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by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Dean Lombardi
Brian Burke
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. We have with us Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke, and Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi. Thanks to both of these gentlemen for taking the time today to answer your questions and thanks to Alex Gilchrist of the Ducks and Jeff Moeller of the Kings for helping to arrange this call. Anaheim and Los Angeles will take no time in returning to their state rivalry as they open the NHL preseason schedule with back?to?back games in Anaheim this Thursday and Los Angeles on Saturday.

They will then open the National Hockey League regular season schedule when they play two games in London, England, at the 02 arena on September 29 and 30. Again, thanks to Brian and Dean for joining us today.

Q. Thanks for taking the time today. How do you like your team's chances to defend this first championship regardless of whether or not some players come back into your fold?

BRIAN BURKE: Well, I think it's tough to defend. It's always been tough to defend, and I think in a cap system it's even harder to defend because if you look at teams that defended in the old system, often there was a payroll disparity that prevented them from doing that. So we think we play in the toughest division in the National Hockey League. I think a lot of our success last year was because of the playoff pairings that we got by winning our division, and it's going to be tough. It's always tough.

Q. Brian, who do you see as the teams to beat other than yourself, the teams you know will be hard to beat?

BRIAN BURKE: Well, I'll leave that to you guys. We broke a record that was 50 years old I think at the start of the season for the best start in the history of the NHL with points in our first 16 games, and that broke a record I think 40 or 50 years old, and it still went down to the last weekend of the season. When we went on the ice for our last game in Columbus, we were still watching the San Jose and Vancouver game. Vancouver won in overtime and that's how we won our division. That's how tough our division is. We have a very healthy respect for all the teams in our division. In the west we've got you guys. I think the west is a terror for a general manager.

Q. Brian, first of all, welcome back. I guess this is the way you want it, a nice short off season. I guess that means you did well, correct?


Q. Talk about how this trip to London might take both clubs out of their routine? And that's pretty much what athletes are into, is a routine.

BRIAN BURKE: Well, we were honored. The LA Kings, AEG Entertainment operates the building where we're going to play these games, and I'm told it's a beautiful venue. When the league asked us to go, we were honored to go. First off, we have a very healthy rivalry with the Kings. We think that to take regular season games to Europe is a milestone for our league, so we were honored to be asked. Is it ideal from a preparation standpoint, no and I'm pretty sure Dean would agree so. But I think when the league asks you to go, you go. I think, like I said, we were flattered. We were honored. We told our players this is the schedule. We have three road games when we come back that are all going to be tough, and it's going to be a tough five-game start to the season, but we have to deal with that.

Q. Dean your, thoughts on that?

DEAN LOMBARDI: It's a good thing the league invited them because I didn't invite them (laughing.). Yeah, pretty much I think that it is tough logistically. It affects your training camp, it affects your ability to play young players at the front end, and coming back you're not sure. I've been through this once before, I think we went to China with San Jose, or was that Japan? It was Japan. Like Brian says, the league asks you to go, you go, and you make the best of it.

Q. Brian, in regards to your roster situation, I noticed that Scott Niedermayer's name was on there but Selanne's name was not. What's the reasoning behind that?

BRIAN BURKE: Just that Scott's under contract, Teemu is not.

Q. Any late word on that at all?

BRIAN BURKE: No, I met with Teemu this morning and I spoke with Scott to tell him he was being suspended, which Scotty expected, but no change, no direction or indication from either player what their plans are.

Q. What are your expectations for the upcoming season?

DEAN LOMBARDI: Be better than last year. I think that I said this before, you've got to win all the little battles every day, and that's all you can say. Just keep adding those up and eventually you'll get to where you want to be. I know it might sound cliché, but that's the way we have approached things.

Q. Because it seems dipping into the free-agent market like you did, it's hard to expect when they would make that leap, but it seemed like based on the fact you went and recruited all these guys that you think they're maybe closer than the outside observer might think.

DEAN LOMBARDI: I don't know if that's true. I believe free agency should ideally be used for one or two holes, and I thought we had a lot of holes. I've said this before, when you're looking near July 1st and you're that active, I don't know if that's a good sign, but that's an indication of holes that we have. I think ideally you go in there, you've got a few holes that you've got to fill that you can really pinpoint. That's where I'd like to be. I don't like being a major player, but I felt at this stage of the franchise we had to be aggressive.

But as your team gets better, you don't look at Brian. He didn't get to get into it. When you've got a good team, you're really not that active or you have to go after one hole, and that's a process. It's part of the building process. But it is one indication you're getting better the less active you are, quite frankly.

Q. For Brian, winning the Stanley Cup is getting to the top of the mountain. I was wondering after getting to the top of the mountain this summer, did you have a chance to enjoy the view for very long or was the fact that you had all these complications that came up so close after the season ended, did that sort of take away from it a little bit?

BRIAN BURKE: Well, if anyone on this call hears me complain about anything, they should throw something heavy at me (laughing.) It's what we aspire to, to wake up in the morning dreaming of winning that trophy, and you go to bed at night dreaming of ways to win it. No complaints here.

