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KELLEY: Slow start sealed fate

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Jim Kelley

 
   
 
Oddly enough we suggested Friday that GM Dean Lombardi might not be long for the and that he could well end up in Chicago working for his father-in-law of sorts, Bob Pulford, should the choose to fire general manager Mike Smith. For that we got an e-mail from someone in the front office admonishing us — gently — for the suggestion and pointing out that ownership had made a commitment to Lombardi just one year ago and that the contract still had three years remaining. So much for standing up for your boss and your ownership. In any event, Lombardi is gone — apparently without the forehand knowledge of the public relations staff and in part because despite building a team that improved its point totals in six consecutive years it was going to miss the playoffs this season. That was inexcusable for an ownership group that was counting on playoff revenue to at least break even this year. Lombardi gets heat because he didn't get necessary players — including his No. 1 goaltender — signed in time to start the season. That left an air of uncertainty surrounding the team, an air that was further clouded by the fact that the same ownership group had not extended the same contract considerations to then-head coach Darryl Sutter, making it obvious that any mistake made by anyone was likely going to add to the debate as to whether or not the coach should keep his job or be fired. That led to an environment that caused the to stumble out of the starting gate which eventually caused Sutter to be fired. When new coach Ron Wilson couldn't right the ship, it reflected poorly on Lombardi, caused confusion on his team and eventually led to the playoff miss, the trade of and Lombardi losing his job despite having solid success as a GM there. (Not dumping even more salary at the trade deadline may have also figured into the decision). It's a shame really as Dean Lombardi is a good man and a very good hockey mind and Chicago would be fortunate to land him, assuming the three years remaining on his contract can be settled. In the interim, assistant general manager Wayne Thomas will take over Lombardi's duties, but look for the to reach out to former front-office man Doug Wilson as a possible replacement. Wilson is highly respected in the NHL on both the management and players' side of the aisle. There will be other candidates — Mike Smith not likely among them — including Thomas and former Dallas general manager Bob Gainey, but Wilson is the frontrunner for now. Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Sharks, Maple Leafs

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