“I chose the Kings for a number of reasons. First off, I’m a builder. And I see the foundation put in place by Dave Taylor. People sometimes come in and make things look as bad as possible to paint themselves as heroes. But, that’s not the case here…I want to know what happened this season. How can a team fall off the map like this? It’s easy to pin it on the coaches, but the players have to face responsibility, too. They brought in a different coach and that didn’t work.” (April 2006 after being hired by the Kings as President and General Manager)
I have previously analyzed Dean Lombardi’s tenure in an article called The Culture Of Winning. I am proud of that article because I was able to articulate with complete candor exactly how I felt at the time which, when I read it again, is precisely how I feel today. That article however was about looking back. This one is about looking forward.
In any employment context, whether the person is a CEO or a mail room clerk, a warning or two traditionally precedes a termination. I have wondered if hockey coaches and general managers are any different. Did Terry Murray know he was about to get fired? I don’t know. His words indicated surprise. Did Randy Carlyle? Don’t know but he seemed downright stunned. Has Dean Lombardi been warned? Has Tim Leiweke told Dean Lombardi if the mandate of making the playoffs and getting past the first round is not met, the changes will start at the top? I don’t know.
I do know this. For me (and I don’t speak for Surly as he may have a different opinion), the “patience” ship has sailed.
“And I see the foundation put in place by Dave Taylor…” Dean Lombardi stated in April of 2006. That “foundation” is the L.A. Kings best forward, Anze Kopitar, its captain Dustin Brown and their most valuable player, Jonathan Quick. It also included
Matt Moulson (Moulson was Lombardi’s UFA signing) who Lombardi lost for nothing, Michael Cammalleri who he traded (but never replaced) as well as Brian Boyle.
“I want to know what happened this season. How can a team fall off the map like this? It’s easy to pin it on the coaches, but the players have to face responsibility, too. They brought in a different coach and that didn’t work…” Ironic isn’t it that we are asking those same questions today? What happened this season? How can a team expected to compete for the Cup struggle this much? He replaced the coach but the offense still cannot produce.
We discussed the “why” in the Culture of Winning article. Here is the “what if.”
What if the L.A. Kings do not make the playoffs this season? Dean Lombardi should be fired.
What if the L.A. Kings make the playoffs and are again eliminated in the first round? Dean Lombardi should be fired.
I don’t think so.
If the L.A. Kings were in the league’s top 5 and true contenders, where would a significant amount of the credit be bestowed? Dean Lombardi. He would be praised for his trades and signings, for his patience, building from the back-end out and for having the guts to acquire Mike Richards. If you know that to be the case, why should it be any different when his moves have failed to produce the intended result. When the CEO of a major corporation spends significant money and uses the company’s resources without the intended result for many years, what happens to that CEO?
But not yet.
The L.A. Kings are in a playoff spot. There is still one half of February left as well as all of March and a speck of April. March looks like a daunting month of games so February has the potential to break us if we continue to falter. I believe at last count, the Kings’ percentage odds of making the playoffs were just over 50%. I think Dean Lombardi should consider that to be his odds of being around after the end of this season and the playoffs. And he should. For this Kings fan, the “patience”, “building” and “the future is bright” mantras have little meaning. After nearly 6 years, I expect results.