Is Dean Lombardi vindictive? Does it matter?

Yesterday, both Surly/Scribe and Matt Barry were ruminating on the fate of Jonathan Bernier. S&S serve up a potential destination; Matt reads the tea-leaves. And why not, the Kings suck, and Bernier is, after all, the Kings’ most popular trade rumor star.

My initial reaction is that trading Bernier now would make absolutely zero sense for Lombardi because (1) so far this season, Jonathan Quick has sucked, and (2) Quick is coming off an injury, surgery, long recovery, and several months-long layoff, and Bernier is insurance against Quick’s injury being a bigger problem than we know.

But hold on a minute. Something just occurred to me that makes me disagree with myself and makes a Bernier trade seem more possible. I’ll get to that after we read a little Matt Barry. – Matthew Barry – Bernier Next?

Last night on my blog I wrote “Trade Coming?” and 7 hours later, the Kings got a defenseman.Why?Because Willie Mitchell suddenly has a case of “I don’t feel like playing.” He was cleared to play weeks ago, but hasnt, and apparently [had] a “setback” in his rehabilitation process.

I would love to know what Matt is insinuating. I, too, thought it was weird that he has been cleared to play and yet is not playing.

The Keaton Ellerby trade is nice. It means the Kings dealt Hickey and Loktionov for Ellerby. How about, this: As great as Dean Lombardi is, instead of all this, if he had simply taken Tyler Myers instead of Colten Teubert

Colten Teubert is not better than Tyler Myers. But notice that Tyler Myers is not playing very well, either (UPDATE: he was a healthy scratch on Saturday). And hasn’t been, I don’t think, since his rookie year.

oh, wait… Lombardi didnt get fired… he won the cup. Damn, I keep forgetting.

He won the cup and got a four year extension, and came within a win or two of not making the playoffs and being fired.

[…] Quick’s save percentage is about as good as Alex Rodgriguez passing a drug test percentage, the only time Mike Richards is scoring is at Ercules in Manhattan Beach and Drew Doughty is giving Duncan Keith a run for his money as biggest overpaid defenseman in the league. […]

5 points. That’s what leads the Kings in scoring. 5 points. Didn’t Vanek have that by himself in ONE NIGHT? The Kings are quietly making moves in Manchester and their Ontario Reign netnimder J.F. Berube got the call up. They now have three goaltenders.

But only two — Berube and Martin Jones — are Kings property. The Kings own the Monarchs. It could just be that the Kings think it’s time for Berube (purely in terms of his own development) to play in the AHL. It doesn’t have to be that it’s a prelude to a trade.

The Kings need defense. Scuderi is a UFA, Mitchell is…hurt. Greene is a busted-up car that takes a licking but keeps on ticking…for now.

My assumption is that Scuderi either has to be re-signed in the summer or replaced at replacement value by another UFA $3MM stay-at-home defenseman. I have to assume that Lombardi is not worried about Scuderi between now and July 5. Greene, meanwhile, is under contract for another year, and may be replaceable at some point by Derek Forbort and/or Kevin Gravel — but it’s probably wishful thinking that either could be ready by the time Greene is done here.

Greene for this season is apparently as good as gone.

As far as this season goes, the Kings are arguably kind of slow and old with all three of Scuderi, Mitchell and Greene back there, but with two of the three gone the defense is too inexperienced. Yes, right, they’re too green without Greene. If Lombardi decides to trade for a veteran (on a par with Mitchell), I can see the logic in that. It does mean, however, that we’re kissing one and maybe two of Greene and Mitchell good-bye (because if he brings in someone good, there’s no space for four old-timers).

It occurs to me that Greene or Mitchell could be a compliance buy-out.

[…] Penner on the block: Dustin Penner must be like that person in your office with the 3 week flu. You just avoid the hell out of that person.

I would prefer not to trade Penner. As last year, he’s more valuable to us than he would be to anyone else.

