Game Time: 5:30 PM Pacific, Fox Sports West
From the Desk of Dean Lombardi (Part 1 of 72)*
Friends, Curiosity Seekers, Los Angeles Kings Fans (Lend Me Your Ears):
As the 2016-17 NHL season draws to a close and we prepare to dim the lights on our beloved Staples Center one final time (until we meet again), I hoped to take a moment to record my thoughts and share them with all of you. This year has been a blessing and a curse, equal parts challenge and adventure. While our quest for a third Stanley Cup ends today, this team will live on in our hearts and minds, a collection of men who played with heart and conviction and sheer force of will.
In the words of the great Winston Churchill:
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
I know that many of you view this season as a failure. And, in truth, those with that opinion would not be wholly incorrect. Any season which does not end in our esteemed players and personnel lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup is, by definition, a failure. But who we are as a team did not end the moment in which Dustin Brown first raised the Cup, just as it did not end the moment in which our mighty team fell against the Arizona Coyotes this season.
We as a team – as an entity – as an institution – must have the courage to pick ourselves up, and, with great care and emotion, put one foot in front of the other and push along, ever moving forward, ever seeking out one more taste of glory that has eluded us these past few seasons. We must have courage, my friends, the courage to not be halted in our steps, in our pursuit of greatness, by the tragedy of a goal left unfinished (or, in this case, unscored). And we do – we do have that courage, I am assured of it. I know we do, deep in our hearts, our souls, the deep pits of our stomachs where fear and dread and grief reside.
You may not know, but I regularly sit down with our players, particularly the new faces in the room. (But also, as ever, I make so much time for the young men I already know who appear lost and troubled, wayward, like they need a guiding hand to navigate through this harsh, unforgiving world which we live in.) I like to share with them some of the words of wisdom which I have collected over the years. Life wisdom, I mean – I allow the wisdom of the ice to be shared by our coaching staff, by the leaders in the room, by the incomparable Wayne Gretzky, who has become an important voice to so many of our players. I like to share with them some words that have inspired me. I speak to these young men – boys, really, sometimes fresh from the warm embrace of parents, billet families, junior leagues – and I speak to them of war.
War seems like an odd choice, I know. But the young men all seem to think of war as the vague way it is waged today, from computers far removed from the human equation. The strategy, the way we conceptualize war, is wholly different now. But the lessons we’ve learned from centuries of warfare still mean something in this disconnected world, and said lessons hold meaning just not for our nation’s brave soldiers, but even for these young men, as well.
It is no secret that I keep a well-worn copy of The Art of War on my desk, dog eared and marked up at the passages that have meant the most to me over the years. I will often give copies of the book to these young men, or have one at the ready when their minds are open to the lessons of the immortal Sun Tzu.
I share many quotes with them, but one of my favorites, I would like to also share with you:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory ahead, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Meditate on that, in the light of a hockey season that grinds on for eighty-two whole games and even more machinations beyond that, the constant ringing of telephones and receipt of texts and emails, asking, begging, pleading. There are changes to be made, there are teams to emulate and strategies to disavow. I fear that we have become complacent with our success, and I blame myself for this, first and foremost, for not seeing what was plain. In short, I blame myself for not knowing the enemy, and though we have known great victory at time, to my immense shame, we have also known defeat.
The summer and the year ahead of us will bring great change. I am confident that for as much as we all know we need to grow, adapt, evolve, to the NHL as it is today, that we also have many of the key pieces in place in order to advance next year. Anze Kopitar, large and broad, shouldering the burdens of his captaincy with great stoicism, the right amount of seriousness. Jeff Carter, tall and strong and deeply rooted in this team and his community, like the great sequoia tree, drinking in the sun to produce the oxygen that we all need to survive. Jonathan Quick, a true American legend, taking his home in the net, roosting in it, owning it and the area around it like the amazingly canny crow, seeing all, remembering all.
We -- as a team, as a community, as the culture that is the Los Angeles Kings -- will survive. I assure you of it. I assure you too that I and I alone know the keys to unlock the secrets of next year’s Kings team, a team which I hope will lead us to glory once more.
Why, just the other day, I was in a conversation with Gary Bettman and I found myself bringing up the writings of Machiavelli. It seemed as good a subject as any, and I wished to hear Gary’s wisdom on something I’ve been pondering lately—-
Mr. Lombardi’s letter cannot be continued due to time and space constraints.**
Here are your starting lineups for this, the last game of this impossibly long, impossibly frustrating season.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Lewis - Shore - Iginla
Clifford - Kempe - Brodzinski
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - LaDue
Rakell - Getzlaf - Eaves
Cogliano - Kesler - Silfverberg
Kase - Vermette - Perry
Wagner - Thompson - Shaw
Lindholm - Montour
Vatanen - Bieksa
Theodore - Manson
Opposing Preview: Anaheim Calling
*this is a parody
**I will continue but you have to give me adequate time to research all the topics my friends gave me when crowdsourcing Things Dean Would Say***
***thanks, Kate and Abby, for the List of Things