Kings hire Lombardi as president, GM

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Dean Lombardi considers himself a team constructor. He plans more of a remodeling job in Los Angeles as the new president and general manager of the Kings.

Lombardi, introduced at a news conference on Friday, said he doesn't intend to dismantle the Kings. His goal is to improve what is already there and add more talent.

"I chose the Kings for a number of reasons. First off, I'm a builder, and I see the foundation put in place by Dave Taylor," he said. "People sometimes come in and make things look as bad as possible, to paint themselves as heroes.

"But that's not the case here," he said.

Talking about Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Kings' owner, Lombardi said, "They build things right."

The 45-year-old Lombardi started almost from the ground up in San Jose, when he took over as GM in 1996 and transformed the expansion Sharks -- who had won more than 20 games only once in five seasons -- into an improving team that won one division title and twice reached the second round of the playoffs.

He was let go in 2003, however, when the Sharks went into a tailspin for the first time in his seven years. Lombardi was fired with three weeks left in the 2002-03 season, and the Sharks finished last in the division.

He spent this season as a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Lombardi said his first task will be to prepare for the NHL draft in June. He set no timetable for hiring a coach to replace interim leader John Torchetti, who stepped in when Andy Murray was dismissed last month.

Taylor was fired after nine years as Kings president and GM when the team failed to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season. Los Angeles has won only one playoff series in a decade.

Taylor, who has a year left on his contract and has been asked to remain with the organization, was let go as part of a team-wide shakeup. Torchetti and the rest of the staff were also let go but he will be interviewed for the full-time position.

Tim Leiweke, who gave up his title as chief executive officer so Lombardi can have a freer rein in running the team, said he considered Lombardi a fine fit with the organization.

"We talked to a lot of good friends and people we respect in hockey and one name kept popping up," Leiweke said. "We were this guy's first choice, and he was our first choice."

Although he had just joined the organization, Lombardi said he felt good vibes.

"In my short time with the Kings, I've never seen so much energy," he said. "I go at a high tempo, but I may have a hard time keeping up."

Kings captain Mattias Norstrom said, "I'm excited to look ahead now."

Lombardi talked about the importance of team chemistry and the necessity for the players to "hang out together," stay positive and have fun.

"When things are not going right, we have to still come to the rink and love it," Norstrom said. "That's not a time to be hanging our heads."

The Kings seemed to be dismayed when they began playing poorly after leading the Pacific Division early in January. When Murray was fired, they were 37-28-5 and tied for seventh in the Western Conference. They finished 42-35-5 and on the outside of the playoff race.

"I want to know what happened this season," Lombardi said. "How can a team fall off the map like this? It's easy to pin it on the coaches, but the players have to face responsibility, too. They brought in a different coach and that didn't work."

Asked about the "good" he's seen with the team, Lombardi said: "Before Christmas I saw a team that was having tremendous fun.
What happened? How can it go south so far?

"We've got to get that back," he said.