Here’s part of a question-and-answer session between Kings beat writers and general manager Dean Lombardi on Monday afternoon …
Question: How did it get to this point?
Lombardi: “It’s a process you work through. It’s not like all of a sudden it dawns on you. You’re starting to think about and you work through the process. I think it’s fair to say we made a final decision that we were one way our another deal with it after the All-Star break.”
Question: How did he take it?
Lombardi: “You can ask him. The process isn’t done because he’s still got to clear. I’ll probably talk to him a little more tomorrow. I’m sure it’s not easy on anybody. These are the tough decisions you’ve got to make.”
Question: You could have bought him out last spring, did you hope that would get him going?
Lombardi: “It was a combination of that and I think it’s … we expect loyalty from our players and it’s a two-way street. I think under the circumstance and what he’d done for us, I thought he deserved a chance to get back to what he’s capable of. That’s a hard balance. Obviously, I’ve thought about that a lot. There’s a new wave thing out there that players are commodities and passion and loyalty, those values made sports so special, the commodities guys will tell you that don’t matter. Well, that’s been a big part of the success of this team, I believe. And that’s how I came down on it. If you’re going to expect loyalty from your players, you have to at times show loyalty to them. Then the issue becomes, where’s that line.
“So, when I step back now, I’m never going to lose my belief in those values being critical, but as we see in the cap area … the cap is designed to eliminate those types of emotions. Fortunately, I still believe they’re a critical part of a good team. In retrospect, if you the commodities angle, you say, well, it should have been easy. If you use the belief in the intangibles it’s not. It is what it is. In the end, I felt he deserved that chance for all he’d done for us. I mean, I don’t think there’s any question that we don’t win that first Cup without what he did for this team. Obviously, you don’t win the second one. But you’ve still got to be at a certain level here that has to get done.”
Question: What about the financial standpoint …
Lombardi: “That’s what we’ve got to work through. Mike in his career, he’s shown he can be a .300 hitter and get you 80 RBIs and be an All-Star player. So, maybe at this stage, it’s not there. I still think he’s capable of being a .280 hitter and do a lot of those things for you that only he can do. Let’s face it, right now, he’s batting .200. But I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back to that. He’s got to do what he’s got to do. There’s a lot of things that remind me of where Teemu Selanne was at this stage. Remember when he had fallen off the map in Colorado and it looked like he was done? Then he started changing some things and went on to have 10 great years, for crying out loud. It’s up to Mike. In my mind, I believe if he wants to, he can get back to that. I see no reason why not. But it’s going to be up to him.”