Kings GM Dean Lombardi (left) is seeking his first Stanley Cup, while legendary Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello is looking to guide New Jersey to a title for the fourth time. (Getty Images)
When Dean Lombardi (Ludlow, Mass.) officially became a member of the NHL’s circle of general managers in 1996, the then-38-year-old was handed the daunting task of turning around a San Jose Sharks team coming off of a miserable, 20-win season. Devils GM Lou Lamoriello (Providence, R.I.), a fellow New England native, took Lombardi under his wing.
Now in sixth season in Los Angeles as president and general manager, Lombardi’s Kings will have to beat his mentor’s Devils in order to capture the Stanley Cup for the first time in the team’s 45-year history.
"I'll never forget him taking me into his office, missing his own team bus, and putting up his organizational chart and explaining to me how an organization has to have structure if it is going to succeed," Lombardi told NHL.com. "He gave me his blueprint. It was amazing. He wasn't even talking about his team, he was talking about his organization. But his point was if you're going to have a winning culture, this has to be in order. I still have the files, the quotes he gave me."
Lamoriello guided New Jersey to its first Stanley Cup back in 1995 and is gunning for his fourth in this year’s finals. Lombardi is seeking his first championship.
After a rough go of it in his first year at the helm in San Jose, the Sharks made the playoffs in each of the next five seasons, advancing to the conference semifinals twice during that span. After he and coach Darryl Sutter (now behind the bench in L.A.) were dismissed late during the 2002-03 season, Lombardi spent the next few years as a Western Conference scout for the Flyers before joining the Kings. Los Angeles is in its third straight trip to the playoffs.
Lombardi said he still keeps the files of notes and quotes from the meeting with Lamoriello in his office at the Kings’ practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center.
"I do remember the meeting very clearly," Lamoriello, who will turn 70 this fall, told NHL.com. "He just wanted to ask me some questions, and I enjoyed it. Whenever you can help someone out, you do it. Dean is a good friend. He wanted to know if I would share my philosophy with him, and I had no problem doing that. We spent a great deal of time talking."
Lombardi, 54, hopes to one day do for another young GM what Lamoriello did for him.
"That happens in life; there are always people that reach out for you and you are forever indebted to them," Lombardi said. "Hopefully I can do that for some young people down the road."
For now, Lombardi’s focus is on replicating Lamoriello in one other, obvious way: becoming a Stanley Cup champion.