So, back to the Bernier trade question…

Several years ago, when Lombardi traded Patrick O’Sullivan for Justin Williams, Helene Elliott wrote a column essentially arguing that Lombardi was letting his ego drive his decision-making, making deals that were not good for the team just because a player pissed him off. Her evidence was, I believe, the Mike Cammalleri trade and the O’Sullivan trade. I thought she was totally full of shit at the time (here: “Helene Elliott = annoying and clueless”).

But I have to admit, in the wake of the Loktionov trade, I’ve been thinking she might have been right.

MIKE CAMMALLERI — Lombardi dealt him, according to this theory, because he dared to ask for more money. The fact that he was actually being a selfish prick mitigates this somewhat, but play along. I have always argued that the Cammalleri trade was necessary because the alternative was to pay him what he wanted and that would have made Brown, Kopitar and every subsequent deal more expensive (having the Cammalleri deal as a benchmark). But both can be true: Cammalleri could have been upsetting Lombardi’s numbers and offending him personally at the same time. And the personal affront would of course make it easier for Lombardi to ship him off.

PATRICK O’SULLIVAN — O’Sullivan/Williams trade was a good one, but there’s no denying that he shipped him out at least in part because he dared to hold out (the other part of it was he proceeded to suck after he signed).

ANDREI LOKTIONOV — Lombardi dealt Loktionov after he had the temerity to request a trade. I find it hard to believe that the smiling Russian kid with broken English did any of the talking. I bet it was his agent who made the request and his agent who pissed off Lombardi. Loktionov also signed with the KHL back in September, before being reeled back in to Manchester, so that “betrayal” may have been sticking in Lombardi’s craw.

Lombardi then dealt Loktionov away for essentially nothing, and then told reporters he tried to trade Loktionov last year and no one wanted him and also he may well go back to Russia in the summer so his value is low.

The point is, Lombardi appears to be vindicative.

I don’t have a problem with vindictiveness per se. Maybe he needs a little sprinkle of venom to give him whatever he needs to pull the trigger on a deal. Whatever it takes to do what’s best for the team. However, sometimes — as I made fun of Helene Elliott for pointing out — if one’s ego gets in the way of one’s own best interests, that’s a problem.

This is the guy who kept Bernier in the AHL for years because he had a “bad attitude.” Which I think means, he thought he deserved to be in the NHL before Lombardi thought he had earned it. Jonathan Quick (and I love Quick so don’t get me started) had the same numbers as Bernier when Quick was called up to replace Labarbera. Lombardi explained this by saying that Lombardi valued seniority and paying your dues, and that meant Quick was more deserving than Bernier.

But that logic didn’t exactly help Thomas Hickey, who also put in his time, paid his dues, had seniority, etc.

The “seniority” explanation reminds me of the “been with the team all year” explanation for putting Drewiske and Westgarth on the cup but not Loktionov. Both excuses kind of cause you shrug your shoulders, if you’re being generous, but if you’re not feeling generous it’s it seems like B.S.

JACK JOHNSON — Remember that Lombardi and JJ had a fairly public run-in, involving Michigan and Lombardi’s comments regarding Jack’s play under Red Berenson. I happen to think the Johnson trade was ingenius and possibly one of the best trades in Kings’ history. But there’s no denying that Lombardi had “friction” with Johnson, and then Johnson was gone.

I got another one.

RYAN SMYTH — Think back to June, 2011. Doughty’s contract negotiations had begun, but we, the unsuspecting public, hadn’t yet heard about any problems — though we would learn later (via Helene Elliott) that Lombardi and Don Meehan, Doughty’s agent — had already had some pretty ugly and unproductive “conversations.” At that point, the only people who thought Doughty might hold out where tin-foil-hat-wearers, like me.

