Date of Release: Sep 6, 2006
Type of Release: Public Relations
Category: Conference Call Transcript
Dean Lombardi, Marc Crawford Conference Call Transcript--Sept 6/06
An interview with:
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department. I'd like to welcome you to today's call. This is the second of three calls we are conducting today and tomorrow featuring new management teams as they prepare for the beginning of training camp next week in the opening of 2006/2007 National Hockey League season in early October.
With us on this call we have general manager of the Los Angeles Kings, Dean Lombardi and the Kings head coach, Marc Crawford. Thanks to both of these gentlemen for taking time to answer your questions, and thanks to Mike Altieri and Jeff Moeller of the Kings public relations staff for helping set up the call.
The Kings open training camp next Thursday at their practice facility in El Segundo, California. They open the pre-season on Monday, September 18th in Anaheim against the Ducks, and open the regular season at home on October 7th when they host the St. Louis Blues.
At this time we'll open it up for questions.
Q. Marc, I know this has got to be an exciting challenge for you. Can you tell me first off how your family is liking the new adventure?
MARC CRAWFORD: My family is getting along quite nicely. Any time that you have to change locations, it's obviously got its challenges. For us, the challenges are for everyone. My wife is getting to know the area, it's getting to know where things are, schooling, all that sort of thing.
My children are adjusting to new sports teams to new schools, new friends. We've just tried to tell them, Hey, the attitude that you go into these changes with is really going to affect how you're accepted and how you accept coming to a new locale.
It has been challenging, to say the least. But I know that my kids really like Southern California. They like the south Bay Area where we're living. They're enjoying their new schools. They're much bigger than they're used to. And they're getting to know their new teammates on the various teams they're playing with.
You know, it has been positive. I think it will only get better as they get more comfortable and more knowledgeable about the people and the places that they're at.
Q. From a hockey standpoint, Marc, I know coaches have to coach the talent you're given. When you studied the Kings so far, what do you see on this team on paper? What style can they play versus what you had here in Vancouver?
MARC CRAWFORD: We're committed to playing a very entertaining style. We want to be a team that's going to pressure the puck extremely well. We want people to come in and watch the Kings, at the end of every game be able to look and say, Hey, that's not only an exciting team, but certainly a hard-working team.
From that standpoint, it will be similar to what we tried to accomplish in Vancouver. Looking at the club, we think we've got very, very good goaltending, we've got very, very good defense. We got some young emerging players in our forward group. We're going to have to find ways to be better offensively than this club has been in the past, especially in the area of our power-play and our penalty killing.
But I think we've got a good base of talent and some good leadership. We're strong in a couple of key areas, as I mentioned, in goal and on defense.
Q. Dean, regarding any additional -- adding to the roster before training camp, is there any possibility that you might add a couple of guys or one other guys, like a Carter at this point, or are you just locked into what you have right now?
DEAN LOMBARDI: I think we're probab ly just going to hold with what we have right now. We do have some cap space and one of the issues we have particularly up front is probably the portion of our reserve list with the most u pside is in the forwards.
I think it would be smarter for us now, unless something really hits us, where you know the guy is a fit, that we better see where Brown and Cammalleri and Frolov and O'Sullivan and some of these kids are, then make sure we get the right fit for them.
I'd say right now we're in a hold position unless something really hits us.
Q. There's been a cap number and then a budget number. It has not always been the same. With respect to you, can you go to the cap or do you go in, talk to senior management, say we can spend X amount of dollars in the season? How does that work?
DEAN LOMBARDI: I think that's one of the things I asked before -- both Marc and I asked before we decided to come here. We have authority to go to the cap. They're always the issue of when is the time to go to the cap and how to use it, whether it's max it out and/or get some young players signed on term. That's some of the things. We had five or six days of meetings there last week that we have to work through.
Then on the other side, too, again, the owner had stressed to us before we came here about building the infrastructure, which I thought was critical. They've completely done the training room downstairs, redone the room at the Staples Center. They've upgraded our technology, allowed me to hire staff that we needed.
Mr. Anschutz and Tim have certainly up to this point lived up to everything they've said they were going to do for us when Marc and I decided to come here.
Q. Marc, how is it going to be to adjust to you from going to coaching a group of really set forwards, pretty high-level forwards, to going to a group of really young guys kind of finding their way, albeit with a lot of potential?
