MayorsManor goes one-on-one with Kings GM Dean Lombardi

Shore Nick - Black Aces Kings 2013
There’s no denying that being a General Manager in the National Hockey League is a year-round job. In addition to putting a team together for the NHL’s regular season, there’s scouting, the draft, salary cap related contract issues, trades, injury management and much more. Just this season alone, Kings GM Dean Lombardi oversaw multiple deals with other clubs, dealt with countless doctors regarding injuries to Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, plus worked with Ron Hextall and staff on various transactions related to the team’s AHL affiliate in Manchester – where they signed several free agents and recently added their top college defenseman.

On Monday, as he stood watching over about a dozen of his prized prospects participating in a late afternoon practice, we had a chance to spend some one-on-one time with Lombardi and pick his brain on a myriad of player development related topics. Here’s some of the interesting insight he offered up…

On the Black Aces being back in town:

“Well I think it’s invaluable that they see a playoff game. I think it’s hard to explain to a young player, how hard it is at the highest level. You can’t describe it, but if you bring them to a playoff game and have them stand by the boards, they see how hard it is. That, in itself, is invaluable. That’s what kids don’t understand about this level. They think the next step is as easy as every other step, right? Because they’ve always been top players coming up in junior and college. They think the next step will be just as easy. And I think when they see that St. Louis series up close and personal, they realize how it’s a lot of work.”

On the selection process used for bringing prospects up during the playoffs:

“We kind of went through the list. And the guys, like (Mark Andre) Cliché was hurt. We lost a lot of guys, losing Clune and Hicks, some of these guys are waivers to restock again. So I don’t know who’s not here….Part of it too is you want to give a kid every chance. The kids you might decide not to bring have generally been pros for (maybe) four years. So I don’t know if it’s, ‘This guy’s an A-prospect, this guy’s a B-prospect.’ I don’t think we really look at it like that. I think it’s more a case of, ‘Okay you’re a first year pro, there’s still upside, so let’s not waste any time.’”

[note: Kurtis MacDermid, a 6-foot-3 defenseman from the OHL, signed as a free agent after being invited to Development Camp last summer, was a late add and will be joining the group on Tuesday or Wednesday.]

On how easy it was to sign Derek Forbort and Nick Shore:

“You know, Forbort went pretty easy, and then Shore was, I don’t want to say it was a difficult decision per se, but it was more methodical. Forbort pretty much had his mind made up prior to the season. I think Shore was probably a little bit of a different case. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t hard when he made his decision. But he was much more methodical.”

On reports that Shore finally signed because the Kings agreed to burn the first year off his Entry-Level Contract:

“I don’t know if it was that. I don’t know. Yeah, probably. You know, in terms of the kid, he never mentioned that. All the questions he asked were what our plans were for him, and where we saw him fitting in. I didn’t know that was an issue to be honest with you. The thing about it is, particularly with the way the entry-level system is now…As a practical matter they just need to focus on (the fact) the first contract is not where you’re going to get set, right? So from our perspective you try to impress upon them there’s a long way to go to where a contract should really be an issue. Maybe your third one. That means you’ve probably arrived, and maybe you are set. I don’t know. Like I said, in terms of us, when we sat down with him it was never an issue. It was all hockey questions.”

On if it’s any easier convincing prospects to sign with the Kings since winning the Cup:

“It cuts both ways, because guys look at it the other way. They might think they can’t play right away, and would rather go to a bad team and play. Depends on the kid. That’s why you try and impress upon…eventually a player, the process they go through – they want to play in the league, then they want a role, then they want to win, right? That’s usually the mindset. But in a lot of ways too, if you look back at how many young players Detroit was able to integrate, and even Colorado during their hey-day, I think part of that was because those kids came into good organizations that were winning. So when they were ready, you were able to break them in without putting the spotlight on them, right? And then they were able to learn from guys that had won. So when agents are saying, ‘Go to this team, because you’ll play right away,’ – in a lot of ways they’re doing the kid a disservice, because it’s not the way to break them in. Like I said, Detroit and Colorado were notorious for…How many times (Chris) Drury and Henrik (Zetterberg) come up? The focus ain’t on them. They’re really good players, but they’re able to break in, not put all the heat on them, and then learn from really good players like Sakic and Forsberg, and some of these guys. To me, that should be an advantage. But because of the way these kids and the agents are looking, because the sooner they get…the bottom line still comes down to the kid. There’s no shortcuts. If you’re going to want to play in a series like that St. Louis series, there’s no shortcuts. It’s gonna be a lot of work.”

On how close he was to signing 2011 draft pick Michael Mersch last month:

“That was kind of one where I think we’re OK. I went there to meet with the kid and meet with the coach. And I was OK either way what he decided.  He’s still a boy. The same with (Nic) Dowd. I guess it’s like one where you wanna give the kid the pros and cons. Wisconsin’s a great program. The coach is a pro. So the meetings with him, he understands the level that kid has to get to. So you feel comfortable with the coach there. It’s more to say, we’re all on the same page. And then also to say, ‘Hey, this is what you need to get better at.’  Not working on it here, we’re good with that.  So we didn’t go in there with either of them with a hard-sell sense. It was, we’re good either way, and we’re comfortable, and we’ll support your decision. But when you’re done next year, don’t be dinking around. Like Forbort, right away, get going. Nick (Shore) was probably a little different, because I think it was probably getting a little too easy for him.  If you look at his numbers, he was a true freshmen, right? What he did his freshmen and sophomore year was pretty good. Then it kind of leveled off this year. And I think he needs the next challenge. So he was a little nervous that it kind of leveled. Then, they lost their coach and everything.  He’s actually a really talented kid, like his hockey sense. You watch him sometimes, he’s truly a guy that knows where the puck’s going versus chasing it around. He’s a smart player, and he’s got by at times because he is so smart. I really did think that he needed the next challenge.”

For more information on the Kings’ prospects skating as Black Aces, click here for our initial report… or click here to see the 2013 mid-season prospect rankings.

RELATED CONTENT:  Nick Shore talks reporting to LA, signing his ELC and more

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John Hoven is a member of the of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and co-hosts Kings of the Podcast. He is also the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com, which has been named Best Sports Blog in Los Angeles by LA Weekly and Hockey Blog of the Year by Yahoo Sports. Click "ABOUT OUR TEAM" above for a full bio.

Comments

  1. Wow, he always gives a lot of info. A lot to digest

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