Sunday, January 18, 2009
Lombardi to H8
I don't know how smart Deam Lombardi is. Unlike Paul Holmgren, from whom I have seen few misteps, DL has his fair share of 'wtf' moments. My favorite is probably from the 2007 draft when a drop down on picks would have probably let him snag Hickey regardless. Easy money on the table and he left it there.
That said, the guy knows how to cripple a team to set up a draft. More importantly, he knows how to do it consistently. Trading for, and then extending Cloutier's contract was brilliant. Dumping off Labarbera is just more of the same.
Wanna tank your team? Best bets are bad goaltending (first choice of the smart GM) and/or bad coaching (first choice of a lot of well meaning GM's).
There are a few things that can derail a good tank job (another post) and for a while there I think Lombardi was looking at just that. Luckily, for him, the trends he had put in place re-asserted themselves and trading Lababera will:
a. help guard against an upswing and
b. increase the risk factors that would seal the tank job
A Trade Deadline Look-Over
The next moment of interest, with Lombardi and his Kings is this:
What will his trade deadline look like?
He has most of the elements needed for a classic tank job trade deadline in place:
1. One respected veteran on expiring contract (O'Donnell);
2. Two depth veterans on expiring contracts (Armstrong & Gauthier); and
3. One mid-range secondary scorer on expiring contract (Calder);
He also has two players who, while they are not performing to expectations, are halfway through their contracts (Preissing and Handzus).
NONE of the players involved have any cachet in the team's marketplace (so no uproar if traded) and two of the players listed are playing, deceptively, important roles for the team.
Royale With Cheese
If Lombardi thinks his draft position is in jeopardy then look for O'Donnell to be traded. Handzus if he can find a taker.
That is what makes it interesting. How comfortable is he that he will get a pick he can live with?
Trading Gauthier and Armstrong would only make the team stronger (and generate very little return regardless) so they should be in LA full season.
That leaves Preissing and Calder. Of the two Calder will be the easiest one to trade and, I suspect, he is gone regardless.
So I will look for those signals at the deadline.
Calder is a goner, sure, but the rest of the deadline deals - if any - will tell the tale of Lombardi's intentions for the 2009 draft.
That brings me to the final moment of interest in regards to Dean Lombardi. His 2009-10 NHL roster. Once I see that I will know a great deal more about just how smart Lombardi is.
You see, after the 2009 draft his rebuild will have run its course.
Look at his roster. That team has too much quality for it to sit still for another year past this one.
Frolov, Kopitar, Brown and O'Sullivan represent the kind of high-end forward talent other teams, who have better records, would die for and every Oiler fan knows how good Stoll can be if he is restricted to the roles he excels at.
Doughty, Johnson, Hickey and Quincey represent a solid core of under 22's who all have incredible upside. The core d-pairings for this team are set well into the future. I like Harrold as a player and Greene is... playing really well?
The only thing missing on this team is goaltending and with players like Fernandez coming available Lombardi will have little excuse for sitting still. Both with fans and with the players themselves.
2009-10: Tells the Tale
By 2009-10 we will see just what Lombardi brings to the table as a GM. If he picks up an established #1 goaltender and the equivalent of Kurt Sauer this off-season then we know he knows his stuff.
(Trading O'Donnell at the deadline, letting him know he will be bringing him back in the off-season, would just be... smart.)
If he stands pat and brings in Bernier then we know that Lombardi isn't serious about the next year. Even if Bernier blows the doors down it doesn't change my analysis here, just means Lombardi got lucky.
Some very important players get to, or very close to, their free agency years after 2009-10 and the Kings, as an organization, need to both:
- give them the cash they'll want, and
- give them a reason to stay
i.e. Frolov can get $5.5+ million anywhere - why stay with a team that doesn't seem to care?
There is a time, in every rebuild, where it is time to get serious about winning. The Kings will be in 2009-10.
Signing Hossa would be a nice touch but it isn't that important. A true #1 goalie, a veteran d-man in the 27-30 year range and a couple of proven bottom sixers and the Kings are for real.
And if Lombardi is any good it really should happen just-like-that.
Time for supper. Have a great evening everyone.
Almost forgot - Anderson deserves it. Good for him.