blank'/> THE PUCK REPORT: Dean Lombardi Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dean Lombardi Interview - 2009 Hockey Fest

On the final day of Hockey Fest '09 Kings GM Dean Lombardi shared his vision for the franchise - build through the draft, create a winning culture, improve each year - and took questions from the faithful. With one of the league's youngest rosters showing improvement in each of his three years ('07, '08, '09), in terms of wins (27, 32, 34) and points (68, 71, 79), the seeds of success are being sewn in Los Angeles.

Clear on the direction of the Kings, we asked Dean about his thoughts on NHL participation in the Winter Olympics and pitched our 'percentage of current salary cap' player contract proposal. These are his stories.

Q: Brian Burke recently suggested that suspending the NHL season to have players participate in the Winter Olympic Games hasn't been worth it, noting that he "wouldn't be surprised if this is the last Olympics where the NHL participates." How do you feel about the break? Is the disruption justified for the better good of the international game?
A: Boy that’s a tough one. I tend to agree with him. I didn’t expect this question. I didn’t give a lot of thought to it. I think I’m trending towards what he’s saying. It’s one of those issues that has so many pros and cons. It’s a tough call but I think I’m trending his way.

And I’m not sure the Olympics has the same panache when the pros are involved. You know, you see it in baseball and basketball. It just doesn’t resonate like it seems it should or used to. It’s almost like an All-Star game of guys from different countries. I don’t know how to define it but it doesn’t seem to have the feel to me with the pros that it’s a really special event. And it’s hard to believe that I’m saying that because it’s the Olympics but from an emotional standpoint I just don’t see a gold medal as huge. It seems almost a bigger thing in the World Junior tournament.

And then you look at what it does to the season. I think it is too long for the players on your own team. And then you go to the business side, taking the NHL away at that time of year which is a critical part of the year where we’re on the front page. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. So I tend to agree with Brian. But the biggest thing is the Olympics doesn’t resonate with me with the pros like it seems that it used to. I don’t know what your generation thinks but it’s kind of the way I feel.

Q: You spoke earlier of the difficulty of planning player costs years ahead without knowing where the salary cap is going. Has there ever been talks among the NHL governors to have player contracts drafted as a percentage of cap rather than fixed dollar sums when the CBA is up for renegotiation? We already know that 20% is the most you can pay a player so why not represent all player salaries in terms of a percentages rather than promising fixed dollars with an uncertain budget?
A: Hell of an idea. No. That’s way too smart. It’s a hell of an idea. I mean, it’s funny you say that because you’re absolutely right. When you’re building under a cap it’s not the dollar figure it’s the allocation of resources. So when we do things internally that’s how we do it. Everything we do internally is based upon that. But in terms of actually doing the contract on that? I’ll give it to you. It’s a good idea. Why not. That's the way we’re actually planning our payroll. I guess you’re right it would take out the uncertainty. So good one. That makes a lot of sense and would make our job a lot easier to stay within the cap. It’s a heck of an idea.

Many thanks to Dean for speaking with us. Best of luck this season.