While there’s certainly other informative news that will come from today’s conversation with Dean Lombardi, the Kings’ general manager was asked at the outset of the media availability about yesterday’s New York Post report that alleged, amongst other details, that the players “locked the door to their locker room following a defeat on the road within the last two weeks so that [Darryl] Sutter could not get in” to address the team.
“Unfortunately, it’s factually inaccurate,” Lombardi said, noting that the report happened earlier in the season and not during the weight of the club’s late-season playoff push.
Lombardi said that the incident – which he also deemed “a little scuffle” – happened while the team was in Tampa during a road trip that began with Los Angeles losing in Boston, Washington and Florida and included the added presence of the Epix television crew. The Kings ultimately won in Tampa Bay on February 7, the first game of a season-long eight-game winning streak.
In a passionate articulation, Lombardi referenced the occurrence as an example of the players assuming control of the dressing room and demonstrating emotion, even if “maybe you don’t have to go to that extreme.”
“But theoretically, I have no problem with it because here’s the thing, where this team has to get to,” he said. “If you look at what essentially a coach’s number one role is, to give his team structure and detail, the emotion in terms of getting that emotion to where it needs [to be], if we’re going to be a top team, it has to come from within the room. With it times, the coach obviously still has to have some ability, and essentially a lot of that too, particularly in today’s day and age where you’ve got to give a lot of players individual one-on-one. So we’re even a part of the times raising the emotion in that room. Obviously one of the problems this year was just that, but for whatever reason we weren’t where we needed to be mentally. Now that said, I don’t know if I like the way it happened, but if you look at great teams, a perfect example is Derek Jeter. When Joe Torre was willing to blow or something, Jeter would walk in and say, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, I got this one. Stay out, and don’t be losing it.’ You’ve seen this with top players all the time. The players essentially you want in charge of your room, and like I said, maybe the way to do it was, ‘we don’t need to hear from you now, we’ve got it,’ and go out and get it done. Maybe you don’t have to go to that extreme. But the point is what happens there – that’s what needs to happen. The players need to take over the room emotionally, and if you want to go in there and say, ‘coach, stay out, I’ve got this one. We know how to win,’ I’ve got no problem with that. It’s just that maybe again, you don’t want to have to put a garbage can there. But if we’re going to be a top team, your best players have to take over the emotion in your room, and at times that might require them to say, ‘coach, I’ve got this one.’ And there’s enough players in that room now who’ve won. The problem you would’ve had before was credibility. If Jeter tells Torre, ‘I’ve got this one, stay out,’ I better listen – he’s got frickin’ four championships. Well, there’s guys in there now with two championships. They’re qualified to do that now. They might not have said that four years ago – ‘hey, hey, hey, no, no, no, no,’ you’re not ready for this. But they’re ready for that. They know where they’ve got to be. So the irony is that’s essentially a lot of times what you want to happen – your players take over your room. ‘Stay out, coach, I don’t want to hear from you. I don’t want to hear from you, Dean. We’ve got it. Stay out.’ Because they know way more than we do. It’s just as you’re building that up, it’s usually you get more involved when they don’t know how to win. But they’ve been there. So that’s the way I look at it. In terms of how it happened – the trash cans or whatever – I’m not sure you have to send a message that way. You read about all those great players time and again, the top ones would say, ‘we’ve got this one,’ and go out and get it done. That’s the key. Now, the irony is this is, like I said, we went out and had one of our best streaks.”
The thought of players “assuming control of the room” was also referenced in conditioning and making sure that players, by demonstration or by communication, inspire others to reach their potential through work habits, training and conditioning.
“You want “for the players to take over the room and make sure this happens, pushing each other,” Lombardi said. “You want to get to the point where Tyler [Toffoli] walks into that room and goes, ‘holy smokes, look at Kopitar and Doughty. I’d better get frickin’ going here.’”
“And that was the whole Detroit thing, right? Why would they consider Detroit probably the best conditioned team in the league? Most people would consider them. It started with Lidstrom and Yzerman in the top, and it got handed down to Datsyuk. Then you don’t have to get called into Dean’s office or have trash cans all over, because it’s coming from within the room, the peer pressure.”