Here is part II of analyzing those Dean Lombardi and Terry Murray quotes that caught my eye:
1. IMPROVING THE ROSTER
LOMBARDI: “But if it’s the same thing as at the deadline, where it’s guys with one year left on their deal, and they insist on my top prospect, I’m not going that route. We’ll just make those two kids better. They’re probably our best offensive prospects, in Loktionov and Schenn, and they need a huge summer. But in terms of the continuing to look for a certain type of player, yeah, but it has to be the right guy and the right situation. We’ve had this for 12 months, haven’t we? The whole Kovalchuk thing. His minus-26 would have looked good. Then the trade deadline. What was available, for what they wanted, it didn’t make sense.”
Naming Andrei Loktionov and Brayden Schenn as the best offensive prospects does highlight an interesting dilemma. At center, the LA Kings are Kopitar, Stoll, Handzus, Lewis, Richardson and now Loktionov and Schenn. That assumes you ignore the fact Oscar Moller is also a natural center.
Michal Handzus is likely going elsewhere. If he stays, he is signing for $2 million or less and it’s a one year deal. Doubt it. Where would you put him? At wing?
Moller, I fear, is falling lower on the LA Kings’ priority list which is a damn shame because he has never been given an opportunity at his strength – center – except for the second game against the Sharks where he shined. Brad Richardson can arguably play wing. That leaves Kopitar, Stoll, Lewis, Loktionov and Schenn. Lewis is likely the number four center. What then? Loktionov and Schenn fight it out for the third line center position. Schenn wins because his game fits that mold more. If they battle for the second line position because Stoll gets bumped down or, gasp, traded, it’s anybody’s game.
On the Kovalchuk issue, yes, he was a -26. He would not have been a -26 on this team. Look at his second half of the season. He went on a tear. Sometimes a team can have a psychological break and meltdown. It happened to New Jersey. They fired their coach. Problem solved. I say this and I am still upset at Ilya and his agent’s antics but fair is fair and Lombardi’s comment was a bit unfair.
2. LEADERSHIP GROUP
Dean talks about Terry Murray:
“I liked his calmness. I think one of his strengths was, when we were in that slide there, he kept his composure. I think that during that slide, when we slid out of the playoffs, the necessity of calm and focus was essential. If we had gone the other way, I think that would have been ripe for not getting out of that (slide). So I think a lot of coaches, you evaluate (them) at critical moments, and I look at the way we came out of that, during that period. We had to go into Phoenix and win that game (on Jan. 22) and get on a roll. I thought he was the perfect guy for that situation. I think, going forward, we’re all the same. Now we write down all the things we could have done better, including me, Hex [Ron Hextall], and that’s the next assignment. We expect players to evaluate themselves, and, `What did we learn from this, to do better?’ I think he [Murray] is capable of doing that, just in terms of, just like the players have to grow, we have to grow.”
I found it interesting that “calmness” was the only thing Dean directly addressed. He did say “one of his positives” but that’s it? Calmness? Not implementing a system with which Dean is very happy, bringing the best out of the players at critical times, inspirational, etc. I wonder who Dean Lombardi’s choice was for the Jack Adams award and where Terry ranked?
On Dustin Brown as “captain”, Dean tells us in relevant part:
I don’t only look at him. I look at the whole group, to be honest with you. I think they grew, but I think there’s still room. They have to step back. Ultimately, the way you learn is how you deal with failure.
I will respectfully disagree. “Ultimately”, the way you learn is how you deal with pressure, not failure and, in that respect, the team and the coaching staff failed for a second consecutive playoffs. Failure teaches you what you did wrong, after the fact. Pressure is where the lesson is taught and learned. Alas, I have hope that the third time, with adjustments in the offseason, really is the charm.
4. THE POWERPLAY
This quote put a smile on my face:
LOMBARDI: You see San Jose enter the zone with possession. There’s a level of skill there that I’ve got to help them get on the rink. I’ve got to look at the personnel. The coach has to look at how we get out best player out there in a productive role, and then the player has got to figure it out. So I think there’s an element of all three there. And it usually shows up in zone entry. It’s not just when you’re getting in the box. It’s when you’re gaining the zone with possession, versus having to dump it in and spend 20 seconds getting it back.
The fact that he recognizes zone entries as a huge problem is a plus. The fact he also believes HE must go out there and get the…wait for it…”skill” to help the team is applauding. Will he get it? Hey, recognizing part of the problem is a step toward solving it. There is another though and that is the system and I don’t expect Lombardi to address that directly. He is candid but did we really think we would read, “our system needs to go through some modifications. We spend too much time on the half wall. We don’t get the puck to the middle of the ice. There is no lateral movement. No one time shot. We run a one-dimensional powerplay whose focus is getting the puck from low to high and getting a shot on net with traffic. Repeat the same process over and again and you become easy to defend against.”
Hey, maybe Terry Murray would address this issue and spend some time on it…
MURRAY: “I don’t have to spend a whole lot more time than what I have already. It’s funny how it goes. Last year, we look at our power play and it was pretty good, and in this playoff it was pretty good, actually. Percentage-wise, it’s up above 20 percent. There’s a couple teams that always will be better, maybe in the high 20s or even 30 (percent), but in the special-team area, in this series, it was fine. But it needs to be better over the course of the year, on a consistent basis. It’s continually addressed and practiced. The young guys that are key players on that part of the game are going to have to find a way to execute better. We’re going to keep going with those guys. We believe in them. We believe in Doughty, and Johnson was huge at the start of the year on power-play production, point-wise, and had a drop-off in the second half. That’s going to have to be more consistent. But we’re very aware of the need to have a better special team on that power play.”
It’s good. It’s fine. Young guys have to be better. Be more consistent. We believe in them. But we are aware we need to be better.
Part III coming up.