Kings boss talks of ‘lock­out’

Lom­bardi con­firms part of re­port that play­ers kept coach out, partly dis­putes it.

Los Angeles Times - - NHL - By Lisa Dill­man lisa.dill­man@la­times.com Twit­ter: @re­al­lisa

There’s that old phrase: What hap­pens in the room stays in the room. But what hap­pens if the coach can’t get in the room?

Kings Gen­eral Manager Dean Lom­bardi on Sun­day con­firmed an ear­lier re­port that his play­ers kept Coach Dar­ryl Sut­ter out of the dress­ing room af­ter a game. The New York Post re­ported that the team locked Sut­ter out re­cently and bar­ri­caded the door with trash re­cep­ta­cles.

Lom­bardi met with re­porters at the team’s of­fices in El Se­gundo for a sea­so­nend­ing ses­sion, and though he con­firmed part of the story, he dis­puted other el­e­ments. It hap­pened, he said, af­ter a game at Tampa Bay on Feb. 7, not in the last two weeks.

Ten­sions were par­tic­u­larly high on that long trip, which in­cluded a trip to the White House.

Sut­ter was also both­ered by the pres­ence of an Epix tele­vi­sion crew fol­low­ing the team on the Road to the Sta­dium Se­ries and cur­tailed ac­cess.

Lom­bardi said he was not trou­bled by what was per­ceived as a sign of dis­con­nect be­tween the coach and his play­ers.

“No. And here’s why. I could look at it and say that’s when we won eight in a row, so let’s do it more of­ten,” Lom­bardi said. “In terms of what ac­tu­ally hap­pened, maybe you don’t have to go that ex­treme.

“The­o­ret­i­cally, I have no prob­lem with it.”

The de­fend­ing Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Kings missed the play­offs for the first time since 2009. They are the first team to win a ti­tle and miss the play­offs since Carolina did so in 2007.

“The play­ers, es­sen­tially, you want in charge of your room,” Lom­bardi said. “Maybe the way to do it was: ‘We don’t need to hear from you now, we’ve got it.’ Maybe you don’t have to go to that ex­treme.”

As for the big­ger pic­ture, he spoke about the po­ten­tial of the les­son learned from the stum­ble this sea­son, the cam­paign that never quite got on track with road strug­gles, too many one-goal losses and a lousy over­time/ shootout record.

Typ­i­cally, he pointed a fin­ger at him­self.

“This is a slap in the face,” Lom­bardi said. “A big-time slap in the face. When it fi­nally hits you, you’re sit­ting up there in Cal­gary. This can turn into a big-time pos­i­tive if it’s han­dled right be­cause so many of th­ese play­ers are not max­i­miz­ing their abil­ity at this stage.

“So maybe you need that. ... You get smacked around a lit­tle and get beat up, you can turn it into a big-time pos­i­tive.”

He ad­dressed a hand­ful of other off-sea­son is­sues per­tain­ing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion. The un­cer­tainty over the salary cap num­ber for next sea­son has mud­dled things in terms of plan­ning and ef­forts to keep un­re­stricted free agents Jar­ret Stoll and Justin Wil­liams. The Kings still have to sign re­stricted free agents, for­ward Tyler Tof­foli and goalie Martin Jones and can begin ne­go­ti­a­tions with cen­ter Anze Ko­pi­tar on July 1 about a con­tract ex­ten­sion.

Lom­bardi said it was a “pos­si­bil­ity” that the team could buy out the con­tract of cen­ter Mike Richards, whose con­tract runs through the 2019-20 sea­son, car­ry­ing a cap hit of $5.75 mil­lion.

Kings de­fense­man Slava Voynov is fac­ing a felony do­mes­tic vi­o­lence charge and is sched­uled to go on trial a few days af­ter free agency starts July 1.

He had surgery to re­pair a rup­tured Achilles’ ten­don and the timetable for re­cov­ery could be around the mid­dle of Septem­ber. Fore­most, how­ever, is the legal sit­u­a­tion.

“We’re right back to where we were at the trade dead­line,” Lom­bardi said. “That’s the frus­trat­ing thing that you can’t plan. You want to know one way or the other. Free agency is on July 1. How good is that?

“Could we get it over here, so we know if we can do some things here? But the way this whole thing has gone this year, I guess it’s em­blem­atic of so many things that have hap­pened this year.”

Bruce Bennett Getty Images

COACH Dar­ryl Sut­ter was kept out of a Kings dress­ing room by play­ers, a news­pa­per re­port said.

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