Bernie Nicholls – Legend, Consultant, Coach?

You have a few options available to you when it comes to getting Kings’ information. You can go to the team Insider, Rich Hammond, for interviews, game reports and press-releases in the disguise of blog posts. You can go to Gann Matsuda’s Frozen Royalty for some good quotes and, indeed, light commentary on the team. You can read Mayor’s Manor for the standard interviews (as he is in the media scrum with the others) as well as those no one cares or dares to post and fun information on prospects and former Kings’ alumni who come through town. For statistical analysis, you go to Jewels From The Crown. If you are on a meme kick, it’s off to The Royal Half you go for some fun. For the good old fashion kind of reporting, the kind that has information, opinion and the backing of independent media, your only choice is Helene Elliott of the LA Times, buoyed by Lisa Dillman. Or you can do the right thing and come here to Surly & Scribe for some raucous commentary, temporary insanity and unfiltered discussion.

So when you read that former Kings’ great Bernie Nicholls was on the ice for Kings’ practice this morning, where did you go for information and where did your mind go afterward? Did you read Rich Hammond tell us that:

Officially, the Kings are saying Nicholls is “in L.A. for a couple days”

Or did you read the Mayor (which Hammond also later posted):

When asked how long he’ll be here, he (Nicholls) offered a simple, “I have no idea.”

I don’t know if Gann posted anything about it yet. He’s a day-after-the-fact kind of blogger so I’m guessing he hasn’t.

And now you are here, for the ruckus.

Will Bernie Nicholls replace someone on the Kings? Jay, Jame, Jamie something. I have no idea honestly. All I can tell you is what I observe and what my intuition tells me. Something is up.

Going back in time…

When Darryl Sutter was hired he was asked about the assistant coaches. He mentioned John Stevens and Bill Ranford by name in several interviews. Just read the dang quote for yourself, from his initial press conference:

Question: Will you be bringing in any assistants, or will you stick with who is on staff?

SUTTER: “First off, with the existing staff, I think Johnny (Stevens) has done an awesome job, helping the team through this. I was really proud of him. With Billy Ranford, I know him from the past, and he’s from up in our area and does a lot of work. Right now, we just want to focus on — especially being close to the holidays — I just want to focus on this group. That’s the best way to put it, I think. I’m satisfied. Those guys are familiar with the team, and that really helps.’

So Sutter likes Stevens, likes Ranford, doesn’t mention Kompon by name, makes special note that it’s the holidays and puts his emphasis on familiarity. As we know familiarity can breed contempt, but for Sutter he needed people around him who were familiar with the team. After a time, Sutter knows he will be familiar with the team of his own accord and logic dictates that when that happens, the familiarity of his staff becomes less of a necessity. You don’t need a Spanish teacher once you know Spanish. Read between those lines and you get “I haven’t decided if I will keep Kompon for the long haul.”

Moving right along.

Sometime later Sutter mentioned Kompon by name, the same day he took the reigns on the powerplay in practice, otherwise known as usurping Kompon’s duties. Scribe wrote on the ensuing interview. That was December 30th.

Sutter once again emphasized familiarity.

Today we find out that Bernie Nicholls is taking active participation in practice. “Consulting” is the term used. Sounds like corporate bullshit to me. “Consultants” are brought in to makes changes. Consultants are the human equivalent of that sixth sense that flies have that tell them a big fucking hand is about to smack them out of the air.

Hammond told us:

A spokesperson reiterated that Nicholls is not a new coach.

I immediately wondered if this spokesperson was the same one who told Hammond at 6:48AM on December 12 that:

As of now, there is zero indication that any coaching change is on the horizon today

This being 8 hours before Hammond reported at 2:47PM of the same day that:

The Kings will announce shortly that Terry Murray has been fired

I don’t always know when I am reading truth or half truth, comments that have true insight or are merely deflective. As will always be the case with a professional sports team, particularly one run by Dean “I didn’t trade Patrick O’Sullivan” Lombardi, until a move is official it behooves the company line to be towed. Rich is the first mate on that tug boat.

