When Dean Lombardi spoke with reporters on a conference call Wednesday afternoon, there was a considerable amount of discussion about Andrej Sekera, the trade market and the environment in which the Kings decided to make a significant personnel move.
Part of that environment is the eight-game winning streak that the Kings have embarked on immediately after one of their darkest losses of the 2014-15 season. Recent history has shown the Kings often follow difficult losses with extended winning streaks. As Dean Lombardi shared, it was another challenge presented to a team that has a good track record of successfully emerging from such challenges.
Dean Lombardi, on the team’s response over the last eight games:
I don’t know, haven’t we seen this before? I think this year, obviously it’s been a different type of struggle. I’ve talked to a number of you throughout the season, and it’s been hard to get a handle on some things, and part of that is not only a challenge for them, but my inexperience in reading a team that’s accomplished what they’ve accomplished and are trying to stay there. It’s a new experience for me as it is for them. I think you could say, well you’ve won [two of] three years, but I think this one was different and I think it presented a very different challenge than the first one. So I think as a group, and I’ve been asking coaches and players all year in countless meetings, and the whole thing about you can’t get a statistic for that certain feel, that emotion, that intangible that often times you can sense. And you guys sense it, too. You guys have been in enough rooms. So it’s not a lot different from what you guys feel in rooms at times. This has been a very different challenge in the feeling of getting this. It’s like, so many times during the year it looked like we were getting it going, it was like a car going ‘rerer rerer rerer rerer’ (starting noises), but you just can’t turn it over. So, make no mistake, we’ve all been searching, nobody’s stopped working. I think I probably come back again to two things: one, we’ve never had an issue throughout all our struggles of players ever pointing the finger. I think we’ve seen that in some other teams that have won and caused some teams to make moves at times because the chemistry of the team changes because the players start thinking about themselves getting credit. We’ve never had that and could always put that aside. From talking to other teams and general managers about it and what they’ve struggled with, that was always one of the issues, and I could always put that aside. The second thing – so you didn’t have that. I think they’ve always known that they hadn’t been working like they should, and not only were they not pointing their fingers at each other, but a lot of guys, too, were pretty hard on themselves. Then you just come back to the same old story. Deep down, I know they care, and they’ve always been able. So they found a way. Hey, we lost eight games in a row last year, pucks going in off the back of the net. Lesser men would have folded and found excuses. But they haven’t in the past, so what would make me think they would start now? So it was the only way I’ve been able to sleep at night, although it hasn’t been very comfortable, make no mistake. But you get some solace in the fact that, you know what? They’ve shown that they can figure it out, and that’s what it comes down to. In the end, it isn’t me, it isn’t Darryl, it’s themselves. The only thing I was able to figure out, deep down, was, you know what? I know they’re not going to quit, and they’re not older. It’s not like they’re past their prime. The core of this team, there isn’t any age factor. So, anyway, I don’t know if that helps you. That’s the way it is. Identifying that emotion or what that intangible is, like I’ve said it. I can’t define it but you know it when you see it.
Lombardi, on whether the trade’s timing was related to Chicago’s struggles after having lost Patrick Kane while in the market for a defenseman:
Not really, because we had been talking about this, quite honestly. That’s the way generally these deals go, as I told you. I started talking about Gaborik last year in December. This has been an ongoing thing. The person holding the player essentially controls when it happens, and they were very forthright through the whole process of what it would probably take. Also, from our end, and in the end, I don’t have any control over that. But, like I said, the way Carolina [handled] the whole thing, it didn’t surprise me. Generally, when you get into these things, you have a pretty good idea of where that price is going to go.
Lombardi, on whether Tanner Pearson could return before the end of the regular season:
It’s possible. You know I think the thing with a lot of these young kids is they get better fast, they’ve been working really hard, and that’s one thing about being young, they seem to heal quicker, so I have him – barring any complications, which I don’t foresee with the way he’s been progressing – I think there’s a shot.
Lombardi, on whether the streak is tied to Mike Richards’ assignment to Manchester:
I have no idea, that was just something we felt we had to do for the team. It certainly wasn’t the objective. It’s like asking me if I knew Gaborik was going to score 15 goals last year. It wasn’t the objective, I don’t see that as an issue. Mike was never a problem in the room, and I don’t think those guys were using him as an excuse or anything like that. I never heard that, throughout the whole year. So no, I don’t think so.