Shortly after 12:00 noon on Wednesday, the NHL’s trading deadline will have passed, and fan bases across the National Hockey League will have evolved from assessing the costs to address their team’s wants and needs to projecting the futures of a slightly realigned balance of personnel.
In advance of the trading deadline, I sat down with General Manager Dean Lombardi to try and gain a sense of the direction the team will be heading at the trading deadline, and the efforts undertaken by the Kings’ hockey executives to improve the club.
Keep in mind that tampering rules do exist, and general managers can’t pinpoint players on other teams by name. So don’t expect any salacious details surrounding Player X to be revealed by the club’s executives.
Instead, this multi-part discussion serves as an interesting guide to develop your own conclusions about where the Kings are at, where they are headed, and what type of hypothetical player movement would best give the team a chance to win a higher percentage of regular season and playoff games.
Deadline discussion part one: How did we get here?
LA Kings Insider: What did you make of the team’s slump prior to the Olympics?
Dean Lombardi: Well, I think there are two issues, probably three. One, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out we weren’t scoring. So in terms of an interpretation, we were doing a lot of good things. We were still solid most nights defensively. The overwhelming majority of the time we were playing our game, i.e. we were playing in the other team’s end. So what you run into, what you’ve got to be careful of, is when a team goes through a drought like that, the tendency is to start cheating. And that’s a very difficult thing for coaches and particularly the players to stay focused on what your identity is, what has made us successful in not cheating to compensate for what’s happening. So…that can happen to all us. The players can certainly start cheating. The coach can start maybe start changing things, and the G.M. can start running around, looking for things that don’t fit with our identity and what we believe in to try and rectify this. So we all have to stay focused on what we are and fight our way through. But, ultimately it comes down to the players, and the one thing that I find solace in with this group – and I met with a number of them through that period – I was able to look at them and believe it. These guys have always risen to the occasional through tough times. This isn’t the first time we’ve gone through a drought. It isn’t the first time we went through a tough period, but it goes back to even the year before we won the Cup. There’s always been a series of challenges similar to this one, some different, and they’ve always found a way. So, based upon their experience and the belief in have in the group’s character, you just get that feeling that they’ve risen to the occasion in the past and they’ll figure it out again. And I believe they will. But in terms of ‘what to make of it,’ it was very obvious. Because we weren’t doing other things poorly. You’d have some breakdowns and things at times, but overall – like I said, some of our possession numbers were still holding, top in the league. So we were playing our game, we just weren’t scoring. But you don’t want to get away with what made you successful.
That’s the other thing you’ve got to be careful of. It’s becoming more and more evident that there’s a playoff M.O. and a regular season M.O. I shouldn’t say they’re mutually exclusive, but it’s very clear now. Here’s what happens, also. When you have an 82-game condensed schedule, it’s very difficult to play at that level. It’s…mentally draining. But the playoffs aren’t. It’s all holds barred. You don’t have a hard time knowing what that playoff game’s going to be like. And that’s the other thing you’ve got to get cognizant of here. It’s like there are playoff teams, and there are regular [season teams]. I’m starting to see that. I think you’re seeing some of this in other sports, where ‘Well, I can get through a regular season,’ but the playoffs are a different animal, just because certain players are like that. They can have success with extra space out there because it’s not the same intensity. It’s three-in-four nights, teams are traveling, so now those plays are there. Well, when the playoffs come, all of a sudden a lot of those guys disappear, because the space isn’t there. And so that’s the other thing you’ve got to be cognizant of – be careful about tinkering and getting away from what you believe in because we all know what the playoffs are like.
More to come…