The Mayor on the other hand is a deckhand and though he isn’t about to stick it to Lombardi the way Helene Elliott has no qualms doing, he also acts as more than a precursor to press releases.

You should read The Mayor’s full article today about Nicholls. Aside from some juicy and rather direct comments from Bernie about how terrible the Kings were under Murray and how much differently they are playing under Sutter, the man-o-the-Pumpernicholl gave us this quote about his interest in day-to-day coaching and/or consulting:

I love consulting. These guys, coming in and working with the guys and doing whatever it is – I really enjoy that part. Being involved, player wise, stuff like that – that’s really good. Being on the blackboard and the video and stuff, I don’t know if I’d like that as much. The other guys do a real good job at that. If I can just be hands on, player wise, I like that part.

What does all this add up to? Your guess is as good as mine, assuming you enjoy thinking critically. Will Bernie Nicholls coach the Kings’ powerplay soon? Maybe, maybe not. What we do know is that he is here and he is here for the clear purpose of helping move our man-advantage from abysmal to respectable. He is talking with players, he is consulting with Sutter, he will be on hand for anywhere from a few days to a week to indefinitely. Looking at all of the information available to us and the history laid out, my gut tells me that Sutter wants to take on Nicholls as an assistant coach.

Bernie himself sounds a little unclear whether that is something he wants to do as he quite clearly says he doesn’t really care for the minutiae that is part and parcel of the job. Is being irksome towards “blackboards and video and stuff” a good enough reason to turn down a full-time position should one be extended to him? I can’t say. Perhaps the offer has already been made and declined. Perhaps he is here for a trial run. Perhaps he really is just here to consult for a week and go on his merry way.

Regardless of the outcome and my personal desire for Nicholls to return to a position of importance with the Kings, I am glad he is here. We all know that Nicholls has a knack for offense (an understatement) and the Kings can use all the help they can get in this regard. I doubt a few days on the ice with a walking legend will be a detriment in any way for our players.

Before I wrap this up, there is one other aspect to all of this that I want to hone in on; nostalgia. No, not just the nostalgia the older King fans feel when they see or hear Bernie doing something with the Kings or the nostalgia younger fans like myself experience through osmosis. I speak of a generic nostalgia towards a tradition that hasn’t always been muddled by failure. Bernie Nicholls represents a part of Kings’ history that is laden with more success than many others. Nicholls helped the Kings reach the playoffs in 5 of his 9 seasons. The Kings haven’t been in the playoffs 5 out of 9 seasons since then. He has played in 21% of all the playoff series the team has ever played in, 23% of all playoff games and he was a part of 18% of all the Kings playoff wins. Another amusing stat, he has scored 3% of the goals the Kings have scored, as a team, over 43 years. By comparison, Luc Robitaille has scored 5%, and played in almost twice as many games (for you fact checkers out there I didn’t count this season). The point is that storied franchises keep their greats around and I hope Bernie can rub off some of his greatness of our boys.

If Dean Lombardi truly wants to build a culture of winning here, aside from the obvious need to start winning playoff rounds, putting this group of young hot shots in touch with the history that they carry forth is important. Remind these guys that they don’t just play for some franchise that has never won a Cup. Remind them that they play for a team that has developed and enjoyed some of the true legends of the game. Don’t shirk the culture of the crown, embrace it and improve upon it. If Bernie Nicholls’ presence here does nothing else, let it do that.

Nicholls is a source from which our LA Kings can draw pride, one that doesn’t just come from a highlight video but is flesh and blood. Let’s take the greats of our past for a greater success today.


Categories: L.A. Kings News

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36 replies

  1. He is allowed to coach if he promises to do the pumpernicholl from the bench each time we score on the powerplay. God I loved Bernie as a player. I wonder what kind of a powerplay coach he would make?

