Dean Lombardi’s 7-Step Los Angeles Kings Development Schedule
I have read/listened to nearly every Dean Lombardi interview over the last three seasons. From statements like this-
It’s another example of why I think this team is ahead of schedule.
-I have to assume that he has a systematic approach to the rebuilding of this franchise.
The above quote is from an interview during last season, when the team was among the best in the Western Conference. It seems as though he had not initially envisioned the team being atop the conference standings just yet. He must have been assuming, based on the development of the players in the system, that they would not reach that point until this season at the earliest, but more likely that it would be the 2011-12 season.
If Lombardi has a pre-determined step-by-step schedule for the team’s success, here is my presumptive interpretation:
- Draft. – DL Projected: 2006-2010 and ongoing; Actual 2006-2009 and ongoing: – The Kings are at the tail end of this process now, though it is never completely done with. But the years of finishing near the bottom of the league was the meat of this step, since that’s when the best prospects can theoretically be acquired. This was also the time that more assets get traded to acquire more draft picks. The latter procedure has been reduced in the last year or so, as those assets have been used (some might say poorly) to help the team succeed on the ice, instead of in the draft.
- Develop -2006-Current, focused on continually- This is systematically an ongoing process stemming from the draft and thus, still going on. Lombardi and the Kings have characteristically been very patient with this step, and history suggests this is usually the best method. (see Schenn, Brayden)
- Instill Winning Attitude. -Forever- This idea is preached constantly by Lombardi, so much so that it is practically a cliche to those that follow the Kings front office news religiously. And like most cliche’s, it’s meaning is somewhat diluted. But what is really means is that Dean wants to essentially brand the Los Angeles Kings like the great sports teams in history have been able to do: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics; these teams are synonymous with winning. That’s what he hopes to eventually attain in some manner. The first step of this goal is to ingrain in the players and staff that it is already the case- kind of a ‘chicken or egg’ situation. That attitude has to start with the people involved, and if they perform as they are hired to and produce wins and eventually championships, it will trickle down to all facets and mirror how the organization is perceived. Of course, that last part is the toughest.
- Learn How to Win, and How to Lose. -DL Projected: 2010-ongoing; Actual: 2009-ongoing- Lombardi discusses this concept in that same interview. Every good team needs to not only learn how to win but to learn how to lose, both in the regular season and the post season. Many times, how you deal with success as well as failure determines your ability to succeed in the long term.
- Get Playoff Experience -DL Projected: 2011; Actual: 2010- The Kings are a team with very limited playoff experience, both in franchise and in players currently on the roster, and the core players have only the experience from last season. The playoffs are a battle, both mentally and physically. They are like starting a 500 meter race after running a marathon. Nothing can prepare a player for what it completely entails except for experiencing the post-season itself. Hopefully the taste last year was enough to inspire the determination needed to get back to the post-season and succeed.
- Consistently Succeed in the Playoffs. -DL Projected: 2013 or 2014; Actual: Undetermined. Probably 2012 or 2013- I would say this team can begin this step as early as next season. Lombardi’s initial plans would have probably said that this could happen in the 2013 or 2014 playoffs. In the NHL of late, this is no easy feat, as with only a few exceptions (Detroit, Pittsburgh) we have seen a constantly revolving list of teams that make a deep run in the playoffs. That is mainly due to the salary cap era making it tough to maintain a competitive roster year after year. This is why you hear the term ‘Core’ players- those players that an organization commits to keeping no matter what. This would include Kopitar, Brown, Doughty, Quick, and Simmonds, of the players on the current roster.
- Win the Stanley Cup. -DL Projected: 2015; Actual: Maybe 2013 or 2014- Obviously, this is the end goal.
Again, all these projections are somewhat-educated guesses.
Are these long drawn out steps necessary to build a cup winning team? Some might say no. But when looking at the organizations that are already in Step #6 (Detroit, Pittsburgh), it really is the only proven strategy.
Lombardi has been preparing to do this the hard way, and it really is the only way to build a consistently competitive franchise in the Salary Cap Era of the NHL for years to come.