Lombardi on Loyalty and Hockey Not Being His First Love

Dean Lombardi LA Kings MayorsManorThere is still a tremendous amount of content to come following yesterday’s meeting with LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi. Two articles have already been published (see here). Now, here is the architect of the Kings’ two Stanley Cups talking more about the future…

On if he will continue to show such loyalty to players after the team missed the playoffs this year:

“From a mechanical perspective, there’s only so much cap space. Eventually you know you’re going to take some hits. … Do I still believe in [loyalty]? Absolutely. If you want to talk about team, and stress team, there are certain values that immediately come to mind and two in particular: competing for each other and loyalty to each other. That’s a team. Now, in today’s day and age — and you see it in football, you see it baseball, or whatever — the system in a lot of ways turns players into independent contractors. You never had this when we were growing up; I get it. But the idea of Pittsburgh or any of those teams before the lockout — Yzerman and all those guys – and how much they were together. The great teams that we grew up with, whether it’s the Celtics or those Laker teams or whatever, it was probably easier to do that because there wasn’t this constant movement. Also, not only do you have movement because a player is free to go, but even if a team wanted to keep you, they can’t [afford you], even if you had the right place.

“That said, I am not giving up on the idea that loyalty is still part of building a team. But you better exercise it very judiciously, and I think that’s one of the things I’ve had to learn. That is not the point the finger at any players or anything else right now, particularly the ones you were mentioning there. But you could easily have an argument with another general manager and say, `Wake up, Dean.’ Clearly, you see this in baseball – players are commodities, treat them as such. Which means that those values of each other and loyalty don’t apply anymore. I will not go that far, although now I recognize that. When you hit that well of cap space on loyalty, it has to go to the right player and it better be returned. Whether I’m right or wrong or not, this is a classic case where when you’re in this position and what I grew up with, you’ve got to be careful because I could be completely all wet. Those new-wave baseball guys could be absolutely right – `They’re commodities. Your idea of team and stuff, that’s done, Dean, grow up.’ But I’ll tell you one thing. I hate to tell you, but hockey ain’t my first love. My first love is team. And I don’t think you can expect to have a room that’s really a team unless those principles of competing for each other and loyalty are in that room. Because then it’s not a sport anymore, quite frankly, and me and the dog are going hunting.”

On if the Kings players are perhaps not as loyal to each other as they once were:

“The beauty of this, other than the trash-can thing, is that players were never pointing fingers at each other. They clearly care. I’ve got no problem with that. We’ve got a lot of special people in that room. We’re not going to be able to bring everybody back, but some of those guys that aren’t going to be able to come back, we’ll never forget them. They have left something here that is invaluable. Not once did a player complain about, saying, `He’s getting that. Did you see that? It’s his fault. He’s not scoring.’ I think that’s probably one of the most frustrating things for them. We talked about it during the year, flipping the switch and everything else. Deep down, we all knew that they weren’t working the way they needed to work. I think they were as frustrated about this whole thing as we were. The key is for them to learn from it now, but I never doubted that they cared. I think they were as frustrated as we all were, about why we couldn’t figure it out. I think they did eventually, and then I think they ran out of gas.

“You start getting into those intangible things and those spiritual things, and I could go on forever. It doesn’t translate into tweets. What they have are those things you can’t define. It’s a feel thing, and we all felt it during the year. Against Edmonton, I knew we were in trouble. We were in trouble after we ran the table in New York. But it was a different kind of trouble. I was worried about their gas tank. Early in the year, you’re pulling your hair out. We were going into Buffalo and laying those stinkers. The Florida game; that wasn’t gas, our head wasn’t right. We got our head right, but I think we ran out of gas.”

We have lots more from yesterday’s session with Lombardi posted here.


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  1. Crown Royal says:

    DL, being a lawyer, should get this pretty easily. Part of the job description now of being an NHL G.M. is about compromise. This is not baseball which is much more of an individual game than hockey. In baseball it’s one guy hitting, against one guy pitching. That’s mostly the game. Hockey is a game played in five man units, going from offense to defense and back again every few seconds with those units often changing on the fly. Along with football, hockey is about the most team oriented sport, period!

    There is a need for loyalty in hockey and, with the cap, a need to constantly re-shuffle the deck team-wise. You can’t be as loyal as before in the NHL but you can’t abandon that concept totally either as many in the baseball world might suggest. This “new” NHL makes the G.M.’s job tougher. It is imperative that the G.M. look at the team objectively, not only in the present, but towards the future. The days of saying, “He has earned the big, long-term contract” are over. At least it’s over for the older players like Justin Williams. He’s only earned it from teams that have the cap space. This begs the question, how do you look objectively at the future? It’s a kind of oxymoron.

    The G.M.’s who will be successful long-term need to be smart, open minded, visionary, and lucky. If DL believes he only batted five percent this year, he might be a candidate to join Penner, Richards, and Stoll in the El Cid lounge softball team line-up. I think he did better…he’s a smart guy who will figure it out as long as he doesn’t get stuck in the past or end up being mistakenly shot by his own men like Stonewall Jackson. If Stonewall had been around for Gettysburg things might have turned out differently. If DL can flank the cap like his hero, Jackson, might have done, and continues to integrate young players into the team, even when painfully letting some of the old soldiers go, he has a chance for a long and successful run of more Stanley Cups!


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