MARC CRAWFORD: It's a great question. I think it's very similar to when we first came to Vancouver. I think if you look back then, that group was the Messier line and then a lot of guys in behind it who really had a lot of balance to the group, then certain players emerged. Marcus had already emerged. Todd hadn't emerged yet. Sedin hadn't come through yet. I think that group really developed and kind of grew and things made their way.
I believe that that is going to happen here, as well. We've got some very good experience in our forward group. Craig Conroy is going to be a good player to have play on a line. If you look at people like Armstrong and you go on with Belanger, some of the guys who have been in the league for, you know, anywhere from seven to 10 years, these guys are very good NHL players.
As Dean said, how our young players develop and how our young players emerge really will dictate if we are able to have those types of lines as Vancouver had where, you know, you can look at the team and say, Yeah, you know, that top line is going to play an awful lot on any given night.
Right now I kind of like it the way it is. You guys that have been in Vancouver, maybe some of the other places, have known what I'm like. I can juggle lines. I think have a great sense for who's going on any given night. This team is certainly going to allow -- going to be allowed to grow and will have the opportunity for different guys to get a lot of the quality ice on any given night.
So it hasn't been set in stone yet. I think that's a real positive thing. I'm looking forward to these guys growing into the types of players that Bertuzzi, Naslund, Morrison, Sedin became.
Q. Marc, a dozen years ago hockey was strong in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. I think Sports Illustrated said then the NHL was hot. How much would putting competitive franchises in New York, Chicago and LA help the game grow in the U.S. do you think?
MARC CRAWFORD: I think it would help it tremendously. I know that both Dean a nd myself have talked about this. That's one of the main exciting reasons why we've ended up coming here. We love the challenge. It's a terrific challenge. We know, more so than some of the other franchises in the league, this can be a wonderful, wonderful franchise. Playe rs, when they look at franchises, I think they ask a number of questions. You know, they ask, Hey, does this team have a chance to win? They look at, What is the personnel like? What is the coaching staff, management staff like? What is the city like?
I think we've got the ability to answer all those questions very well. You're absolutely right. If Los Angeles is a strong franchise, that not only helps hockey in California and maybe in the southern states, but I think it helps the entire league. We think that the same can be said for those big cities of Chicago and New York. We already know that Detroit is really well thought of. You see how positive it is in Canada when the big-market teams are good there. The numbers for the TV ratings, the numbers that kind of create the buzz, create the excitement, they're just real positive. We want to be a big part of that out here in Los Angeles.
Q. Dean, your building pattern in San Jose is slow and steady improvement year after year. Will you stick to the same operating philosophy in Los Angeles or do you think with the group of players that you have you can be competitive right away?
DEAN LOMBARDI: Boy, I'll be perfectly honest with you. I said this before I had the job. I think anybody that thinks they have all the answers under this system right now isn't telling the truth.
I think we laid some groundwork for our philosophy. I'm perfectly cognizant that some of the rules that I followed in San Jose are probably not applicable. Also in this market it's a challenge where I don't think Los Angeles can afford to fall off the map and pick in the top three and get those guys everybody knows is top players.
Now, the one thing about this system that is in place, obviously with free agency the way it is, it does give us avenues that probably weren't available to teams in the past.
I still believe that the drafting and development is critical. It's just that now it is more balanced in terms of the amateur and the pro side. I also think that now coaching, as the talent gets more distributed evenly, there's no cap on coaching, that that now -- the synergy between your scouting and coaching now becomes critical.
I think it's going to be a blend. That's kind of what I'm seeing. I think there's an area in this reserve list, a certain age group, I use three segments in San Jose. I brought on that before. There's a segment on this reserve list now I find very troubling from the building perspective. It would have to be competitive, allow Marc to take this team as far as he can, but I don't think we can lose sight of what I consider a weak link in this reserve list.
I guess I'm not really answering your question because to me this is a question you do debate for six days like we just did amongst 30 hockey people. I had a lot of experience in that room, three former general managers in that room, Dave Taylor, Mike O'Connell, Jack Parker. We came out of there with more questions than answers. We'll figure it out. I got a great group of hockey people.
Marc is tremendous not only in terms of seeing what's in front of him but the big picture. I guess to make a long story short, I think the simple answer, it's going to be a blend of San Jose and where I see this going in the future.
