On Wednesday afternoon the NHL suspended Kings captain Dustin Brown for two games, as a result of a hit on Jason Pominville of the Minnesota Wild. Earlier today, GM Dean Lombardi was on Sportsnet Radio (Fan 590) in Toronto and offered thoughts about the ruling, as well as provided an early outlook heading into next week’s playoffs…
– On the Brown suspension: “Well we went over that in his hearing, and you know, I guess I get it. But, I look at it like a decision is a decision. I don’t know what a player is supposed to do there because if you look at that play, he’s got to play the puck. And you teach a player in that situation two things – you’re either proactive to the guy running you or you absorb the hit, come off the boards and explode. Those are his two options. And if he stands there and just tries to take the hit, the physics tell you that this is when guys get killed going into the boards. So you have two responsibilities, absorb that hit and keep his eye on the puck, because you don’t want to let that puck go up to the point. That’s how guys get benched. And his bottom hand has to stay on the stick. (Peter) Forsberg made a living making this play. To me it’s not an elbow in the sense of throwing an elbow. The elbow is up, but he’s got to keep his bottom hand on the stick and keep the puck under control. So I think it’s a real tough call for a hockey person – because you look at a hockey person and ask, ‘What is he supposed to do?’ And when, at times, (does) the guy throwing the hit have some responsibility here?”
– On Brown ‘chicken winging’ his elbow, giving the appearance of a dirty hit: “No, look at Dustin’s record. He’s a physical guy, but this isn’t a guy who has been suspended a lot. And like I said, if he’s on his on wing…And again, a guy who made a living on this is Forsberg. He’s probably one of the best ever at it. If he’s on his on wing, he can keep his top hand on his stick and absorb the hit. But he’s on his off-wing, his bottom hand has to stay on his stick, so your elbow’s gonna come up. But I don’t think this was…This is a pro-act to me, like your taught a lot in keeping your eye on the puck and not letting the puck go.”
– On how he sees the team going into the playoffs this year compared to last season: “Well, you know what? In a lot of ways I think we should be better, because we’re such a young group. One thing that happened this year, we lost two critical defensemen to our identity on the back end all year with Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene. So that had a lot to do with the way they function and mesh, versus one individual. You take two guys out of your lineup, who essentially give us that ‘hard to play against,’ and it was a huge adjustment for us. The positive of that, it forced Doughty and Voynov to take on much more responsibility. Playing against top players, killing penalties, being on the ice late in games. These are all things that Doughty and Voynov were protected from. Once those guys went out, they had to assume those roles. And then they became a focal point versus the veterans, Scuderi, Mitchell, or Greene being the guy who kind of calmed things down.
Then, the other thing that happens, is Jake Muzzin comes in the lineup. When you’re injured, sometimes you’re forced to play kids, and you’re giving a longer leash. And this kid has really come on and played well. It’s one of the byproducts if you can get through injuries, the kids that are in the lineup get more responsibility. And sometimes you get a kid that might not have been in this situations, and you’re going, ‘Whoa, this kid’s good.’ So we should be better, because all those kids are a year older. But, then you’ve got the thing – you’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore. They still have a tremendous amount to learn. But, on its face, you’d think they’d be better. But as we know, in the playoffs everything’s so close and how breaks go. But, I like the way the young players have progressed. None of them went backwards per se, or flat-lined. They all got better. And that’s the beauty of this group. People forget that this is one of the youngest teams in the league and certainly one of the youngest cores. And they continue to grow.”
The above quotes are the first of two articles from the interview. Next, we’ll look at what Lombardi had to say about Willie Mitchell’s short term – and possible long-term – future.
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