The Subtlety of Vocabulary And The Message It Sends


The latest buzzword.

Earlier this week I wrote on the Kings’ lack of a killer instinct. After last night’s loss to the Stars, Terry Murray said the team lacked desperation, a thought Brown parroted back to the media in broken record fashion.

BROWN: “We have to be more desperate right now. We have to be more desperate the rest of the year. We aren’t playing with enough intensity or enough desperation. We are a good team and now we are not playing like one. We need more desperation and more intensity, and that starts with individuals. We can’t do it alone…you have to get yourself ready as a player on this team. Right now, we don’t have enough guys having that desperation that we need. Look around us. I think we have what it takes in this room regardless (of) who is in or out of the lineup. It’s up to the guys in here. This is our team.”

It may seem easy to say this is good, that the team recognizes the problem, a lack of killer instinct, a term even Hammond used in his post game poll. But… Brown didn’t say killer instinct. Brown and Murray said desperation.

Desperation is something that those with killer instinct smell in others and devour.

A few games ago, effort and intensity was not the problem. No one looked at this team and thought they weren’t trying or weren’t playing hard. Apparently this is no longer the case. Suddenly the team’s problem is intensity, effort and being ready to play. This is according the team’s captain.

How quickly we forget that the problems were no different a week ago when everyone on the team was busting their asses and still coming up short.

Desperation is a loser word.

Desperate teams are, at best, tough to play against. Remember that fun saying? Tough to play against. Something the winner never needs to utter.

To approach the game from a standpoint of focusing on increasing desperation is to admit that one has already screwed up. To say to the team “you need to be more desperate” is one step above saying “you aren’t good enough, so you have to try twice as hard.”. It’s like Brown and Murray are the teachers of that poor little student who just keeps getting bad grades. “Sorry Jimmy, but you need to study twice as hard as everyone else because you aren’t as smart as they are.”

What a demoralizing message to send. One they aren’t even aware they are sending. Subtleties in language are very real and very important. Words carry connotations that when misused, defy the purpose of their being said at all. Desperation is supposed to be a motivator but for me it is a non-starter, an admission of defeat before success has been attempted.

What should the buzzword be instead? Well, killer instinct works. But I have a better one.


The Kings need to be ferocious, to play with the sense that when an opportunity comes to score, to punish the other team, to take a lead or strike back when a lead has been taken from you, that instinct takes over and determination wins the day. Not desperation. Playing with desperation leads to mistakes. Playing with desperation allows fear of failure to supersede ideals of victory. Playing with ferocity is a recyclable source of confidence. If Murray is in the locker room telling these guys to be more desperate, then Murray doesn’t understand how people react to language. Then again he didn’t understand that it was demoralizing to tell his players in Philly that they choked, so why should we expect a different understanding of the human psyche now?

Turning this ship around does not start with defining the team as a wounded animal. It starts with brazen confidence and trust in one’s own ability. If doubt has crept in then positive reinforcement and a rededication to practice are the panacea. If the team is bleeding, put a bandaid on it and make the other guy bleed instead. Don’t lick your wounds and frantically cling for dear life. You will get eaten. Other teams will smell that desperation, they will prey on it and they will exploit it.

So Terry, next time your team loses a game by one goal, don’t go into the locker room and tell them they have to be desperate. Don’t acknowledge that a one goal deficit is a such a daunting discrepancy to overcome that they need to embody a term used only when one has run out of options. Tell them that it’s just one goal, one measly little goal. They know how to score, you know they can score, we all believe they will score and to go out there and play with ferocity.

Categories: L.A. Kings News

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42 replies

  1. Yup. Very good article and so right. Language has all sorts of connotations to it, and desperation isn’t a good one. That much is for sure. You aren’t even half way thru the season and you have to play desperate the rest of the way.

    That implies a serious depletion of energy as well. There wouldn’t be much left of them by the time the playoffs would come around.
    Anyway, very appropriate thread.

  2. Well said and puzzling to see a team with the talent to acheive and players capable of scoring , underachieving. Killer instinct and ferocity went down on Dec 1 with Mike Richards. He’s the only forward who burns killer and you can see it in his eyes and he generally plays every shift with an insatible appetite. Scuderi, Mitchell and Greene have it, but it’s lacking elsewhere.
    The coach is more like an undertaker, no fire in his eyes, no motivational impact and I know that look all too well. I live in Phila and still blame him for not preparing his tteam in the 1997 finals. They all had the deer in the headlights look from the opening introductions Game 1. He’s still yogurt in a world of salsa.

