By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
LOS ANGELES -- By the summer of 2008, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi was already building his championship roster through the draft. It was time to add a few veteran players, some respected professionals who knew what winning and losing was all about.
Jarret Stoll and Matt Greene had come oh-so-close to reaching the mountaintop in 2006 with the Edmonton Oilers. They went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Carolina Hurricanes. Lombardi wanted to add that type of player to his collection of young talent that included Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick and the recently drafted and incredibly hyped Drew Doughty.
"They are, when you're building, almost like culture changers," Lombardi said after the Kings' 6-1 Stanley Cup-clinching win over the New Jersey Devils on Monday at Staples Center.
Changing the culture was what Lombardi was striving for, and Stoll and Greene were his targets. The GM gave up Lubomir Visnovsky, an all-star defenseman, to get them. Four years later, that trade with Edmonton on June 29, 2008, is viewed as one of the turning points that helped the Kings go from pretenders in 2009 to contenders in 2010 and 2011 and to champions in 2012.
"We were a really, really young team and that was a big trade for this organization when you really sit back and think about it," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "They've been integral parts of our team both on the ice and through leadership. Their personalities just mesh well with the type of organization that we have."
Neither Stoll nor Greene knew what they were walking into when they arrived in L.A. for training camp in 2008, but Lombardi wasted no time giving each a contract extension to show his faith in them and prove their value to the club.
Stoll signed a four-year extension on Sept. 5. Greene was named an alternate captain on Oct. 8 and nine days later signed a five-year extension.
"We figured we'd be here for a while, so let's try to do this thing," Greene told NHL.com.
They did this year with Stoll, who now becomes an unrestricted free agent, centering the third line between Dwight King and Trevor Lewis and playing big minutes on a penalty-kill unit that was 70-for-76 (92.1 percent) with five shorthanded goals in the postseason. Greene played on the third defense pair with Alec Martinez and was, like Stoll, a major part of the PK.
In fact, one of the sequences of the Stanley Cup Final that will be talked about among these Kings for years is when Greene went down to block three consecutive Ilya Kovalchuk shots during a penalty kill in Game 3.
"Greener uses his body to block shots on the PK every time, and the PK has been one of our greatest successes throughout this postseason. A lot of it has to do with him being on it," Doughty said. "Same with Stollie. He comes up with big draws at big times. He works so hard and he's always in the right spot. Both of those two, they don't get a lot of media attention, but in our room they definitely don't go unrecognized."
It would have been impossible not to notice them. Doughty said Greene and Stoll were two of the Kings’ more vocal leaders this season. That's exactly what Lombardi wanted from them when he made the trade.
"Character guys," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "You get asked about what you knew about the team when you came here. I knew a lot about Stollie and Greener, just from coaching against them (with Calgary). You get to know character in a hurry."
Once Lombardi had Stoll and Greene in place, he acquired more veteran players just like them. Justin Williams came in a trade with Carolina. Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell signed as free agents. Dustin Penner was acquired in a trade with Edmonton. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, whom some around the NHL considered risky acquisitions by Lombardi, proved to be team guys, winners.
Any doubt Stoll and Greene might have had when they started to play for a team that hadn't reached the postseason since 2002 went away with each passing upgrade to the roster.
"We knew they had a lot of good young talent here four years ago when we came. The skill level we noticed right away was great, was unbelievable, and all these guys were young, low 20s, and just getting better and better," Stoll said. "Then they started adding pieces. Dean kept adding certain pieces here and there. Those smart pieces you add bring so much to your team veteran-wise, leadership-wise, experience-wise. Then those young guys keep getting better and better, they do their thing. And here we are."
Six years ago, Greene and Stoll nearly got their hands on the Stanley Cup. Anybody you talk to in that Kings dressing room now will tell you they wouldn't have had a chance to grab it this year without them.
"When you've got a room like we have, those two guys are like glue," Lombardi said. "They're real pros. They're all about the team and they played their best hockey when it mattered most, which those types of guys usually do."
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