Q. Marc, I know you sort of touched on this earlier, but do you see a parallel between the team you're taking over now in Los Angeles and the team you took over here in Vancouver, maybe a market that the fan base had fallen off some with some emerging talent? Do you see a parallel between the two teams?
MARC CRAWFORD: I do see some parallels. I have to tell you, their fan base has been really strong. I found this really interesting since I've been down here since last May. People down here who are fans, it's like they've chosen hockey. Boy, are they passionate about it. They rival the passion in any Canadian city and of any Canadian fan.
The challenge is that we don't have as many of them on a daily basis as you have in a great North American m arket or a great hockey market in the States, and especially the great hockey markets up in Canada.
But people are very, very passionate. That was somewhat surprising to me. The Kings do have a strong season ticket base. We want to continue, hopefully build upon that. And the challenge at the rink is very similar to the one that we had in Vancouver. This club has not made the playoffs for the last couple of years. In saying that, you know, people want playoff action. Fans want to come to the rink and be entertained. They want to know that their team has a chance to win. We know that's the bottom line. We have to answer that as often as we possibly can.
The way we're going to do it is very similar, we'll try to be as positive as we can with our group as we possibly can, try and play a brand of hockey that will allow us to play simple and effective and be in games on a nightly basis.
I think at the end of the day, if your team's winning, then the fan base and all the excitement that's around your team gets taken care of.
Q. Marc, your experience here, the success you've had here, has it changed you as a coach going into LA now? Are you a different coach than the man that came here in '98?
MARC CRAWFORD: Well, I think that any time you get a little bit older, you draw on the experiences that you've had. I certainly have more experiences to draw upon. I think as we get a little bit older, you know, maybe you become somewhat more calculated in what you're doing just because of that experience.
I might be a little bit weird, but I want to take that calculating risk away from myself because I think you're at your best when you're really being instinctive. As a player, we don't want our players going out there and thinking about, I have to do this, I have to do that. We want them reacting.
I think the same holds true for coaches, too. The game is fast. The game is quick. As a coach, I want to learn to trust my gut instincts because I believe strongly that if I feel something in my guts, usually it's the right thing to do. I know I'm at my best when those gut instincts that I've got are being demonstrated by the people that I'm putting on the ice.
Q. What will be your first order of business at training camp? Do you feel you have to familiarize yourself with a lot of players?
MARC CRAWFORD: I think training camp, the biggest thing we're doing is we're trying to let them know how we do things. It's not that our way is the only way, but I believe players function best when they have structure. I believe players function best when they know that structure is in place and it stays in place. I know that Dean is a guy that's a detailed person. I know that that's something that I look at when I look at completing my coaching staff. I want people who take care of details because I believe that it's in the details that you win. I believe our players, when they come to training camp, they'll see a noticeable change in this group of Los Angeles Kings operates.
We think that the previous administration that was here, both Dave Taylor and Andy Murray, did a terrific job. We're not going to lose the strengths of those people and what they brought to the Kings, but we believe strongly that we can build on those strengths, we can lend our own style, if you will, to the Los Angeles Kings.
We like the fact that, you know, with the Kings, we can have a feeling of something that - may sound corny - but has a royal feeling to it. We want our players to believe that they're special. We want them to play like they're special. We're going to try and capture that feeling right f rom day one.
Q. Dean, calling from Boston. You've got some persons of interest. You mentioned Mike O'Connell. What is a guy like OC, what do you look for him to add to your overall plan out there?
DEAN LOMBARDI: Well, I have a history of doing this. I think that comes from, you know, like when I was first in San Jose, I hired Danny Maloney, John Ferguson. I think it just goes that the old adage, to hire people that are qualified enough to take your job. It's not as smart from a Machiavellian point of view. If you want to be better and challenge yourself every day, I think these people can add a tremendous amount to your staff.
I think, like in all three of them, it's one of those things where you really don't know what it's like until you sit in the seat. Bringing that big picture perspective when necessary and then a microanalysis when necessary, it's nice to have that to bounce off.
I think the second thing, one of the problems we have out here in LA is I personally don't like the logistics of having your minor league team five thousand miles away. I think that is a huge problem. I think one of the things in development of young players is not only your coaching but the presence. I think a lot of times when you're that far away, the kids feel that they're not being watched and can wander. It's hard on the coaches to keep them motivated.
