"There's nothing I can do," said Cloutier, of the catcalls that have punctuated most of his stay with the Kings. "I can't control what they do. I can't start to worry about what people are yelling or thinking of my play or what I'm doing. At the end of it, it's going to make me better when I work my way out of it. I've been in that situation before, my first couple of years in Vancouver, and then I had a couple of successful seasons and it went away, so …
"In order to get it away, you need to put up some numbers and get some wins."
It's been interesting getting all of his reports from the Kings', Ducks' and Sharks' training camps, markets we don't necessarily see a lot coverage of at this time of year. The Kings, in particular, are an interesting study in a team trying to turn things around awfully quickly with a mix of free agents and young talent, and a few are picking them to surprise this season.
As the thinking goes, they just need a goalie.
Dan Cloutier was a solid goaltender in Vancouver, he really was. You can't win 30 games three seasons in a row and be a scrub, and while it's true he had some decent Canucks teams in front of him, they were never decent in the defensive end.
But the image most casual hockey fans have of Cloutier is of the Nicklas Lidstrom long bomb of 2002, or of that omnipresent Photoshopped image of the beach ball behind him in the goal.
He's not that bad — or at least he wasn't before that awful showing in the 2003 playoffs against Minnesota, the concussion and knee injuries after the lockout, and the lost season that was last year in Los Angeles. But he's played in tough markets in the past, received his fair share of heckling, and was often left hanging out to dry in Vancouver — a noted goalie graveyard.
The best-case scenario for him at this point just might be Jason LaBarbera standing out at camp and taking the starting role, because, at this point, Cloutier's not ready for it. He might even be a far better fit as a backup, where there's less pressure and you often face lesser opponents, and at age 31 with that unfortunate fat contract, he's not going to the minors in either of the next two years.
The Kings' record in their division was awful last season, something attributable to just how tough a go the Pacific is. Los Angeles won just six of 24 games against Anaheim, Dallas and San Jose in 2006-07, and even a .500 record in those games would allow them to stay in a playoff race through the trade deadline.
Rob Blake needs to be better, Jack Johnson needs to surprise, Ladislav Nagy needs to score and, yes, Dan Cloutier's going to have to play a role.
It's going to be interesting.