Sunday, June 10, 2007

Robitaille and His (and My) Kings

I know that Robitaille was promoted over a week ago but I just read the LA Times article describing his new position and why he was promoted. This past year he worked for AEG (the company that owns the Kings) and had a hand in almost successfully luring the Penguins to KC.

His promotion to President of Business Operations means that he will be working closely with GM Dean Lombardi and have a stronger role in developing a serious, competitive Kings organization, something that he wanted to do since he retired. In Robitaille’s words, "There's always been the talk that the Kings weren't too concerned about winning because AEG was taking care of them, [but now] the organization will be on its own. We will have it where it will be a Kings-only focus."

While I never wanted to admit that the Kings front office wasn’t serious, Tim Leiweke’s comments at the end of the article regarding Robitaille’s promotion really ticked me off as a Kings fan: "His passion for the Kings is second to none. Having Luc in this role alongside Dean Lombardi is a critical step for AEG in giving the Kings a stand-alone leadership that does nothing but focus on the Kings." After all these years as a fan, I never wanted to admit that the Kings organization wasn’t serious, committed, or focused in bringing a Cup contender team to LA. But after reading Leiweke’s comments, I realize that it has taken 40 years for this organization to get it together and finally figure out what it takes to put together a winning franchise.

For years, dare I say since the franchise’s inception into the league, Kings fans have felt that the organization was rarely ever a serious contender for the Cup. I say rarely, because we did pull off the magnificent trade that brought the Great One to LA. With Gretzky, and Kurri, Robitaille, and a list of unsung heroes, in the ’92-’93 season, the Kings made their only appearance in the Cup Finals, only to lose in 5 games to Montreal. Even though I was just shy of 11 years, I remember just how excited I was during that playoff season. When the Kings were playing Toronto, I had a soccer tournament in Irvine and wasn’t able to watch a couple games, so I programmed the VCR to tape two games. (If only Tivo was around at the time, then I wouldn’t have been a nervous wreck wondering if the games were recording correctly.) Even though I checked the scores in the paper, I still watched the games when I came home so I could watch my Kings win. Then came Montreal and the first infamous McSorley incident: the illegal stick. After being in the Finals once you think that it’ll happen again soon. However, over the next 14 seasons we have never been able to go deep in the playoffs. What happened? Because bad luck can only linger for so long, I say, a lack of commitment from the front office. While the diehard fans continue to return to the Forum, then Staples Center, and to Prime Ticket, then FSN, then Prime Ticket again, management doesn’t seem to reward our loyalty. Too many failed goalies. Too many failed draft picks. Too many coaches who never seem to able to find the right chemistry among the players.

The “firing” of Dave Taylor and the rest of the front office and the hiring of Dean Lombardi as GM and other personnel shined a light on the philosophy of the new Kings organization that would appear to be more Machiavelli than friends forever. While ’05-‘06’s end of the season downward spiral was gut wrenching, it did pave the way for a brighter future. And this past season, while the Kings lost game after game I kept reminding myself, that like transportation projects that appear to make traffic worse during construction, the suffering will be worth it once the project’s done. This past season was our construction phase. Now that it’s over, the end product is about to be revealed. We will be better next season. We will.

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