DEAN’S DEFENSE. BACK-END TO BEST
“I am a builder…” That was one of Dean Lombardi’s first quotes in April of 2006 after he became the Los Angeles Kings’ general manager. Eventually, he explained to each of us that his philosophy was simple – build from the “back-end, out.”
Look at every major acquisition since his tenure began and you will see that philosophy in practice, even when the move hasn’t worked out as well as he may had hoped - Thomas Hickey and Colten Teubert, to date, though they are both very young and there is still much time. The Rob Blake signing. Dan Cloutier.
But then you have Drew Doughty, the trade that brought us Matt Greene to make the defense younger and tougher, and Jack Johnson who had and has a higher upside and star power compared to Tim Gleason. The mentor, Sean O’Donnell. The signing of Rob Scuderi, an intelligent and positionally sound defenseman. The signing of undrafted free agents, Davis Drewiske and the forgotten youngster who turned the corner at age 19, Jake Muzzin. The latter two signings show Dean’s focus on finding little gems where others may not look. This past summer, the force that is Willie Mitchell.
Ask yourself whether Jonathan Quick would have developed at the incredible pace he has if he didn’t have an elite defense in front of him? The answer may be no. A goaltender builds confidence and finds his game through those that defend the ice around him. And Bernier? In less than two seasons, we may be asking the same question and giving the same answer.
Dean’s forward signings and acquisitions of responsible two-way players are a credit to building from the back-end out. Even those he didn’t sign and passed on show a consistent commitment to the plan.
Lombardi’s coaching selection of Terry Murray is the exclamation point at the philosophical back-end of the Kings and this sentence!
Our general manager’s draft picks, free agent signings and trades are a credit to a promise kept – build from defense to goaltending and through the forward lines that will shut down and suffocate the league’s best offensive teams. Create a philosophy from your coaching staff through your veterans that trickles down to the youth who will forever understand that protecting their own end comes first. Defend as a team, attack as a team, score as a team and thou shall win as one.
Lombardi has kept his promise and Kings’ fans are beginning to taste the very sweet results which is catapulting us from potential to power-house.