Resetting the table

Just so everyone is on the same page, here’s a list of some of the important upcoming dates involving the Kings:

July 1: Free-agent signing period begins. This is also when the Kings can negotiate extensions with players such as Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson.

July 8-13: Prospects camp, in El Segundo. No names have been finalized yet, but I would expect to see both Drew Doughty and Colten Teubert there.

Mid-to-late July: Expected hiring of new coach. The Kings aren’t expected to resume interviewing candidates until after the dust settles in free agency.

Keep the “open forum” questions coming in the other post. Thanks…

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Open forum

Seems as though there are a lot of questions out there, and a good time for an “open forum” in general. Good ahead and post any questions you think I might be able to answer and I’ll start getting them tonight. Thanks again for the massive numbers on the blog this weekend…

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lombardi, on toughness

After reading scouting reports and talking to Lombardi about the draft picks, one word — or some variation of it — kept coming up: toughness. The Kings seemed to be making a point of drafting guys who had a distinct edge to their games. I asked Lombardi if that was a coincidence or whether it was a philosophy…

Lombardi said: “Well, I think that’s one of those things when you’re in personnel. When you look at the assets of a NHL player, we all have what we prefer. All things being equal, and I’ve told you before, my favorite players have been Mike Ricci and Brian Marchment. They stand for team and for competitiveness, by nature. That being said, you have to be careful, because other elements are still important. A guy has to be well rounded. But every general manager has a philosophy. You can talk about a Teubert or whatever, and go right on down the line. It’s probably safe to say we tend toward that direction.

“But you can’t overlook the other things and just start drafting tough guys who can’t play. So it’s a balancing act. That’s why when I talk about building a staff and getting on the same page, in terms of philosophy, that’s one of those things that I’m talking about. These are the kind of guys we like. All things being equal, we trend that way. That’s not to say it’s right or wrong, but yeah, I can’t deny it. When I say those guys (Ricci and Marchment) are my two favorite players, it’s pretty clear what they do.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lombardi, on Justin Azevedo

i-0e4fc25f31deced51f017c15a0f6260b-azevedo.jpg

The other very interesting pick the Kings made today was Justin Azevedo, who was the most outstanding player in the Ontario Hockey League last season. That’s saying something in a league that included Steven Stamkos and John Tavares. Azevedo was the OHL’s leading scorer, with 124 points (43 goals and 81 assists). The downside? He’s listed at either 5-foot-7 or 5-8 and he was 20 years old, often playing against kids a couple years his junior.

Lombardi talked about how taking Azevedo in the sixth round was a risk worth taking.

Lombardi said: “Usually the theory there is, when you’re in the later rounds, if you can find a guy with a NHL asset, and then you can develop other assets, you might have something. When you look at a player like that, he’s going to have holes (in his game) or he’s not going to be there in the sixth or seventh round. So do you look at a guy who is 50 percent across the board, in terms of the assets you’re looking for in a NHL player, or do you say, `OK, the kid’s got one NHL asset right now and maybe other things will come along.’?

“In his case, he’s got a Teubert-like mentality in terms of his competitiveness. In terms of his committment and the way he competes, it’s at a NHL level. Now whether or not his skating improves, whether or not his size is a liability…whatever you want to go with that’s not there, well, we’ll see if that develops. But there’s no question that, when you look at him, his committment and competitiveness are at a high level.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lombardi, on Andrew Campbell

i-fbe249112422ac71c9fbd4d0bd6a479b-campbell.jpg

One of the Kings’ moves that begged for some explanation was their third-round selection of Andrew Campbell from Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. The Kings made a trade with Buffalo and moved up seven spots to grab Campbell, who is listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, with the No. 74 pick. Here what Lombardi had to say about Campbell:

“Probably he’s a version of (Wayne) Simmonds, who comes on later, after the draft. He’s a big defenseman who I think, during his draft year, moved from `project’ to `prospect.’ He’s young and he has size, and I think with our development program, we’ve got a shot. That’s probably what turned the corner for us on him. A lot of kids will do that during their draft year, particularly kids with size. They just keep getting better. There was one game where he took a puck to the face and came out for his next shift. He saved a goal by taking a puck in his face. I remember watching it and thinking, `Holy smoke.’

“Our guys liked him. Mike Futa, there in Ontario, really does a great job on the background of these kids. He just kept rising, and in the playoffs he kept getting better. He was one of (coach Craig) Hartsburg’s better defensemen on that team, which went a fairly long way in the playoffs. Then like I said, we saw him put his face in front of a puck and come out for his next shift and we thought, `This is our kind of guy.’ I was a little nervous that there was one team, in particular, that was picking ahead of us, that made me a little nervous. I said, `Let’s make sure we get him and take a shot here.”’

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lombardi, on the Russians

Here’s what Dean Lombardi had to say about the two Russian players, defenseman Vjateslav Voinov and center Andrei Loktionov, the Kings drafted this weekend. The concern with Russian players has been whether NHL teams would be able to sign them and bring them to North America. Lombardi explains why, even though both players are under contract in Russia, he’s confident they will play in North America next season.

Lombardi said: “Yeah, I think the first thing with Voinov, as with Loktionov, was that Solly (Jeff Solomon, director of hockey operations) did all the background work to make sure these kids were coming here. That’s the big question with all the Russians. It’s very different than in the past, when you could always offer a better opportunity and a bigger contract. That’s the case with Russia anymore. So if you draft a kid, you’ve got to be cognizant of the fact that he has to really want to play here, because you’re not going to be able to bribe him with money.

