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Cloutier: Sour Grapes or Hip Gate

March 12, 2008, 1:58 AM ET [ Comments]

It is no secret that the biggest thing the Kings lack is strength between the pipes. Fans like me are so happy to see a goaltender stop a rebound that we anoint him the bridge to Bernier… otherwise known as today’s flavor, Erik Ersberg. Before he is crowned anything, a post mortem to the long awaited reunion between Cloutier and the Canucks from Monday bears discussion.

One of the highlights of work commutes is more time with XM Home Ice. On Tuesday, there was Boomer Gordon explaining how Kings’ fans had been sold a bill of goods. Los Angeles’ efforts Monday, sans that guy, Cloutier, was embarrassing. Boomer explained that sure, the Kings had Kopitar, Brown, Cammalleri, Frolov, Johnson and O’Sullivan. The problem is the remainder of the team is a bunch of under-achieving veterans who have already started the off-season... Ouch! Seriously, ugly stuff.

The home team Monday were outshot nearly 2-1 and but for some posts, Cloutier and perhaps luck, the Canucks earned that win in spades. In fairness, I have taken newspapers to task for disrespecting my team. Monday, my team disrespected Vancouver. For whatever reason, Los Angeles owned the Canucks this season. Apparently, Kings’ players thought their opponents would gift the win just as other NHL teams presume Los Angeles will gift the two points in other games this year. Seriously.

In the wake of the latest loss, is a pretty ugly Vancouver Sun article where Cloutier paints the following picture:

“The team insisted he shed his birdcage wire mask and helmet, citing insurance issues. Cloutier was never comfortable in a traditional mask, and a few games into last season he was feeling physical discomfort.

He was having hip pain. He volunteered to keep playing because the Kings' other goalie, Mathieu Garon, had a broken finger. Cloutier's pain got worse, but the team insisted initially there was little wrong with him. Knowing his body, Cloutier pushed the issue. Only after a specialist said his career could be in jeopardy, the Kings sent him to Vail for season-ending surgery. In pain, Cloutier flew to Colorado in a middle economy-class seat and was lodged by the Kings at a Super-8 Motel about 50 kilometres from the clinic where he was treated daily.”

… As to life on the farm:

“Cloutier's wife, Nikki, accompanied her husband to the American League, where they lived in a hotel. They were expecting their first baby in December. As the due date neared, Cloutier asked the Kings to move them into an apartment. The team balked and said the Cloutiers should stay in their hotel.

….”But the greatest professional indignity was to come. In January, Cloutier reported to the rink in Manchester for a 12-day road trip and was told to go home, he wouldn't be playing. The Monarchs hadn't used him in eight weeks after Cloutier complained of hip pain. But the goalie said he figured he could have played after a week.”

Cloutier’s Hip Gate or Sour Grapes

The Kings response was provided to the Daily News’ Rich Hammond:

“According to the Kings, Cloutier insisted upon having the surgery as soon as possible, which meant booking flights and a hotel on Jan. 11, 2007 for a Jan. 12, 2007 surgery. That was a holiday weekend (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) and there was only one available flight to Vail, Colo. According to the Kings, that was OK with Cloutier. The Comfort Inn in Vail, located 10 miles from the clinic, was the only hotel to have rooms available on three consecutive nights, and the Kings decided to book that rather than have Cloutier change hotels mid-trip. The clinic later found a different hotel for Cloutier and his wife, and the Kings paid for all five nights.”

“... According to the Kings, the Cloutiers stayed in the team-provided hotel room for an undetermined period of time, after which the Kings asked Cloutier ``to continue in that situation'' -- meaning to stay in the hotel rather than get him an apartment.”

Kings Response

Where to start?

Having never played professional sports, I have no knowledge what teams do or do not provide for players. Even if I take Cloutier at his word, and even if the Kings owed him full rent and welched, how much should anyone feel sorry for a guy who has to pay his own rent when making $3.1 million dollars a year and rarely earning it? Does any team owe their players a free pass to finding their game? Or, more appropriately, why does Cloutier take no ownership in this? He needs to man up, take responsibility or frankly get out of the way.

This led me to thinking, what was his real history before the infamous trade that purportedly beached his career? Is his career defined by being a play-off goat, or is there more to this….

Cloutier was drafted by the Rangers and is most known there for his fight with Salo where he tried to take on the Islander bench. Watch here:

Cloutier vs. Salo

His next stop resulted from him being left unprotected in the expansion draft where he ended up in Tampa Bay. That turned into a short stint when he later got traded to the Canucks. In a 2002 CNNSI interview, he discussed his Lightning tenure:

“Playing in Tampa, we were rebuilding and had a lot of young players. At the time I was traded, I think Vancouver was sixth in the conference and in playoff contention. At Christmas time, we were out of it with Tampa…. But one of the things that I've learned from playing on rebuilding teams is not to let that affect you. And I think that's helped me out here, because I don't let things bother me, if I have a great game or a bad game.”

On the infamous Lidstrom shot:

“To be honest with you, it didn't stick with me. People will say it did, but I have forgotten about it. I've had a lot of bad goals in my career and I've never let them affect me. But obviously what happened after that one, it's pretty easy to say it did stay with me, but to me it didn't.”

Cloutier Speaks

It turns out that Cloutier was known for more then playoff goat during his Vancouver stay. Injuries played a role there. Here is what Nonis had to say after the 2005 knee injury that ended his season:

“. . . .he isn't giving up on Cloutier, despite an injury record that makes the 29-year-old more suited for the M*A*S*H* 4077 than for a National Hockey League team. Cloutier is under contract through next season.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't upset he's had all these injuries. I don't think we can point any fingers at Dan or blame him. I think he's done everything he can do. He got hurt playing the game and it wasn't something he did. He got run and hurt his knee. When he got a concussion, he got drilled by his own player. I'd say he's got more than his share of bad luck."

Cloutier’s MASH Canucks tenure

Here is what a blogger had to say about Cloutier’s knee season ending surgery:

“Cloutier’s legacy in a nutshell?

He’s been good in the regular season (three straight 30+ win seasons), awful in the playoffs and on injured reserve likely more than any other Canuck during his tenure there.”

Cloutier’s Vancouver Legacy?

In fact the other label that follows Cloutier is that he purportedly cannot stop a beach ball, which motivated someone to create this video:

Beach Ball Meet Cloutier

The latter video followed his Kings’ trade. The funny thing is scarily enough once upon a time Crawford compared Patrick Roy to Cloutier… what?!###!! Sad but true:

“Crawford, who knows both well, makes an interesting comparison between Dan Cloutier and MC’s former goalie, Patrick Roy. “Dan is a leader,” notes Crawford. “If you can get a guy with leadership qualities in goal, that’s crucial. I saw it with Roy. Whether you like him or not, he demanded things of his teammates that made them all better. Dan’s like that.”

Cloutier = Roy Not

I get that Cloutier wants to play. I just don’t think the Kings or any other organization owe him anything. His lack of ownership of his contribution to the current state of his career is seriously misplaced. Earlier this year, I looked at Monarchs’ statistics when Ersberg and Cloutier shared the net there. They both had similar GAA and save percentages, but vastly different wins and losses. I always wondered why players found W’s for Ersberg and losses for Cloutier… until now.

Carla Muller

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