Despite an 8-2 whipsawing of the Sabres last night, this has been a disappointing season in Los Angeles, made more so by the fact this was supposed to be a good year for the Kings.
Fans (and our readers) are starting to get impatient with GM Dean Lombardi, who certainly hasn’t sat on his hands during his year-and-a-half tenure. But have the myriad moves made by Lombardi caused the Kings to fall further into the morass of the NHL? You certainly can’t say L.A. has trouble attracting free agents – there’s a solid fan base, celebrities to mingle with and off-days at the beach – so is this really Lombardi bringing in the wrong personnel?
Let’s try a little comparative exercise between Lombardi, hired April 26, 2006, and Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren, who took over for Bob Clarke on Nov. 11, 2006. Here’s a list of L.A.’s top five scorers so far this year and five of their worst regular roster players (from a statistical perspective). Some were brought in by Lombardi, some by former GM Dave Taylor, Deduce the trend.
Anze Kopitar, 29 points (drafted by Taylor)
Mike Cammalleri. 25 points (drafted by Taylor)
Dustin Brown, 24 points (drafted by Taylor)
Alexander Frolov, 20 points (drafted by Taylor)
Lubomir Visnovsky, 16 points (drafted by Taylor)
Michal Handzus, 5 points, minus-11 (signed by Lombardi)
Rob Blake, minus-11 (signed by Lombardi)
Brian Willsie, 4 points, minus-7 (signed by Lombardi)
Patrick O’Sullivan, minus-7 (acquired by Lombardi)
Brad Stuart, minus-10 (signed by Lombardi)
Now, the resurgent Flyers:
Michael Richards, 31 points (drafted by Clarke)
Daniel Briere, 30 points (signed by Holmgren)
Joffrey Lupul, 17 points (acquired by Holmgren)
Mike Knuble, 16 points (signed by Clarke)
Jeff Carter, 15 points (drafted by Clarke)
Notice a little more variation, there? Now, since the Flyers currently sit atop the Atlantic Division, it’s a little pointless to track their “worst” players, but of the five Flyers who have been suspended this year, three were Clarke’s boys (Steve Downie, Randy Jones, Riley Cote), one was Holmgren’s (Scott Hartnell) and the fifth (Jesse Boulerice) was drafted by Clarke, traded away, then re-signed by Holmgren.
To add another wrinkle to this little demonstration, new Columbus GM Scott Howson merely tinkered with his lineup in the summer, bringing in Michael Peca, Jan Hejda and Jiri Novotny – none of them superstars, but all plus players so far this year. Meanwhile, the Jackets under Ken Hitchcock are on pace for 90 points, which would demolish the franchise’s best showing of 74 points two years ago. It would indicate that a GM’s role is sometimes like that of a doctor – the first rule is to do no harm.
If the Kings – currently sitting dead-last in the Western Conference – don’t pull things together soon, their fans may want to consider a malpractice suit against their GM.