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Kings Gameday: Dean Lombardi is a Straight-Shooter/Jerk

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Los Angeles Kings
@ Detroit Red Wings

Saturday, Jan 23, 2010, 4:00 PM PST
Joe Louis Arena

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This bit from Wingin' it Motown made me laugh.

Disclaimer: I love Dean Lombardi and I don't like Jack Johnson.  Just figure everyone should know where I'm coming from.

Well, there was quite the dust-up this week, wasn't there?  In case you missed it, Dean Lombardi gave an interview to Gann Matsuda from Frozen Royalty in which he said the following:

"Michigan is the worst." Lombardi added. "For hockey people, if you’ve got a choice between a kid—all things being equal—one’s going to Michigan and one’s going to Boston University, you all want your player [going to Boston University]. Michigan’s players—[head coach] Red [Berenson] doesn’t coach. It’s ‘do what you want.’ He gets the best players in the country."

During his two seasons at the University of Michigan, Johnson played as a rover, rather than as a defenseman, even though that was his official position.

"Jack was a thoroughbred out there," Lombardi explained. "But he was all over the place. He was awful as a hockey player. As an athlete, you’re going, wow! Look at the way he skates, shoots, he can pass. But he had no idea where he was going."

"At times, he was playing forward at Michigan," Lombardi elaborated. "You had no idea what position he was playing. But he had always been the star and he always got his numbers. Then he turns pro and for the first time, we’re telling him ‘whoa, just make the first pass and learn to play in your own end.’ How about making a read in your own end about the right guy to pick up? He was awful."

Fuck, dude, how do you really feel? Johnson heard the quotes from Helene Elliot of the LA Times and was... a little upset.  Then Michigan University heard about it and was... a little upset.  And really, Jack should be upset.  If someone criticized the school I went to I would be pretty pissed too.  No one talks about the James Mirtle Memorial Blogversity, no one!

Let me say that I think almost everything Dean Lombardi said is absolutely true.  Jack Johnson was awful when he first came into the league, he did play every position at Michigan, and he wasn't prepared for the NHL.  Lombardi is correct when he says all of that, and I think he said it in an effort to explain why Johnson isn't as far along in his development as someone like Drew Doughty.  It's the equivalent of someone explaining why a kid from the projects didn't get a high SAT score.

Now, if Dean could just show me the line in Red Berenson's job description it says that he is supposed to prepare his kids for the NHL, I'll be on board with him.

You can't find it.  It's not Red Berenson's job to make sure Jack Johnson shows up at LA's training camp 100% ready to go.  Red Berenson's job is to win hockey games and prepare his kids for life, not the NHL.  This is the equivalent of Scott Pioli criticizing Urban Meyer because he didn't play Tim Tebow in a pro offense.  It's not his job!  His job is to win games!  If Red Berenson has better players than everyone else, why wouldn't he use his player's ability to win games?  I know Lombardi would rather have his players go to Juniors than college (the Kings have had a few players leave their school to go to Junior under Lombardi's reign), but Lombardi doesn't expand upon that point so instead it comes across as needless bashing of a prominent hockey program.  There's an obvious difference between the NCAA and the NHL and I'm honestly a little disappointed Dean Lombardi ignored that point.

And the obvious question you have to ask yourself is, what is gained from specifically bashing Michigan?  Like it or not, Michigan is one of the top programs for college hockey and the Kings will likely have a prospect go there in the future.  What happens then?  It seems like such a short-sighted thing for the usually thoughtful Lombardi to do that I can't wrap my head around it.

If you read the rest of Gann's article you'll see that Lombardi does praise Johnson for his work ethic and his drive.  You can see that Lombardi likes Johnson and wants him to do well.  Lombardi likens Johnson to a thoroughbred in the article and there's an obvious parallel between Johnson and a wild horse that needs to get broken. Lombardi's objective was successful: I feel more confident about Jack Johnson after reading this article.  The problem is, I feel less confident about Dean Lombardi.

Prediction: Kings win, 3-2.  Goals by Kopitar, Brown and Johnson, who rips off his Kings jersey to reveal a Michigan jersey underneath.  Lombardi shakes his fist in rage before yelling to the heavens, "Berenson!!!"