Lombardi, on improving the roster
Question: At the end of the previous two seasons, you said the main focus was for the young players to improve. In terms of improving the team, how much is that still the case, and how much do you need to go outside and look for help?
LOMBARDI: “I sill think that’s a huge thing. Don’t forget, the playoff game is totally a different animal. But again, in the regular season, it’s putting yourself in the hole, it’s playing withe expectations, playing with pressure. Even with Kopitar. I remember, during the season, the way he competed with one-goal leads, the way he played at the ends of some games. It said, `We’re going to win this game.’ You could just see where this guy said, `We will not lose this game.’ So that stride is huge. But you saw situations, like on the power play, where your most talented players are your youngest players. It’s the maturity of learning to rise to the occasion. They’re the ones who are going to have to learn it. That’s a great experience for them. That said, it’s still the same. I’m going to look. As long as we feel with our defense, and I think we do, as we saw in the regular season, is still capable of being the best — and the goaltending is solid — I’m going to continue to address what I tried to address at the trade deadline and what I tried to address in the summer. But it’s (finding) the right guy. Like I said at the deadline, it’s the same issue. I’m not trading Schenn for a guy with one year left on his contract. That’s the point. So you’re going to be in the same marketplace. The only thing is, in the summer you might get a different clientele, so to speak, with what might be available. I think that could change the dynamic, with what I’m willing to do.
“But if it’s the same thing as at the deadline, where it’s guys with one year left on their deal, and they insist on my top prospect, I’m not going that route. We’ll just make those two kids better. They’re probably our best offensive prospects, in Loktionov and Schenn, and they need a huge summer. But in terms of the continuing to look for a certain type of player, yeah, but it has to be the right guy and the right situation. We’ve had this for 12 months, haven’t we? The whole Kovalchuk thing. His minus-26 would have looked good. Then the trade deadline. What was available, for what they wanted, it didn’t make sense.”