    Tenacity and desire, not being satisfied and being hungry all the time, that starts behnd the bench, creating that fire, putting together lines that compliment each other (huge Fail on TM’s part waiiting 22 games to have Richards and Gagne play their first shift) , adapting to changes within the game, that’s all partof it. For him to say after last night’s game that he was happy with the 5 x 5 play- well that gives you your answer, doesn’t it??
    TM has little knowledge of time managment and how to best use it. I guess I’m spoiled because Lavvy is a master of the Timeout.

    I know when Dustin Brown was named Captain, he was most likely the best choice but I haven’t seen leadership showing in all areas this year from him. Wearing the C and being the captain can be the same or not. In this case, not. Richards is the leader and his loss is felt/seen in all aspects of the game .They are just not the same with that passion and fire he brings.

    I don’t see them winning many games until he returns, becaues nobody has stepped up to take the baton. Columbus is the only teaam I see them beating.

    I still can’t figure out how Lombardi can’t see that the coach has not fire, and the system is failing. How many slots do the Kings drop before he wakes up?

    • Do you really think Richards is ready to wear the C again? I realize even with the C responsibility he’d still only be under a fraction of the pressure he was under in Philly. I’m not even trying to imply he failed at the C. I just think he might benefit from a cooling off period. I also think if he was put in the C role Murray would just hold him back and frustrate him. Seems to me that giving him the C should wait until we get a new coach and/or until next season. I think the team would definitely benefit from a fresh perspective. I also think Brown could theoretically still be a good C if Murray hasn’t damaged him beyond repair. I guess we’ll see…

      And sadly I also looked at the games for the rest of the month and also said “Well, at least they’ll beat Columbus.”

      • I guess maybe I phrased that wrong. Whether or not Brown wears the C, Richadrs so far has been the leader of the team , the one the players seem to follow. And if the chance ever came up next year or beyond, he’d do fine. He’s been captaining teams succesfully since at every level he’s played at, including Phila.
        I guess maybe it’s hard for Brown, being captain with Richards on team??? I dunno….I just don’t see much in the way of real leadership with Brown in all aspects that it should be

    • Hey Deirdre, you’re a good writer. Also, the comments about the fire, I so agree with that. If a team is a reflection of their coach, then you can see that they don’t play with any fire. There is a difference between trying hard, and playing with passion.

      Me, I live in NY and have been watching the Rangers games. It’s like, where did these guys come from? Stepan and Anisimov seem to be scoring all the time. Meanwhile the Kings don’t have one flippin forward who has stepped up, other than Richards, who they didn’t draft in the first place?

      Also, DL is looking less wonderful as time passes. Who are the four key Kings? Quick (DT), Anze (DT), Richards (Philly) and Doughty (DL, but with the number 2 pick). With all the draft picks they’ve had I can not fathom how come he isn’t responsible for one single player who has stepped up this year. I would say Doughty, but he clearly hasn’t stepped up this year.

      If you wanna compete against Detroit, Pitts, SJ, Vancouver and Chicago you’ve just gotta do better than that. My point being that its a shared responsibility between DL and TM.

  3. Desperation has an “at all costs” air to it that also carries a lot of negative vibes. Like you said it begs for mistakes to be made. It is also reckless, implies a last resort where all other options have been exhausted and you don’t know what to do now. It at least implies working hard and giving it everything you’ve got left, which is obviously what Murray is zeroing in on, but that hard work is saddled with merely hoping something good will result from that work. Ferocity will make something happen. Ferocity will find something, bend something over, show something a bottle of lube and throw it aside and laugh, and finally make something happen whether something wants it to happen or not. If players are ferocious they can take successes and say “fuck ya! i made that happen and i can make it happen again!” No matter how hard their working, desperation inevitably leads to “phew! i hope that happens again…” We don’t want that.

  4. … I think we should bust out a thesaurus and come up with some new words that mean essentially the same thing as the word “intensity” does. That will surely make the team better!

    • Words matter. You may want to out of hand deny that hockey players are human being like the rest of us who respond in subconscious ways to language that is fed to us, but you’d be wrong. Assuming you did that of course. I wouldn’t want to infer meaning from your comments or, in other words, jam a fistful of words down your throat. :)

      • … I’m just being funny. You have your way of looking at the situation, and I have mine, and everyone else has theirs.

