It was a lot of work, but, yes, I fixed the Kings.
No need for thanks.
Getting re-assigned from writing about the Ducks to the Kings in 2005 seemed like a move uptown. The journey ended up on skid row. The word “dysfunctional” was redefined almost weekly.
Still, the Kings fans should embrace that season. It led them to where they are today, two-time Stanley Cup champions.
Jeremy Roenick, Sean Avery, Andy Murray and company were such an implosion, drastic measures were taken. Calling in Dean Lombardi to be general manager was akin to calling in “The Wolf” to problem solve in “Pulp Fiction.”
Things were that bad … well, minus the blood, dead body and John Travolta.
It started innocently enough. The 2004-05 lockout ended with a collective bargaining agreement that led team president Tim Leiweke to say, “We’ve waited five years for this.”
In the end, you wondered what exactly it was he had been waiting for.
Avery caused an NHL uproar by saying a hit on Roenick by Phoenix’s Denis Gauthier was “typical of most French guys in our league, running around, playing tough and not backing it up.”
Roenick declared Canadians hated him because, ‘I get more ink then they do.' ”
Murray created a goaltender controversy by refusing to name a starter.
And that was just training camp.
When the Kings took the ice in Dallas for the season opener, they jumped to a 4-0 first period lead … and lost, 5-4.
Avery continued to make headlines, too many to list. He was accused of calling Georges Laraque, a black player for Edmonton, a “monkey” during a game. He was fined $1,000 for diving, then ripped NHL officials publically for the fine and was fined another $1,000 the next day. On and on it went. His post-game rants became productive moments … for the writers.
Finally, Murray was asked why he hadn’t benched or suspended Avery. He said that the team captains met with him to ask that he not do that. Craig Conroy, an alternate captain, was informed of this and replied, “I don’t recall being in that meeting.”
Murray was a task master, somewhere between a drill sergeant training men for war and a Pharaoh working slaves on the Pyramids.
Forward Mark Parrish was acquired in a trade. After his first morning skate he said, “That was rough.” Another player informed him, “That wasn’t even a tough one for us.”
Murray also liked to frame things his way, like the day he said Luc Robitaille had a minor sprained ankle. The next day, Robitaille said there was a fracture. Murray later benched Robitaille without giving him prior warning, angering the veteran.
Ah, but when Robitaille broke Marcel Dionne’s Kings’ career record for goals, Murray was there to say, “I noticed how well Luc was playing and double-shifted him,” before he scored the goal. It made you wonder how Robitaille scored all those other goals without Murray’s keen eye.
In February, Roenick he was identified as a heavy gambler in a betting ring run by Phoenix assistant coach Rick Tocchet. Yet another distraction.
On and on it went, until Murray was fired, the team was eliminated and most of front office was cleaned out. Years of mediocrity had to be addressed.
So how did I fix the Kings? Why, I wrote about those things … all of them.
I wrote about Lombardi, as well. It was a name I revered in my childhood. Of course that was Vince Lombardi. But his namesake seemed pretty good, too. And he was.
So Kings’ fans, don’t thank me, thank the 2005-06 team. It allowed you to be champions.