Monday, April 23, 2007

Dean Lombardi and the Secret Plan

Dean Lombardi, for those that do not know, is the current GM of the L.A Kings. He was hired this past summer. Prior to the lockout he was the GM of the Sharks for about a decade. He appeared on Edmonton radio many times over the years, and he is clearly a switched-on guy. He's a thinking man to be sure, and he's often outside the box.

Anyhow, here are some quotes from Dean Lombardi articles, culled from the L.A Daily News, NBC and CBC:

The trick for team executives is to sign, or trade for, players whose skills are undervalued on the market.

"It's an ongoing thing. We had another meeting about it (this week). It requires not only open minds but also manpower. I'd like to have that in place in 24 months."

"Some of that stuff I had in the back of my mind for a while,'' Lombardi said. "When 'Moneyball' became en vogue, it was when I was spending lots of time on the road for Philadelphia, and I thought a lot about it and parts of it really started to come together."

I'm a firm believer -- and it's always the thing that's underestimated -- in building an infrastructure. And I'm not saying my way is right, wrong or indifferent. I just know that it's different in what I believe an infrastructure has to be. ... It's your pro scouting, your amateur scouting, your minor league coaches, your development program, getting all these people in synch and how you use technology today.

The Kings open training camp today in El Segundo, and the new faces -- such as Rob Blake, Alyn McCauley, Scott Thornton and Brian Willsie -- don't necessarily reflect Lombardi's long-term strategy. In essence, they're transition players, a means to a new, and perhaps revolutionary, end.

"We've put a lot of time and thought into this, and now we're going to see if it works,'' Lombardi said. "This is one of those things where we're going to end up going down paths that don't work. But we're going to find the right one, and we're not going to get frustrated along the way.''

I mean we all would love to be general managers, be allowed to be in the tank for five years and pick first in the draft. That's a nice easy way to build a team, but it's not practical in L.A.

... the specifics of what Lombardi is looking for will remain a secret for now.
"I had enough of my ideas stolen in San Jose,'' Lombardi joked during a recent conversation.

And this is always underestimated, but I'm starting to sense they care about each other. They're good guys. And I know this sounds like one of those artificial terms, but even Crawford said it's a really good room and that's not always the case.

To be honest, there's some real good things in terms of the team coming together, but let's face it, we haven't been getting the goaltending we anticipated. You don't want to pin it all on the goalie, but it is the most critical position on the rink still. I've seen some good things, but it has to be better.

The one area we left ourselves maybe a little short was up front, but it was the part of the roster that held the most upside and that was the whole design.

"If you've read 'Moneyball', then you've got to read the answer to that, which was the Atlanta Braves' 'Scout's Honor'. They made a point in there about just how character still matters and how you find out."

And lastly, my personal favourite, a quote from abrasive player agent Art Breeze (Jason Smith's agent btw). This in the midst of contract negotiations between himself and Lombardi during Rathje's holdout several years ago:
Breeze said he had one brief conversation with the Sharks last week. "It was just more arrogant, kindergarten management rhetoric -- silly, veiled contract threats that are typical of management that's bankrupt of ideas," said Breeze. "It's like negotiating with a cloud."


Blogger Black Dog said...

That's great stuff, Vic. Its funny, for years and years it was rumoured he'd end up in Chicago as he is Bob Pulford's son-in-law; that's the best move he never made, if the rumours were true.

LA has some nice pieces in place already. I think next year will represent a little more of the same and then they'll start to trend upwards.

4/24/2007 5:01 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Yeah, think so too, Pat. Thay have a lot of good young forwards, guys that create a lot. Right now they have a bunch of young forwards who create a lot, but give it all back at the other end of the rink. Surely that will change with time.

Frolov is a high end guy. A player who MacTavish has clearly built his vs-L.A gameplan around for the past couple of years ... that's a bundle of respect for such a young player. I mean opposing coaches are just starting to care about Hemsky.

