Lombardi, projecting the conference

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…

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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.’

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  • paul

    this guy is not the right man for the job in LA too many mistakes

  • cristobal

    What is this guy watching? He doesn’t mention San Jose? His former team? Perhaps this is just a snippet of the convo, but Phoenix building through the draft? Ollie Jokinen was not a pick of theirs. Nor was Jovo, Morris, or Rhineprecht. Bryzgalov, hmmm, did they draft him? St. Louis sold off 2 years ago and is already outperfoming the Kings. Plus, they trade away veteran players to go for Cups and the players return. Is he also banned from using the words Duck or Anaheim?

    That GM that called him must have been Hextall playing a joke, because none of the draft picks have played any significant minutes yet, and their picks are all looking better too. Who does he think he’s kidding? Chicago is the only team that has been building primarily through the draft, and Calder, Bell, and Cleary are 3 of the products of that. Oh yeah, and Tuomo Ruttu who was traded last march with no mention of interest from the Kings. He’s one player who’s suffered injury that I’d take a decent shot at.

    The NFL? The NFL sucks because of the Salary Cap and interminable commercial breaks. It seems the NHL is taking their lead. League wide there is a lot of parity in the NFL, but it would be hard to say that the Patriots haven’t been a Dynasty of sorts. Outside of Brady, a late round sleeper pick, they build through dealing players. I like the ambition to be a top 4 club, but the AEG speak is played…he’s starting to sound a lot like Alexei Lalas. Just because the Galaxy say they’re a super club, can’t hide the fact there bottom of the league along with the expansion San Jose franchise.

  • Quisp

    Uh, Cristobal, not to get in the way of a good tirade, but I’m quite, quite sure that when DL says “St. Louis” in naming the four perennial teams, he meant to say “San Jose.” Either he misspoke or Rich mistyped.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, talk about a rant. Have you not been paying attention to what PHX has been doing. They’ve been drafting and building their team around picks. Yes, they have vets (the guys you mentioned)…which team doesn’t? 5 out of 20 guys? That sure sounds like a team full of free agents and guys acquired through trades:
    St. louis and PHX are also ranked ahead of us by Hockey future too:

    “Strengths: Phoenix’s No. 3 overall selection in 2007, highly-touted BCHL center Kyle Turris joined a growing stable of elite offensive prospects that has propelled Phoenix up the Hockey’s Future organizational rankings for the second straight season. Phoenix has two potential elite forwards in Turris, who has drawn comparisons to Joe Sakic, and rugged, talented WHL-veteran Peter Mueller. But the firepower doesn’t stop there. Wingers Martin Hanzal and Blake Wheeler are two more offensively gifted forwards in the Phoenix pipeline. Hanzal and Mueller are playing significant minutes with the Coyotes this season and look to be sure-fire stars. Weaknesses: After the top four or five prospects, quality drops off significantly. Phoenix lacks overall quality and depth at goaltender, though Swede Joel Gistedt was believed to be a sleeper in the 2007 NHL draft. They also do not have any top pairing defensive prospects. Top five prospects: 1. Kyle Turris (C), 2. Peter Mueller (C), 3. Martin Hanzal (LW), 4. Blake Wheeler (RW), 5. Keith Yandle (D). Key graduates: Matt Jones.

    #1: Strengths: Going into the 2007-08 season, the best prospect in the NHL in Erik Johnson broke training camp firmly established on the NHL roster. But the defensive pool does not stop with Johnson as Ian Cole headlines the second tier of defensive prospects, each with legitimate NHL potential. Even with the graduation of Hannu Toivonen, the Blues can look to Marek Schwarz as a future NHL starter who could eventually surpass Toivonen in net. The forward corps contains both high-end talent, in skilled centers T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund and play-making wingers David Perron and Lars Eller, and depth as their second tier is packed with forwards of second line potential that, if only a couple out of the pack reach their full potential, the Blues will have a mostly homegrown second and third line in addition to their top stars. Weaknesses: Weaknesses are difficult to come by when you are at the top of the list. While the forwards are skilled and deep, they lack that one true franchise forward. Top five prospects: 1. Erik Johnson (D), 2. T.J. Oshie (C), 3. Marek Schwarz (G), 4. Patrik Berglund (C), 5. Lars Eller (LW). Key graduates: David Backes and Hannu Toivonen.