That is an issue that when you bring someone in like OC with a strong presence to commands the respect of the players and everybody because he's been in that seat and did a marvelous job in Boston, it gives us that oversight that I think is impossible to get when you're this far away.
That is something that I felt very strongly about. I guess it came from seeing in Philly where the minor league team was right there, I had my doubts about it, but seeing it in action when I was there, I thought that was a tremendous advantage that those players were always being watched by upper management. They were on their toes.
So OC can bring us things as far as a building, but also brings us a presence there in Manchester, as well as a supervisor for the scouting staff out there. I'm really excited about having him. He's been here for a number of meetings. He's got tremendous experience. When you can be in my position and draw on that, you're only going to get better.
Q. You've mentioned the group of young forwards, that upside reserve list. The fact that Brian Boyle elected to stay in school out here in Boston, did that impact any planning that you had made or is that something that the organization is okay with and see you in a year kind of thing?
DEAN LOMBARDI: Actually, it's one of the things -- one of the disadvantages of coming into a situation where I believe that the organization, the future, the communication which your players, from the day you drop them or before you drop them, is critical with today's young people. I was a little behind the eight ball.
I didn't know Brian or his family personally. There was no question I felt having scouted -- actually, I was watching him objectively when I was working for the Flyers there in the tournament, and I remember walking out saying, it's time for this player to come out. I had no interest in this at the time and didn't know I was going to be in this position a month later. From a hockey perspective, I thought the best thing for him was to make the next step and take the next challenge.
OC went down there and met with him and his parents. It was kind of clear he was hesitant. Then came to the development camp, did very well. Then I was just out there. OC and I met with his parents and Brian about three weeks ago. We were down in OC's place there south of Boston. It was clear he wanted to go back.
The only issue I have with him is that he needs to be challenged. I feel that the danger of college hockey right now is not so much being in a college environment, but they get complacent, that he won' t be challenged enough. He assured me he will take every day as a challenge and as soon as the college is over, he will be ready to turn pro in February or March, whenever that is.
I'm comfortable with it now. Like I said, it was a long process, but it requires you to get a feel for the player, his parents. Took us a little while, but I'm comfortable with it, as long as he challenges himself.
Q. What you were saying about Brian, some of what you said about college hockey. Having Brian back in the college ranks this season, do you think it helps the team as an organization to have college fans, with Trevor Lewis and Meckler (indiscernible)?
DEAN LOMBARDI: On the first one, Trevor Lewis -- actually, after we drafted him, we found out about his strong interest in going to junior hockey. Actually, when we were in the middle of that, it was similar to what I said originally. I said, Well, whatever this kid wants to do. I want to look him in the eye and I want him to tell me what he wants to do. Trevor Lewis very simply sat across from this desk. I says, I understand that you have put some feelers out to junior hockey. I understand you're semi-committed to Michigan. What do you want to do?
He said, I want to be a hockey player, and I believe the best thing for me is to go to junior hockey.
I said, We'll support you in that and we'll get you signed. If that's what you want to do, we're behind you a hundred percent.
That was the extent of that conversation.
Then on Meckler, that kind of caught us by surprise. He had made his own decision. That was even made before we had a chance to talk to him.
Now, going back to your original premise there. I mean, it's just like in Brian's case, you know, you can encourage them and guide them. If your goal is to be a professional hockey player, if that's your goal, we can provide advice in that area. We also have an obligation to them as men because I think that's a big thing that gets lost in this. What's the best thing in the development of them as a person?
Both those issues can have different answers for junior or college ranks. To say that we're one way or the other, I think we handled Lewis and Meckler just like we handled Boyle. You know, I think that's a classic case where perception really started running amok.
I don't think we favor anyone. I believe in junior hockey for some players and I believe in college hockey for some players. But I also believe there is a time that four years of college hockey for certain players is not the best thing for them to become professional hockey players. But if there is other things on what they want to do, then that's up to them.
Brian Lee, Craig (indiscernible), Derian Hatcher. Look at all those great players that come out of the U.S., Keith Tkachuk, right down the line. Some of them went junior, some went college, some went for one year, some went for two, some went for four. To each his own. It's hard to come up with a boiler plate answer for every player. I don't think it's possible.