Dustin Brown is doing pretty well playing against better quality opp than almost all of his peers. And according to Desjardins his EV shifts end in way more PPs than PKS, and have for a couple of years.

Cammalleri hit the cover off the ball in the AHL, and quietly racked up 80 points last season (granted he takes a lot of ill advised risks on the ice, but he'll figure that out in time).

O'Sullivan has the same thing going as Cammalleri, just a couple of years younger. He's really hit the ball hard in the AHL though, lots of room for him to get better, and smart money says he will.

Jack Johnson is the high scoring defenseman prospect. It will be years before he starts playing against the other teams top players ... but if he can be a difference maker on the PP when he's still in his early 20s, a la Phaneuf, then that's a big help.

Maybe it's because mudcrutch has coloured my opinion, but it looks like goaltending is the dubious spot on that team going forward. And the signing of Cloutier is a bit odd. Cloutier is just an everage goalie (granted he had a very below-average year) and they paid a lot for him IMO.

We'll see. A team to watch in any case.

BTW: I didn't know he was Pulford's son-in-law. Polar opposites in a lot of ways.

He hired Brian Sutter in San Jose as well. He of the down home farm references. Another strange mix.

4/24/2007 7:49 am  
Blogger namflashback said...

This is probably another case where a team's record looks worse due to the divisional-laden schedule. With 24 games versus ANA, SJS, and DAL the Kings have a tough road.

Fortunately, DAL is at a crossroads, and SJS has a 1 year ticking time-bomb. 08-09 could be a Pittsburgh-in-06-07-like-year for this crew.

Interesting to watch the analytical models at play (Buffalo, LA -- and likely San Jose too).

4/24/2007 9:11 am  
Blogger Black Dog said...

yep, Vic, son-in-law - and every season he was rumoured to be going to Chicago, probably knew better then to trust dear old dad :)not to slip the knife into him when he felt his influence on Bill Wirtz waning

they sure have a nice collection of youngsters - I always forget about Brown

I presume you know O'Sullivan's backstory - that's one kid I hope does well. What a frigged up family.

plus Vishnovsky on the back end - I presume they get him extended this summer - he's, what, ~ 30 or so

they have a ways to go and goaltending is an issue but amassing young (cheap) talent is the way to go these days; get as much of it as you can and then look to make that trade or signing to put you over the top if need be

4/24/2007 2:56 pm  
Blogger uni said...

O'Sullivan was a hero in Mississauga. There were a lot of kids that looked up to the guy. I remember this one 5 year old who talked the whole time (I was doing my sales pitch to his dad) about how terrific Patrick was.

Always rooted for the kid myself.

4/24/2007 8:38 pm  
Blogger YKOil said...

Always been a big fan of Lombardi. Guy makes good draft picks and I expect he picks up one of Turris or JVR at #3 this year (though they are no brainers at that spot). I also would not be surprised to see him make a play for Voracek.

Team would be way ahead if it wasn't for knee ligament tear to Petiot (he being the big, mean, stay at home defensemen they need to peak in 3-4 years).

As it stands I am torn on an action plan for their goaltending:

-- Keeping Cloutier, and using him, means they get another good draft pick next year while their known quantities continue to mature their games.
-- Buying him out (while they have the Cap space) and signing Garon or trying Labarbera may make them respectable but there isn't the critical mass of assets there needed to make that pay.

They could, of course, just hope that Bernier really is all of that. Lot to ask of a guy not yet 19.

Hannan is the guy they should target in regards to defensemen - Stuart is highly over-rated imo and any GM who signs him at $4+ is pissing their money away ($3.25 or so would be close to full value).

I really like the way LA is turning out and a few more 'ahead-of-the-curve' moves like the Johnson trade and Lombardi will have a winner there.

4/24/2007 10:29 pm  
Blogger YKOil said...

ummm... that would be the 4th overall pick...

4/24/2007 10:43 pm  

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