LOS ANGELES — After the Los Angeles Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three years Friday night, many were saying we were watching a dynasty form.
As an eight seed two years ago, many said their run was a fluke. The players scoffed – and proved everyone wrong the following season when they made it to the Western Conference Finals and lost to the eventual Cup champions.
Two in three tries is a remarkable run, and even more remarkable was the way the Kings persevered through a brutal postseason to reach the holy grail of hockey. Three Game 7s on the road and three overtimes in the Final, the Kings did plenty wrong but looked as unbeatable in the process. And nearly every one of those players will be back. For the ones that won’t, the talent pool in the minor leagues is bursting at the seams.
With a strong core, a proven head coach and a smart general manager, the Kings are undoubtedly one of the more successful teams of the salary cap era. The promise may not be filled – Chicago may as well be foaming at the mouth for a chance to return the favor of the Western Conference Finals loss – but it’s enticing to think that the Cup could be paraded around the South Bay for years to come.
Here’s how the Kings stack up to some of the best sports dynasties in history.
UCLA basketball, 1964-1975
It’s a run that will likely never be repeated, but the Kings, who call an area close to Westwood home, have a key component in common with the Bruins: Their head coach.
The hockey lifer, Darryl Sutter, is no John Wooden – no one can compare to the Wizard of Westwood – but he still demands the most out of his players and more importantly, gets the most out of his players. His methods may be unconventional and old school but itâs hard to argue the results. Sutter is fiercely protective of his players and in his own, oddball way, prefers to point out the positives in their game than the negatives. When the negatives are there, he holds each responsible.
Wooden was the ultimate inspirational speaker. "Never mistake activity for achievement," is printed on posters and locker rooms everywhere.
Sutter too is quotable, but the cattle farmer from outside of Calgary, Alberta, is famous for a quote about a different type of work: Farm work. When he was hired by general manager Dean Lombardi to turn around the team in December of 2011, he gave this gem to the media: "I think I was in the barn. I wasn’t shoveling shit, I remember that, but I had that day. Was probably warming up. It was cold."
The man behind the Bulls during Michael Jordan’s dynasty years was general manager Jerry Krause. Tasked with building the team around the most polarizing sports super star of a generation, Krause had some hits and misses but ultimately, put together teams that Jordan could lead to prominence. Chemistry was an asset, and Krause had an acute understanding of how to build it, keep it and develop more for the future.
Lombardi took a chance on a renegade player thought to be on the downswing of his career in Justin Williams and it paid off. Marian Gaborik didn’t fit in New York or Columbus but Lomarbardi knew he would in L.A. He convinced Sutter to put the manure shovel down and come coach in Los Angeles in the middle of a dismal season. Sutter initially said no, and Lombardi charged on.
Homegrown players like Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, along with rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli were all developed under the watchful eye of Lombardi and the Manchester Monarchs, the Kings AHL affiliate, finished first in the league this season.
Behind every truly successful dynasty is a smart and persuasive general manager.
New York Yankees, 1996-2001
The Core Four carried the Yankees through the dynasty years and even into a new era. Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte were fixtures in pinstripes that brought four titles back to the Bronx. While the Yankees have never been known for their farm system prowess, they’ve never been a team to shy away from spending money on the necessary players.
The Kings have lots of stars. After Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2014 Stanley Cup Final MVP, Sutter congratulated him but also mentioned that 29 other players could have won the award. He wasn’t that far off in that notion. It was a tight race to begin with.
The 2014 Cup roster wasn’t much different from the one in 2012. The team boasts a young core with most of the key players still under contract. Gaborik may very well be on his way to a contract and Pearson and Toffoli are now staples in the lineup. It’s a tight-knit group that isn’t about to break up, keeping the Kings dangerous for the foreseeable future.