Question: Going into the summer, what will the message be to Dustin Penner?
LOMBARDI: “Well, I think what we’ve done here, particularly the way we play — and I think we can still improve — in the last couple years we’ve set a culture where you have to be in shape here. I talked about that three years ago, when players started to be here over the summer, how far we have come in terms of commitment, from (having) no players here in the summer to the whole team coming together. So I think, as a group, some of the young ones still had to learn it. We saw this year with Drew (Doughty), being in shape, but for the most part it’s been a pretty good group. Kopitar took a step last year, to become average in conditioning, so it’s mostly our kids now who have to take that (step), which is usually the way it goes. In (Penner’s) case, he has obviously been a pro a lot longer, but it’s (about) buying into the way Matt Greene approaches his offseason. I could use him as an example. I’ve got a lot of guys like that. But that is number one. There is some serious work to do here in the summer, and to me, that’s all culture.
“It’s almost like you look at him and say, `There’s some upside here, if you’re going to buy in,’ because this is a strong man. So that’s clearly the message. It’s buying in to what your teammates believe in, in terms of how you prepare. It’s as simple as that. It’s not only going to make him a better hockey player, but clearly it’s about attitude.”
Question: What will the message be to Dustin Penner?
MURRAY: “I’ve had several meetings, from the time he arrived here. Players who are offensive players want to talk about goals and assists and creating and contributing. At the end of the day, you want to look at the score sheet and see your name there, and stuff like that. And that’s true. But from my approach, I wanted him to be a hard-working, intense, compete player. I didn’t really care about the score sheet. I referred to that often. I’m not looking at goals. I’m not looking for the points, at the end of the day. I want to see a player who is playing the right way and playing our system. There’s going to be some hesitations and breakdowns there because of (playing with) a new team and a new style and new philosophy and all that. I’ll live with that, as long as that high-end work is there. Inevitably, if a skilled player is working hard, the points and things are going to happen. So I tried to change the whole mindset of what the expectations were, from me.
“At times, I saw the message getting through, I saw the work. Even if it meant 25-second shifts, as opposed to 40-second shifts, that’s OK. It started to come. I think he’s starting to get the attitude that we’re conveying. It’s starting to get across, how important it is to do things right all the time. The meeting now, to me, for the summer time, it’s all about work. It’s all about physical conditioning. This is the minimum that is required for a professional athlete. This is not anything that would be extraordinary or different for any other player. The minimum you have to bring, as an athlete, is top physical shape. Then you’ve got to wok on other parts of it from there.”