And They Didn't Turn Out Too Badly, Did They?

Here's the first sentence of a Helene Elliott story on Lombardi:

General Manager Dean Lombardi debates whether to stay with a group of promising but erratic youngsters or jolt the team by making more deals...

Sound familiar? I thought so, too. It's from 1996, and the team is the Sharks. Here's the rest:

But in Year 5, the Sharks regressed. Goaltender Arturs Irbe's decline following two hand operations, horrible defensive play and an uninspired offense had them foundering. Firing Constantine "wasn't something I wanted to do at all. I would certainly like to have held on," Lombardi said. "There are a lot of things going on behind the scenes." He denied being pressured by owners George and Gordon Gund but added, "Like anything else, you have to answer for your actions." The woes faced by the Sharks--and the third-year Mighty Ducks--are typical of expansion teams. "The team that messes us all up is Florida," Lombardi said of the Panthers, who stand second in the East in only their third season. The Panthers have strong defense and goaltending, but their chief edge is in character players, modest scorers whose work ethic inspires their teammates. "The Brian Skrudlunds, the Mike Houghs, the Jody Hulls," Lombardi said.

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