Question: Coming into training camp, there were a handful of guys who you pretty much said had earned a spot on the team…
LOMBARDI: “That they had a job to lose. That was the point. They had paid their dues enough, and it was, `We’ve got a box open for you. You’re not boxed in by the fact that there’s a veteran there, and that you can play your (butt) off and not get a job.’ Generally, that happens a lot with young players. I thought those three guys had paid their dues and did a good job in the minors and did what they were asked in the summer. `There’s the box. Grab it, but we’re not giving it to you. You’ve got to grab it. Moulson did early.”
Question: Are we talking about three guys or four? Boyle, Purcell and Moulson, and I thought Harrold was on that list too…
LOMBARDI: “OK, we had Harrold in there too. Moulson was the guy who looked really good at the beginning. Harry was the guy I knew — well, I shouldn’t say I knew — but Harry’s competitiveness is off the charts. Harry, like, forces you to find a spot for him. When I talked about three guys, I was thinking of the forwards, because Harry didn’t really surprise me. Harry always gave you the sense that once it was there for the taking, he would take it. That’s just the way he plays. So then, of the four, he’s the only one who really grabbed it, in my mind.”
Question: What does that say for the other three?
LOMBARDI: “Well, they got beat out by two 19-year-olds, frankly. Moller and Simmonds. What was told to them, when they were up here, is, `You’re not hard enough.’ In the battle areas, they weren’t good enough. One of the things that happens — and this is the hard part — is they can still get their points in the minors.
“Purcell can still get his points. He’s in that gray area where he doesn’t have to do the `dirt’ work in order to get his point in the minors. But unless he’s going to do the dirt work, he’s not going to get his points up here. So you’ve got that rub. You’re trying to stay on him in the minors and say, `You’re getting two points a night, but you should be getting four.’ But he’s that talented, so it’s hard.
“The other night he had four points. Now, we’re calling down there and saying, OK, we know the guy can put up numbers. We saw what he did last year as a rookie, and it was pretty impressive, numbers-wise. But where did he score his goals? Did he go into the blue (goal crease)? Is his head down in the scrums? Where’s our progress there? Because it’s not good enough up here. Now, the second time he came back, I thought he was better. He is starting to figure it out, but it’s a process. Like I said, when he gets his points in the minors, it’s kind of hard to tell the kid, `It’s not good enough.’ (They think,) `What do you mean? I got my two points.’
“So he’s kind of caught in the middle there. In his case, he’s a little unique compared to the other ones, because he has so much talent. His issue, in terms of getting back here, is really pronounced in that regard, and he is kind of unique because he’s got a high skill level.
“Moulson just fell off. He did OK and then he lost the spot. Then it’s, `OK, you have to be ready if somebody goes down.’ I don’t have any problem calling him up, but right now we’ve got 13 (forwards). That’s kind of what happens. You’ve got a job to lose. If you don’t get it, and someone else grabs it, you’re going to have to wait your turn again.
“That’s what they’ve been told, and they don’t disagree. Moulson will tell you, `I screwed up.’ You’re damn right. So next time, he’s going to appreciate that opportunity and not take a shift off. You can’t afford to. And this is what you’re trying to create in your organization, that competitiveness from within. I have a problem with handing jobs to kids. Doughty was not handed a job. He went through every rookie camp and rookie game, like Kopitar did in his year. He wasn’t handed anything.
“Whether you’re Doughty or Moulson, you’re not going to be handed anything, either way. They only thing they were handed, because they paid their dues, was the box that was left open. We didn’t go out and get a Nagy or a Scott Thornton or those veteran bridge guys and basically say, `That job is taken.’ But if you don’t grab it, too bad. Be ready the next time.
“Same thing with Brian. Then, if the team is having success, we’re not just going to bring you up here because we want to give you the box. Army (Derek Armstrong) comes back and grabs that job, then it’s, `Well, Brian, that fourth-line center job is now closed. Be ready when it opens up again.’ That’s part of, going back to Bernier a little bit, that’s part of the mental toughness. Are you going to go down there and pout, or look yourself in the mirror and ask why you didn’t hold the job?
“Get it fixed, and the next time you come back here, maybe play with a little more urgency, and understand that we expect to win here now, versus when you came up last year and the games didn’t mean (anything). The other team didn’t respect you and you were playing with the house’s money. That’s not an NHL player. So understand that when you come up here and do that job, we’re not just looking to evaluate you; you better help us win.
“That’s again, when you go back to talking about judging based on wins and losses, we couldn’t before. We didn’t have the players and the right kind of mix. So yeah, of those guys, Harry is the only one.”
Question: Do you still think Boyle can turn this around?
LOMBARDI: “While he’s in this system, it’s our job to believe that, and to do everything we can. That’s what we’re doing. What Warren Strelow said about the goaltenders is no different here. Our job is to make him better every day. For me, or for a minor-league coach or Nelson Emerson, to say, `We’re never going to get this done,’ they’ve already given up. That’s not a teacher.
“As long as he’s down there, it’s our job to make him better. Whether it’s a pat on the back or extra work, a kick on the butt or sitting him out, you never lose sight of the fact that you’re trying to make him better and get him to the show. Now, if a deal is there and we say, `We can get this for that,’ then your question is relevant. `Do you think he will ever get there?’ Then it’s, `Yes,’ or `Well, maybe not,’ and that’s how you put the value on the deal.
“But for me to answer that question, it doesn’t make any sense, because that’s not development. Once a teacher gives up on a pupil, and that pupil knows it, you’ve got no chance.”