Lombardi: Building, boxes and bridges

Question: Since you started here, you’ve been all about the “boxes” and trying to fill roster spots. Are you getting closer to filling them completely, and has that board changed significantly in the last year?

LOMBARDI: “No question, just because of the back end. In 24 months, it has completely changed. You’ve got four guys who are (age) 25 or under and who can hold down those boxes for a long time. That’s a radical change from Sopel, Norstrom and Blake, that crew. Aaron Miller. Do you know how agonizing that is? `OK, we have to have a bridge here.’ `This kid isn’t ready.’

“The one surprise, like I said, was Doughty coming in already. The other thing is, there’s the issue of filling a box, versus being on the way to it being filled. You look at Kopitar. If you’ve got to win a cup tomorrow, he’s a No. 2 (center), right? So there’s the issue of, that’s his box now, but he has the upside to move up. You can say the same thing about Drew and Jack. This is where they are now, but there’s clearly upside to get higher.

“So part of this building is, it’s not only about filling the box, it’s about allowing those who have the ability to get the experience to move into that box, the higher box. It’s the same with Dustin Brown. Last year, maybe you say that on a good team, he’s a three. Well, he has clearly moved himself into a two, and he’s still trending, maybe, towards a one. He’s trying to move into an Iginla box. So it’s not only about filling a box.

“And that goes into the issue of when you make your move. Don’t forget…that cap space is there. You look at it and say, `That box isn’t quite filled yet, but that guy will be there in six months.’ You’ve got to be real careful about your timing and when you strike.

“It’s not only about boxes. It’s about allowing your top young players to fill those boxes. I think Kopitar is a good example. Does everyone see the potential for him to be a `one’ in this league? Absolutely. But is he a `one’ right now? No. Right now, he would be a good `two.’ If you have him behind Datsyuk, you win a Cup. But every day, he’s getting better. It’s the same with all those young guys, arguably. Simmonds. He’s in the `nine’ spot now, but I could see him getting to a `seven.”’

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  • Bob Bobson

    That’s an interesting thought Dean has. Kopitar is on his way to being a #1 center but he is currently a #2 center. So I guess the boxes get filled with different names as players get better (or maybe worse).

    If he currently has Brown as a #2 winger and Kopi as a #2 center, does that mean no one is penciled in on the #1 line ??

  • anthony


  • Anonymous

    Geez..it IS like ROCKET SCIENCE!

  • Chris

    Thanks, Rich. Awesome info.

    I’m not sure I quite understand the numbering system, though. Do the 1/2/3 numbers indicate their current line potential? Because if so, that comment about Simmonds being a nine-possible-seven makes no sense.

  • king of fire

    Interesting how lombardi talks of timing and striking. Seems like he actually would make a move,gm’s tight pockets permitting.How about Kovalchuk, instant #1 center. no waiting.Free agent next year. kopi can ease into his own with no pressure.what about #2 when kopi makes #1?Hope u are paying attention lombardi..us season ticket holders wanna see at least 2 world class skill guys on our team. does he have a box for that? 40-50 goal scorer, PP QB, frolov’s new russian drinking buddy , check check check.

  • anthony

    So now Kopi is a new #2 center.
    He’s not top line material.

    He’s the first GM in history to pay a #2 center close to $7 Million.

    He’s not up to the challenge.
    He’s in over his head.

  • Goon Squad

    Lombardi’s job is to structure the talent to win a cup down the road.

    Murray’s job is to structure the line combinations to make the team on the ice win right now.

    Two different things. Eggs, baskets, etc.

  • ranole

    Hes not talking about the team depth per se more the overall ability of the player. Is Kopitar a number 1 center? On the Kings yes, on a team like Florida or Nashville or the Islanders yes. On Detroit, NJ, San Jose etc… no. In the NHL Kopitar, right now in his development, is a number 2 center. But remember he is only 3 years in. What DL is saying is that he has the potential, and he sees him accomplishing, to be a number 1 center in not just the Kings but the NHL. Make sense?

