GM breakfast, part 2

First of all, a Happy Father’s Day to everyone out there.

Here’s the second part of the GM breakfast recap from yesterday. The third and final part will be coming soon…


— Next question was about Lombardi’s previously stated interest in “Moneyball” and sabermetrics, and whether he used it in his hockey analysis. Lombardi talked about the difficulty in using sabermetrics in hockey, because players mature at different rates, and said that statistical analysis like that is only “five to 10 percent” of the process. He spoke at length about the value of character when evaluating young players, in terms of their desire to win and meeting their parents, etc. Lombardi also noted that Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, he of “Moneyball” fame, typically drafts college players, rather than 18-year-olds, a luxury not afforded to NHL general managers. Lombardi said that while baseball is statistically driven, in hockey you can’t win without heart.

— Next question started with praise for Lombardi’s leadership and insinuated that he might want to look at a player “down in Florida.” Hextall took that to mean Jay Bouwmeester, even though the question seemed to reference Vinny Lecavalier. Hextall called the Kings’ potential on defense “enormous” and once again stated the need for a scoring left winger. Hextall added that “we expect a productive year from Justin Williams and we expect Kopi will be better … but that’s where we would like to add a player.” Lombardi thanked the fan for his praise and deflected it to his staff, saying, “You’re only as good as the people who work for you.”

— Next question was regarding when the Kings would retire Butch Goring’s number. Lombardi fielded the question and said, “If I see his number up there, I’m going to think about the Cups he didn’t win here.” Lombardi had hefty praise for Goring, both as a member of the Kings and the Islanders, but finished with, “I’m more worried about getting one of our kids’ jerseys up there one day, the right way.”

— Next question asked about the breakdown of scouts in the organization, and where they were situated. Lombardi spoke and mentioned Mike Futa and Mark Yannetti, and his desire to have someone (in this case Futa) with significant experience dealing with the Ontario Hockey League. Lombardi said he had one main amateur person in three different regions — one in the WHL, one in the “middle,” presumably other junior leagues, and one in Europe — and then a team of scouts that funnel information up. Hextall spoke next and said that the three top pro scouts each take 10 NHL teams and 10 AHL teams at the start of the season, then have their duties start to cross over in mid-December. Hextall referenced players such as Teddy Purcell and Davis Drewiske as examples of players the Kings grabbed because of strong scouting.

— At this point, before the next question, Jim Fox told the crowd that all Kings games would be broadcast in high definition next season. The announcement got a strong ovation. It should also be said that Jim did a great job moderating the event, with some good humor mixed in, and that Bob Miller got a nice standing ovation from the crowd as Jim announced that Bob will be entering his 50th year of broadcasting.

— Next question was about whether Lombardi was leaning toward keeping the No. 5 pick or trading it. Lombardi said it was “too early to tell” and that “the decision will go right down to the wire.” Lombardi said, “I do believe we will get an offer that will tempt us,” and said that he knows the Kings are making progress because, for the first time in his tenure, he’s even considering trading his top pick. That said, Lombardi said it is “still the best chance that we’re going to keep it.” Lombardi said, “It’s a good problem to have. The last three years, it would have been ridiculous to think about (trading) it.”

— Next question was about Andrei Loktionov’s play in the Memorial Cup. Lombardi used the opportunity to praise his staff, and said that Loktionov should have been a second-round pick (the Kings got him in the fifth round) except for the uncertainty involving Russian players last summer. Lombardi said, “Most teams thought those kids (Loktionov and Voynov) were going back to Russia, but our guys did a great job of getting committments from there before the draft.” Lombardi talked about some “antics” and poor behavior Loktionov showed during the regular season, then explained how Loktionov “slowly stuck with it” and became more of a team player. Lombardi described a game against the Calgary Hitmen in which Loktionov took a cheap-shot hit and went down hard, but got up and skated to the bench. “That’s my boy,” Lombardi said, and then noted that Loktionov would be “turned over to Uncle Hex” to play for the Manchester Monarchs next season (most likely).

— Next question was about the Kings’ identity, amid frequent logo/jersey changes, and made reference to the third-jersey logo looking like UPS (another great line, and true). Lombardi joked he was happy to pass off the question because he is color-blind. McGowan took it and said the Kings’ identity is with the crown, and that they went to the third jersey to highlight the old black and silver colors and pay tribute to L.A. McGowan said that no logo changes will be made.

— Next question was about bringing in a “character free agent” in the mold of Derek Armstrong. Lombardi took the question and had great praise for Armstrong and Denis Gauthier, calling them “fantastic” teammates. Lombardi noted that Armstrong never complained last season, even when he was out of the lineup, and disclosed that he had attempted to trade Armstrong before the deadline in order to give him a chance with a playoff team. Lombardi said Armstrong and Gauthier “showed no signs of selfishness.” In terms of bringing back Armstrong — an unrestricted free agent — Lombardi expressed interest but said “the reality is that I have to keep spots open.” Lombardi said he had to see if a young player was ready to take that spot and noted that he could only have 50 contracts at a time. Lombardi compared Armstrong to character veterans such as Marty McSorley and Bernie Nicholls, whom he brought to San Jose for veteran leadership.

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