Another popular topic of discussion has been the presumed need for the Kings to get bigger and tougher on defense. In this answer, Lombardi discusses the need to improve in that area and talks about how the Kings are starting to accomplish it. He also his describes his model for defensive success, the one put together by the Dallas Stars, and talks about how the Kings’ version is starting to take form.
LOMBARDI: My favorite topic, building the back end. No question, it’s an issue. The only way I can respond to that is, we’re aware of it and our ultimate goal on the back end is, when that group is together, that is has that element. I think a lot of times, when teams have success, they can run out and follow that model. The thing about Detroit now, they were one of the smallest defenses in the league and it was clearly an emphasis on puck movement. If you get the puck out, I guess you don’t have to worry about going and getting it back. I’m not a big fan of that, totally. I think that’s a unique model. I think we can still go with the blend, even in the post-cap era.
My ultimate model is that Dallas model. I think I talked about that before. With what Gainey was doing there, he had puck-movers, Zubov and Sydor and Chambers, the stiffness on the other side with Hatcher, Matvichuk and Ludwig. That defense has everything. How do you want to play? Do you want to play smashmouth? I can play that. You want to play skill? I’ve got guys over here who can do that. This is all part of drafting. Most of the time, these guys are not available. Maybe one guy, like Chara, comes up, but to think that these top defensemen get to the market in their prime? Not going to happen. Any team that has these type of defensemen, they’re going to lock them up. Now, Greene addresses part of that. Greene was an important acquisition for us, because he’s young enough to grow with this group, he’s a right shot, he’s a great teammate, he plays his bag off and he’s a guy who’s going to get better because he plays so hard. That’s one guy that’s going to address your size.
One of the things that was critical in this year’s draft was to get that defenseman in the system that has the potential — only the potential — to address the other thing you’re talking about. When we took Teubert, the whole idea is, that’s your Jason Smith-type player. His junior coach told me last week that he’s never seen a kid with this type of leadership, in 20 years of junior hockey. We’ve got to make him a better play, because he’s not ready, but it’s addressing what you’re talking about. So you look at Johnson. Johnson’s not big but he’s not soft. He’s up to 225 pounds right now. Drew Doughty is not small and he’s not soft. So I hear you. Watch the Dallas model, in terms of what we’re looking for. It’s very hard to find a Hatcher or a Zubov, but it’s in the back of my mind. I don’t envision us, when this is all put together, going with the small puck-movers. That still makes me nervous. I still think you want to go into some of these buildings and be physical, as well as keep the puck.
But it’s an issue right now, no question about it. Our charts show that we were, I think, 20th in the league in average size in our top six. That’s not where we eventually want to be, but I think we’ve addressed it underneath. It’s an issue now, but it won’t be down the road.