  • aj

    Chris, I had that question too. But if I had to guess, there are 8 wingers on a tesm. Right now, on a Stanley cup team simmonds is a reserve forward. But he can move up to a 4th liner on an elite team

  • NMKingsFan

    I think Lombardi is doing an excellent job, I am 100% behind him, but sometimes when I read his statements I feel that I am missing the special decoder ring to figure it all out.
    Like Chris, the Simmonds 7-9 thingy still puts him on the 3rd line still…
    Kopitar will be making $7 million next season, I don’t think you sign second line centers for that much, so obviously Lombardi puts him in the first line center box.
    Does he say that? Not without the decoder ring I guess.

  • Anonymous

    3 forwards per line 4 lines
    simmonds is the 9th (lowest on the totem pole on the third line)
    but could make the jump to seven (top skill third line player)

  • Kevin

    Is there anyway your tech guys could add an ignore option? So we could ignore certain users?

  • Quisp

    re numbers confusion:

    I think DL has two different (at least two!) numbers/rankings systems going at the same time. One is (when he’s referring to Kopitar and Brown above) the traditional #1, #2, #3 referring to lines. He’s basically saying, on an elite team, Kopitar is a #2 center (i.e. second line) and Brown is a third line winger. Etc.

    Then there’s the Simmonds comment, in which I believe he’s revealing he has a straight top-down ranking system for his forwards. No lines, just ranking in terms of value/ability.

    1. Kopitar
    2. Frolov
    3. POS
    4. Brown
    5. Handzus
    6. Stoll
    7. Calder
    8. Armstrong
    9. Simmonds
    10. Richardson
    11. Moller
    12. Ivanans
    13. Zeiler

    Which would be like saying, he sees him like a third line guy. It also might be revealing of DL’s process, since if you look at that list, the two names directly above Simmonds are UFAs, and the next two are trade-bait-worthy. So maybe DL is looking at his big list and wondering who is ready to move up. If DL trades a couple of those guys (1-8), then Simmonds is moving up to 7. And, though they weren’t mentioned, Moller and Richardson might also be ready to move up on the chart. Just a thought.

  • mykey514

    kopitar is only 21 and playing the way he does. there isnt one nhl team that wouldnt want him on there team! call him what you want but he plays against most of the other teams top defensemen and frequently plays against there top forwards as well and thats not an easy thing to do and he still plays well.

  • KINGS17

    Hey Anthony,

    Reading is fundamental. Lombardi didn’t say Kopitar is just a #2 center. He said if you have to win a cup tomorrow is would be a good #2 center to have.

    Do you think Kopitar would be able to carry the load that Datsyuk, Savard, or Thornton will be expected to shoulder in the playoffs this season. I would imagine that the San Jose brass is still hoping that Thornton steps up a little more in the playoffs.

    Once again you have your anti-Lombardi blinders on, and you can’t bring yourself to admit that the man has brought this team farther, faster than any of us had a right to expect.

    – KINGS17

  • Bob Bobson

    Anthony, don’t forget that when Dean says Kopitar is currently a #2 center, he still has upside :

    “If you’ve got to win a cup tomorrow, he’s a No. 2 (center), right? So there’s the issue of, that’s his box now, but he has the upside to move up.”

    He can still get better and eventually become a #1 center which is when the $7MM/yr salary (hopefully) becomes a bargain.

    As far as Simmonds goes, he is at best a 3rd liner in the mold of Handzus. Did anyone expect him to become a 2nd or 1st line player ?

  • mrbrett7

    Read it again Anthony. Not a #1 center, YET.

    In actuality, throughout the NHL, there really are only about 10 true #1 centers…the rest are wannabe’s.

    This goes back to everyone thinking that elite, true elite players, grow on trees. There are not many, and they are even harder to get.

    FYI…Kovalchuck is not a center, has never been a center, and most likely will never be a center.

  • Brian M

    Kopitar is a potential #1 is what he is saying. You sign your best players with upside to hold onto them. He never said Kopitar would not be a #1. We have certain players with good upside, that doesn’t mean they won’t reach it in the next year or two. Kopitar was a good signing regardless of how you look at it as was Dustin Brown.

  • mark4kings


    I’m pretty sure you hit it. I was thinking the same way, but I couldn’t have put it better than you did.

    How can Anthony possibly think DL’s not up to the challenge and in over his head. What a tool.

  • fuzzerson

    Simmonds a 7? Beer goggles?

