The World Cup of Hockey is still a year away, but Team USA now has its management in place. Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi will serve as GM of the squad, with Philadelphia Flyers president Paul Holmgren as assistant GM, Calgary Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke as senior advisor and USA Hockey assistant executive director Jim Johansson as director of hockey operations.
In Lombardi, the Americans have a proven winner.
The Massachusetts native built the Kings all the way from the bottom when he was hired in the spring of 2006, culminating in two Stanley Cup titles (2012 and 2014). So without a doubt, Lombardi is a nice fit for the World Cup job, which will be a fun challenge thanks to the plethora of American talent in the NHL right now.
At the introductory press conference, Johansson even jested that the NHL guys get to do this job without fear of a salary cap, causing Lombardi to jokingly bristle.
"Did you have to mention the cap?" he said.
Team USA has fared well internationally of late, though their no-show against Finland in the bronze medal game at the Sochi Olympics was ugly. Many of the top names in the game today are American, from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Quick to Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, so talent will not be an issue – putting it all together is the challenge.
Lombardi noted that "fit" was going to be important for the team and the establishment of a core of five-to-eight players was the top priority. From that core, the rest of the team could be designed.
Not that the U.S. is going to suffer for talent, but the presence of the Young Stars team in the tournament will put a dent in the pool. Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba and Alex Galchenyuk will all have to play for the Young Stars since they're under 23 – and all of them have been successful while wearing the Stars and Stripes in the past.
Of course, with Quick in net, Suter on the back end and names such as Parise, Kane, Phil Kessel and Ryan Kesler up front, the Americans will be covered. If Lombardi can find the fit that helped his tight-knit Kings to two NHL championships, the Americans will be a force in Toronto.