Finally…the end. Here’s the last part of the interview with Mark Yannetti and Michael Futa. It focuses mainly on where the organization stands now and where it’s heading and (hopefully) will give you some idea of their vision for the future. I hope everyone found the interview worthwhile! Here’s the last part…
Question: The consensus seems to be that the organization is stronger, in terms of prospects, than it’s been recently, if not ever. This isn’t an attempt to knock the previous regimes, but do you sense that as well?
Futa: “Honestly, I can’t… Mark might be able to answer, because he was here a little bit. But for me, coming in, it’s just been about this group. So it would be unfair for me to compare anything against the past. All I know is that it feels very comfortable when you go to the World Juniors and we have five guys playing. There’s a good feeling going into those tournaments with that kind of youth base in place.”
Yannetti: “That being said, previous people from this organization deserve Jon Bernier credit there too.”
Yannetti: “Al (Murray, former scouting director) won the gold medal this year. He put that team together.”
Futa: “If anybody in this business gets into critiquing the past, it’s an absolute no-win situation. You look at Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, who are two of the major building blocks of this organization, they were put in place by other people.”
Yannetti: “It’s real easy to criticize. I watched (the Kings) from the outside as a scout, and it’s real easy to come in and say, `This is deficient and this is deficient.’ But you’re also talking about a landscape that completely changed after the lockout. You’re talking about philosophies that are now completely different. It’s kind of hard to go back and criticize pre- vs. post-lockout too. Some teams were positioned better. Some teams needed to work harder. It’s just different.”
Question: When picks are made, like Hickey or Moller or Simmonds last year, and people initially think, “Well, that’s interesting,” and then people start to get real excited about those guys, does that give you some satisfaction?
Futa: “That part, absolutely. If you’re not always making the `sexy’ pick, it’s about having the confidence in your group, and knowing that so much work has gone into this. You have to really believe in where you’ve got guys on your list and know that you’ve put all your homework in, so that you’re not guessing. You’re removing as much gray area as possible when you’re making your selections. Nobody ever comes away from the draft thinking, `Wow, we just had a (bad) draft.’ (laughs) Everybody feels good. But it’s just part of the steps. If you look at our first pick (Hickey). That was a pefect example of the amount of work that goes into a player. Obviously there are other players (first-round picks) who have stepped right in. It wasn’t that we didn’t feel they could step right in and help. With this player, it was going to take a little longer to show the fruits.”
Yannetti: “You heard collective groans when he was picked. Plain and simple. You heard collective groans. Then all of a sudden he’s got a gold medal (in the World Juniors) and before he got hurt in the playoffs he was the leading-scoring defenseman and one of the two leading scorers in the playoffs. Now, great, Mike and I and Tony and the rest of the team, we can all pat each other on the back, but the thing is, they still haven’t played. You’re a villain, and then all of a sudden people give you credit, but there’s still two more years to go.”
Futa: “We feel good that their path to becoming Kings is looking good, but they still have to get there.”
Yannetti: “You take all the information you have, and you make the right pick for the right reasons. Then you develop and in four years, three years, you know where you are. But you can’t get too high or too low.”
Question: How do you react when people, either rightfully or not, get impatient and either want these prospects in the NHL right away or want them traded? Do you have to fight against that at all?
Futa: “Totally immune to it. It’s not in our job descriptions. Our jobs are to continue to do what we do and spend time with our guys. When we go in to watch kids we’ve already drafted… Dean always wants us to go down and talk to these kids and see how they’re doing, but other than that, that’s not our thing.”
Yannetti: “The other thing is the crossover with development. You have the pro guys asking the amateur guys’ advice and the amateur guys asking the pros’ advice. Hey, we could have left Jonathan Bernier up last year. It would have made a whole lot of fans happy, for sure. But we have 10 to 12 people choosing a development path that they think maximizes the player’s potential. So that could mean a lean year here or there. You want to set yourself up to be great, rather than just consistently capable.”
Futa: “If anything, on a decision like that, the easy decision is to say, `Stay here.’ Especially when you know that fans want results under their noses. The thought process that is right for the Kings is not always the easiest one.”
Yannetti: “If you really want to look deep at the models of some of the successful teams, there were some lean years for those successful teams. Look at Ottawa, look at Pittsburgh, look at Anaheim. There were some lean, lean years. Look at Tampa Bay before they won. Obviously you want to win today, but you also have to come up with a model that you believe in and stick to it.”
Futa: “When you talk about changing the environment and creating a winning environment, when you go to a tournament like the World Juniors and see a slew of your prospects winning together…”
Yannetti: “Five kids, three golds and two silvers.”
Futa: “When you start to see them winning together and succeeding together, you do start to picture… Wow, would that look nice. Because that’s the winning environment you want to create.”
Yannetti: “They’re learning to win as well. That’s a pretty valuable experience there. For every kid, not just our prospects.”