Then the bizarre episode called Mulletgate happened. It was leaked to the press that Ryan Smyth had, a few months prior, requested a trade back to Edmonton. Lots of things didn’t make sense about the way Mulletgate went down. Here’s what I said at the time:

6/20/11: Quisp notes — Lombardi on Doughty contract

The Smyth leak makes more sense to me in the context of problems in Doughty-land. Getting rid of Smyth allows Lombardi to pursue Big Fish UFAs without the fear of not being able to match a Doughty offer-sheet. I don’t know whether I think Smyth did tell his agent to inquire but craftily denied doing it himself, or (I’m leaning this way:) that Team Lombardi is the source and is telling Helene that it’s Smyth’s agent doing the dirty work because (1) people will believe that and (2) it paints Meehan as The Bad Guy, which helps Lombardi on the Smyth front AND the Doughty front. What worries me about that is what I just described is essentially a P.R. campaign waged in the press…and there wouldn’t be any need for such a campaign if the Doughty contract was imminent. Because if it’s not imminent, that has the potential to be a P.R. disaster, not to mention (more important) the threat of a real disaster.

I’m not there yet. But I’m closer than I thought I would be, this morning when I started this post. Factor in the usual tendencies of hockey-starved bloggers in the off-season withdrawal phase. Hopefully, that’s all this is.

The Doughty deal was in serious trouble. He would hold out. And, now that I’m looking back on it, it makes pretty good sense that Lombardi leaked the Smyth request in order to punish Don Meehan and his client because Don Meehan was already playing hard-ball in the Doughty negotiations. There never was a good explanation given for the two-plus month delay between Smyth’s request and the leak of his request. Lombardi acted like the leak was hand-cuffing him and forcing him to deal a player at less-than-optimal value (hey, that sounds exactly like his Loktionov story, doesn’t it?), but it’s equally plausible that Lombardi leaked it himself and used the leak to allow him to do what he wanted to do anyway, namely: dump that big ugly contract of Smyth’s which Lombardi probably felt he was doing Meehan a favor by taking on in the first place (how could you do this to me after I took on that contract nobody wanted?, etc.); create room in case someone offer-sheeted Doughty; embarrass and diminish the value of Meehan’s client (hayseed who couldn’t hack it in the big city, etc.); while making Meehan look like the cause of the leak and therefore the bad guy, in the coming war in the press over the pending Doughty hold-out.

WAYNE SIMMONDS — In the wake of the Richards trade, I read in several places that Wayne Simmonds, Doughty’s roommate and best friend, might have been shipped out in order to get Doughty to “grow up” and take training (etc.) seriously. The idea was that Simmonds and Doughty apparently partied too hard or something and Lombardi was separating them, more or less for their own good. I never put much stock in that story, as it’s hearsay, and also because I expect young people with millions of dollars to party (and Lombardi, who traded straight-arrow Jack Johnson for party animal Jeff Carter, after trading Simmonds for party animal Mike Richards, doesn’t seem to be motivated by such prejudices).

But the notion that Lombardi would deal Simmonds (arguably his biggest drafting success story with the Kings) to give Doughty a reality check…that seems right up his alley. I’m not saying he shipped out Simmonds for less than full value. It’s hard to argue with a trade that led directly to a Stanley Cup. I’m not saying that vindictiveness was the over-riding motivation. But maybe it greased the wheel.

What does any of this have to do with Jonathan Bernier?

Aside from Doughty, Jonathan Bernier is the only player (left) on the Kings’ roster who has had any kind of bad blood with Lombardi. He’s the only (remaining) player we know of who has publicly asked for a trade. Do I think that Lombardi is capable of dealing Bernier motivated even in some small part by spite? I would have thought the answer is no. I still hold out hope that Lombardi’s mean streak is a tool and not a flaw, that he wouldn’t let it get in the way of being the excellent GM that he has obviously been.  And if I’m wrong about Loktionov and it turns out he really wasn’t worth much, then I’m sad and confused, but I’m also a lot less worried about Lombardi’s “process,” and what that “process” might mean for Jon Bernier.

Otherwise, the biggest thing keeping Bernier in LA may well be how horribly Jonathan Quick has been playing.


  18 comments for “Is Dean Lombardi vindictive? Does it matter?

  1. Drew
    February 10, 2013 at 8:32 PM

    Quisp…. I think that most every human being on this planet has some sort of issue or other. So I’ll assume that Lombardi does. IMO his stubbornness had him drafting in a certain way. I won’t beat that dead horse again, but I do think it’s an issue. I Respect the fact that he’s followed his mentor’s advice (Lou Lamoriello telling him to stick to his gun’s regardless of what anyone else thinks – in this case drafting so much from goal on out that imo again it’s been to the detriment of developing a good top six forward after six years at the helm…. other than Simmonds who probably would still not be a 20 goal scorer if he were still w the Kings).

