Can All The Kings Men Put LA Together Again?

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By Dave Cunning 

I’ve been waiting for 18 years for the LA Kings to be good again...



With all their off-season acquisitions of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, and Dustin Penner to compliment their established stars like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick, it was supposed to happen this year.  They even dressed themselves in their best uniforms in franchise history, and added a killer third jersey to boot. As the billboards and advertisements scattered all around the city of Los Angeles put it, “The Time Is Now”. Or at least, it was supposed to be. On paper and to the naked eye, they look like a well-invested $63.5 million dollars. On the score sheet, they look like they owe the government money.

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In 1993, the Kings reached the Stanley Cup Finals under rookie head coach, Barry Melrose. As a huge Wayne Gretzky and LA fan at the time, it was crushing to see them fail to bring home the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup; and also to see my boyhood hero not be able to jump out of Edmonton’s championship shadow. After all, Edmonton won a 5th Cup without him. Gretzky wasn’t able to win another championship with any of the other three teams he played with besides the Oilers. Deflating, on a number of levels. Melrose didn’t last either, despite bring the team farther than any other coach in franchise history.  

The glory years faded – franchise players left under differing circumstances, Gretzky included, and playoff visits became a distant memory. Owner Bruce McNall went to jail. The jerseys changed purple, and some looked like roller hockey jerseys with angry cartoon royals on them . Jeremy Roenick started dancing on the ice after games. It was awful.

That is, until Terry Murray arrived in Hollywood.

Now, we can’t give him too much credit – it’s not like the Kings won the Cup with him – but Murray was certainly instrumental in “righting the ship”, and getting the team back in the playoff picture. With Murray’s recent firing, the onus is now on an unknown individual to carry the team to uncharted waters. That mystery person is rumoured to be Calgary’s Darryl Sutter.

As a top choice for the team’s head coach, Sutter makes almost no sense to me. The Flames and Kings are (at press time) tied in the standings, and Calgary only has one more win than LA. Similar to LA, Sutter only has one Stanley Cup Final appearance to his credit (2004), and also failed to get the job done numerous times with three teams. It’s not like Sutter’s inspirational methods are to be hallowed. Why LA would try to woo him out of Calgary while he’s still under contract to the Flames is beyond me.

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A collection of post-firing quotes from Kings’ GM Dean Lombardi (link: ) has me equally bewildered:

“He [Murray] did a lot of great things for this organization. He brought us stability. He made a lot of young players better. He got us better every year. His accomplishments will never be forgotten....He taught them to play the right way. There’s no better coach in terms of playing the game properly and being prepared.... He’s very well respected... He’s held in the utmost respect....In the end it comes down to the players in the room.... This is something we felt we had to do to get the players to live up to their potential.”

It comes down to the players – the over-paid and underachieving players – so the coach gets fired. No one gets traded, healthy scratched, or sent to the minors; the man that Lombardi has nothing but a glowing review of gets canned instead. Not unlike Bruce Boudreau, who brought the Washington Capitals to new heights (not that LA got to those elevations), was unceremoniously let go, and then re-hired a week later by Anaheim. The only question is, where will Terry Murray end up? Again, on paper, the team looks like gold that actual Kings would hoard and wear on their heads -- it would be tough to collect a better group of hockey players. But it’s easier to blame it on and get rid of the miner than pitch the oversized stockpile of iron pyrite that he’s dug up by mistake. I don’t envy an NHL coach’s life for a minute.

Lombardi himself apparently “scorched the players in a meeting” and was “very upset he had to fire Murray”, as per a tweet from TSN’s Darren Dreger (link: ). Under interim head coach John Stevens (John who? Exactly.), the Kings then went out the next night and lost 3-0 to the Boston Bruins. If a coaching change and a visit from ownership can’t get things on track, might the Kings’ ship be off course for good?

I’ve been waiting 18 years for the LA Kings to be good again. I can’t wait much longer.


Follow Dave on Twitter: @davecunning and read his blog


Los Angeles Kings 16/1 Stanley Cup odds Of Winning The Stanley Cup



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