I would say it was a rather unique set of circumstances when two, I believe, locks for the Hall of Fame tell you they're not sure if they're coming back, so it's required us to take some steps maybe we wouldn't have otherwise. I assured the local media on July 1st that we would not be active, and we ended up signing two guys. From my perspective, no complaints. We like the character of our group, and it's our intent to defend.

Q. I have a question for both of you. Dean, obviously you had goaltending galore last year with the injuries. Out here we'd like to know your expectations for Dan Cloutier in his second year as a King.

DEAN LOMBARDI: Well, I think the most important thing he did this summer was get healthy. So far what we've seen here is he's 100 percent from that standpoint. I think ideally we just want to get him back to where he was, get the goaltender we thought we were getting, which is a good goaltender that can stop when he's supposed to stop and give us a chance to win. You know, we'll see. But obviously to not have the type of year that was expected of him, and at least to his credit he did everything this summer to try and rebound. But so much of it, too, is mental. He's got a challenge ahead of him, and I think with LaBarbera here, after what he did, he's ready to challenge for the job, and we'll let it play out. But I think we just want to get that NHL goalie we thought we were getting last year.

Q. And for Brian, Dean mentioned years ago San Jose going to Japan. You also were in Japan when the Canucks played Anaheim. I'm just wondering what you recall about that. It was an Olympic year coming up so it was good for the league. So putting that league hat on, these games in London, what good do you think it brings to the National Hockey League?

BRIAN BURKE: Well, I was working for the league when Anaheim and Vancouver played. Actually I was the video goal judge over there. To me, we've got to look at extending our brand outside of New York, America, whenever we can. And the league has I think very successfully taken the NHL overseas in both preseason settings. When I worked at the league we took the Winnipeg Jets to Helsinki. When I was in Vancouver we had a training camp in Stockholm. And I think these are all important steps for the league to maintain its brand and grow its brand worldwide. So like I said earlier, when the league asks you to go, you go. Is it ideal for preparation? Probably not. Could you do without the fatigue of coming back? Probably. But unless some teams answer that call, then we don't get to play these games. It's a chance for us to market our game internationally. To me it's a no-brainer. The inconvenience or difficulties it poses for your team, you've got to find a way to get over those.

Q. Dean, I was curious about whether you thought a trip like this with so many young players and some new players coming in, whether there's a silver lining in the bonding and having the guys together on the road for an extended period of time like this, or whether you think it maybe makes it more difficult to find chemistry because of the travel and the distractions, et cetera, et cetera, how you view that for the specific makeup of your team?

DEAN LOMBARDI: Yeah, I think there's a chance, you know, particularly given what's happened. It's funny you bring that up because I was thinking about the other day that when I started in this business that training camp used to be kind of like football where guys, everybody was together, be it in a hotel or whatever, and it was like you went away to summer camp for two weeks. So whether it was a veteran, a kid, a general manager, you know, that was always the norm. And I think that was huge for guys just being together and learning to like each other, you know? The way camps are now with these time restraints and coaches in such a hurry to get down to their team or you've got so many exhibition games, I think we've kind of lost that. Yeah, so one way to counter it is something like this where guys have to be together. Yeah, I think that is a potential positive.

Q. As a follow up, have you and Mark talked about the team's roster, you sort of have to get down to your playing roster or pretty close to it sooner than you'd like. Are you confident you're going to be able to give everybody enough of a look to be ready for the end of September?

DEAN LOMBARDI: Yeah, I mean, I think the way salaries are and things as a practical matter, how many jobs are really open? What you lose, I think, is that the kids, you don't get them in those games or be able to spend the time with them, and it's not necessarily going to pay off now but down the road. I think it's a great experience for some of these kids to be paired with a Rob Blake or a Frolov or something like that, that they can take back with them, or they get in a couple extra exhibition games and they can go back and say, whoa, this league is pretty hard, or conversely, wow, I can play here some day. As an intangible you can't always put your finger on it, but that's what you lose here, because it cuts down on our exhibition games, which ordinarily on the front end would go to some young players to give them some experience. So that's kind of more what I was talking about. You're right, you've got to get down to your team sooner and I think you lose your development time.

BRIAN BURKE: I agree with everything Dean just said. But I agree with what he said earlier. That's more a function of going to a 21-day camp from a 27-day camp, something that was changed in the last couple collective bargaining agreements because the players didn't like the length of the training camp. It has cost us evaluation opportunities, it has cost us bonding time, and if I had my druthers we'd be back to that 27-day camp. I don't think the trip to Europe impacts as much on that as the shorter training camp does. Mark Crawford was our coach in Vancouver when we went and had training camp in Stockholm, and it was a wonderful experience for our team, getting to our numbers early, and then putting the guys together in a row together for a week. It was great.

Q. Maybe Dean, you can take the first swing. Both of you guys made heavy use of your AHL clubs last year in call-ups. I wondered what your ideal thoughts about your AHL teams would be for this year.

