Lombardi, Part 1

Interviewing Dean Lombardi is one of the more fascinating things a sportswriter can do in this town. Dave Taylor couldn’t have been more helpful during his days as GM, and the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak, the Dodgers’ Ned Colletti and the Ducks’ Brian Burke are three more truly nice guys, but there might not be a more interesting interview in this town than Lombardi. He doesn’t talk in sound bites, which makes it difficult to ask him a lot of questions because his answers tend to be long and in-depth, but I can honestly say that every time I’ve spoken to Dean, I’ve come away with a better knowledge of how a hockey team is run. Fifteen minutes into our talk, he was at his office whiteboard, writing down names and showing me exactly how he wants the Kings to look in a couple years, line by line, defensive pair by defensive pair. Then he showed me how the team might look next year. Then he showed me how the Monarchs might look next year. Some of it was said in confidence, but I’ll share everything I can. He is exceedingly honest and confident in himself to put things out there, things that many GMs are afraid to say in public.

To get things going, I’ll put up Lombardi’s analysis of his recent three-week trip to Europe, in which he, Ron Hextall and several other staff members evaluated draft prospects and some of the kids who are, or might soon be, a part of the Kings’ system. Included is the answer to the question many of you had about Jan Marek. There will be much more in the coming days, but I thought this would be a good starting point, so here’s the transcript:

“The front end (of the trip) was seeing the kids for this year’s draft. The first part was in Finland. We were seeing the ’89 borns and most of the kids were there, so that was the first week. The second week was to go down and see that Marek kid, because we have to make a decision there, whether to take him or the draft pick. [The Kings would get a third-round pick in 2008].”

“The key in that deal with Cliche. Now it’s either (Marek) or a pick, so we went to see him play and we met with his agent to get a feel. The hard part is that they can get so much money in Russia, so there’s the question of whether he even wants to try it and then there’s the question of where he fits. He’s a ’79 born, so he’s not old but we’re still working through that process. He played OK. He’s a talented guy, but the thing you run into is that he’s small, so you have to look at that. So, we’ll see how that works out.”

“Then there were a couple other younger kids I wanted to see in Prague. You have to find some of these guys who kind of slipped through the cracks. Then we went to the World Championships to see some older Europeans who might be able to come in and help us. Players like (Minnesota’s Petteri) Nummelin, who are older free agents and might be able to come in and help you fill a hole. We looked at some goalies in that age group of ’81 to ’83. We got a lot done but it was a grind, with the travel and all.”

“Then we had meetings with a lot of scouts. Chemistry within your staff is not done overnight. I’ve still got to make some adjustments there before I’m happy. So there was a lot of work in that area that’s just as important. I’ve got to get the scouting staff doing things the way I want and they have to develop a trust, and that doesn’t happen overnight. We had a lot of guys over there. I don’t want to say we were overstaffed, but part of it was because we need to start getting a feel for each other.”

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  • GMatsuda

    Rich…congrats on the interview with Lombardi. Nice to hear that he was so forthcoming (without tipping his hand in key areas, I’m sure). Sounds like talking to him is a lot better than talking to Dave Taylor, who virtually never said anything even though you were talking to him, if you know what I mean! ;-)

  • Stephen Hawthorne

    I have so many questions:

    Lets start with some defense questions.

    What role is Harrold going to play.

    Are the Kings going to sign McGinnis?

    Is Brian Boyle going to play defense?

    Does Lombardi want to pair left and right handed defensemen?

  • brian

    great stuff. i love when lombardi gives interviews. sounds like the kings might be better off taking the 3rd round pick in ’08. looking forward to the rest of the interview

  • CBGB

    Rich,

    Thanks for taking the time and for sharing with all of the fans.

    Basically, what you’re saying when you say “some was told to me in confidence” is that Frolov is gone, right?

    j/k

  • Reaper

    First off, let me say thanks Rich for all the work you do for us Kings fans. In a city dominated by bandwagon fans and apathy towards hockey, it’s good to get some Kings news that isn’t the typical AP blurb.

    Secondly, never listen to CBGB, he’s got his own agenda! JK Matt.

    Anyways, I think Marek could be a real solid addition to the Kings. Past overagers that the Kings have had never really panned out in the “old” NHL (Notably, Bednar and Pirnes), but with the game’s shift to speed and scoring, Marek could bring something that the Kings severely lack and might not be able to address through free agency, speed.

  • BobMillersHair

    Thanks for the updates Rich. Looking forward to the rest.
    Curious to what might have been discussed if any about this years draft. What does Lombardi do? Take next best available talent or address current needs? Or do you trade this years #1 to stack next years, supposed, deep draft?

    Just some late night babble. Hook us up with the goods Rich. We need our Kings Hockey fix.

  • puckboy25

    thanks Rich……..At both “breakfast with the GM” events last season I thought Dean was very honest and gave detailed answers to the many questions , just as he did with you in this interview. It’s a refreshing change from the Cliche’ answers we used to get from Tim.
    I truly wish I could have been in that office while this was going on. I am very interested in what will happen with our KINGS..please keep it coming…..

  • deacon blue

    Rich–I just want to second the previous posts by thanking you for the great work. I’m a hockey-blog junkie and it makes me proud that one of the best out there writes about my team. Except for the Cloutier mess, just about everything Mr. Lombardi has done has built my confidence that the Kings will be excellent in the (near?) future. Thanks again.