My apologies for the delay in getting this to you. As you know, there’s still a local hockey team playing these days, so I’ve been down in Anaheim this week. By the way, I ran into George Parros in the locker room after the game tonight. I had hoped to be able to say hello to him down there and was happy to be able to do so. George wasn’t in L.A. long but he left an impression as a truly good guy. Which reminds me…on the way into Lakers practice a couple weeks ago, I walked through the parking lot in El Segundo and almost literally ran into Mattias Norstrom. He was in a conversation so I just said hello and moved on, but it was good to see him as well.
Anyway, here’s the last part, which will answer the numerous questions about the Scott Parse situation, as well as some longstanding questions about Brian Boyle and Brady Murray.
Another interview with Lombardi is in the works, as soon as next week, so I’ll keep in mind the follow-up questions that have been posted here. If there are others, feel free to post them, but please remember that I have to use my discretion in asking them. Last time, Lombardi peaked at my list and said, “You got all those questions from fans?” I’ll try to get through the topics that seem to be of the most interest. For now, here’s the last part of the first interview…
(Where do you stand with Scott Parse?)
It’s been a little tougher than the other (signings), obviously. Everyone else kind of got done … Lewis, Boyle, the college free agents … but you just run into a loggerhead there, trying to get the right contract. I think we’re still confident that it’s going to get done, but it’s taken a little longer than we would have liked. We would have liked to have him (in Manchester) right now. But basically we got everybody in, from that group of young kids. He’s the only one, so overall it’s pretty good to be down to one. But to answer your question, we’re still pursuing him and there’s still time and we’ll see how it plays out.
(Some people have been surprised by the number of players signed in the last few weeks…)
We have to get these young guys in here. We’re not that young, compared to our peers. Cammalleri, Frolov, Kopitar, Brown…the one good thing is that the young players were a major part of producing (last season). Jack Johnson comes in, but we have to continue to build that reserve list. We were very aggressive with the college free agents. They don’t all pan out, but it’s about getting assets.
(Have you thought about where Brian Boyle might play?)
You don’t want to put a square peg in a round hole. If he could (play defense), that would be huge. He was really good there at the end of the year. We kind of dropped the idea (of him playing defense) but then B.C. put him back there and he was really good. Actually, that’s when he started scoring. We wanted him to play there in the (AHL) playoffs, but we didn’t think it was fair to him to put him in a pressure situation at another level of play. But then we played a double-overtime game and we had a couple guys get hurt, and he went back there and played really well. Then I’m like, `Holy smokes.’ So we didn’t want to experiment, then we were forced to and he does really good. We might revisit that during the development camp. I’ve got a lot of hockey people here, and we’re almost split on it. The good thing about having him back there is that he’s big. So you’re big there and then you’re big with Kopitar up front, so then if you have to go small with (a No. 2 center), that’s OK. He sees the ice better as a defenseman. He makes more plays.
(Some people thought Brady Murray wouldn’t be part of the organization. Did anything change there?)
Well, one thing that changed is the rules. In the old game, it was harder for small guys. Unless they were top-six, dynamic guys, you had to be able to be high-end offensively. The rule changes put more of an emphasis on skill. Now your third line sometimes doesn’t have that same old identity. The best third line I ever had was Thornton, Ricci and Sundstrom. That was a great third line. That was a great third line, and clearly had that third-line identity. Now you look at a lot of third lines and you don’t know what they are. Sometimes you can’t tell it from the second line. That’s just the way the game has gone. Not only is it harder to play gritty, in the old sense of the word, but there’s more of an emphasis on skill. In Brady’s case, it’s like (Ville) Peltonen in Florida. When I had him in San Jose, he really struggled. But like Brady, he’s a smart player and he competes. That’s kind of like Peltonen. Peltonen couldn’t play before the lockout. Then he comes back after the lockout and plays for Florida and with the new rules — you can’t hook and hold — he’s effective. We only got a glimpse of (Murray) at the development camp, but what we got was that he was smart and he competed. You couldn’t write him off anymore because of his lack of size. And to go over to Europe and play with men, I mean, this isn’t an old guy. It’s not like he went over there at 26 or 27. We saw enough during the development camp to think, `Jeez, he’s not bad.’ We were seeing him for the first time. It made sense to give him a two-way contract. We need young assets, and we thought there was enough there to say, `Hey, let’s make sure we take a look at this kid and not let him get away.’ He’s more mature and there’s two assets there. He’s a smart player and he competes. That’s usually a pretty good combination.