Fun For Everyone. . .Else
And so endeth the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, a post-season which will be remembered to some degree north of the border for how little involvement there was for teams from these parts.
Only two of seven Canadian clubs made the playoffs, the Canucks fell to the eventually champions rather quickly and only Ottawa, really, provided many thrills and chills at all. Sure, L.A. rode an eighth place spot to the Stanley Cup, but Ottawa did what most eighth place teams do, and that's go down in the first round.
Teams from L.A., Carolina and Tampa Bay can win this gorgeous trophy, but if anything, the Cup for Canada looks further away than ever.
So what are the lessons of the Kings winning it all?
Well, mostly that it takes time. Sure, Florida did a nice quickee turnaround this season, but the Panthers went out in the opening round too and few would say that team is anywhere close to a Cup.
The Kings did it right, yes, but they also did it over nine years, which should give anyone in Edmonton displeased with Steve Tambellini's work reason to pause. Ditto for Brian Burke in Toronto, maybe Garth Snow on Long Island, Scott Howson in Columbus and other squads that have been on the outside looking in for a while. Check out how long it took the combined smarts of Dave Taylor and Dean Lombardi to produce a winner, and it really doesn't make a lot of sense to slag some GM because he can't make a team very good in four or five years, even. Hey, there were more than a few calling for Lombardi's head just a few months ago. Today, the guy looks like the smartest guy in the room.
If the objective is to win it all, not just qualify for the playoffs, it surely takes time. The absence of difference-making free agents most summers under the salary cap system has, if anything, made drafting and development even more important than it was a decade ago. L.A. took no shortcuts, and the key was that when there were enough resources built up, Lombardi - criticized before for being reluctant to pull the trigger when he needed to - made the Mike Richards deal and the Jeff Carter trade. He also hired Darryl Sutter - most people thought that was a terrible decision - and so the legacy of the Kings to a large degree is about timing, about having decision-makers patiently pile assets on top of assets, and then made risky decisions when there's a chance to win.
With Drew Doughty, Richards, Carter and Anze Kopitar all locked up, the only contractual headache that lies ahead for the Kings would be Jonathan Quick's unrestricted free agency after next season. in many ways, they're in a similar situation as were the Penguins after winning in 2009, and that's a warning sign, for Pittsburgh hasn't been able to find the combination of luck and happenstance and health to get back since. Ditto for Chicago's Blackhawks.
Will this change hockey forever in L.A.? Probably not. Wayne Gretzky did that, and the ownership of Phil Anschutz gave the Kings the stability to build over the long haul without trying to win quickly and draw fans. But you only have to look down the road to Anaheim to see that winning in SoCal doesn't buy you forever.
But it does buy you a hell of a party.