LOMBARDI’S INTERVIEW & MENTORS
If you haven’t read Dean’s interview on NHL Live, click on the link.
I don’t intend to translate Dean on this one. It’s not necessary. He actually managed to say nothing new. His reaction to the Kings slowly taking themselves out of playoff contention is something like this…
What I do want to focus on are Dean’s mentors, two people he often mentions as being the models of his philosophy, Lou Lamoriello and Bobby Clarke.
Dean Lombardi fancies himself a builder. He apparently doesn’t believe you can build a team through trades or quick fixes but it rather must be built from the ground up (be real bad to become good) and battle itself through this type of adversity. Is that Lamoriello’s practice that Dean preaches?
Lou, what do you think?
“First of all, I despise the word rebuilding because I don’t think that should be the case. We have to look at what the reasons are that we find ourselves in this situation. In my opinion it’s not talent, but maybe it’s the wrong talent, wrong chemistry. That starts with me. I don’t look at it as rebuilding. This isn’t something that you have to go subtract, subtract and subtract and start from the bottom. Absolutely not. You have to be very careful of how you approach it and take a step back and look at the big picture and reasons to be part of the solution. There is no reason we should be in this state right now.”
That came courtesy of one of Lou’s recent interviews with Dan Rosen after the Langenbrunner trade.
Now, as to Bobby Clarke, let’s state the obvious and well known first. Great player. The captain of the Flyers during the Broad Street Bullies years of the 1970′s. But it cannot be Bobby’s playing career that Dean learned from because, well, Lombardi never played in the NHL and we are talking about management here. Thus, Dean heralds Bobby Clarke, the GM of the Flyers, North Stars, Panthers and the Flyers again. 22 seasons of being a general manager. Zero Stanley Cups. We also have the string of first round exits in the last 90′s and through 2002.
But Bobby never made dramatic changes to improve the team, did he? Dean makes it sound like playing it cool and calm was the lesson learned from all of these mentors. Let’s look at what Dean said on this subject.
Question: That experience you had, building in San Jose, how much does it help you now?
LOMBARDI: No question. When you’re in this position, it’s about keeping your wits about you and keeping everybody focused. Emotion is a big part of this game, on and off the ice. It’s good to be emotional, but not to where it clouds your judgment. I was very fortunate when I was young. I was the youngest GM in the league for a long time, but I was very lucky to have guys like Bill Torrey, Harry Sinden, Cliff Fletcher, Lou Lamoriello. They would just give you that emotional uplift, to say, `Stick with it. You’re doing the right thing. You know how teams are built. Don’t let all the outside influences affect your judgment.’ So a lot of those men, I owe them a debt of gratitude. The other thing I learned, when I was working for Philadelphia, to be exposed to Bobby Clarke was just incredible. You talk about a winner and an athlete who established a culture in a franchise, not only as a player but carried over as a GM, his ability to focus and do the right thing was just incredible. So I’ve been very fortunate to have some great teachers.
Wasn’t Bobby Clarke the one that fired Terry Murray after the 1997 Stanley Cup loss to the Red Wings? You know, the Cup Finals where Detroit swept Philadelphia and Terry made the infamous “choking” comment about his team’s performance that caused the Flyers, led by Eric Lindros, to have a team meeting without Murray. Yeah, that firing wasn’t an emotional reaction. But wait…this is the same Bobby Clarke that then made FIVE coaching changes in the next FIVE seasons, correct? In fact, one of the coaches he fired, Roger Neilson, was terminated because he got cancer. Clarke responded:
“The Neilson situation – Roger got cancer – that wasn’t our fault. We didn’t tell him to go get cancer. It’s too bad that he did. We feel sorry for him, but then he went goofy on us.”
Classy. But I digress.
Under Clarke’s tenure, the Flyers kept losing in the first round, did nothing of substance and there were ultimately calls for his head in Flyers’ land. Bobby Clarke eventually resigned.
So, that’s the model? A GM that was a great player, never won a Cup as general manager, fired coaches at a whim and didn’t tell Roger Neilson to get cancer.
Let me explain why I bring these issues up. It’s not just to revisit history but to dissect bullshit. I have liked a lot of what Dean Lombardi has done. I have been a supporter but cute lines and distorted accolades aren’t going to do it for the intelligent fans. If the response to the team’s potential collapse in what Dean calls the “second year” (a clever away of not counting the first few because they were not playoff years) will be to do nothing, he may have to start working on answers to questions about his former tenure with the Kings and what he took away from it. I don’t want to see that happen. I still believe he can finish what he started here. Winston Churchill said, “I never worry about action, but only about inaction.” The fans are worried about your inaction. You came here to build a winner. Nobody has ever won a race standing still.