Q. You were saying before worrying about players becoming complacent. Do you start to worry about that less when you have a guy whose come within one goal of a national championship and is trying to finish the job?
DEAN LOMBARDI: I think that's a big part of what's driving him and I think it's great. But I think it's underestimating the enormous difficulty, and this is where I stressed to him. He told him his dream was to win a national title. I said, Son, you better go out and win it because you haven't left yourself much of a leeway here.
I think it makes the challenge that much tougher, way tougher, because he set his goals so high. I think that is a good thing. That is exactly what you're talking about, the idea of not letting complacency set in by him setting his goals so high. I think you're right, there is a good chance that he will toe the line. But he has to be reminded of that. That's now where a guy lik e Dave Taylor becomes critical on your staff, these kids get lost. That's a big part of Dave's job description, is staying in touch with these drafted players who can fall through the cracks and not be monitored.
I'm sure Dave will be having some talks with him during the year if he sees him starting to slide a little.
Q. Coach Crawford, you start the season with seven of nine at Staples. One of the away games is in Anaheim. How important is it for the Kings season to get off to a good start?
MARC CRAWFORD: I think it's very important for u s to get off to a good start. You point out that we're not going to be leaving Southern California early in our tenure here. I think you look at the other side of it, we also have a very difficult start in that we play so many games in the month of October.
It's a challenge. I think it's a real positive challenge for our group. We want to have a terrific record. The only way to have a terrific record is to be good not only at home but also on the road. The Kings had a great home record last year, maybe faltered a little bit on the road. We're obviously going to try to do everything that we can to maintain our great home record, support the fans that come and watch the game and support us here.
Now we've got to do the next step, which is also improve our road record. The way to do that is to have a balanced group that plays equally hard at home and on the road an answers the challenges that come from the difficult travel and the difficult back-to-back situations that we have to go through.
But we're going to pay attention to all those little details and hopefully have a start where we can look back and say that start really helped us to gain a playoff position. Those points that happen early in the season, they don't count any less than the ones that happen late in the season. We want to make sure we take advantage of them as well as we possibly can.
Q. Have you set any goals, taking five out of seven?
MARC CRAWFORD: I haven't set any specific goals. We want to be as good as we possibly can be. I think if we take care of a number of issues, first of all the environment that surrounds the club, the simple way in which we're going to play, the effective way in which we're going to play, if we take care of those things, I'm a firm believer that the results will take care of themselves. We're going to concentrate on process and environment early in the season.
Q. Coach Andy Murray used to be specific about setting a certain number of wins for the season. I take it you're more interested in developing the team as the season progresses.
MARC CRAWFORD: I believe you can be successful in any way that you want to be. I think the one thing that's important in any successful venture is you have everybody on the same page and you have everybody understanding how it is that you have to play and how it is that you need to play to be successful. We'll concentrate more on those things rather than in giving a specific goal and then putting the pressure on the players to meet that.
Q. About the season in general, I know the Oilers, eighth-seeded team, nearly winning the Stanley Cup, that must give a lot of hope to the marginal playoff teams. Do you think this is going to increase fan interest this year?
MARC CRAWFORD: I know Dean has some thoughts on that. We know if you look at the Oilers, their success last year, the eighth-place club, the year before that when hockey was going, the Flames were a sixth-place club, made it the finals, both teams came to within a game of winning the Stanley Cup. If you get to the playoffs, you've got a chance.
The NHL season I think is the most competitive season in all of pro sports, maybe because we have 16 playoff positions available and maybe because of the fact that there usually are upsets in the National Hockey League playoffs. We want to be one of those teams that's vying for a playoff position. There's a lot of hard work to do that and we want to pay attention to the details so that we are in position because, yeah, we'd like nothing better than to have a magical run like the Oilers and like the Flames have had in the Western Conference the last two times the playoffs have been run.
More important than that, though, we want to be a team that's there continually like some of the other teams that have been there year to year like the Detroit Red Wings, like Dallas, like Colorado.
Nice read. Is Lombardi talking about our defensive reserve list?
That is what I am assuming. He mentions the strength of the forwards on the reserve list. I think goaltending was addressed in the last draft by selecting Bernier and Zatkoff (who Al Murray mentioned was the #2 ranked goalie on their list).