Dean Lombardi on Lucic Talks, Kings Prospects, Backup Goaltending

Lombardi copyFollowing Thursday’s official announcement of Anze Kopitar being named the next captain of the Los Angeles Kings, GM Dean Lombardi held a conference call for members of the media. Below are some quick notes on thoughts he shared on a myriad of other topics…

Are you more or less optimistic about Lucic returning as talks have proceeded?

I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ve had to do a lot of work here, given some of our due diligence. It’s probably safe to say we will be making, I guess we want to say, our best offer, under the circumstances. Probably early next week is when I envision this. As I said, there’s a lot of due diligence that goes into formulating an offer. There’s no question we want him back and I think he clearly wants to be here, but there’s a number of things we had to work through that we didn’t anticipate. But we haven’t given up. So, we’ve had a number of conference calls on how to structure this under the circumstances and I think we’re going to have something here, I envision by early next week. And that will give him some time to think about it, but after that, I don’t think there’s much more work we can do given what we’re up against.

NOTE: This was the update from a few days ago –

Because Pittsburgh won, in large part thanks to their speed game, have you given any thought to changing your plans for the offseason or tweaking your roster in response?

In looking at where our holes were this year, there were things — having lost some players in critical roles — that we saw issues back in September. We do not feel the need to change our identity. Our problem lies in not having certain roles fulfilled. That’s one of the good things about having won in the past, having that experience to draw on and realize the nature of the whole. Our problem — this was nothing that surprised us, per se, in the playoffs. Even at the stretch, we were vulnerable. And we knew it. So it had nothing to do with speed or our identity. I think there’s a big difference between looking at your team and realizing you’ve got some holes. And the exercise we would always do in September and October and try and match up — like we knew the team we had when we won. We knew what it looked like when we played a team like Chicago, which it was almost identical. Which lent itself to going seven games in double overtime. It was almost, if you looked at it and scripted it and looked at how those players matched up, it’s exactly what was going to happen. Somebody was going to win on a fluke goal in double overtime.

So you have those things there, and you’re looking, and say, “We’ve got some holes here, certainly compared to what we had, now how are we going to address it?” We tried to address it a number of ways throughout the season, in terms of developing from within, trying to plug the holes with the deal we made with Philadelphia. But make no mistake, we knew we were vulnerable and then we really got exposed in the playoffs. So we have two issues here, I think. There was a structural issue, that’s the personnel side and being able to fulfill certain roles. And then like i said, I think theres the issue of — you’ve heard me allude to this at the end of the season — I also think we had some mental issues, in terms of having dealt with success. And a good punch in the nose, like we got in the playoffs, hopefully woke us all up in terms of some of the things that we need to do. So I don’t look at it and say, ‘Well, they’re too slow.’ We’re looking at it from, “We had some holes.” Now, if those holes are filled and it ain’t good enough, then I think that your question has more relevance or — your question’s relevant, it’s just not driving the bus for me. If I felt that these roles were being fulfilled which, again, we had on the board in September and October, then I think I would probably look at it more. But I think it’s always a danger — we’re the number one defensive team in the league, there’s a lot of impressive numbers there in terms of goals for, goals against. Now surely there’s areas we need to improve, or weren’t where you want them to be, but there’s a lot of good stuff there. And I think what happens all the time, it was just like with us. We win two cups and everybody gets big and strong and everything else, but I think everybody underestimated our talent. We had an identity.

It’s like somebody asked me, similar to your question, ‘Usually that’s an indication that you’re lacking skill.’ Well, probably the most skilled setting in the game now is 3 on 3. And you look at the guys we can throw out there. We were 9 and 1 when it was 3 on 3. That’s your most skilled situation in hockey for speed and skill and everything else. And you can throw out there a Carter, or Toffoli. A Kopitar or Doughty. A Muzzin. Two kids on the Canadian team. And we’re nine and one. So, if you’re winning that battle, so to speak, you’re probably pretty skilled and fast. And we will not sacrifice our identity and what we believe in. It’s like I said, in terms of the change here, maybe in the captaincy, is we’re going to get there a different way but I don’t see us changing our values and our identity. There are certain things expected of every player. We know what wins. But I think it’s too easy to look — because we’re big and tough, or whatever you want to call it — you overlook the other side. So when I throw out there the 3 on 3, well, look at those guys. You telling me we ain’t got skill? We ain’t fast? So, no, I don’t see myself doing that and I’m not going to get caught up in the flavor of the month.

In filling the backup goalie position, do you plan on finding someone else in free agency, or giving Budaj the job?

I don’t know. I think we’re going to run Billy (Ranford) as an independent contractor and just get his development fees for goalies. I’m still trying to figure out how to run that food chain, so to speak. You know, we had a wealth of riches in guys coming through your system, but all four of them, you can’t keep. You got four goaltenders out there, Berube, Jones, Zatkoff, and Bernier, that it would have been great for us to have, they came through our system, but you can’t keep them. And then you look at it and say, “Well, what’s the use?” But obviously it’s something that’s critical, because it’s such a critical position. I can’t think of any other analogy than backup quarterbacks. And you see how hard it is for a team to get a bona-fide backup when you have a top quarterback. I mean the Denver Broncos, they lose their guy that they were (unintelligible) and he goes somewhere else, even though the job’s there. I have to admit, I’ve got to reexamine this and I’m not sure how to do it. I guess, it’s certainly not a strength of ours now where we had those kids coming through, but then, like I said, if they’re coming through, what good is it if you can’t keep them? I don’t know. As far as us doing it this year, we clearly don’t have a young guy ready to even move into that apprenticeship, as he learns the trade, so it’s probably safe to say we’re going to have to go outside the system again. But in terms of devising the plan on how to do this, and not just end up developing them for other teams, I’m not sure yet.

Were there other players considered to take over the captaincy?

Yeah, I think there were a number of players considered but we looked at this in the long run, and, like I said, you refer to a circle of identity. This is something that we were watching all along — Where is Kopitar? Where is Doughty? Where is Quick? How’s Muzzin coming? Martinez? All these kids have grown, but certainly the ideal situation is when that top player who plays the equivalent of maybe a quarterback position, which is usually your number one defenseman or your number one center. So, it’s probably safe to say that the guys who we will be trending towards on the assistant captains, would have certainly been considered for this, but they were bred for what they’re going to be doing too. It sucks you can only have one captain, per se. As far as the assistants right now, we still have some work to do in terms of preparing them for what their responsibility is. But today we’re just focusing on the captain and, when we knew this was going on, we had a number of meetings with Kopitar and talks with him that — “You know what you’re getting into? You want to do this job? Well, here’s the way we see it.” To answer your question, I think it’s probably safe to say when we name the “A’s,” you’ll probably see the guys that were also in the mix. And they’re all worthy of this. It’s their turn.

How do you expect to bring the younger players — such as Mersch, Dowd, and Gravel — into the lineup from both a salary cap perspective, as well as the roles you talked about that need to be filled?

The best way to put it right now is, those kids you mentioned have paid their dues and there’s a job for them to win. You know how I feel in trying to bring young players along a certain way. They’re in the final stages — this summer they’ll complete their AAA ball and now there’s a job for you to win. And I think they’re ready for it, but it’s going to be up to them now. We’re counting on them, but they still have to get it done. For the guys you mentioned, that’s probably the way I would put it right now —there’s a job to win.

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  1. Henry Hugues says

    Good article.


  1. […] Dean Lombardi on Lucic Talks, Kings Prospects, Backup Goaltending […]

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