Several teams around the NHL have gone through painful rebuilds over the last decade, with a few already cashing in and finding success. Pittsburgh is typically the franchise most point to for how to ‘get it right.’ More recently, the Blackhawks have been receiving praise, having won the Stanley Cup in 2010.
Entering the season, many considered the Los Angeles Kings to be on the threshold of achieving similar success. And the team right behind them in the process is the Edmonton Oilers. While LA has largely been built on goaltending and defense, the Oil’s clear strength is the abundance of top flight forwards they’ve drafted recently.
Late last week, Kings GM Dean Lombardi was a guest on Mark Spector’s radio show (Team 1260, Edmonton). We’ve already posted several of Lombardi’s comments in previous articles. Here, he tackles the rebuilding process for both the Kings and Oilers…
On the notion LA is just a key free agent away – “The most critical thing – and I told Darryl (Sutter) this when he took over the team – of all the things we can do, we have to make our young players, in fact, top players. Not only top players in the sense of notoriety or contract, but they have to become, in fact, core players (who) can match up with Datsyuk and Lidstrom, Thornton and Boyle and all these guys. That is the number one thing that has to happen. If we don’t do that – if these players don’t, in fact, become ‘winners,’ then anything else I do in free agency or trades, it’s just going to be conversation because it’s not going to happen.
“I think we lose sight of that fact. That’s a whole process where Joe Sakic had to go through it, Steve Yzerman, even when (the Oilers) went through it before – those players, Gretzky and Messier, had to learn to win. So, I’ll put that at the top of the list and that’s a process. I think the thing that really makes it hard, as we saw with Drew Doughty, the enormous pressure we put on these young players with contracts – and that’s something that with the great young players you have up there (in Edmonton) – it’s a different twist from when Steve (Tambellini) was playing or Kevin Lowe, when they were young players coming through a system. That’s a very unique challenge. Again, that is a day-to-day thing and there is no specific formula.”
On the difficulty of managing a team full of kids, who may be working hard, but continue to lose games more than they win (as the Kings were doing several years ago) – “There are so many things that go into managing now day to day. I’m sure it’s the same thing in Edmonton. You get in here at 7:30 in the morning, you go home at 7 at night, you don’t know what the heck you did all day. All you know is you were busy all the time. There are a lot of day-to-day things that you have to do to manage it through that process. But, the one thing – clearly in Edmonton – those players can see that there’s hope, that this organization is going somewhere. This is not somewhere where they’re wallowing in the mire here and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think your players have to see that, just like management and coaches do. They’re an exciting team and I think there’s no doubt they feel that some day they’re going to be challenging for that Cup. I think that’s critical. Despite all you go through, they have to see there’s a sense of direction, that we’re going to stay with this direction. Again, with the success they’ve already had up there, I don’t see how you can not be excited.”