Catching up with Dave Taylor can be rather difficult as the Kings legend has been wracking up the frequent flyer miles checking in on Kings prospects scattered all over the world.
As the Kings Director of Amateur Development, his travels have brought him from Leksand, Sweden to watch Kings' up-and-comers Jack Johnson, Jeff Zatkoff
and Trevor Lewis
at the World Junior Championships, to Madison, Wisc., scouting a college free agent at the University of Wisconsin, and everywhere in between.
With a bird's eye, or rather a plane's eye view, Taylor is in a good position to evaluate the Kings franchise.
"I am excited about this franchise," Taylor said. "I think there is far more parity in the NHL than ever before and it is really just a difference of a player or two and consistent goaltending that could really put you over the top.
"I think the Kings are a lot closer than their standings indicate."
Taylor should know, he has been with the organization through thick and thin during his 31-year stay with the 40-year-old organization, including nine years as the general manager, being named the Hockey News NHL Executive of the Year in 2000-01.
"Our goal was to make a team that can play for the Stanley Cup," he said, "and in my tenure as GM, we only won one round of the playoffs. We did, however, build a solid foundation and brought some stability to the franchise.
"We may not have made the correct decisions all of the time but we made more right than wrong I guess. We certainly helped move the franchise in the right direction."
Taylor joined the organization when the club drafted him in the 15th round (210th overall) in the 1975 NHL Entry Draft. No player in that draft played in more games (1,111), scored more goals (431), assists (638) or points (1,069) than Taylor, with the runners up being No. 21 pick Dennis Maruk (356-522-878) and No. 1 pick Mel Bridgman (252-449-701).
"I take a lot of pride in that," he said. "I am like Luc or anyone else [that was drafted so late.] I started playing hockey in Canada at five years old and I had a dream to play in the NHL and I worked hard and have been fortunate enough to be with the Kings for 30 years. I don't take if for granted and I don't take it lightly."
Taylor's career started at Clarkson University where he scored 72-120-192 in 88 games from 1973-77 before making the Kings out of training camp in 1977. His playing career would span 17 years – 12 of which he notched 20+ goals with a career high of 47 in 1980-81 – bridging the gap between Marcel Dionne and the "Triple Crown Line" and Wayne Gretzky, while also playing alongside the other players whose jersey numbers hang from the rafters next to his, Rogie Vachon and Luc Robitaille.
"I have had the fortune of playing with each player that had his jersey retired by the Kings," Taylor said. "Luc in particular, I have been with the Kings for his whole career and I have a special spot for him in my heart.
"Luc was a low draft choice. Just to make the NHL was a big step for him. You take a look at his career, 20 years after he was drafted in 1984 and he is the highest scoring left wing in history and through it all has maintained the same personality and has been very giving working with a lot of charities and giving back to the community."
Like Robitaille, Taylor has been very involved in giving back to the community as his wife Beth was one of the originators of Tip-A-King, the Los Angeles Kings' signature event and the single-largest fundraiser for the Kings Care Foundation as well as hosting the Dave Taylor/Los Angeles Kings Cystic Fibrosis Golf Classic.
"I am not a great golfer, but I enjoy getting out there."
He may not have been a great golfer, but he was a great hockey player, setting numerous Kings records while serving as Kings captain for four seasons, being named an all star five times and advancing to the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals, the highlight of his career. Taylor retired in 1994 and the Kings retired his number the following year.
On Thursday, Feb. 1, the Kings will pass out a free Dave Taylor mini jersey to everyone in attendance as the Kings host the Blackhawks as part of the Kings Legends Mini Jersey Series.
"It's an honor. My jersey was retired in '95, the year after I retired from the Kings," Taylor recalls. That was a real honor and is still one of the highlights for me.
"I have calls from my sisters and my brother who want to get some mini jerseys."
That can be arranged.