Lombardi, Part 2

Here’s the second part, dealing with injuries and defensemen.

Since there’s been some talk about video interviews… If I do go that route, the video won’t replace the transcript. It will just be an added feature. So for those who prefer to read rather than watch, that would still be there.

And speaking of which, here are more words…

Q: On the injury front, are both Handzus and Blake at 100 percent going into camp?

A: Blake, yeah. Blakey’s fine. He’s here now. You’ll get a little scoop for your blog. Handzus had tonsillitis. He was fine physically, with all his training and everything. The only thing that happened is he got tonsillitis there and had the surgery. The only bad thing about that is he couldn’t train for about two weeks. He had a little setback there, not in terms of his injury but just in terms of conditioning. Obviously tonsillitis isn’t going to hurt him as a player but it hurt his rehab/physical training. It basically set him back two weeks. That’s something you can’t control but I’d rather have that than something else.

Q: When did he have that?

A: It was about two weeks ago.

Q: Are you thinking that will impact him heading into training camp at all?

A: Oh, no. It was just a little setback. Everything we’ve gotten is positive at this time. With the structural things, the rehab is right on. Like I told you before, he trains like an ox. Ultimately though, you’re never going to know for sure until he takes his physical. That’s the one hard thing about free agents from the other side of the ocean, but we have a good relationship with all his advisers and things and we’ve got all the medical reports. We’ve been in contact with him and we’ve seen the video of him working out.

Ultimately, you’d like to get your own hands on him, and that will be coming up here shortly. The only thing I’m saying about the tonsillitis is, you can’t do anything for two weeks. He couldn’t train. So you do all that training and then he had to sit out. So it’s not a major setback, and again, I’d rather have it be that than a lot of other things. We were just glad it was tonsillitis. When we first found out about it, we thought, “Oh God, an infection in his throat. What are they talking about?” So actually we were kind of glad it was tonsillitis.

Q: There have been a number of defensemen brought it, guys you might describe as second-tier guys, behind Visnovsky and Blake and Stuart and Preissing. How do you envision training camp going? Is there going to be a lot of competition for a couple spots there?

A: I think you need about eight NHL defensemen. I shouldn’t say that, because it’s almost impossible, but you like to have eight guys who can play in the league. Obviously there are different degrees of being able to play. I guess it’s kind of like the goalie thing last year. Those two goalies didn’t belong in the NHL. This goes back to something I’ve said since day one, the idea that we don’t have any young defensemen. We’re not only building a team, we’re building a reserve list. But unless I’m missing something, I see seven NHL defensemen. I’ve got Blake, Vish, Stuart, Preissing, Modry, Johnson, Klemm. OK, now you look at those and they’re varying degrees. Then you’ve got Dallman… and then you’ve got the kids. That’s ideally what you want to do. Harrold is the closest.

It’s the same thing with O’Sullivan last year, when you looked at our forwards. If they win the job, and they show you they’re going to be better than the veteran, then that’s essentially how you get better and younger. Now you’re set up to bring them along the right way. So Harrold is the closest, obviously, given his experience to date. If he comes in and beats out one of those guys, then it’s like the old Atlanta Braves thing. If a young player goes in, you don’t miss a beat. But that young player has to be as good, or better, in order to keep developing.

Petiot would probably be close to the Harrold category but he got hurt last year and we’re not sure where he’s at. He was probably one of the better prospects that were on the list last year for defensemen, but like I said, there weren’t a lot of defensemen there, period. Where he is, it’s hard to gauge. But he should be further along than the other guys, despite the injury, because of his age and because he has some pro experience. The other two kids you’re probably talking about are Bagnall and Piskula, and we’re trying to get the age-distribution thing going there. So I don’t know where your logjam is per se…

Q: Well I didn’t necessarily mean logjam, just that there’s some guys there who can maybe compete for those fifth, sixth and seventh spots and push some veterans.

A: Well sure, and that’s a good problem to have. With defensemen, it’s like good pitching. If they can play and they’re good, we’re not going to have a problem. We’ll take that, versus not having enough.

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