Dean Lombardi Talks Trade Deadline

As with Tolstoy or Flaubert, the key to understanding Dean Lombardi is getting a good translation.

Lombardi and Kings intend to be active on trade deadline day
James Duthie: Over $4 million in cap space, do you expect to be a major player at the deadline?

Dean Lombardi: I don't know if we'll be a player, but we'll certainly be active. But, whether or not something gets done, it takes two to tango and we'll see what happens. But I will definitely say we're active.

Duthie: What's your No. 1 need as you head towards the deadline?

Lombardi: [...] Defensively, we're one of the best teams in the league and our biggest need is to increase our scoring. We're pretty deep in terms of our forward position. I think we're probably trying to find, maybe a little better mix, or to upgrade our skill level. To be successful, we have to be more aggressive and score the classic Canadian ugly goals - going to the net, going low to high. I think we're a deep team, and I wouldn't think we need a lot of adjustments in terms of tweaking size or penalty killing or that type of thing.

The comment I put in bold really stands out to me, and not just because I put it in bold. I agree it's true this team as it is needs to score the "classic Canadian ugly goals" if they're going to win. But I'm perplexed by this statement in the context of a question about what the Kings need in terms of a trade deadline acquisition. Like a lot of people, I have been operating under the assumption that the Kings need a sniper for Kopitar's wing. Dustin Brown, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Brayden Schenn -- these guys are all, to varying degrees, built in that "classic" North-South crash-and-bang blue-paint mold. Is Lombardi saying we need another one?

I don't think he is. The more I think about it, the more I think he's saying this team could be made better by me going out and getting a big, sexy top-six sniping LW, but it could also be made better by the players we have right now being more aggressive right now and scoring more of those ugly goals right now, without me necessarily doing anything splashy.

Also, saying "we're probably trying to find [...] a better mix" tells me that he's more likely to bring in a mid-level Lombardi-like character guy, a leader, as opposed to (for instance, and I'm picking a "type," not saying the actual person is available...) Dany Heatley. Fredrik Modin was a "better mix" guy (I think he was, anyway). Jeff Halpern was supposed to be.

A trade like last year's Modin or Halpern deal, or this year's Sturm deal, will certainly disappoint a lot of fans who are waiting for The Blockbuster. I am not waiting for it. I don't believe it's necessary. And I really don't want to deal away the kinds of prospects we would have to deal away in order to make The Blockbuster happen. (Not to mention the fact that, for better or worse, the cap makes true blockbusters extremely hard to pull off.)

Now, how about "we're probably trying to [...] upgrade our skill level"? Probably is a funny word to use when you probably know exactly what you're trying to do. When I hear probably, I replace it with, "how shall I put this?" Of course, you could interpret "upgrade our skill level" to mean that something big is going to happen, but I don't think so. Usually, when I think of that phrase it's in a context like, "This wasn't about going out and getting The Missing Piece, but we certainly upgraded our skill level today."

The last thing I want to over-analyze is a word he uses twice in describing what the team needs. The word is "deep."

Defensively, we're one of the best teams in the league and our biggest need is to increase our scoring. We're pretty deep in terms of our forward position. I think we're probably trying to find, maybe a little better mix, or to upgrade our skill level. To be successful, we have to be more aggressive and score the classic Canadian ugly goals - going to the net, going low to high. I think we're a deep team, and I wouldn't think we need a lot of adjustments in terms of tweaking size or penalty killing or that type of thing.

I agree the Kings are deep at the forward position. But what does that have to do with the question? Especially since he's just said the Kings need to increase scoring. There's a missing "but" there. "We're a deep at forward but we need to increase scoring." It goes without saying that we're not deep in terms of forwards who can score now. So why mention how deep we are at forward, twice?

Maybe because he's going to trade some of that depth in order to bring in whatever he's going to bring in. I also note that he specifically singles out depth at forward, when we are at least as deep on defense. I think this is a tell. He's not thinking of trading defensive prospects. That's the theory I'm working on (now watch him trade Hickey, Voynov, Martinez, Teubert and Forbort for Zach Parise).

I am using my remaining chicken bones to cast spells to keep Oscar Moller in the Kings organization. But that's probably just my paranoia.

One thing that I truly love about Dean Lombardi -- aside from the fact that he isn't short-sighted, appreciates the value of character, is patient, doesn't panic, and isn't afraid to do things that are unpopular or that cause head-scratching -- is that he just likes telling you stuff.

"You" in that sentence is not me, obviously. He tells Duthie or Rich Hammond and they write it down and we all get the benefit of actual access to Lombardi's process. Seriously, look at the quote in the box. That's a response to "what do the Kings need?" It could have gone down like this:

Duthie: What's your No. 1 need as you head towards the deadline?

Lombardi: Scoring.

Instead, look what we get:

  • Defensively, we're one of the best teams in the league and
  • our biggest need is to increase our scoring. 
  • We're pretty deep in terms of our forward position
  • I think we're probably trying to find, maybe a little better mix,
  • or to upgrade our skill level.
  • To be successful, we have to be more aggressive
  • and score the classic Canadian ugly goals -
  • going to the net,
  • going low to high.
  • I think we're a deep team, and
  • I wouldn't think we need a lot of adjustments in terms of tweaking size
  • or penalty killing.

That answer -- aside from incidentally answering the question -- also manages to outline in some detail the team's entire philosophy. I'm a little surprised he didn't work in "building from the back outward, starting with goaltender, to defense, to forward," but maybe that's covered/implied under "defensively, we're one of the best teams in the league."

I love the fact that simple questions in a Lombardi interview can multiply into a forest of decision trees, metaphors, digressions and ruminations, just like it does with a bunch of die-hards in a bar or a man-cave or in the parking lot to their kids' school, arguing about what they would do if they were in charge of their team.

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