    Anyway, all that to say that I do find his ego gets in the way sometimes.
    Case in point (?)…. back to the mentor Lou. His Devils had just an average defense, good goaltending but his draft picks (Zajack, Teddenby, Henrique, Clarkson) have pulled thru in such a major way, that even though they lost their very best player in Parise and lost in the finals last year, they’ve come back super strong. Managing to play solid d and yet score goals. The same cannot be said of the Kings who you would think would be motivated to prove to people that last year wasn’t a fluke.
    If you include this year (so far) they have been 25th, 29th and now 30th in scoring for the last three seasons. That clearly is a pattern. Who is responsible? You have to look at the man at the top don’t you? Seems that way to me.

    I’ll give him all the kudos in the world for bringing us the cup, but I’ll also call him out for the things I’m not sure he has corrected as of yet. We’ll see about Toffoli, but that could be two years away (in his 2nd season if he is a rookie next year) before we see how that pans out. I base my comments on the linear movement of what I’ve seen so far.

    Anyway, love your article there.

    • Kings of Hockeywood
      February 10, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      “in this case drafting so much from goal on out that imo again it’s been
      to the detriment of developing a good top six forward after six years at
      the helm…. other than Simmonds who probably would still not be a 20
      goal scorer if he were still w the Kings)”

      Toffoli and Pearson are both going to be top-6 forwards with the Kings by next season. I think the fact that he drafted both of them kind of negates your argument that he hasn’t drafted top forwards. It certainly hasn’t been his focus, but he hasn’t ignored them. Odds are that Loktionov ends up a top-two centerman in NJ too.

      • Drew
        February 11, 2013 at 5:44 AM

        No, not really. I never said he hasn’t drafted top six forwards. I’ll clarify. After six years at the helm (that’s a pretty reasonable amount of time to judge on), there are two homegrown products in the top six. Both were drafted by Dave Taylor.
        I’m more than aware that he had drafted Braydon Schenn who would by now have been in our top six. FIne, he gets a pass on that. As for Loktionov, no. I don’t care if you draft the next Zach Parise if he isn’t playing on your team and you’ve traded him away for essentially nothing then in my eyes it’s not a successful draft.

        It isn’t just who you draft but how you make the pieces fit. Because of his focus on d he was forced into a situation where he had to make the trade for Jeff Carter and his ten year contract. That’s not ideal as I see it, but I also see the other side….that Carter helped us win the Cup. I’m not Only focusing on what has gone wrong.

        As for Toffoli and Pearson…. maybe you know something that most of us don’t, because there’s no guarantee that both of them make the big team next year – particularly as top six forwards. Toffoli, I suppose so….Pearson, only time will tell, It also depends on whether they bring in any ufa forwards, because presumably barring trade or injury, Brown, Kopi, JW, Carter and Richards will still be there. That leaves one spot. So who knows.

  2. Drew
    February 10, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    … 2nd post….. and how encouraging is it when you said a few days ago that they’d have to play 8 games over .500 to make the playoffs. So i assume that now it would be 10 games over .500

    Not hugely encouraging.

    • February 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM

      That’s one of the things I keep track of on the points-blown page. The column in question is “to 55.” Currently, the Kings need a record of 21-12-5. They’re in basically the same boat as 8 other teams, 9 if you count Columbus.

  3. Kings of Hockeywood
    February 10, 2013 at 9:11 PM

    Didn’t DL have personal issues with Frolov too? I remember on deadline day of Fro’s last season in LA, DL made the ultra-dick move of calling him into his office to make him think he’d been traded. Seems like the kind of distasteful thing DL does to people he doesn’t like.

  4. February 11, 2013 at 6:50 AM

    I love all the “voodoo” going on here. It’s amusing to read.

    Camalleri & POS were traded because Dean Lombardi and the Kings coaching staff recognized that neither guy (especially POS) had the ability or skills to match their demands.

