Contrasting Lombardi's Sharks with Tallon's Panthers

As you might (!) know, the Florida Panthers spent a lot of money on free agents this summer in an attempt to not only reach the mandated salary cap floor but give the Cats' prospects more than enough time to develop; theoretically making the Panthers actually watchable down the road. The strategy was of course roundly panned by the mainstream media and bloggers alike.

The good news about Dale Tallon's "blueprint" is that it has happened - and worked - before, and not just in Chicago. Dean Lombardi, the current GM of the Los Angeles Kings, used the same plan in his previous stint with San Jose. Looking at the where the San Jose Sharks are now (minus the playoff performances), it's easy to see why Tallon is confident in this team ultimately being successful.

Dean Lombardi started his work in the NHL as a player agent, working with the famous Art Kaminsky. He would cross over into management, becoming the assistant general manager to Jack Ferreira with the Minnesota North Stars in 1988, and stuck with Ferreira, when he moved to then expansion team, the San Jose Sharks. He became the Sharks third general manager in 1996.

During his time with the Sharks, Lombardi acquired several veterans to fold the fort, while valuing the draft and giving the prospects time to develop and competition for a spot on the roster. Players like Teemu Selanne, Mike Vernon, Vincent Damphousse, and Owen Nolan helped build a winning culture in San Jose, and were able to help the prospects in the NHL find their talents.

Lombardi built the Sharks into one of the premier teams in the Western Conference, as the Sharks increased their point totals for six straight seasons, a feat done only by Florida's own Bill Torrey as general manager for the New York Islanders many years prior. But the real genius of Lombardi's plan was that over his watch, the Sharks got younger. In-house talent like newly signed Panther Marcel Goc, Scott Hannan, Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, Ryane Clowe, Christian Ehrhoff, and Jonathan Cheechoo, all drafted by Lombardi, were able to adapt to the NHL and contribute to a playoff contending team.

The Panthers not-so-new blueprint is very similar to this plan. Florida acquired several veterans in July, drafted 23 players over the past two years, and rank as one of the best farm systems in the NHL. With most of the veteran players signed for 3-4 years, the Panthers look to mix experienced starters with up-and-coming youngsters, and similar to the Sharks, get progressively younger over time. When San Jose reached the Western Conference Finals in 2003–04, the season after Lombardi was fired, 18 players on the roster were acquired by Lombardi.