By Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer
Three weeks after the Blues were swept in the second round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis director of player personnel Dave Taylor remains busy.
He's just returned from meetings with the team's American Hockey League staff and is preparing for scouting meetings in anticipation of the upcoming NHL combine. From there, between the NHL Draft and free agency, Taylor has a very busy summer ahead of him. But he's still watching the Kings' run to the Stanley Cup Final.
After all, there aren't many people who have contributed more to the Kings organization than Taylor. The Kings 15th-round selection in 1975, Taylor played his entire 17-year career in Los Angeles, serving as the team's captain for four years before handing the "C" to Wayne Gretzky. Three years after his retirement in 1994, Taylor was named the team's general manager, a role he served until 2006. Despite being one of the most recognizable players in team history, it was in the team's front office that he may have made his biggest contributions.
"Dave Taylor has made a difference in Los Angeles Kings hockey," said Mike Donnelly, a former teammate and a current Kings scout. "He did a great job for us when he was in charge. Everyone in our organization has a ton of respect for Dave Taylor. He's still a good friend of mine and I smile every time I see him."
In the six years since Taylor was replaced by current Kings GM Dean Lombardi, the team has built a solid foundation through a shrewd combination of trades, free agency, and the draft. But it's impossible not to notice Taylor's fingerprints on the current Western Conference champions. At the 2005 Draft, his last with the Kings, Taylor selected star center Anze Kopitar in the first round, followed two rounds later by franchise goaltender Jonathan Quick. Two years earlier, Taylor selected current Kings captain Dustin Brown in the first round.
"I thought the management group we had and the amateur scouting staff did a lot of good things. Some of the top players with the Kings today were drafted by our group. Some of the other players were acquired with assets acquired by our group. Overall, we left the Kings in a good position to move forward," Taylor told NHL.com. "When Kopitar was drafted, everyone felt this guy could be a home run for the Kings organization. If you talk to people who saw him play in Sweden, they felt he had superstar qualities."
With Quick's stout play in the crease earning him a Vezina Trophy nomination, Brown and Kopitar have led the Kings offense and are both ranked in the top five in playoff scoring heading into the Cup Final. For the man who drafted them, there has been ample opportunity to watch these players develop.
"I live in Los Angeles and working with the Blues, part of my duties is to cover the Kings, Ducks, San Jose, and Phoenix on a pro basis," Taylor said. "So I'm at a lot of games and have a lot of friends who are still with the Kings and obviously enjoying this run."
Even though he's now affiliated with another franchise, Taylor remains a vital part of Kings history. And with former teammate Luc Robitaille serving as the Kings' president of business operations, Taylor continues to be a big part of the team's extended family. In fact, the Kings current run to the Cup Final could interfere with one of his most valued roles as a Los Angeles alum.
"I've hosted a charity golf tournament with [former Kings player and current color commentator] Jim Fox for 24 years for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. That comes up in June, so we potentially have a conflict with the day of the tournament and Game 6 of the Final," said Taylor. "We might be looking to change the date there."
And if Taylor is forced to reschedule his golf tournament, will he be watching Game 6 as a fan or as a scout for a competing team?
"A little bit of both, I think," he said.