Evaluation: Dean Lombardi
This season: 46-30-6 record (2-4 in playoffs).
The good: In terms of drafting the development of young players, Lombardi’s tenure has been a success. He has brought in players such as Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Jonathan Bernier, Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Oscar Moller, as well as developing players such as Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick (picks made late in the Dave Taylor era) and Jack Johnson. In essence, Lombardi is doing exactly what he said he would, rebuild the team from the back end first. The Kings’ goaltending and defense is fully constructed and would appear to be in strong shape for years to come, and players such as Brayden Schenn and Andrei Loktionov appear ready to boost the forward ranks.
The bad: Over the past five years, Lombardi has done little to change the “book” on him, that he’s great at drafting and developing but shaky in terms of trades and free agents. To be certain, acquisitions such as Justin Williams, Michal Handzus, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene have proven to be solid. So are Jarret Stoll and Ryan Smyth, but they’re also being paid a large amount of money for secondary roles. By the end of the season, Alexei Ponikarovsky was a $3-million fourth-line winger. Then there’s Dustin Penner. Unless Penner turns things around next season, the most significant trade of the Lombardi era is going to go down as a flop.
Going forward: When does it all pay off? The 2011-12 season will be Lombardi’s sixth season, and while back-to-back playoff appearances certainly constitutes progress, more is expected than sixth- or seventh-place finishes in the Western Conference and first-round playoff losses. To be certain, Lombardi understands this. In order for the Kings to take another step forward, some of Lombardi’s prospects at forward must start to contribute at the NHL level, the Penner trade must work out and, perhaps, Lombardi must make another move for scoring help.