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Lombardi's building plan is on track in L.A.

Monday, 06.29.2009 / 5:00 PM / 2009 NHL Entry Draft

By Larry Wigge - NHL.com Columnist

MONTREAL -- All the King's horses and all the Kings men couldn't get the Los Angeles hockey fans any closer to winning a Stanley Cup than Wayne Gretzky and Co. did in 1993 when Patrick Roy and Marty McSorley's illegal stick did them in against the Montreal Canadiens.

The fact that it's been 40-something years and no Stanley Cup in Los Angeles is the focal point that drives Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi since he took the job in April of 2006.

After plotting a pretty good track record of picking character players when he was the GM of the San Jose Sharks, Lombardi spent a couple years seeing things a little differently in the east as a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers. He then took the challenge of making the Kings into a winner.

"You don't build the culture of a hockey team or a team identity overnight," Lombardi explained. "We went out and signed six or seven free agents my first year in L.A. But that was just to buy some time for the franchise ... to do things the right way by picking our own type of players."

Doing it the right way is important to Lombardi, whose Law degree from Tulane makes him one of the more studious GM's in the game.

"No matter how you look at it, when we took over, I made it a point to get our scouts on the same page and I think we've found a good strategy to pick the right players ... and if that right player isn't next on our list we go to the next guy. That way there's no gray area," Lombardi said.
"It may sound cliche, but you never have too many assets in the bank. I smile when I watch our team play now and think where we were when I first got here. But then I look to Chicago and see how it took them six great drafts to produce the kind of crop of prospects they have." -- Kings GM Dean Lombardi
What they have now in Los Angeles is no failure to communicate.

The Kings started building their current draft-produced roster big time with captain Dustin Brown in 2003. They added star center Anze Kopitar in 2005 along with goaltender Jonathan Quick. Then came the Lombardi regime and goalie Jonathan Bernier in 2006. The 2007 Draft produced defense prospect Thomas Hickey for the future as well as Oscar Moller and Wayne Simmonds for last year's Kings. Last season, Lombardi hit an immediate home run with defenseman Drew Doughty, plus defenseman Colten Teubert.

And there's more to come.

 
So, with the fifth pick in this year's Draft, Lombardi wasn't about to quit adding assets. He went after one of the grittiest character players -- center Brayden Schenn. He followed with the selection of winger Kyle Clifford, defenseman Nicolas Deslauriers and goaltender J.F. Berube.

"It may sound cliche, but you never have too many assets in the bank," Lombardi said. "I smile when I watch our team play now and think where we were when I first got here. But then I look to Chicago and see how it took them six great drafts to produce the kind of crop of prospects they have.

"I look at the Blackhawks as the team to copy. We've only been at this since 2006. It's all about having that culture, that identity and a lot of hope."

And in case you think Lombardi is about to change his philosophy, listen to this: "We had a lot of chances to build assets this year and next year we've got one first, two seconds and three thirds."

And the roster of prospects gets stronger and stronger.