BRIAN BURKE: We're kind of, I'd say we are in a work-in-progress on our farm team. We're not sure precisely what Portland is going to look like. We signed a couple guys we think will help there. We've got a couple holes in our big club. We have to see who sticks here. So I really don't know what to expect in Portland yet. Certainly we were disappointed last year that we were not the top team. Our goal is to be a playoff team at that level every year, and last year we failed.

DEAN LOMBARDI: I think if I had to capsulize it, no question it would be a lot younger. I think Manchester had some success last year, but ideally, I'm not sure that it was probably the right spread. This year's team will actually be, could sway the other way of being too young, but I'd rather be in that mode than the other way around. I mean, basically that's all I can really say overall, that it'll be a much younger team.

Q. Dean, do you have any thoughts on where Jonathan Bernier or Marc-Andre Cliche will fit in with you guys this year?

DEAN LOMBARDI: Well, I think with a goalie you've got to be real careful. I mean, Jon obviously has a lot of potential, but boy, that's a tough position to play. We'll let it play out. He just got here. It was his first practice today, and you never want to say never. But the way I've always treated goalies in the past is to bring them along slowly. I think they benefited immeasurably from coming up the right way. I know it's a different game today. With the cap and things maybe kids ought to play sooner. But I think it's tough. I mean, that's a tough position to play, one of the toughest in sport. I'd be very skeptical about putting a kid in that situation. But I think this is one of the holes in the system that I struggle with because I do think the kid that's accomplished everything he has in junior hockey, that we're putting him between somewhere where he needs to graduate from and somewhere he might not be ready for. To me it's a flaw in the development system that a first-round pick should be allowed to take the next challenge. I know there are arguments both ways, but I have a hard time thinking that the best thing for this kid's development is to go back to junior, but you've got no choice. So ideally he should be in Manchester. But anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent. We'll see. It was his first day. And I think in Cliche's case, he's been injured. He had that surgery from the Memorial Cup, and actually he just went in for contact yesterday. He's got some development to do, and I think chances are he's going to start at Manchester.

Q. Actually my question is for both, and Mr. Burke, you already hit on this a little bit as far as how difficult the Pacific division can be, and it seems like every year it gets a little tougher. What are both of your outlooks as far as how tricky this division is going to be this year with some teams that have made the move and others who did pretty well last year and just decided to stay put with what they had?

BRIAN BURKE: My biggest hope before Dean Lombardi came to Los Angeles was that he was going to Boston. I have a very healthy respect for Dean and for his coach. You've seen his track record. LA is only going to get better, that's a fact. Dallas was an elite team last year, they have been for a long time. Donny Maloney will get things turned around in Phoenix. San Jose is a monster team, and Dean had a lot to do with that, too, not only a solid foundation, good goaltending, they are big, so I think it is the toughest division. Of course, other GMs are going to argue with that, but I think it is. From my perspective, the divisional games we play, I'm convinced the big reason we won last year was because the competition within our division was so intense and so close.

DEAN LOMBARDI: Thanks, Brian, I'm still not going to buy you that dinner. It's not going to work (laughing.). You know, it is a Catch 22. I mean, when you're in that type of situation, it forces you to look for ways to get better. You can't, you know, if you're in those weak divisions or whatever, with baseball, and you see it in the other sports, it is human nature to maybe think you're okay. But when you're going up against a Goliath like Anaheim down the street, it forces you to work harder, it's just human nature, versus if they were just an also-ran, you might say, okay, we don't have to go this far.

I think he's probably right. If you can hold your own and go through the wars with them, it's going to hold up better for you when you go deep in the playoffs, and I think that showed up when Brian's team played Ottawa there in the finals. I mean, holy smoke. And I think Brian knows, we've known each other for 30 years and I've said this to his face, so he knows I'm not kissing his ass. I think the job he did over 24 months might be as fine a job as I've ever seen going back to the way he moved Fedorov and not only to bring in top players but also some of the moves he made didn't get the same publicity, but that thing was started even when I was working for Philly, and I watched that thing start to evolve. You see something like that, it's no different than a player saying, boy, you'd better be on your toes here. I think in the end, the object of the game is to beat everybody, as Anaheim did. If you've got to face them early, it's only going to make you better.

Q. I'll tell you, the way you guys are complimenting each other, I guess you've made up since the trade deadline last year.

BRIAN BURKE: No, it's totally a front.

Q. I just want to confirm because I know you touched on briefly in the call, you phoned Scott today because it was a formality as you announced last week, just as a paperwork thing you did have to suspend him today?

BRIAN BURKE: Yes, he was suspended today.

Q. And you said you met with Selanne today. He remains undecided, status quo?

BRIAN BURKE: Yeah, no change.

Q. And my last question, Ryan Getzlaf is a guy scratching the surface in terms of his upside?

BRIAN BURKE: Both Randy Carlyle and I have both said that Ryan Getzlaf is going to be as good as he wants to be. Usually, when someone says that, it's a slap at the kid. It's basically, hey, if this guy decides to be a good player, he's going to be a good player. He's already a good player. He led our team in scoring in the playoffs. Ryan has a chance to be a dominating, physical, hard?nosed, scoring player in our league, and I think he's going to get there.

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