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.