    Jack Johnson was traded because the Kings were deep on the blue line and had a severe need at forward to find someone who could put the puck in the net. If the Kings were scoring last year JJ would probably still be a King. So that begs the question of “who will the Kings sacrifice this year to find scoring?”

    Dustin Penner has returned to typical Penner form. It was widely known that Penner was Lombardi’s second choice at that trade deadline. I’m not even sure why the Kings resigned him, although I’ll admit to advocating for his return after the playoffs because I THOUGHT he had finally figured out what it takes to be a productive player in the NHL. I stand corrected.

    Regarding Bernier, I believe the Kings have 2 NHL ready goalies in Berube & Jones and the only reason they aren’t here yet is because Bernier has NHL experience. As for why he hasn’t been traded yet I think it’s because the Kings are waiting to see if Quick finally comes around and starts playing up to the form he’s shown in the past. I wouldn’t be surprised if Quick gets a few games in a row off in the next few weeks to see if Bernier can out play him and/or to send a wake up call to Quick. The Kings can’t afford, with 1/4 of a 48 game season wasted already, to wait for Quick to play into form. Call it panic if you want but if the Kings don’t start putting up points soon some bold moves will have to be made.

    • February 11, 2013 at 11:53 AM

      Jones and (especially) Berube are not safe bets. I like Jones, but throwing him into the fray is not a great idea. I don’t disagree much with how you characterized the above deals. I think I said as much in my post.

      • February 12, 2013 at 7:40 AM

        Not sure how being Quick’s backup for 45 of 48 games is being “thrown into the fray”? They’ll eventually need NHL experience won’t they?

        And no, I didn’t have any idea when I wrote that post yesterday morning that Bernier would start last night but I’m glad to see I was right. Hope he gets a few more…

        • February 12, 2013 at 10:24 AM

          Only because Quick isn’t going to start 45 games. Jones hasn’t been anything approaching consistent in the AHL yet, though he’s been brilliant for stretches. and Berube just got there from the ECHL last week.

  5. Tyfighter77
    February 11, 2013 at 7:59 AM

    You forget Ersberg

  6. hughestom1
    February 11, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    My question is in regards to Voynov. Here’s a player who sucked it up and went to the AHL and played “unhappily” if you believe writers like MB. He’s due for a raise this summer, so I think he might give him a deal like Jack Johnson’s. The only difference is, JJ and DL were amicable and on the same page regarding dollar amount and length. When it comes to RFA’s, I think DL has a certain dollar and term in mind, and is rather opposed to negotiating with these players. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on how this negotiation might pan out.

    • February 11, 2013 at 8:43 PM

      The wild card in that is that the danger of bolting to the KHL is real. Otherwise, I would say DL would just make his offer and VV would have to swallow it. I think the KHL threat might get Voynov a little more. The other thing is that right now Voynov is the best player on the team. What if he’s a Calder candidate?

  7. LBlocal
    February 11, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Two additional players who have been sent packing by Deano’s super ego. O Moller, and Geoge aka Bud ‘The Cowboy’ Holloway. Check 12/13 stats in SEL for “Big Game Bud” #01 overall in points. But, who needs scoring, anyway? PS. Who created the term ‘Bridge Player’?

    • February 12, 2013 at 7:36 AM

      I did think Moller could have played a role on this team, although he is quite small. But really? Bud Holloway? And you’re using SEL stats to back that up? Come on man…..

      • LBlocal
        February 12, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        Yes, Holloway. More so than Moller. 3rd Rd ’06. Worked his way up through Juniors and successfully developed in Manchester for three seasons. He was close. So much so, that Deano is on record stating that he was most disappointed in losing Bud. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. My opinion is that Big Game Bud could make an impact on the #LAKings team. #ComplimentaryScoring

  8. Samuel Aronoff
    February 13, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    I think DL has a HUGE ego because anyone in his position would have to. As of yet, each trade seemed to be of some benefit so I am not ready to say he has done anything without good intentions. I could very well see his anger at players being exacerbated to allow him to trade them without guilt.

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