Stanley Cup Preview: LA Kings President Dean Lombardi Explains how Lakers Tradition Inspired Architecture and Management of Kings Organization
May 29, 2012 – 8:00 am by Steven Cuce
It’s all hockey, all the time in Los Angeles. Did any LA sports fan ever think that would be the case? The Lakers and Clippers have been eliminated from the postseason and the Dodgers can now take a backseat because the Kings are in the Stanley Cup Finals. The magical run for the Kings started in early April, as the #8 seed out of the Western Conference proceeded to upset the likes of the Vancouver Canucks, St.Louis Blues and Phoenix Coyotes.
Now it’s on to the Finals where a well-rested Los Angeles squad awaits a date with the red hot New Jersey Devils beginning on Wednesday night. LA Kings president Dean Lombardi checks in to break down all the excitement that is brewing in the newest hockey town in America: Los Angeles.
LA Kings president Dean Lombardi joined 710 ESPN Los Angeles with Mason & Ireland to discuss pulling the trigger on the trade involving Jack Johnson and Jeff Carter, the Kings grabbing all the attention in Southern California this year with the Lakers now bounced from the NBA Playoffs, and the Kings’ fan base finally getting a team that has become a winner.
You look like a genius now, but how hard was it to make the trade Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter?
“Well it was very difficult, but with that being said I am very against giving up draft picks, but I also recognize at certain points in the building process it is appropriate to give up those picks. I don’t want to make a habit of it don’t get me wrong. You also have an obligation to those players in the room and if those guys show you that they are busting their tale and you have an opportunity to get them help. Then you also have an obligation to put the future aside and reward those players who are out there now. As a practical matter too you guys probably know I believe about building from the back and having drafted so many defenseman. That can’t happen without your scouts doing their job. If you remember Slava Voynov came up and was doing real well. At the time we sent him down and he had just won a game for us and scored two goals, but it was telling us okay he is ready and if we have to do something to improve ourselves then this kid is in the wings and he is a good fit with Willie Mitchell. Generally when you make a deal those are the deals that really help. It’s not so much the player. It’s filling a hole and not creating a hole. If you are just exchanging player by position then you might be getting better up front, but you’re creating another problem. You are not getting better. If your scouts are doing their job and they’ve done a wonderful job here over the last couple of years then you are able to do something like that and improve without missing too much in the area that you gave up.”
What has it been like to have every eye in Los Angeles on you? What’s the pressure like?
“As far as us needing to get their attention? This was made very clear to me by Tim Leiweke. He felt that if we put out the product that we could capture the attention. I think you can use that competition to your advantage because the bar is so high. We just go right down the hall here and you look at the Lakers and you see those trophies and everything else. You can’t help, but want to aspire to be at that level some day with your franchise. It has its benefits in that it actually pushes you in all areas. That was Tim’s point. We are not going to give up because we are the ugly stepchild here. We can pull this off and we’re gonna make this town proud of us just like they are proud of the Lakers and USC and everything else. The other things that is very evident. It is kind of funny I was just saying this to a writer. When I took this job one of the very first calls I got was Wayne Gretzky. He’s on the line and says ‘Dean you win their and it’s the best hockey town in the world.’ ”
Did it surprise you how faithful the Los Angeles Kings fan base has been over the years?
“Yes. I guess I could be the snide coming from the outside of Boston and thinking all hockey revolves around the Bruins and Rangers and Philadelphia and everything. Like I said when I saw what I saw it was like, ‘Oh my gosh now I see what Wayne Gretzky was talking about.’ The other sign that I got that this might be coming was the prelude to it. We had that one season like three years ago before we made the playoffs I think where we were picking 5th in the draft. We had fan appreciation day last game of the season. We were thirty points out of the playoffs and that building is filled and those people were going nuts. We won in overtime. It was like we won the cup and I was saying ‘Oh my gosh if we ever give these guys something to cheer about.’ I did get a prelude to it there, but they are off the charts. Like I said the one thing that is great about this town and so many of the fans have stuck by us is it’s been 40 years and I see so many fans that have been here for that long. They clearly aren’t front runners. They have paid their dues. It isn’t like Colorado where they inherited a great team or like Dallas. These people really deserve it and it’s another one of those areas that Tim always stresses when you say, ‘Do it for the fans?’ It’s just not talking. He means it cause he knows what these people have gone through.”
Listen to Dean Lombardi on 710 ESPN Los Angeles here
Tags: 2012 Stanley Cup: Kings vs. Devils, 710 ESPN Los Angeles, Los Angeles Kings, Mason & Ireland, NHL
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