[UPDATE: the picture at right makes it seem like I think hiring Terry Murray was a mistake. No. Terry Murray is great. The dumb thing in the picture is not Terry Murray.]
As I’ve said, this falls into one of the top-five dumbest things I’ve done since I’ve been here, the idea of even thinking of playing him when I did, as a 19-year-old. Just the thought itself. It’s like I’m guilty for even thinking of it, let alone doing it. It was absolute stupidity.
-- Dean Lombardi, to Rich Hammond, on putting Bernier in the Kings' net at age 19.
Yeah, I don't know. I get what he's saying. I might even agree with calling it a mistake (though I was thrilled at the time). I would like to know what the other four in his top five are. I wonder how many overlap with the real top-five, by which I mean, mine:
The Real Top-Five Dumbest Things
- Marc Crawford. Not terrible, but I didn't like the team as coached by him. (Sort of how I feel about Roenick. I appreciate his body of work, but not his stay in Los Angeles.)
- Ladislav Nagy and Tom Preissing. Two UFA signings that didn't pan out. Nagy seemed like a reasonable gamble, and I can remember one really good period he played. (And, seriously, it was really good.) And Preissing, I don't know why he was as bad as he was. I thought this was a decent signing at the time.
- Re-signed Rob Blake in 2006, so that he could pass on his leadership skills to the kids, setting the franchise back at least a year.
- Allowed the ridiculous jersey in the Murray hire photo-op (above) to see the light of day. How is it even possible to have a giant zero and a shrunken eight? Aren't these things standardized? Do they just rummage around before the event looking for things they can stitch on? Doesn't anyone look at the finished jersey before they head out to the podium? (The look on Lombardi's face makes me think he has noticed.)
[I think it's remarkable that four of these five happened right off the bat.]
- Jeff Halpern. I was kind of surprised at how un-good Halpern was; I actually expect him to play better wherever it is he lands next year. But I still think Purcell will have a career in the NHL. I almost don't want to put this in the "worst" category, because Purcell's time in LA was pretty clearly "up." No one can say he wasn't given a chance to succeed. But I think in five years this will look like a bad trade. (actually, I hope so; I'm rooting for Teddy.)
Top-Five Least-Dumb* Things
- said no to Mike Cammalleri, then sent him to Calgary. A two-parter. Part one: Anyone who can add can see for him/herself that giving Cammy the (reported) $6MM/year he wanted would have inflated the subsequent deals of Brown, Kopitar, O'Sullivan, etc. and would have sucked up maybe as much as $8MM in cap space ($6MM for Cammy plus a little more for everyone else as each deal was negotiated), thus completely undoing the roster we have now, to say nothing of the possibility of being able to retain the next wave of RFAs (Doughty, Johnson, Simmonds, Moller, Bernier, all next summer). Part two: the deal with Calgary. The Flames apparently thought they would be able to sign him. They were wrong, and a few months later he walked away for nothing. Lombardi flipped that pick and the Dallas 1st (Norstrom trade) to move up to #12, and then traded down to #13, adding a pick (two? I forget) from Buffalo for his trouble, before selecting Colten Teubert. You can debate the value of Teubert (see "Jury Still Out" below), but I would be shocked if he didn't have a career in the NHL, and he's obviously much, much better than nothing.
- traded veterans for picks which he then used to select Wayne Simmonds (Brent Sopel trade), Oscar Moller (Mattias Norstrom trade), Trevor Lewis (Pavol Demitra trade) and Colten Teubert (Cammalleri/Norstrom trades).
- selected Wayne Simmonds, Oscar Moller, Kyle Clifford, Andrei Loktionov and Viatcheslav Voynov in the 2nd-7th rounds.
picked up Kyle Quincey off waivers from Detroit, who proceeded to put up numbers that would have led all NHL rookies in assists, except that he wasn't a rookie, because he had played 6 games for the Wings the previous season; if he had played only five, he would have still been a rookie his year with the Kings. Lombardi then packaged him with an albatross contract (Tom Preissing) and flipped the pair for future Hall-of-Famer Ryan Smyth. [UPDATE: it has been pointed out that I may be stretching a bit here, re HofF; yeah, probably, but still:] Essentially, Ryan Smyth for $3MM a year.
- Michal Handzus
- signed Jacob Muzzin and Martin Jones as unrestricted free agents.
- traded Patrick O'Sullivan to Edmonton in a three team deal for Justin Williams. Yes, Williams' injury history proved to be a factor once again, but even in his hobbled state he was more valuable to the Kings than O'Sullivan turned out to be in Edmonton, where he set the franchise record for worst +- and has been routinely mentioned as a target for a buy-out this summer.
- traded nothing to Anaheim for Sean O'Donnell.
- Fredrik Modin. The condition being that the Kings have to win the Stanley Cup. "If we win the cup, you can have literally the last pick in the last round of the draft! Deal?"
Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger for Jack Johnson. The Kings would have been better without this trade for a couple of years, but (being an optimist) I think we're about to reap the rewards.
Lubomir Visnovsky for Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene. Hard not to like Lubo, but I also appreciate the irony that his crappy last season with the Kings allowed us to sink to the bottom, which is what got us Doughty, which is what not only made Lubo expendable, but (long term) no longer affordable. Also, Matt Greene is funny.
- Jason LaBarbera
Top-five Least-Dumb Things He Didn't Do
- didn't trade Moller, Bernier, Teubert or anybody else for help in a playoff push at the deadline in 2009.
- didn't trade for Ilya Kovalchuk or Dany Heatley. Or a millionaire goalie, back when everyone was clamboring.
- didn't re-sign Rob Blake in 2009.
- didn't select highly-rated Jiri Tlusty (or any number of people) with the 2006 #11th pick (he picked Jonathan Bernier, as you know -- ISS had Bernier #22).
- didn't take the job on the island.
Jury Still Out
Colten Teubert v. Tyler Myers. Won't know until maybe 2012. Defensemen take awhile to ripen. It's easy to have buyer's remorse, with Myers doing so well while Teubert is kind of stumbling. But even Pronger wasn't Pronger for his first few years.
Thomas Hickey v. the rest of the first round in 2007. I like Thomas Hickey. I like that he's smart and is a student of the game and either wants to coach someday or I made that up and he just seems like he would want to. I like that he's fielded calls from the Prime Minister before big games in juniors. I like that he's gone from splashy pick to being somewhat off the radar due to a season almost entirely lost to injury. It's not that he's been forgotten, but I get the feeling folks are ready to stamp BUST on his forehead in big red letters. Which means he's brilliantly lowered expectations in preparation for his big push in the fall. Certainly it has been Lombardi's most controversial pick, so in fairness it belongs here. I think it's great that he picked the guy he wanted to pick, even though he wasn't able to trade down. Even if Hickey ultimately doesn't pan out, that's the kind of mistake I will support every time.
Not Listed for a Reason
- Alyn McCauley. No harm, no foul. It wasn't like we were up against the cap ceiling.
Kyle Calder. Much maligned but did lots of things well enough. Not his fault he was put where he was put.
- Jamie Kompon. For some reason, there's a message board movement to blame Jamie Kompon every time Johnson or Brown go on a power-play high-and-wide shooting rampage. I think it's just because they know his name.
- Denis Gauthier/Randy Jones. (Jaroslav Modry, while we're at it.) Each of these guys served a purpose. Each was better than his message-board reputation. Jones was a points machine for a week or so. Gauthier crushed people. Modry was always much more reliable than people thought. I would look up the numbers, but I'm tired. There always has to be a scapegoat.
*least-dumb = most-smart, not least-dumb within the larger field of dumb.