I typically dislike commenting on rumors, because anyone can start them without naming sources and 99 percent of published rumors turn out to be exaggerated or just simply B.S. I don’t know the gentleman who wrote the FoxSports.com piece about Lombardi being on the hot seat, and I’m certainly not going to question his motives or sources. And given where the Kings stand — that would be last place in the conference — I suppose it’s fair to question whether Dean Lombardi SHOULD be on the hot seat. Any GM whose team is at the bottom of the conference is going to come under some scrutiny.
I would be completely stunned if Lombardi got fired this year, even if the Kings finished in last place. AEG knew what it got when they hired Lombardi. They got a guy who was going to build from the bottom up, who was going to try to build a base and then go from there. If they didn’t want that, and if they wanted a quick fix, they should have hired someone else. Lombardi’s primary focus from the beginning has been to create quality, youthful depth in the organization. You saw it from the beginning, with the emphasis on draft picks and on trading for young players such as Jack Johnson and Patrick O’Sullivan. To that end, I think Lombardi has been a great success. There are more quality young players in the system than ever before, all the way down to a player such as Wayne Simmonds, who is off the radar right now.
The question is, how does that translate? Not every one of those prospects is going to turn out to be a NHL player. If you consider a talent pool of Boyle, Bernier, Cliche, Hickey, Lewis, Parse and Purcell, just to name a few, the success rate isn’t going to be 100 percent in terms of all of them becoming NHL players. The real question is, how high will Lombardi’s batting average be with these kids? That will be a big part of his ultimate success or failure.
The other question is, can he fill the gaps by signing established NHL players to fill out the roster? So far, I give Lombardi high marks for building up the reserve list, but I think he’s been below-average in terms of free-agent signings, and that’s probably being kind. I’m looking at Blake, Handzus, McCauley, Nagy, Preissing, Stuart, Thornton and Willsie, not to mention the trade for Cloutier. How many of those players to you look at and say, “I’m sure glad he is/was a King”?
I know a Ducks comparison won’t be popular here, but you have to look at what they did. They brought the kids (Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz, Penner, etc.) along and made veteran acquisitions (Selanne, Niedermayer, Pronger, O’Donnell, Beauchemin, etc.) that panned out. If a team is going to have success, they go hand in hand. Lombardi’s challenge, particularly next summer, is to make some smart veteran acquisitions. So far, I think that’s been his clear weakness.
I’d be happy to hear what everyone thinks on this matter…