, thank you for talking to us and if I may now commence my speaking portion of this interview…coming from being a Kings’ fans from the early 90’s, you have taken me through my entire career of being a hockey fan. You have never been afraid to speak your mind about the Kings. You have criticized sharply and praised highly. Could you explain your approach to editorializing and the place you believe it has in your profession?
Elliott: Well, I am in a different situation than most writers. I am a columnist. It is a columnist’s job to issue an opinion, to come up with an opinion as opposed to a straight news story. That confuses a lot of people and it may not be the best situation in the world to operate under because it confuses some readers but when I have that little drawing next to my name, that means I am a columnist and it is my obligation to write an opinion…and I think in anything other than a straight news story, I am watching a game, there are 82 games, to write every one as a straight news story doesn’t serve our readers. I think you need to analyze, look at someone over the course of a season and ask if so and so is progressing, do they still have the same powerplay problems, why do they have the same powerplay problems? I think it can work, in the sense of, it keeps players and it keeps management responsible. They have something and someone to be accountable to…at least I hope so.
Surly: How has the influx of blogs, Facebook and especially Twitter affected the way you do your job and do you find any danger in such short form reporting?
Elliott: A lot of danger. I think sometimes you try to express something in 140 characters and it lacks context. Sometimes you go for speed and you lose perspective. The immediacy of Twitter is great. You find something out, you tippy tap it and it’s out there but it is also important, the accuracy, and perspective is important and that is one of the things that is lost quite often.
Surly: If you could go back to the days where you only had to worry about the morning deadline for the paper, would you?
Elliott: Well, no. The way we get information now has changed so much. It used to be, as you say, you moved toward the deadline and if you missed it, that was it, the paper went to the press and if something changed or something to follow up on, you just waited two days later and then you got to it then. Now, there is the website, blogs, Twitter, there are so many different ways to disseminate information, people are so much more informed now than they used to be and there are so many more avenues for us. You used to get how ever many inches in the newspaper and that was it. Now, you can write blogs that are longer and give different perspective and more informal than the paper and fans like to see more and there is no room in the paper for it so you can put it on the web. It serves everyone.
Scribe: We adore you. Always a pleasure. Thank you so much for talking to us and I hope you won’t mind if we bug you throughout the season for a chat here or there.
Elliott: Not at all.
Scribe: You are the best. Take care, Helene.
Elliott: Take care guys.
As I wrote at the end of the interview last year, quality never goes out of style. Helene Elliott is a quality individual and columnist. We are very lucky to have her. GO KINGS!