“Then, I don’t know if you know all the background, with the Russians trying to get all these kids to sign five-year deals, but that’s a whole other issue. It doesn’t make sense for us to take them — you might take a flier on a guy in a later round — unless they’re committed to coming over here and player either junior hockey or in the minors. The thing about Voinov is, he’s a good player, a good prospect. He’s a right-shot defenseman and he’s one of the top defensemen on that Russian team, but if he wasn’t committed to coming here then it wouldn’t make sense (to draft him). All our researched showed that he’d even be willing to play junior hockey, if he had to.

“A lot of kids will say, `Well, I’m not going over until I’m ready for the NHL.’ Well, this kid was prepared to play junior hockey and give up that five-year contract, with a lot of money. That told us a lot, in terms of his desire to play here. So we just stepped up and took him. Same with Loktionov. It’s kind of interesting, because he’s from (Igor) Larionov’s hometown and he was actually at our rink two weeks ago with Larionov. Larionov has kind of taken him under his wing. If he’s half as smart as Larionov on the ice, he’s going to be a good player. He’s also another one who is committed to playing over here this year, whether it’s juniors or the NHL.

“What you’ve got now in Russia is, the contracts they have… Like I said, we had to get all this down before the draft. It’s getting all the rules and talking to the agents, as far as what the kid wants to do. In Russia, the contract can be broken if you give notice. It’s weird for us because in our society, a contract is a contract. But in Russia, you can sign a three-year contract and, if you give notice, the contract is no good after 30 days. For us, even I would say, `Well, what good is the contract?’ But it’s a different society. So those kids can give notice.

“Then with those five-year contracts they’re trying to get the kids to sign, (they say) `OK, the 30-day rule applies, but if you give us notice you have to pay us a lot of money.’ So, they’re trying to keep their own players. They have a lot of money, unlike the past. It actually reflects what’s going on in their society, going from communism to capitalism. It makes for an interesting study in itself. So, he does have a contract, but if he gives a 30-day notice, he can go. If he signs a five-year contract, he would have to pay a lot of money (to break it). As long as he stays away from that, he can sign with a NHL team.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lombardi, on his busy draft

I asked Dean Lombardi, in general, about his busy two days. The Kings entered with 15 picks but ended up leaving with only nine players. I wondered how much of that was by design.

Lombardi said: “This is the hard part about a draft, and it goes back to what I talk about with a staff and chemistry. You can run hypotheticals, and it’s something we try to do. The right analogy is, it’s like a cross-examination. You can be prepared but you have to be able to think on your feet, because you don’t know exactly what is going to happen. Regardless of how many times you try to prepare for what could happen, it’s never the way you planned. So to say we went into this and said, `Oh yeah, we intended to go up and down and all around,’ you can’t unless you see where things start to fall. Regardless of how much you prepare, there’s always something you didn’t plan for, so you have to respond quickly and get people on the phone. So I wish I could tell you it’s part of some grand, master plan, but it’s not. Some things work and some things don’t.”

I asked Lombardi if, given that, he was pleased with the way his staff reacted to situations and made decisions on the fly…

Lombardi said: “When you say, `on the fly,’ it’s not on the fly as in, you’re not ready. All I’m saying is, you don’t know what will happen until people start going, who other teams select that might be on your list. You always have some disappointments and you try some things and you hope you can get a player in another layer. Sometimes you don’t. The whole point is, did you maximize your opportunities? I think we were pretty good. I think there’s some disappointment and some things we could have done better, but that’s all part of the process. I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a draft, quite frankly, where I don’t say to myself, `We should have tried this.’ I couldn’t sit here and tell you that everything is great, but I haven’t been through one yet where I didn’t think we could have tried something else.”

I’ll be posting more of the interview as I go along. Trying to write the newspaper story as well…

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Lombardi comments

I’ll put the full quotes from Lombardi throughout the rest of the day, but here’s a summary of what he had to say at the end of the draft:

– The number of trades he made was not by design but was (as usually happens in a draft) a response to things that take place. He was pleased with that way he staff responded to situations but said there’s always room for improvement.

– The two Russians, Voinov and Loktionov, are under three-year contracts in Russia, but Lombardi said that under Russian rules, players can break those contracts by giving 30-day notice. He believes both players want to play in North American next season. The danger is if they sign huge five-year contracts with signing bonuses, but he’s confident that they won’t.

– The Kings traded up seven spots to grab Andrew Campbell because they believed another team might grab him, and they really liked him. Lombardi described him as a Wayne Simmonds-type situation, “a project who turned into a prospect.” They think he has great potential and is very competitive.

– The pick that seems to be getting the most buzz, Justin Azevedo, is a guy who intrigues Lombardi. He said Azevedo is a guy who doesn’t yet have a complete game but is a good gamble in the sixth round.

– The coaching search isn’t likely to end soon. Lombardi does not intend to interview any more candidates before the start of the free agency period and said the immediate focus is on free agency. Lombardi said it’s important to find the right person and the right fit and, when I asked him about this, agreed that the urgency is lessened by the fact that the Kings are essentially the only team without a coach. There’s no competition.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email