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.
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."