        I actually think intensity is needed, and that’s all. Mental strength is needed; focus on the task at hand. Look at the rush up ice that eventually led to Daley’s goal last night. Williams went out of his way to try and almost butt-end a guy (I think it was Dowell), then lost his stick. Silly stuff, and now he’s out of the play. Johnson blocks the initial shot or pass by Vincour, then has possession – but just gives the puck away. Guys are just not focused on the task at hand. It’s a lack of intensity – not knowing what to do next, not looking at the big picture.

    • By the way JT, you do realize that the only solution you have offered in recent memory is essentially “the Kings will eventually get better.”

      Devil may care, throw your hands up in the air and send up a prayer!

      • I really dislike JT. He obviously is just a troll on these boards. Disagrees with every single thing anyone brings up. The dude has no solutions to anything, but oh will he come quick and put everyone else down for their thoughts. Guy is a joke.

        • That’s A bit harsh. I like JT quite a lot. I like that his comments often make my face twinge with an embolism caused by his bizarre combination of logic and myopic logical fallacies.

          Debate is good an he’s not without a point. I just think he draws the wrong conclusions and at other times sees things in a very different light.

          Agreeable discussion gets boring. I like to have my opinions challenged as much as I crave them to be affirmed.

        • I really dislike JT.

          … No shit.

          • Hate is a strong word, and for all I know you’re a decent dude.

            But you and hockey are like ice cream and tomato soup… they don’t mix. But I’m sure you could come up with a reason why its good.

        • That is crazy talk. JT agrees with me plenty – he just won’t admit it.

  5. “Desperation” = playing to avoid losing
    “Ferocity” = playing to win. Win early. Win big. Win often.

    Desperation is what happens when you focus exclusively on building a defensive structure. Sure, you need a strong, solid, dependable D. But D can’t win games. D can only keep you from losing. The object is always to win.

    Fire Murray.
    Let the thoroughbreds run; let the plow horses plow. We have both.

    Just. Fire. Murray.

    And, build for 2012-13. This season is irretrievably lost.

    • The chased gazelle is desperate; the lion ferocious. ’nuff said.

      • Anyone else watching the SJS v. CHI game. Chicago just showed the definition of tenacity and ferocity.

        Oh, and they pass the puck cross the fucking front of the net. A lot.

        • Honestly I’m finding it depressing watching other teams play. That never used to be the cases. It begs the question ‘those guys are professionals and look what they do….. how come the Kings are professionals too and look what they don’t do…. or more appropriately how damned boring and lacking in creativity they are – currently’…. not that that can’t be changed.

    • You had me until irretrievably lost. How dare you, sir.

      • I own you, hehehehheeeee.

        Do you disagree?

        I hope, I truly hope and wish that it is not. But I can’t see us doing this…

        “The Kings need to play at about a .632 pace to cross the playoff threshold. That would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 31-17-5 from here on out. There are currently ten teams playing above .632, five in each conference. In order, they are the Wild, Flyers, Rangers, Red Wings, Bruins, Blackhawks, Blues, Canucks, Panthers and Penguins.” From Quisp at

      • Surly,

        The sooner you accept it, the better prepared you will be.

        Kings are done. Dean will wait too long to make a move. Murray should have been gone at game 20.

  6. “Ever since I was a young boy, I played with hockey pucks, from Toronto down to Philly, I’ve never seen a SCHUMUCK, but I aint seen nothing like him in any rink at all, that Deaf, Dumb and Blind coach, sure is the worst of them all.”

  7. I think frantic hockey is sloppy hockey. I don’t think the problem is dedication, or willingness to work hard – every face on that bench last night was willing to do what it took to put a puck in the net. It’s chemistry and confidence. TM has been trying to create chemistry by switching up the lines all the time, but he might have outsmarted himself. The team needs time to create its new personality with Ryan Smyth gone – I really think that guy had as much to do with the locker room environment as he did on the ice last season. He’s a big loss in more ways than one.

    I expect the Kings to find their groove, and for Richards to act the captain even if he isn’t wearing the C. It ain’t the letter than makes you a leader…

  8. No amount of vocab is guna change this team. The return of richards should help but were fucked in the long run. I look forward to seeing murray gone and if not that, seeing DL pack his bags at seasons end.

    • To those who worship DL – like JT :) – he is looking very mortal and fragile these days. I take him for what he is. A GM that has done some very good things and some very bad things. I give him a B. JT may give him a higher grade. Again, my biggest worry – he makes a dumb desperation trade.

  9. Like I said earlier, Dean needs to fire Murray this week to salvage the season. Let’s see if it comes true.


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