Murray, on his first month

OK, here’s the first part of today’s interview with Terry Murray, who was gracious with his time and sat down with me for well over an hour. I tried to incorporate as many reader questions/topics as possible, but understand that the questions that were very player-specific will be better answered after the first week of training camp or so.

We’ll start off general here, with Murray talking about what his first month as Kings coach has been like…
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Lombardi, on Visnovsky trade

Finally, here’s what Lombardi had to say about the controversy surrounding the Lubomir Visnovsky trade, particularly the allegations that Lombardi “never called” Visnovsky after the trade and essentially went back on his word to trade Visnovsky to a pre-approved team. Lombardi discusses both of these topics in detail.

Thanks again to everyone for the support today. We’ll get back at it tomorrow, in what should be a very interesting day.

Here’s the final quotes…
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Lombardi, on Blake and O’Sullivan

I asked Lombardi about the potential of signing Rob Blake and the fact that it didn’t happen today…

“Part of the thing we’re looking at there is getting the (defenseman) who fits across the board, like I said, then work on a number of other things. And we’ll see if it works (with Blake) and if we can make it work financially for him as well as us. But we’ve got to keep the door open right now, in terms of getting a guy who fits not only this year but going forward.”

Then I asked about Patrick O’Sullivan, and whether the big money given to young players would have a negative impact on the Kings’ ability to sign him…

“No, we had kind of adjusted for that, going in, when we did our projections. I don’t think you can kid yourself. The one thing you learn early in your career is, you don’t think, `Oh yeah, we can get him for this.’ You put in your number, going across three or four years, and you make it realistic. I think the number we have is realistic. I guess the numbers you’re talking about for the young players… I don’t think a lot changed (for O’Sullivan). If you’re talking about the top young guys, Patrick hasn’t gone to that level. If you’re talking about (Corey) Perry and (Jeff) Carter and those guys. If he takes another step, God bless him, but I don’t think it’s fair to say he’s in that range.

“The one significant one that happened in the market today was probably (David) Backes, with that offer sheet. And part of the number you use, don’t forget, depends on the term. We’re in good position with him in terms of our rights. Then there’s a number you’d lock him in at, but you’re keeping an eye on the free-agent line. But I think our number is OK. I don’t think anything really changed in the free-agent market that wasn’t there. (Ryan) Getzlaf was already there, and some of those guys. The other thing is, a lot of these deals are done before July 1, but some of them aren’t signed and announced. So some of them don’t come down until today, but we knew what those numbers were, even before the draft.”

I asked if he was still confident that something could be done with O’Sullivan soon…

“Oh yeah, but I’ll be honest with you. We just haven’t grinded on that yet. After this free agency, I’ll make Solly (Jeff Solomon) go to work. (laughs) And that includes the other (restricted free agents) too. Those things tend to drag out.”

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Lombardi, on the `cap’ and Stuart

I asked Lombardi about the salary-cap floor and how much of a problem — if at all — it might be getting to $40 million…

“No, it’s not a problem for us in terms of the cap. I’m more looking at cash. Even when we’re looking at the (defenseman) who can go across the line, I’m actually looking more at the cash, the next year and the year after. I think we’re certainly set up with the cap space then. As far as the strict legalities of hitting the floor, don’t forget that certain bonus money counts. So when Doughty signs — and we have a couple other kids there too, such as Purcell and Johnson — for purposes of the cap, their bonus money counts.”

I asked Lombardi about Brad Stuart, who signed in Detroit for four years at $3.75 million per year. I asked if he was concerned about giving Stuart a four-year contract…

“Certainly he was a guy we were very interested in. But that’s a situation where he really liked that team there. So I think that’s where he was leaning, and good for him. You want players who want to win. Obviously, Detroit, they’ve got it going. To be honest with you, the (four years) didn’t scare us off. In all honesty, he was one of the guys we were looking at when we talk about guys who fit across the board.”

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Lombardi, on Day 1 of free agency

OK, here’s the first part of the Lombardi interview from tonight, starting with his general impressions of how the day went and how it related to the Kings. Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion about the job Lombardi does, but you know a person has been working hard when he stops in the middle of a sentence and says, “Is today Tuesday?” We’ve all been there, right? So, here’s the first part, with more to come…
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Lombardi comments

OK, here we go… I’ll transcribe the stuff in a bit, but I figured you would want to know the highlights ASAP…

– There aren’t any quotes on this subject, because I threw it in at the end, but a deal for Khabibulin is very, very, very, very — I’d keep going, but I think you get the point — unlikely. There’s just not interest there right now, and I doubt that will change. The rumor had legs because it SEEMED to fit the loose parameters of what the Kings needed, but there’s really nothing to it right now.

– The Kings were right there on Brad Stuart, and apparently didn’t have a problem with either the term or the money, but Stuart decided that he wanted to play for the Red Wings. To this, Lombardi basically tipped his hat and said, “I can’t blame him for that.”

