Here’s the quotes from tonight’s interview with Lombardi. For those who would like the abridged version…
— He’s happy to get the deal done, and thinks it came at a reasonable price because a) it got done early and b) Visnovsky’s desire to stay in L.A. made things easier.
— Cammalleri and arbitration? “It looks like it’s headed that way,” according to Lombardi, although they’re still looking to get a deal done before it comes to that.
— The camp has been good, but Lombardi is more concerned with improvement than rating players.
— The schedule is a concern, particularly since the Kings have to return to the West Coast after the trip to London. Lombardi also shares his thoughts about the challenges faced by playing in Staples Center.
Here’s the interview…
Q: You were able to get Visnovsky’s deal done, and at a price that seems reasonable, at least comparatively…
A: Well, it’s a combination of things. Remember that we got it done a year early. It’s kind of funny. Sometimes you have all the hype about free agency and you forget that you’ve got your own good players and you’ve got to take care of them. That’s the thing. When you plan for free agency, you’ve also got to plan for him, you’ve got to plan for Kopitar and Cammalleri and all these guys. I think it was a combination of doing it early and secondly, it’s nice that a player wants to be here. I think he liked some of the players we brought in, and that we’re trying to get better. I think it’s a reasonable (salary) number. It’s a big commitment by us too but it’s fair. It’s not one of those seven- or eight-year deals. So I think it was a combination of acting early/he wanted to be here. He’s a good player and he’s a real quality person. He is the type of guy you want to have on your team to build around.
Q: I guess the last big thing you’re looking at internally is Cammalleri’s contract? Do you have hope on that?
A: (Jeff Solomon) is our point guy on that but right now it looks like he’s putting all his energy into arbitration. It looks like it’s headed that way. That’s the way the process is. It’s actually a good thing. It beats a holdout. The other thing about arbitration is that it does kind of set a deadline, so there still is a possibility (of agreeing to a contract). We’re still discussing it. Just because you’re preparing your case for arbitration doesn’t mean you don’t continue to try to work on a long-term deal. I guess anything could happen right up until the bell. Again, you’ve got to fit it in with the big picture and where we’re trying to go. So, we’ll see.
Q: What have you liked from the camp this week?
A: When you’re in this stage, you’ve got to be careful. You evaluate them for the purposes of them getting better, making them better. That’s very important. You’re not running a development camp if you’re sitting here saying, `He can play, he can’t play.’ You’ve got to try to show that you’re going to make them all players. I know that’s not practical, but we’re in a teaching/development situation. You look at the birth years too. We had some ’89 (borns) out there playing with some ’83s. That’s not ideal. Even if you have an 18-year-old and a 22-year-old, that four years is a big difference versus when it’s a 25-year-old and a 29-year-old. So you have to be careful on that. A lot of these kids here are seeing pro(-caliber) players for the first time. But it’s fun. For me, it’s the fun part of the job. So many of them are young and eager to learn and good kids. It’s been a long two months of grinding. We start here at 7 in the morning and go until 9 at night. It’s a grind, but at least now you’ve got players in here, so it gives you a lot of juice. It’s a lot better than just preparing for free agency.
Q: We got to see the schedule today. You have five days off between London and the home opener. I had thought you were going to open on the East Coast to ease the travel coming back but that didn’t happen. Is that a concern for you?
A: Well, we’ll go first class and we’ll do everything we’re supposed to do. On one hand, it certainly is difficult. On the other hand, you can’t use it as an excuse. I guess you like a challenge and you have to make the most of it. Yeah, it’s a concern. I guess Marc (Crawford) in particular is going to have to looking closely at how we train before we leave and then at how he gets them acclimated when we come back. So that’s probably a question for Marc, but it certainly makes it difficult. But we can’t use it as an excuse, like I said.
Q: Did you get an explanation as to why they didn’t have you open back East?
A: With the schedule-makers, it’s a huge chemistry project. Whenever they make your schedule, it’s almost like you’re picking a jury. You might get three challenges and if the other guy overrules you, you might not get them all. It’s a limited negotiation when you get your schedule. You submit your dates, and that’s what it usually comes down to. Every building has to submit its dates. If you want certain dates, you basically have to trade those for the ones you don’t want. So the tradeoff is, you either get the ideal dates in your building or on the East Coast. You can only do it so many times. We would have liked to have been back East to get some of those games out of the way, with only a five-hour time change (from London). A lot of it comes down to our building. We’re the only building with three (pro) teams in it. That’s another thing we tried to chip away at, all these home games early.
As hockey people, we have an ideal schedule and we try to block out the dates to get the schedule we want, but then you’ve got to work with your building. It’s not easy with two other teams there. It’s not so much the events. Then it’s the fact that they’re NBA teams. Because we’re hockey and we start earlier, the building wants us in there early. The ideal thing is what the Bruins and Islanders did starting in the 70s, and they still do it today. The East Coast teams come out here first. It serves the purpose of getting (the West Coast trip) out of the way while your players are still fresh and it also serves as a good bonding thing. It’s good to have those trips early, because you bring in new guys and they have to hang around each other. Ideally, I’d like to do the same thing. I’d like to be on the road early, for the same reasons. Whether you’re going to London or not, that’s what the hockey people would like. But then you’ve got to work with the building that wants you here early because of the NBA.