  • blugator

    When he said “The three teams in our division are still in that upper layer.”, it’s obvious he was talking about San Jose, Dallas, and Anaheim. What more needed to be said?

  • sd

    cristobal and Quisp,
    I don’t think St. Louis was a misspeak or a mistype. DL was talking about the past. Quote: “I’ve always said in the past, every season you can always see Detroit, Colorado, Dallas and St. Louis.” He was explaining the different tiers of teams. Not sure why he used the past, but he did.

    Then he went on to say “The three teams in our division are still in that upper layer.” I.e. San Jose, Anaheim and Dallas. Not sure why he didn’t name them by name, but those are obviously who he considers the top tier.

  • Joey

    Cristobal, I’m pretty sure he included Anaheim and San Jose when he said: “The three teams in our division are still in that upper layer.” Also, take a look at the draft position for Phoenix the last couple of years and tell me they haven’t been making use of the draft. Chicago isn’t the only team that is rebuilding through the draft. Washington (MVP, coach of the year, on the rise) and Pittsburgh are doing that too.

  • Fyz

    He said, “In the past”. Not too long ago, St. Louis was a perennial lock to make the playoffs year over year.

    He also said that there are 3 teams that are in the ‘elite’ tier of the conference, and I’m sure he was referring to the Ducks, Sharks and Stars.

    The Coyotes do have a large chunk of people that they drafted with the big club; that’s like saying the Kings aren’t building from within because they have Calder, Zeus, Armstrong etc.

  • cristobal

    Fyz – the kings are sure building something with calder and zues, its their chances for No. 1 overall next season.

  • cristobal

    Mr. Anonymous – The game is played on the ice, not on the internet Hockey’s Future boards. I only named a few of the players they’ve acquired outside of the draft. Would you mind having those guys? Pittsburgh seem to have built through the draft, and were fortunate enough to suck for long enough to get Malkin, Crosby, and Fleury very early in the draft. Washington, much the same, but they’re still a pretty weak team outside of Ovie, Backstrom, Semin, and Greene. Will Theodore and Frolov help get them back to the playoffs? I don’t know. I think over all the league does seem weaker league wide. That’s why I can’t see how we’re bottom feeding year after year after year under Lombardi.

  • KingFan4ever

    God darn it I’m sick & tired of this GM’s (and the organization’s) defeatist attitude! Not one game has been played and it seems that DL is already conceding the whole ’08-’09 season? No one including him and Murray even know who will be in the opening day roster??

    It’s ok to be realistic about your chances but keep that to yourself for freaks sake! If I was asked I would say:

    “The west is ultra competitive and realistically, we have a young team but make no mistake…WE WANT TO WIN and we will be fielding a team that WILL compete hard”

    Instill that winning attitude, let the kids play and whatever happens, happens. I think it’s major arse covering in the part of DL in case he’s dumped but man, how would you feel if you where Kopi or Brown or Sully? Where just a bunch of kids so it’s Ok?

    If it’s not about winning then what’s the point?

  • cristobal

    Kingfan4ever – Simple answer. Profits.

  • cristobal

    Otherwise, they’d be telling us that they’re prepared to put every cent the team generates, right back into the team. AEG could separate themselves from the management, tell the general manager he’s free to spend what ever money his team generates, and quit wasting money on bureaucracy and wasteful spending. Strip the team down to an employee list smaller than the teams. If the fans support the team through attendance and merchandise, they’ll have more money to spend on players in a rational and realistic fashion. Speculating on players coming of injuries would stop, and players that showed loyalty to the club and care about its name will be rewarded.

  • Anonymous

    When the time is right to get the missing pieces to contend, will DL trade his precious picks and prospects to get it done? I’m not sure, he wants to build this team with draft picks. That will take a lot of time.

    We’ll see.

  • jet

    Cristobal is correct about AEG trying to buy a team for the Galaxy. We have all the stars, but no team. there are no defenders who have worked together for 5 years, There are no midfileders who want to defend first. I guess we should be happy that AEG is building the right way with the Kings, but it would be nice if Alexi could look over DL’s shoulder for a few years.

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