Weeks after Jarret Stoll was arrested on suspicion of possession of cocaine and Ecstasy, he met with his boss, Kings President and General Manager Dean Lombardi.
Lombardi was the man who traded for Stoll in 2008 and watched as the center became a team leader and helped spark the organization to its first Stanley Cup championship in 2012 and another in 2014.
“Probably one of the most gut-wrenching meetings I’ve had in my entire career, and I’ve had meetings with lots of players,” Lombardi said of their talk last month.
These were Lombardi’s first public comments on the matter since Stoll was arrested in mid-April in Las Vegas, shortly after the Kings’ season ended. The defending Stanley Cup champions did not qualify for the playoffs and Stoll is due to become a free agent.
Lombardi conducted a conference call with reporters Tuesday and discussed the Stoll arrest and the Slava Voynov incident, issuing several mea culpas. Voynov’s trial on a felony domestic violence charge is scheduled to start in July.
Regarding the two cases, Lombardi spoke about the steps the organization is taking to promote education and awareness.
“We can’t afford to be at square one,” Lombardi said. “It was all about what we could do. What we did wrong. Why nobody was thinking like Bill Walsh.”
Lombardi repeatedly referenced the late San Francisco 49ers coach, Walsh, and lauded his approach to domestic violence education, having written about the need to educate his players about that issue. Walsh was “35 years ahead of his time,” Lombardi said.
The Kings executive often draws from organizations in other sports leagues for inspiration and also recently saw Chris Herren’s 30-for-30 ESPN documentary, “Unguarded,” which details Herren’s battle with drug and alcohol addiction.
Team officials are planning to have Herren, the former basketball star, meet with players to share his story of recovery. Front office executives also have met with members of domestic violence groups and expect to have them talk to players.
“The first thing you look at — were there any signs that we should have been aware of, both these incidents?” Lombardi said. “I think we were very good in terms of communicating with our players, go out of our way to try and know them personally as human beings. It’s one of the reasons we’ve had that family effect around there.
“But clearly we could do more. ... The Voynov thing, I walked down to Jeff Solomon’s office and said, ‘This is my fault.’ We neglected to educate our players. We missed a big step here in trying to make sure they understand right and wrong and that this has to be reinforced, not only as a human being, as somebody who is representative of the community.”
The moving target of a salary cap number for next season has presented a different challenge for Lombardi and cap guru Solomon, the senior vice president of hockey operations/legal affairs.
Lombardi called it a “science project” and said he has several working templates involving various salary cap numbers. Because of the uncertainty, there has been no decision regarding the future of center Mike Richards or forward Justin Williams, a pending unrestricted free agent.
The focus is trying to re-sign goalie Martin Jones, forward Tyler Toffoli and defenseman Andrej Sekera, another pending unrestricted free agent. Lombardi said he did not think Sekera’s number was “outrageous” and that Sekera would like to stay in Los Angeles.
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