– Lombardi still has his eye on a defenseman who, in his words, fits with both the present and the future. He’s not at liberty to name names, obviously, but I don’t think it’s hard to do some reading between the lines, right?

– Rob Blake is still there as a strong possibility, and discussions are ongoing.

– There are ongoing talks with Patrick O’Sullivan, and Lombardi isn’t particularly concerned that the run of big contracts for young players will negatively impact his ability to sign O’Sullivan. Sounds as though it’s something that won’t get done tonight or tomorrow, but that it’s not a huge roadblock.

– There’s no concern about the $40-million “floor.” There are still players to be signed and, as Lombardi pointed out, there are also bonuses that must be included. Jack Johnson has significant bonus money, as will Drew Doughty, when he signs. So while it might seem as though there’s a big gap there, it will be filled quickly.

– Lombardi spoke extensively about the Visnovsky situation and gave his side of the story, which included calling Visnovsky’s agent immediately after the trade and attempting to call Visnovsky three times on Monday morning, and finally leaving a message on the third call. (It was pre-dawn in Slovakia when the trade went down here Sunday night.) As for the “six-teams list,” Lombardi said he told Visnovsky that he would do his best to accommodate his wishes but made no promises.

So those are the highlights. I’ll get to work on the quotes, for those who want to burn the midnight oil with me. And thanks much for all the support and kind words. They keep me going on these long days. Much appreciated…

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Lombardi’s conference call

What follows is the transcript of Dean Lombardi’s conference call with reporters today regarding the firing of Marc Crawford. All…27…minutes…of…it. There’s audio of it on the Kings’ website, and tomorrow I will figure out how to link it, but at the moment I’m starting to see double. So please pardon any typos below. Tomorrow, we can also start the process of talking about some of the likely candidates. Should be an interesting few weeks…
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Lombardi answers, “Why, and when?”

In the last part of this interview, I asked Lombardi what, specifically, he saw from Crawford that convinced him Crawford wasn’t the right fit…

“In anything like this, when you put it all together, it just comes down to your gut. Because you can’t just pick out one thing and say, `Oh, that’s it.’That’s really not the case. You go through the analytics that I talked about and maybe you’ve got some things that you witnessed in the past that might relate to the future, but in the end it’s a gut call. And that’s the truth. Obviously you could make a list and say, `OK, what about this and that,’ but that’s not totally accurate either.”

I asked Lombardi about the meeting, this morning, in which he broke the news to Crawford…

“I know it’s cliche-ish to say it’s hard, but it really is. If you ever get used to doing something like that, you’ve probably got a problem. It’s not fun and it wears you out. It’s a tough process and I don’t know anyone in this position who does like it.”

Finally, I asked Lombardi if he felt it was important to get a coach in place before either the NHL draft, which starts June 20, or the Kings’ development camp, which usually takes place in early July…

“I don’t think the draft is critical at all, in terms of that. A coach doesn’t really have responsibilities, other than to meet the kid. Obviously the development camp, yeah, there’s a little bit (of importance) but Jamie (Kompon) and Nellie (Nelson Emerson) kind of run that and a lot of it is individual skills, so we’re OK here. So I guess what I’m saying is yeah, it would be nice, but for us to hurry a decision because we want him there, and maybe making the wrong decision, no. The draft is totally irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned, for the coaching part. The development camp would have its advantages, no question, however not enough of an advantage to force our hand.”

I’m going to try to transcribe Lombardi’s conference call from earlier, if my fingers don’t start cramping.

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Lombardi answers, “Who’s next?” (part 2)

Here’s where Lombardi talks, more specifically, about what he might be looking for in his next coach. First, he addresses the idea that, because the Kings are going deeper into their youth movement, he might be looking to hire someone who has experience coaching younger players…

“I’m open to anything, but I think it’s fair to say that when you talk about having experience with kids, I don’t know how many of us have really had experience, necessarily, with this generation of players. Clearly I think it’s safe to say that the ability to not only deal with young players but young people, that’s a two-pronged thing. Being up there in Toronto, at the combine and meeting the kids and meeting the parents, it just keeps reaffirming what I believe about the need to communicate with young people. It isn’t like when (assistant GM Ron Hextall) was out there and you just had to kick him in the (butt) and he did what he was told.”

To clarify, I asked Lombardi whether he thought that his next coach needed certain specific qualifications to make him “fit.”…

“No. Talking about the communication with young people, I do think that the challenges for coaches are changing, just like they are for GMs. The quality of an open mind…not to change your values or anything. You can’t have a coach questioning his values. He has to have what he believes in and stick with it. But he has to have an open mind to adjust, and that’s easier said than done. We’re dealing with an evolving game here, with the (salary) cap and everything. And then obviously a solid work ethic (is important). I know these are cliches but they’re not easy to find sometimes. That would be more important to me than a long resume or a track record. If he’s got those, all the better.”

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