All is not well in Los Angeles , as Kings G.M. Dean Lombardi made some frank and rather unflattering comments about defenceman Jack Johnson and his alma mater, the University of Michigan, in an interview with forzenroyalty.net.
Here’s a quick sample of the comments made by Lombardi:
- “This guy has never had any coaching [at the University of Michigan].”
- “Michigan is the worst.”
- “Michigan’s players—[head coach] Red [Berenson] doesn’t coach. It’s ‘do what you want.’”
- “[Johnson] 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.”
- “There was all that hype and stuff because he’s just like a thoroughbred. It’s like looking at a horse and saying wow! But then he gets on the track and he has no clue how to run the race. He might even run in the wrong direction. That was Jack. [He was] really raw.”
- “Here again, you’ve got a kid who’s got to change his game and he can change a game, going end-to-end, getting you out of your own end. It was like, ‘you’re not good enough at that not to do these other things that you’ve never done.’ Now try and convince him of that after [he has] been told how great [he is throughout his] life, [he has] played in the US Development Program, [he was] at Michigan, everything [was] great, great, great. Now [he is] in the pros and it’s ‘what do you mean? I’m Jack Johnson.’”
Johnson didn’t react kindly to Lombardi’s take on the situation, and he wasn’t shy about it when asked by the Los Angeles Times:
“For my general manager to rip me as a person and criticize me as a person and as a player and call me an awful hockey player is irresponsible and unprofessional.”
It’s hard to argue that Lombardi was wrong about Johnson. The third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has struggled since making the jump to the NHL, and his selection to the U.S. Olympic Team was a real surprise to me. He’s been the Kings worst defenceman in terms of plus/minus since joining the team, and he hasn’t been asked to handle the really difficult assignments along the way, either.
Lombardi’s comments on Berenson are more controversial, since his criticism of Johnson is strictly past-tense, while his criticism of Berenson is not. He’s going to take some flack for making those statements – particularly given that Berenson is a Jack Adams winner and currently ranks sixth in NCAA history in terms of wins.