The Lombo Leap

BoA Matt made an interesting point in the comments section the other day — Olli Jokinen’s play has a habit of making certain Flames fans nostalgic about Matthew Lombardi, but then they tend to miss him a lot less when they see the speedy Phoenix centreman (it’s now an international law that the word "speedy" must be used in any story or blog entry about Lombardi) do not much of anything in head-to-head action with his former club.

And so it was Thursday as Lombardi could manage no more than one shot in 16:25 of ice time in the Coyotes’ victory over the Flames (although it’s only fair to note that Lombardi had a goal called back because of a hasty whistle and won faceoffs at a 69.2 per cent clip compared to 33.3 for Jokinen).

Lombardi has received more ice time and better quality ice time since his trade to the Coyotes and accordingly has slightly elevated his point-scoring rate, but the simple truth of the matter is that the lad is 27 now and that he’ll never be able to coordinate the speed of his feet, hands and mind to be the big-time scorer he’s shown flashes of being at times in his career. In fact, many Flames fans had already stopped thinking of him as a legitimate top six forward candidate towards the end of his Calgary stint and had started appreciating him for his not insignificant defensive skills and penalty-killing work.

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There certainly can’t be much doubt that Lombardi has at the very least validated the third-round selection the Flames used to pick Lombardi in 2002 when the Victoriaville Tigres star re-entered the draft after failing to come to terms with Edmonton, who had used a seventh-round pick on Lombardi in 2000. Only four players taken with 50 selections of Lombardi in his redraft year have played at least 100 games in the NHL and only one — Detroit’s Valtteri Filppula — has an argument about being a better choice (for the record, the others are Tom Gilbert, Cam Janssen and Lasse Pirjeta).

The other thing that immediately leaps to mind about that 2002 draft is that while the Flames were snagging former Oilers pick Lombardi, Edmonton was scooping up former Flames draftee Jarret Stoll. It’s interesting how many similarities there have been in the players’ career path — drafted by one Alberta and eventually redrafted and signed by the other, progression slowed by concussion issues, traded to a Pacific Division team . . . If Lombardi had ever been romantically linked with the ex of a shaggy-haired British crooner, it would be downright creepy.

Here’s how things have played out:

Originally drafted:
Stoll — 2nd round, 46th overall by Calgary in 2000
Lombardi — 7th round, 215th overall by Edmonton in 2000

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Other options (2000):
Instead of Stoll, the Flames could have drafted — Andreas Lilja (54th), Antoine Vermette (55th), Paul Martin (62nd)
Instead of Lombardi, the Oilers could have drafted — Paul Gaustad (220th), Antti Miettinen (224th), Lubomir Sekeras (232nd)

Stoll — 2nd round, 36th overall by Edmonton in 2002 (moved up 10 picks)
Lombardi — 3rd round, 90th overall by Calgary in 2002 (up 125 picks)

Other options (2002):
Instead of Stoll, the Oilers could have drafted — Trevor Daley (43rd), Matt Greene (44th, oh wait . . .), Duncan Keith (54th)
Instead of Lombardi, the Flames could have drafted — Valtteri Filppula (95th), Cam Janssen (117th), Tom Gilbert (129th)

Career totals to date:
Stoll — 387 GP, 84-142-226, minus-17, 320 PIM, 38 PPG, 64 PPA, 6 SHG
Lombardi — 390 GP, 75-124-199, plus-17, 255 PIM, 15 PPG, 32 PPA, 12 SHG

Best season:
Stoll — 2005-06 w/Oilers (82 22-46-68, plus-4)
Lombardi — 2006-07 w/Flames (81 20-26-46, plus-10)

Playoff stats:
Stoll — 24 GP 4-6-10
Lombardi — 33 GP 2-8-10

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Men’s world championships:
Stoll — N/A
Lombardi — Played for Canada in 2007, 2009 (18 GP, 8-8-16)

  • You don't think Gilbert has a compelling argument as the better choice?

    I'll grant that he's struggled this season, but in the previous two he had 78 points to Lombardi's 82. Given the positions they play, the points heavily favour Gilbert.

    I think it's close.

    • Jean Lefebvre

      Point taken. "Only" was the wrong of choice of word. With a mulligan, I'd go with Filppula having the "best" argument. Regardless of point totals, I still have little doubt Lombardi is the better player but acknowledge that Gilbert should be a larger part of the conversation that I initially suggested.

      Just curious, assuming everyone is healthy and ignoring salary considerations, how would you rank the current Oilers defencemen on general aptitude?