  2. Would love to see Ranford put on the pads after practice and see these two renew some old rivalries.

    • Only if we can chant Raaaaaaannfooooooord

      • Dude that was awesome back in the forum chanting that. I remember how exciting those games were. Those damn oiler teams were still so good even when we had gretz and then eventually half the old squad. I was cracking up to myself when we hired ranford, I kept thinking of the chants.
        Ah the memories, I remember getting John candys autograph on my program. I remember how the players would come out the door and get mobbed. We were all waiting for luc to sign our stuff while his gorgeous wife sat there so my buddy bailed on the line and got lucs wifes autograph! Hillarious…

  3. remember, this isn’t baseball!

  4. I would love to see some new help on the PP. We need to get that part of our game back. How many close games did we lose due to our PP inefficiency?

  5. Sutter was also asked recently (within the last week) about staffing changes where Kompon was specifically referred to, and answered no absolutely not.

    • He did not say “no, absolutely not”. I linked to Scribe’s analysis of that bizarre interview.

      The closest he said to absolutely not was “I’ve got no problems with the staff.”

      Hey, he may stick with Kompon. Certainly a possibility and more of a likelihood than I would prefer, but if you discount the possibility of Sutter bringing in one of his own guys, I think you take what is often merely lip service too much to heart. Or perhaps that’s just me being a hopefully optimist.

      • Oh don’t get me wrong, I believe EVERYTHING he has said (and not said) prior to that gave slightly more than subtle indications Kompon was toast–and I’m all for that (last season I felt all the TM haters needed to give TM a chance and give Kompon the boot first, but my mind quickly changed this season). I just thought the interview bears mentioning.

        • “…and Sutter chuckled when asked if he would got the rest of the season with the coaching staff intact.

          SUTTER: ‘Yeah. Absolutely. I put a lot of stock into that…'”

          I don’t think this is the interview I’m thinking of though. Now you’re going to make me overcome my laziness and go find it.

        • I also think its possible Sutter was unsure of Kompon and has since decided to stick with him for the rest of this season. My strongest feeling is that Sutter asked Nicholls to coach with him weeks ago, Nicholls declined and Sutter got him to at least come out for a week and consult. If Sutter couldn’t have his first choice in Nicholls, he isn’t going to get rid of Kompon for someone else just for the sake of it, instead he’ll take control of the PP and try and fix things with Kompon here and presumably, reevaluate in the off season.

  6. And no mention of the guy who broke the story – i feel so unloved

    • Sorry Matt, here’s a line just for you :)

      “Or for the proudly shameless and compulsively offensive perspective with a side order of injury updates, there’s Matt Barry’s Big Mouth Barry.”

    • That’s because Surly wrote it :)

    • I pointed this out on LGK when it happened, Rich Hammond actually omitted/botched the following sentence from Sutter’s quote at the press conference regarding the incumbent staff,

      “Jamie (Kompon) does a lot of work in the locker room, so… we just want to focus on… especially being so close to the holidays… I just want to focus on this group.”

      This quote appeared in the bigmouthbarry transcript, so kudos to you. Ironic that Surly went to Hammond as the go to guy for a quote on this particular instance in which Hammond’s omission actually created a false context to Sutter’s quote. Had Sutter actually failed to mention Kompon, it would have been very telling – as it turns out that was not the case.

      • Man I watched the press conference and I don’t even remember that. I remembered the one I put in there, googled “Sutter Kings Conference Call” or some such, got the hammond transcript and went on my merry way. Good catch.

      • How interesting. Hammond’s beautiful work strikes again. Now we have to fact check his quotes. Great.

  7. I went to the practice today . . . because I like watching grown men skate around in circles. Sutter had the players working on offensive zone entry. He was really doing a lot of instruction, stopping the drill and talking to guys, having other players model the way it was to be done. Totally different than Terry Murray. Seeing Nicholls was neat, and I do find it interesting that he had a different story as to why he was there than the official spokesperson for the Kings.

