Kicking off some of the Q&A, here’s what Dean Lombardi had to say about who he thinks will be the teams to beat in the Western Conference, and who is primarily on the Kings’ radar…
Question: What are the playoff chances and what teams will be surprises in the Western Conference?
LOMBARDI: I’ve always said in the past, every season you can always see Detroit, Colorado, Dallas and St. Louis. Then you had a second tier, then you probably had ones in the building process, trying to move up. It’s one of the things we run up against. The three teams in our division are still in that upper layer. I’ve said in the past, that makes it tougher on us, but it also does not allow you to kid yourself in getting ahead and thinking you’re better than you are, when you’re going against three of the best. The big three are still there. Detroit, obviously. I think the teams that I look at, and this is something that’s showing up in the last couple years, I think Phoenix has made a lot of strides. I think they finally figured it out, that going through the draft and giving young players a chance is the way to go. The other team you have to watch out for is St. Louis. I think they’re very similar to us and I see them starting to build a young core on the back end, with the kid, Johnson, and Pietrangelo and some of the other defensemen coming through. Those are the two teams I see that we have to stay ahead of, in terms of our young core. They’re putting in that young core, to eventually catch the big boys.
Then you’ve got a lot of teams in the middle, whether it’s Vancouver… Edmonton is going to be better and I think Calgary is going to be in the top four or five if they can pull it all together. You’ve got teams like Chicago, that are ready to move into that middle layer. But the teams I look at, that we have to stay ahead of, are those two that are in a similar phase. That’s Phoenix and St. Louis. When you look at their reserve list, you can see what those general managers are doing. The one good thing I can tell you is that after the last draft, I had a general manager call me and say, `Dean, you son of a `B,’ I see what you’re doing, and you’re ahead of me here.’ These are the things that go on for the builders, as opposed to the ones who are just worried about the next game. That’s an overview of the conference.
You look at the East — and eventually the West might get there — it’s getting more and more like the NFL, where it’s harder to predict. Because there aren’t really great teams. Like you see in the NFL now, it’s up, down and all around, where in the past you could see those great teams. OUr goal here is to try to be a top team for a longer period of team, to be in that Detroit model where everybody’s saying, `OK, they’re one of the top four.’