Rod Serling was the host of the original Twilight Zone series, which ran for six seasons between 1959-1964. After an opening teaser that revealed the initial scenario, he would appear onscreen, serenely beginning his monologue along the lines of “Submitted for your consideration …” before detailing the conundrum or situation at hand for the protagonist. The Twilight Zone, of course, was a metaphor for a setting or circumstance that bordered on (or even delved into) the supernatural. You’ll understand, therefore, why a long-suffering Kings fan might feel their utterly improbable Stanley Cup victory would fit that description to a T.
Thus — submitted for your consideration …
Every hockey fan above the age of six (for Canadians, two) knows that each teams dresses twenty players per game: 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders. Given that fact, consider this purely hypothetical question: which twenty would you pick (regardless of era) if you could wave a wand and magically put those players together — all in their prime — onto one super team?
For some franchises, it would make for almost impossibly difficult decisions, given generations of existence, a history of success on the ice and/or other factors. For others, it would be (to quote Parker from Alien) a “walk in the paaark.” For the Los Angeles Kings, it’s somewhere in the middle. Having been in existence for over 45 years, there are plenty of names to choose from, but having been a lackluster franchise for most of their history, it’s not as if the franchise depth chart is ridiculously deep. Having said that, there are choices to be made, and never one to shy away from a challenge, the following are my all-time player choices:
Marcel Dionne: This may be the biggest no-brainer on this entire mythical team, as Dionne leads the franchise in total points (1,307) and assists (757), is second in goals (550) and third in regular-season games played (921). He anchored the “Triple Crown Line”, one of the most prolific in NHL history, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
Wayne Gretzky: He’ll be forever associated with Edmonton first, but The Great One had a pretty great run while in Los Angeles. Not only that, but he absolutely put hockey on the map in Los Angeles, and nearly won the Cup with the Kings in 1993. In 539 games played for the club, he recorded 918 points, fourth best in franchise history.
Anze Kopitar: Third on this list essentially makes Kopitar one hell of a third-line center. It’s a different era, so comparing statistics with the first two is a bit misleading, but in just six seasons he’s already 11th overall in franchise point totals, and tied for 11th in goals scored with 163. At just 25, he’s got plenty of time to climb the ladder.
Butch Goring: It was very tempting to put Bernie Nicholls here, but the nod goes to Goring due to longevity, consistency and how he played his best in big games — he won a Conn Smythe trophy in 1981, had three very strong playoff performances, and won four Cups. Overall, he had nine straight 20+ goal/50+ point seasons with the Kings, peaking at 36 goals/87 points in 1979-80. He holds the fifth slot in overall points in franchise history.
Luc Robitaille: Another no-brainer. Robitaille holds the NHL career records for most goals by a left winger (668), and points (1,394), along with the most points by a left winger in one season (125 in 1992-93). He leads the franchise in goals with 557 and is second in points with 1,154.
Dustin Brown: Ok, I know — not a no-brainer. Charlie Simmer would look very nice right here as well, so it’s definitely a close call. But Brown is a much better two-way player than Simmer ever was, consistently registers amongst the league leaders in hits, is always on the ice (as opposed to the trainer’s table) and has the same number of 20+ goal seasons. Granted, Brown’s high was 33 whereas Simmer’s was 56 (twice!), but when you consider the era and all the factors, Brown gets the nod. It should be noted that although Brown has played much of his career on the right side, he’s arguably played his best hockey on the left and currently resides in that slot. Brown is just outside the franchise’s top ten in goals (163) and points (359) and at 28, may have just entered his prime.
Charlie Simmer: One-third of the famous “Triple Crown Line”, Simmer was a fantastic left winger for the Kings, garnering 222 goals and 466 total points in eight seasons, ranking 7th and 9th, respectively. He also had one of the great 70′s mustaches of all time.
Tony Granato: Not only did he have seasons of 30, 39 and 37 goals in three straight seasons between 1990-91 and 1992-93, but Granato was a terrific power forward, notching 150 or more PIMs four times as a King. Alas, his style of play caught up to him and he was unable to remain on the ice for much of the rest of his career. Still, Granato averaged .80 points/game for Los Angeles.
Dave Taylor: How do you not place Taylor on the all-time Kings’ top line? First in games played (1,111), third in goals (431), third in points (1,069), and second in penalty minutes (1,589). He was also the team’s captain, served nine years as General Manager, and probably swept the floors, too.
Bernie Nicholls: I am going to bend a roster rule I was attempting to enforce and add Nicholls here on the right wing. Yes, he played center, but I cannot find any reference that suggests he never played on the wing, and anyone with six 30+ goal seasons, including three over 40 and one year where he potted a Kings’ record 70 goals (along with 150 points) must be on this list. Nicholls is currently fourth in goals (327) and fifth in total points (758) on the all-time Kings’ stat sheet.
Ziggy Palffy: If only he could have stayed healthy. Nevertheless, he was a fantastic scorer with speed and a laser shot, one who averaged nearly 34 goals and 75 points between 1999-00 and 2003-04 — this despite missing 52 games due to injury during that span. For what it’s worth, he also had three straight 40+ goal seasons with the Islanders before joining the Kings.
Jim Fox: Like Brown, Fox was adept on both wings. His big break, as profiled here, came when prolific scoring left winger Charlie Simmer went down with injury during the 1981-82 season. Fox stepped in and delivered 30 goals and 68 points, the first of four outstanding seasons in a row. Fox is in the Kings’ all-time top ten in both goals and points.
DefensemenRob Blake: Many Kings fans continue to harbor bitterness over Blake’s previous contentious relationship with team management, but nobody harbors doubts about his skill. Blake holds the franchise records by a defenseman for goals (161), assists (333) and points (494), as well as number of hipchecks that resulted in the opponent sprawling face-first on the ice.
Mattias Norstrom: Matty was a quiet, respected leader for the Kings, captain from 2001-07. Never one to put up points, he was a stay-at-home defenseman, generally registering one of the better +/- numbers on the team.
Steve Duschesne: Duschesne only played with the team for five seasons, but man, he was good. He played responsible defense and had a great shot, which led to four 20+ goal seasons, three with Los Angeles. Very quietly, he’s right behind Ziggy Palffy on the franchise list for total career points with 315.
Marty McSorley: It wasn’t his offense that McSorley was known for, even though he had four double-digit goal-scoring seasons for the Kings. Despite his average size, he was tough as nails, delivering hits, punches and illegal sticks with the best of them.
Lubomir Visnovsky: Lubo averaged 14 goals and 55 points for the Kings over a three-year stretch just a few years ago, so there’s no debate about era of hockey with those numbers. He played seven seasons for Los Angeles and was one of the best in the game during his time there. He then went to Edmonton and continued to produce, reaching 18 goals and 68 points just two seasons ago.
Drew Doughty: Three seasons is a bit early to give him a higher ranking, but his outstanding passing, three straight double-digit goal seasons and growing leadership land him on the all-time list of defensemen. At 23, he’s got nowhere to go but up.
Rogatien Vachon: I realize the more popular name right now is Jonathan Quick, but Rogie earns the edge due to his longevity. He played seven seasons in Los Angeles and currently holds several team records, although Quick is catching up fast. His statistics aren’t as gawdy in terms of G.A.A. and save percentage, but he played when 100 point seasons weren’t really all thatbig of a deal. Quick is a close second, but at the moment, second is where he should be.
Jonathan Quick: And here he is! I’ve heard him called “The Spider” and “Octopus-like”, so clearly he’s got some arachnid or cephalopod mollusk within his DNA. He may be second on this list, but after his amazing playoff run last season, he’s first in the hearts of Kings fans.