Hockey Fest kicks off the 2013-14 LA Kings season with a war report from Lombardi
Hockey Fest is a good way to kick off a new season of Kings hockey in LA, but let’s not forget that Sunday’s shenanigans were also the biggest opportunity for fans to get a war update from General Dean Lombardi.
Different people in the Kings organization — particularly the ice crew — refer to everyone involved in the organization as “family.” They include fans in that umbrella, too, but when Lombardi talks about both the Kings’ mission and fan involvement, it always comes across hilariously like a commander addressing his troops.
I love linking friends back to his 2009 “From the Desk Of Dean Lombardi” news item, because it reads like some kind of morale booster for folks in combat zones. Lombardi wants to update you on the fight, soldier, and encourage you to hang in there.
I sincerely hope that you will remain an integral part of this team. I assure you that I fully understand you would rather focus on results rather than process. But doing things right is a process that enables us to measure results along the way to ensure that the ultimate goal is achieved – a Stanley Cup for the great fans of Los Angeles.
Luckily, the Kings did win the Stanley Cup a few years later. That doesn’t mean Lombardi’s done with this army. Now the team needs to prove they can reconquer, and Sunday’s “Townhall” with Kings management to talk mission updates didn’t disappoint.
First, Lombardi remembered to congratulate the rest of LA.
“I’ve always said — I never forget when I first stood in front of you — that this was gonna be a hard process. You people stuck in there and grinded it out. And any general manager who wanted to do it the way I felt we had to do it has to have the support of the fans. Because if they don’t buy in, every time the team is forced to go to quick fixes, and it never works. Without you people having been on board through that process, we’re not standing here today. It’s like anything else in life: you pay the price and lay a foundation, chances are you’re going to get to where you want to go. But you were a big part of that.”
But the best part of Lombardi speaking came a couple minutes later. He doubled back to an earlier question about where the team stands and how to fix the weak spots, namely the struggle to solidify the left wing.
“The whole thing with holes, and this kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier — it’s very hard to build a complete team. You know, the team [Robert Blake] played on in Colorado, and Dallas and Detroit, those teams had no holes. I mean, those were probably, arguably the greatest teams. Great players in every position. Luc [Robitaille’s] team in Detroit had, what, 11 Hall of Famers? You’re never gonna see that. So, like I said, the whole process is designed to create parity, which inevitably means holes.
Now, that said, I think our biggest ‘hole’ is the challenge. Don’t forget; what you saw in Jeff Carter this past season — the way he grew as an athlete, the work he put in the summer prior to this — is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. These players — like a Doughty, Kopitar or Brown — you see them so young, and you forget how much growth is in them. We want to say, ‘Oh, he’s been here five years.’ But he’s 24 years old! So, you know, you gotta step back a little and watch this process evolve. And you saw the results: Jeff Carter is 10 times the athlete, the man he was when he broke into the league, and it was evident last year.
This hole you’re talking about — a hole to me is Kopitar not going to the next level, because it’s still there. Doughty, Voynov — look at that roster. Muzzin, Quick, these are all guys under 26 years old with tremendous upside. That’s our greatest challenge, and that’s kind of what I’m getting back to from earlier. You get that culture going, that environment, and the sky’s the limit for these guys. I think that’s the way we look at the ‘hole’ now… Let’s make what we have better.”
Oh, wait, at some point in there, I stopped laughing. That happens a lot for me when Lombardi starts in about the Kings’ objectives and the importance of a winning culture. At first I’m entertained, imagining him in a cool hat and old school epaulettes for extra funsies, but then the narrative starts to sound sincere and hard to resist. Suddenly the Kool-Aid is kind of tasty, and I’m thinking: yeah, Jeff Carter did do well last year. Kopitar can takes it up to another level. Maybe Trevor Lewis is an American hero — hahahaha okay, that’s enough.
Let’s not get carried away, but Lombardi really does spin a good narrative. He’s great at reminding fans that this is a generation of the team that continues to have a lot of potential. The opening meeting with Dean Lombardi and all of LA’s apparent soldiers was the right kind of ridiculous earnestness I was hoping to see.