  8. … The Kings are setting aside a night at the end of January where they will announce that Luc Robitaille is the new GM, Dave Taylor as the assistant GM, Bernie Nicholls is the new coach, and Nicholls’ number 9 will be presented alongside 16, 18, 20, 30, and 99 to live in immortality from that night forward. It will also be the night where the Kings ditch the current logo of embarrassment for the old 60s-80s crown logo, and the purple and gold throwbacks will become the team’s official home jerseys, with the Kings wearing the old Chevrolet logo on their road whites to commemorate Bernie’s 70 goal season in 88-89. Wayne Gretzky will be announced as power play coach, and Mark Hardy will be brought in from Ontario to round out the coaching staff.

    Or so I can dream.

    • Why do you want Luc as GM?

      • … Why not? I guess for me it would be nice to have someone back in there who’s a product of this franchise instead of someone who nurtures a Flyers fetish – because frankly, what have the Flyers won in the last 35 years?

    • You’re such a tease.

    • I’m good with almost all of this. Especially the retiring of #9 for LA and the change to the REAL Kings logo and colors. Enough farting around with “what looks cool”. Go with tradition and heritage, that in time becomes cool. We all hate Detoilet, but face it the logo, colors and uni’s are awesome. Same for the Hawks, Habs, B’s….you don’t fuck with tradition.

      Bernie is talking X’s and O’s with them. The interview with Kopi yesterday he said the two are talking specifically about different reads and looks. What to do when the opposing player does… he is talking strat and planning with them.

      I love that he is out there with them. Personally I think that is part of what makes a very good club. For the current guys to meet the vets that are part of the history and heritage. They should do this more often and with more guys.

  9. Given all the speculation about what Bernie might be doing with the team, I really wonder what the real scoop is. We may never know…

  10. I think Bernie is just going to give some pointers to the players and be a set of eyes and ears for the coach. He won’t be talking about set plays, but more about attitude. For the coach he will be at one end of the ice during a game and look at the big picture or maybe follow just one or two players (on either side) and see if they are doing something that can be used.
    I don’t think Jamie is going anywhere soon. He is the Xs and Os guy (he was the video scout two years ago) and I think Sutter already has allowed more creativity than TM did. The team already has gotten away from the “pass to the corner then to the point then shoot” system TM talked about on the PP and at even strength. If by the All Star Break things still suck then Jamie may be given the freedom to improve his golf game.

  11. BERNIE
    nothing else needs to be said
    GO KINGS GO!!!

  12. Bernie wants to coach and I think he’s gonna get the nod to be the new PP coach. I think all the talk about not liking the blackboard stuff was just him not wanting to throw Kompon completely under the bus and maybe allow him to remain as video review coach. Here’s to hoping!

  13. Sucked when they traded him. That was a nice 1-2 center pairing with Gretzky.

    • … I hated to see Nicholls go, but the reality of it was that the Kings made one of the best trades in their history.

      To get both Tomas Sandstrom and Tony Granato for one player was robbery, and a big reason why the Kings had such a great team in 1990-91. Those two guys were worth around 80 goals between the two of them. Granato was Adam Deadmarsh with extra scoring ability. Sandstrom was every bit the prototypical power forward when he was healthy (which sadly wasn’t often with the Kings); only Zigmund Palffy had as good a wrist shot off the rush as Sandstrom did.

      • I hear you, and Sandstrom is still one of my favorite all time Kings, but…

        there hasn’t been a day since it happened that I wouldn’t have taken that trade back. Gretzky/Nicholls was magic, plain and simple. Would have been nice to see what they could have done with more than one season as linemates.

  14. I think you guys are reading too much into Bernie sticking around, and the next “legend” to show up who’s not already working for the Kings will probably stick around for a little while to help out also.

    It’s just a nice way to get some fresh input, from some experienced players who the guys can look at as roll models.

    I would imagine Bernie will be on his way in a little while.


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