TRAINING CAMP COVERAGE: Story includes audio and video interviews from Day 2 of the Los Angeles Kings 2013 Training Camp.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Going into their 2013-14 training camp, it is no secret that the Los Angeles Kings are currently over the National Hockey League salary cap, and they have also exceeded the league-wide roster limit, primarily due to the fact that they have nine defensemen on their active roster.
Simple math should tell you that something’s got to give. But NHL teams have until the start of the regular season to get under the salary cap and down to the roster limit, and for the time being, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi is quite calm, despite the predicament.
“[We will] let it play out,” said Lombardi. “We’ll see. We’ll take too many. I’d rather be in this situation.”
“To me, defensemen are like good pitchers,” Lombardi added. “You can’t have enough of’em, so I’d rather deal with this problem than the other one, so we’ll see how it plays out, and part of that is Willie [Mitchell]’s health (he passed his physical examination, and has been cleared to play, but will likely have to play some catch up in terms of his physical conditioning].”
Head coach Darryl Sutter had similar thoughts.
“If you look at it, there’s Keaton [Ellerby], [Alec Martinez], [Jake Muzzin], and Jeff [Schultz] who are competing for a roster spot,” Sutter observed. “All young guys. Let’em play. Let’em figure it out and decide.”
“I want’em all to play in the NHL,” Sutter added. “It’s just that they’re all probably not going to be able to play here unless we run into a big injury thing the next two-and-a-half weeks.”
Since the end of the 2013 Western Conference Final, knowing that the Kings were between a rock and a hard place with eleven player contracts up for renewal, and with the salary cap dropping by $6 million, there has been a considerable amount of speculation (including by yours truly) that defenseman Alec Martinez was likely to wind up playing elsewhere this season.
The reason? After being a solid contributor to the Kings’ success during their 2011-12 Stanley Cup Championship season, Martinez struggled mightily last year, scoring just one goal and adding four assists for five points, with a -2 plus/minus rating and ten penalty minutes in 27 regular season games. In the playoffs, he played in just seven games, recording two assists, with a -4 plus/minus rating and eight penalty minutes.
Lombardi pointed to the loss of defenseman Matt Greene (along with Mitchell; Greene played in just five regular season games last season), as a big reason for Martinez’s problems.
“The biggest thing with Marty has always been believing in himself, and in fairness to Marty, he got a little off-track,” Lombardi explained. “But people forget that this team, with what it accomplished, lost two guys who really round out our top six, in Greene and Mitchell. Part of Marty’s game really meshes well with Greene.”
“When the players’ games fit with each other the player has a role, and he knows what’s expected of him, and what’s expected of him fits with his abilities,” Lombardi elaborated. “I think he had a hard time adjusting to that, at times, last year, because we missed those two guys.”
“I think Marty’s biggest thing is to continue to believe in [himself]. Him and Greener were a big part of the success we had.”
Martinez said that he spent some time over the summer trying to find some answers, but chose not to share them.
“I took time to reflect this summer,” he said. “I think things like that stay within the locker room, so I’m not going to say anything like that. But I know I can be better. That’s no secret. I’ve talked to the coaching staff and management. I know what they expect from me, and what they want from me. I’ll do my best to develop that part of my game, and keep working hard.”
To that end, Martinez came into camp in great physical shape.
“I feel like I came to camp prepared,” said Martinez. “I worked hard over the summer, and came [into camp] in shape.”
That hard work did not go unnoticed.
“He’s well-trained, [in terms of coming into training camp with improved strength and conditioning],” said Sutter. “He did a heck of a job [over the summer].”
If Martinez is worried about his status with the Kings, he is not showing it.
“It’s good to have a lot of bodies,” he said, referring to the glut of defensemen. “It’s good to have depth. From an individual standpoint, you just work hard. You’ve just got to focus on your own game. Get your own game in order so that you’re playing well, and let the chips fall where they may.”
“If you think about that stuff too much, it can get the best of you, so you just focus on your own game, and try to play as well as you can,” he added.
One reason for Martinez’ positive attitude is that he understands and accepts the business side of the game.
“I don’t [feel like there is added pressure],” said Martinez. “That’s the nature of the game. This is the business side of it, I guess. You can only carry so many guys. As a professional athlete, you know that’s the environment that you’re getting into, and I guess we’re all willing to do that.”
“That’s the nature of pro sports,” added Martinez. “You’d be stupid to think that you’re not going to run into a situation like that throughout your career.”
Whether he is feeling added pressure or not, Martinez is focused only on what he can control: himself.
“I have confidence in my game,” he noted. “I’ll just keep focusing on myself, work hard, let the chips fall, and go from there.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Alec Martinez (3:03)
Darryl Sutter (5:58)
2013 Training Camp Video Interviews – September 12, 2013, via FrozenRoyaltyNHL on YouTube
Frozen Royalty by Gann Matsuda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may copy, distribute and/or transmit any story or audio content published on this site under the terms of this license, but only if proper attribution is indicated. The full name of the author and a link back to the original article on this site are required. Photographs, graphic images, and other content not specified are subject to additional restrictions. Additional information is available at: Frozen Royalty – Licensing and Copyright Information.