Kings coach Darryl Sutter joins a list of active coaches in the NHL who now can claim a Stanley Cup Championship to their credit. Only nine others have won the "big prize" and four of these, like Sutter, have won it with their current team. Claude Julien in Boston took the Bruins to the title in 2011, the franchise's first Cup since 1972 in the days of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito. Joel Quenneville led the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, and for another "original six" team, it was their first title in 49 years. Ex-Kings forward Dan Bylsma guided the Pittsburgh Penguins when they won in 2009 and Mike Babcock engineered the Detroit Red Wings to their last Cup in 2008. Five others won while coaching other teams. Current New York Rangers coach John Tortorella won with Tampa Bay in 2004; Ken Hitchcock, now in St. Louis, won with Dallas in 1999; Peter Laviolette, now in Philadelphia, led Carolina in 2006; Toronto's Randy Carlyle led Anaheim in 2007; and Calgary’s Bob Hartley won while in Colorado in 2001.
Of interest is that none of the individuals listed above have won more than one Stanley Cup while coaching, which puts Scotty Bowman's achievement of coaching nine teams to the Stanley Cup even more remarkable. Bowman won five Cups in Montreal, one in Pittsburgh and three in Detroit. In league history only seven coaches have won at least four Cups. This elite list includes Bowman, "Toe" Blake (8 Cups), Hap Day (5), Al Arbour (4), Punch Imlach (4), Dick Irvin (4) and Glen Sather (4). To no surprise all seven of these individuals are enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
The next Winter Olympic Games are less than a year away. The Games will be in Sochi, Russia, beginning in February of 2014. The country of Slovenia recently made headlines by qualifying for the Games as one of the 12 teams in the tournament. Slovenia is the home country of Kings forward Anze Kopitar, and its likely he’ll be the Slovenian captain and ice time leader (can he play 40 minutes a night?).
The Kings potentially have six current players that could play in the Olympics. Goalie Jonathan Quick and right wing Dustin Brown were both members of the U.S. team that won silver in 2010. Both are virtual locks for the team after coming off tremendous Stanley Cup performances in 2012. Drew Doughty helped lead Canada to gold as a 20-year-old and it's hard to imagine he won't be with them next year. Mike Richards was also on the Canadian team. At the time, he was playing for Philadelphia. He was dealt to the Kings in the summer of 2011. An up-and-coming talent and prospect for the Russian team is Slava Voynov. The 23-year-old Kings defenseman keeps getting better and he is one of the more talented all-around young defenders in the league today.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made history in February when they hired Finnish born Jarmo Kekalainen to succeed Scott Howson as General Manager. Kekalainen became the first NHL GM born in Europe. At the time of his hiring, he was the General Manager of Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League, and prior to that he was a member of the St. Louis Blues organization and was involved in both scouting and drafting. No doubt his experience in this field was a contributing factor in him landing the job in Columbus. The Blue Jackets hope that Kekalianen can turn around a Blue Jackets draft history that can only be described as sub-par since joining the NHL 12 years ago.
Columbus will now have three first-round choices in the NHL Draft this summer. They have their pick along with the one acquired from the Rangers as well as the Kings pick (from the Jeff Carter deal). To say that they need to get it right this June is a huge understatement.
One team that should be reaping the benefits of their draft picks is Edmonton. The Oilers, who have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons, have had the last three first overall picks in the draft. Their string began in 2010 when they chose Taylor Hall (the draft was held at STAPLES Center in June of that year). In 2011, they picked Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and last summer they selected Nail Yakupov. This trio joins three other first-round picks – Sam Gagner (2007); Jordan Eberle (2008); and Magnus Paajarvi (2009) – as core pieces that they will build the team around.
All six players are forwards, and don't be surprised if the Oilers use one or two of these talented players to shore up other areas, like defense and goaltending. For now, Edmonton's number one net minder is Devan Dubnyk (a first-round pick in 2004). Dubnyk, 26, has yet to prove he can handle the load of 60-65 games a season, and play at a consistently high level. He's getting his opportunity now.
Only once before has a franchise had three straight first overall draft picks. Quebec hit the trifecta in 1979, 1980 and 1981 when they chose Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan and Eric Lindros.
The Kings saluted Ian Laperriere and Kelly Hrudey this season in a continuation of the Legends Series. "Lappy" as he was known to his teammates and fans, played 595 games with the Kings and always provided energy night after night. Many times he and his line were used to change the momentum in a game by playing physical or battling it out with an opponent. On the penalty kill, Lappy sacrificed his body while blocking shots and the accumulation of those blocked shots over the years wound up shortening his career. No one played with more determination and heart. His 1,017 penalty minutes as a King rank fifth all-time.
Another reason why he was so popular was because he always had time to talk with the fans and members of the media. He was a stand-up guy for sure.
Kelly Hrudey and his blue bandana patrolled the Kings crease for the better part of eight seasons beginning in 1989 when he was acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders. Hrudey's time as a King coincided with the "Gretzky Era,” when scoring goals was prevalent and many nights his goaltending success was predicated on persevering while facing a barrage of shots. He was a main catalyst in the Kings advancing to the Stanley Cup Final in 1993, and his play seemed to get better the farther into the playoffs the Kings went. Like Laperriere, Hrudey was always accessible for the fans and for those of us looking for an interview or two. Hrudey ranks seconds on the Kings all-time list for games played by a goalie with 360, trailing only fellow legend Rogie Vachon (389).
Congratulations to both. Once a King...always a King!
Nick Nickson is in his 32nd season of calling Kings action on the radio. He and his partner, former Kings left wing Daryl Evans, can be heard on KTLK AM 1150 and along the Kings Radio Network. Nick and Daryl invite all Kings’ fans to join them for “Kings Talk” on the radio after every Kings home game. Call 1-877-Kings08 or 1-877-546-4708 with questions and comments or watch the show LIVE as they broadcast from The Mixing Room at the JW Marriott LA Live.