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Lombardi: "‘You can’t recreate, you have to reinvent.’

by Jon Rosen / Los Angeles Kings


From LAKingsInsider.com

"Q: I was wondering if you had any updates on any progress with Darryl’s contract talks.

A: Well, I think it’s probably easier to address what’s going on here the last two weeks. I haven’t been avoiding you, so if I give you a little preamble without going into particulars, after we got over that punch in the gut, I think we had to reevaluate everything. I think the theme of the last couple weeks, and it started with the amateur scouts, and I’ll make it very simple. I think we talked about this after we had won the first Cup, and remember I had told you I had talked to a number of people. Despite what a lot of those people had told me, they also warned me that you’re not going to understand it probably until you go through it. So now I think I get it. And I think two things have happened here at every level of our franchise, including me. So it starts at the top – your players, your coaches, your general manager, your scouts, your development people, everybody. It started with the amateur scouts because they were in, so that was the first seven days around the clock here. And then the development guys, and then we just started with the NHL coaches yesterday. But here’s the bottom line: I think, like I said, success is a bad teacher and two things can happen. I think, to a certain degree, every part of us got a little full of ourselves. Secondly, which is most crippling, is once you’ve had success, there’s a tendency – and remember the statement where somebody had told me, one of those guys who had won – they said, ‘you can’t recreate, you have to reinvent.’ And now I get it. And so you can’t approach things saying, ‘this worked in the past, and all we’ve got to do is go back and do it this way again and we’ll recapture it,’ and I think what this season clearly demonstrated, that’s clearly not the case, and there’s a reason why. Your players are different. Your economics are different. Your spiritual chemistry’s different, and you stop striving to take the next step. So all the innovation and spark that we had when we were building this, there’s a tendency to flatline because ‘we figured it out, we don’t have to do anything different, anything better, and we know it all,’ and it stagnates. So this was the theme, like it’s really hit me, and actually I had this premonition coming before even the playoffs. I could see it, and like I said, I think you could see it within every part of the organization. When you hear things like ‘OK, these guys, all they’ve got to do is get in the playoffs, and they know how to win. They can go down, get down two-to-three games and everything else.’ That is a symptom of the past, and you’re at a very different stage at a macro and micro level, and when that’s your attitude, it’s not going to work. And that, like I said, that’s why I now understand what those people had told me, and also I understand that I probably wouldn’t have understood it unless you experience it. And usually now, failure is the best teacher. So it’s very simple for every part of this organization right now, and it started with the amateur scouts. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that these two things happened, and now we have to get back on that path – the innovation, the spark, the challenge that was there seven years ago and we were coming from the gutter. You’ve got to get it back. And the other thing that happened here, too, and I think what makes it really resonate – we should’ve been aware of this last year. But last year we had a lot of built-in excuses, right? ‘We play for three years into June, they’re tired.” What else we got? ‘We had all the issues off-ice,’ and everything else. Well, you can’t go back on that anymore. And, like I said, I started the meeting out with the amateur scouts, saying, ‘We’re making progress,’ and they looked at me like, ‘oh, yeah.’ Last year at this time I was spending all my time with drugs, domestic violence and everything else; now we’re going to get back to finding ways to get better. And just like in the past, it might not work. But we’re not going to stop trying to get better. So if we expect our players to adapt, if we expect them to recreate themselves – it gets to the same place, make no mistake. It is about getting that feeling back. But just to think you can reach back from the past and think you’ve got it all is a real misgotten conclusion. And they were great. Those guys, like I said, making progress when they walked out of here and they were working around the clock, and one of them said, ‘You know what? It feels like seven years ago.’ I said ‘You’re right, because we’re stimulated again and not living in the past.’ So there you go. That’s what’s going on here, and I think for everybody, in the terms of debriefing what happened here and how we’re going to attack, everybody needs to take a good look, ‘do you want to go through this?’ Because there’s a lot of work to be done here, and the other thing, too, that’s very clear to me on where we’re at, the plan I’m thinking that is going to come out of this is really going to take everybody accepting different challenges, but getting on board. We’re not going backwards by any stretch of the imagination here. But in order to recreate it, it’s creating a new foundation. The guys that are gone, whatever, the chemistry of your team is different, and they can handle it. The beauty of those kids is they know how to win, but now you have to take that experience, look yourself in the mirror, and say, ‘OK., we’ve got to recreate our version of winning.’

So, to make a long story short, that’s what’s been going on here for two weeks. The coaches, Darryl certainly has an offer on the table. I think you understand his personality and things, and I think it’s smart. Just like he has to be on board when he came here, him and everybody else, it’s the same for my scouts and the people who are under contract right now. If we’re not up to this challenge and being pushed right now, then you don’t want to be in. I think everybody’s faced with that, whether they’re under contract, and I think it’s a smart thing. Everything’s a negotiation in everything else. But I think there’s an offer that’s certainly respectable. But I don’t think this is about money. I think this is ‘OK, are we ready to do this?’ Because there’s going to be a lot of work, and just like building it in the past, you have to stick with some tough times. Like I said, we’re not going back to there, but make no mistake, for us to get this back on track, there are going to be some minor punches in the gut, too, as we fight our way through. If that doesn’t make sense to you, I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.

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