By Doug Ward | Special to LAKings.com
An off-season shakeup left Dean Lombardi in charge of all hockey decisions while Marc Crawford replaced Andy Murray (who had been briefly succeeded by interim coach John Torchetti the previous year) behind the bench to start the 2006-07 season. But the new regime was unable to solve the club’s longstanding goaltending woes (Dan Cloutier began the year between the pipes; Sean Burke finished it) and the Kings missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
The 2007-08 season began with 19-year-old goaltender Jonathan Bernier
making a successful debut in leading the Kings to a 4-1 win over Anaheim at the 02 Arena in London, England. Bernier was eventually sent back to his junior team in the Quebec Major Junior League as the 21st Century Kings set their sights on building for long-term success rather that looking for a quick fix. The strategy would try the uncommon patience of the organization’s long-time fans but it wouldn’t be long before the prudence of the team’s new build-through-the-draft blueprint would come into focus.
By 2008, the Kings had a core group of young players that rivaled any in the league. Anze Kopitar
, Dustin Brown
, Drew Doughty
and Jonathan Quick
all began to make an impact. With the 23-year-old Brown wearing the captain’s “C” the Kings finished just three games under .500 (34-37-11).
Two years ago, the Kings future revealed itself.
En route to returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Kings reeled off a nine-game win streak and topped the 100-point plateau (46-27-9 = 101 points) for the third time in their history. In the postseason, the Kings jumped out to a 2-1 series lead before the Canucks rallied behind Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
“Everywhere we went last year,” Miller said, “we would have scouts telling us how good the Kings would be in a year or two.”
The Kings figure to be very good very soon. And when the Kings arrive, they figure to be around for a long time.
“This team is built to be good for a long time, not just for one year,” Miller said. “I equate it to the New York Yankees, who always had someone to step in. When Joe DiMaggio left, there was Mickey Mantle. That’s what Dean Lombardi wants to do here. He has a plan and is sticking to it.”
After 44 years, hockey in Los Angeles is more compelling than ever.
“The Kings,” Miller said, “are doing something they’ve never done before.”