Brad Stuart has really impressed Dean Lombardi.
The Kings’ President and General Manager first drafted the puck-moving defenseman in 1998 with the third overall pick while with the San Jose Sharks.
Nearly 10 years later, he then signed him this past summer to join the Kings improved blue line.
The first time around, Stuart did not disappoint, earning NHL All-Rookie Team honors in 2000 after scoring 10-26=35 as rookie, averaging 31 points in his four complete seasons with the club and finishing a +29 while the Sharks made the playoffs in four of his five seasons years with the club before he was dealt to Boston in the Joe Thornton trade.
Obviously, Lombardi would love to have similar results this time.
Stuart is just happy to be back on the West Coast.
“I like it coming back to the Western Conference,” Stuart said. “It is a different style of game and I find myself enjoying it more. For whatever reason, the Western Conference is just more fun to play.
“I have not put my finger on it.”
Stuart had played his entire career in the Pacific Division as a Kings rival up in San Jose as a Shark until Nov. 30, 2005, when he along with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau was packaged in a blockbuster trade to the Boston Bruins for Joe Thornton.
Stuart did not disappoint in Boston that season, scoring 10-21=31 in 55 games to close out the 2005-06 season. Last year, however, the Bruins disappointed and Stuart, after scoring 7-10=17 and a career-low -22 plus/minus, was dealt to Calgary, along with Primeau again for Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew.
In Boston, of course, he played for current Kings assistant coach Dave Lewis.
“Lewis is a guy who works well with players and will listen. For myself, it is good for me to have a guy that knows how I play and what I can do for the team. He is a good addition to the Kings and he works with all of the players."
Lewis joined the Kings on Aug. 28, a month after Stuart signed with the Kings on July 3.
“I am getting more comfortable, but that really comes with some real games,” Stuart said. “Now is the time to be working and getting to know the systems and teammates and coaches and all that. It is a process and it is well under way.”
Stuart has been working with the Kings through training camp thus far and he likes what he sees, especially on the blue line.
“The D looks very solid from top to bottom with the guys we have,” Stuart said. “That is always important, especially as you get later into the season and guys get hurt to have that depth. I am confident in the group we have.”
In addition to Stuart, Lombardi signed Tom Preissing from the Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa Senators, to join a group that already included Kings legend Rob Blake, All-Star Lubomir Visnovsky and highly touted rookie Jack Johnson.
In addition, Lombardi re-signed former All-Star Jaroslav Modry and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Jon Klemm, creating some depth and competition at the position.
“I have some experience with Dean and I know how he operates,” Stuart said. “I know he has a plan and he has things going in the right direction.”
Stuart thinks there will be a lot more cheering at STAPLES Center this year.
“The one thing you always do notice as an opponent are that the Kings have great fans, I am looking forward to being on the home side of that.”