will be michigan's highest pick in a while
Dean Lombardi Isn't On Red Berenson's Christmas Card List
This is the most direct attack I think I've ever seen on a college coach by a professional in any sport, and it's directed at Red Berenson of all people. Here's Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi talking about Jack Johnson's somewhat erratic development:
During a recent interview, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi explained that Johnson is learning his craft…belatedly.
“This guy has never had any coaching [at the University of Michigan],” Lombardi said. “Jack just did what he wanted.”
“Michigan is the worst.” Lombardi added. “For hockey people, if you’ve got a choice between a kid—all things being equal—one’s going to Michigan and one’s going to Boston University, you all want your player [going to Boston University]. Michigan’s players—[head coach] Red [Berenson] doesn’t coach. It’s ‘do what you want.’ He gets the best players in the country.”
During his two seasons at the University of Michigan, Johnson played as a rover, rather than as a defenseman, even though that was his official position.
This is somewhat ridiculous since Berenson was an NHL coach of the year and any five year slice of his career on or off the ice has more accomplishment in it than Lombardi's entire life. In this specific case, Jack Johnson improved vastly in his two years at Michigan. In his first year I actually yelled "you're supposed to be the third pick in the draft" at him during one extremely frustrating game; in his second year he was a god. He scored more, slashed his penalty minutes nearly in half, and lead the team in plus-minus. Jack Johnson came to Michigan an incredibly undisciplined hockey genius and left considerably less undisciplined but still Jack Johnson.
(Also, what the hell is a "rover"? Lombardi obviously added an assertion that Johnson didn't play defense when he was out there playing, you know, defense. In doing so he makes himself seem like a crank making stuff up because it serves his argument—he's the David Berri of the NHL. )
Lombardi and Berenson have a long, contentious history. Red is probably still pissed off about the way Mike Cammalleri, then a Kings prospect, left the program. Cammalleri promised he'd return and Lombardi enticed him to break that promise. Later, the Kings drafted Michigan signee Trevor Lewis in the first round, signed him immediately, and shoved him off to the OHL. Lewis is still in the AHL. Recently departed sophomore Robbie Czarnik is also a Kings prospect.
Neither Lombardi and I have actually been coached by Berenson; Brendan Morrison has. I asked him for his take on that quote:
I think this is very harsh and irresponsible on Lombardi's part. I don't understand what he is basing this on. Red has been instrumental in the careers of several players, mine included. I am sure Lombardi is aware of Red's accomplishments as a coach not only at the college level but the NHL level as well.
I believe his opinion of the program would be in the minority. Most people in the hockey world have a lot of respect for the Michigan program.
There's probably some kernel of truth in Red's approach to coaching—Michigan takes a lot of penalties year-in and year-out—but Lombardi goes too far. The huge number of Michigan players is not an accident, and they're not all pre-ordained superstars like Jack Johnson. Kevin Porter, Chad Kolarik, Jed Ortmeyer, John Madden, etc.