  • TeamHasHoles

    “How about Kovalchuk, instant #1 center. no waiting.Free agent next year. kopi can ease into his own with no pressure.what about #2 when kopi makes #1?Hope u are paying attention lombardi..us season ticket holders wanna see at least 2 world class skill guys on our team.”

    Not only is Ilya Kovalchuk not a center, but he isn’t a Free Agent until after next season (before the 2010-2011 season) Mr. Impatient season seat holder.

  • philbert

    It all makes sense. I agree with Deano that at this point in time, Kopitar is a #2 center in the NHL. #1 centers would be Joe Thornton, Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby, Vincent Lecavalier. Kopitar is not at that point yet, but he’s only 21 years old. However, the trend nowdays is to pay young players based on potential, which is why Kopitar got his huge contract extension this season. Deano thinks, like many others, that Kopitar will grow into a true #1 center in the NHL over the next few seasons. Contrast Kopitar to somebody like Michal Handzus, who is a good player, but at 31 (or something like that) Handzus doesn’t have much more growth potential and has likely topped out as a #2 center. Clearly, Kopitar is the best center on the Kings but Deano is talking in terms of centers in the entire NHL.

  • tantrum4

    why is everyone still responding to anthony’s posts? He’s just being like that to get a reaction out of everyone, because no one can actually be that dumb to say all the things that he types, that many posts in a row….

  • Johnny Kick a Hole In The Sky

    We have a long way to go to be legit playoff contenders. Just look at this poor defense.

    Matt Greene is a #6

    Peter Harrold 6/7

    Kyle Quincey #6

    Sean O’Donnell #6

    Tom Preissing 5/6

    Gabe Gauthier 6/7

    Doughty & Johnson(both have #1 potential) are easily distinguished as our best two dmen. But on a great team, they would be second and third pairing this year. Like I’ve said, we have a long way to go. Murray and Co have introduced a great defensive system, and it’s working. But this group of players is not good enough, which is why they will have a very tough time making the playoffs.

  • TweenerSongs

    Man. Wow. Rich, you really ought to screen these people before allowing their posts.

    Quincey a #6? Lombardi in over his head? My God, people. And Richardson should be last on ANY list, compiling ANY stat. The guy is an average minor-leaguer, and I have no idea what he’s doing on this team, save for the fact that he’s signed to a one-way deal. Man, the guy blows.

    Dean is doing a terrific job. His numbers make perfect sense, and are certainly in keeping with line positions, rather than top-to-bottom-overall. This is common practice, gentlemen.


  • 4thlinechecker

    Quincey a 6? Gabe Gauthier???? Obviously he’s clueless. Not to mention we have a top 10 D right now.

    What a tool

  • Johnny Kick a Hole In The Sky


    Yes Quincey is a bottom pairing dman. He doesn’t exactly play against the toughest opposition, yet he still has trouble in the defensive zone. Has shown he’s capable of racking up some points, which is great. On a good team, he’s a 5/6 guy, he’s still young so he can only get better.

    Got my Gauthier’s mixed up. Simple as that. Speaking of Gabe Gauthier, things are not looking favorable. I love the underdogs though. Hopefully one of those small guys down in Manchester can surprise us.

    About your “top 10 D” comment, I already said Murray has introduced a great defensive system, and it’s working effectively. But can you imagine if we had a better group of players playing in that system?
    Sean O’Donnell is a nice mentor to Doughty but he’s on the older side and probably playing more minutes than he should.
    Matt Greene makes me miss Tim Gleason. You know what Tim Gleason is? A good solid 2nd pairing dman. Greene hasn’t reached that level yet, but I could see him fulfilling it next season.

  • TweenerSongs

    Brother, quit while you’re only a mile behind.
    Quincey would make any team in the league, and if he’s in your bottom pair (so to speak), you’ve got a hell of a defense. Don’t think Detroit would take him back? How many d-men would you take from Detroit, in his place? two? three, maybe? And since when does he ‘have trouble in the defensive zone’? You’re obviously not a coach, obviously have little to do with the game, outside of being a fan. Which is fine, just don’t say things that are unsure about.

    I mean, come on. When you say that Greene makes you ‘miss Tim Gleason’, you lose all credibility. Don’t misunderstand — i LOVED Gleason (mostly for his upside), but talk about a work-in-progress. Jeez.