February 17, 2009
Rich Hammond of Inside The Kings asked Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi this question: "Can you give people a general sense of what this month is like, leading up to the deadline? How many GMs will you talk to in an average week?"
Roughly 970 words later, Lombardi gives hockey fans a remarkable, candid glimpse at the managerial process when it comes to the trade deadline. A sampling of a really fantastic read:
"Then by the time you get down to the trade deadline, the reality is that you're probably just talking to three or four teams. You don't want to be surprised. Something can always come up, but generally you don't want to be surprised and find out, 'Oh, that guy was available' or 'I could have found this three-way matchup if I had been doing my job.' It's like the guy said, Gekko in Wall Street. That famous line. He said, 'I look at 100 deals a day and I choose one.' That's basically what it is.
"You're going to look and you're going to get out there. People might look afterward and say, 'They didn't do anything.' No. There's a lot of phone calls, because you want to be able to walk away and say, 'Hey, we did the best we could but there was nothing there,' and then you move on. The other thing that process does, it educates you on the market. That's the other thing. When you do this process correctly, you learn a lot about what players are worth. You get a feel for which direction teams are going, by who they're putting out there.
"The other thing is, people are all in 'deal mode.' You only get three times a year when people are in deal mode. It's this deadline, the draft and, generally, maybe a week or so going into training camp, when people look at their team. There are more people willing to talk about what they're trying to do. You might just file that away. I talked to a guy today and he said, 'It doesn't make sense to me now, but we should talk at the draft.' So a lot of deals could start here, but they don't come into fruition until the draft."
Lombardi has established himself as one of the most candid GMs in hockey about the process behind trades and free agency. He's also some that hasn't been afraid to show off a strong pimp hand to other GMs through the media.
Everyone's expected the Kings to make some sort of sea-changing move to propel them into contention again; eveyone except Lombardi.
Enough can't be said about the meticulous construction of this Kings team that sits five points out of the postseason picture. Lombardi's patience is the reason why the Kings' young assets are still on the roster rather than flipped for a high-priced star; it's the reason Jon Quick emerged as a starting goalie; and it's the reason why Michal Handzus has quietly morphed from a free-agent bust into a serviceable player again.
You get the sense reading this interview that Lombardi's going to be patient again near the deadline; that the Kings' biggest upgrades will come during the summer, playoff race be damned.
When 13 players on your roster are born in 1982 or later, and when your cap space is into double-digits, patience is a virtue a general manager can afford.
Incidentally -- who's in line for executive of the year this season? Now that Ray Shero's probably out of the running ...