For many, it would be most practical to come to the conclusion that their two Stanley Cup wins in three years is why there is no better team to be a fan of than the Los Angeles Kings. But while that is true to a large extent, the Kings are, for all intents and purposes, the blueprint of what a successful team should look like.
While fans of other teams could look at this as nothing more than biased rubbish, there is a method to this so-called madness.
Take the NBA's Miami Heat.
In the summer of 2010, LeBron James and Chris Bosh defected to Miami to join Dwayne Wade in order to form a deadly threesome that would help win championships. In the four years since then, the trio lead the Heat to the NBA Finals in each of those four years with back-to-back titles sandwiched in between. But while the Heat and their fans celebrated such tremendous success, it is now doubtful whether the trio of James, Bosh and Wade - all unrestricted free agents - will even be back in Miami next season. Whatever the case may be, said success may have been enormous but it was done in such a small window that even five years down the road, fans will look back and remember the high watermark of the Miami Heat as nothing more than a blur. For fans of the Los Angeles Kings, what was most frustrating was that their success didn't come with a quick fix, but that was a small price to pay nonetheless.
Whether it was under the tutelage of George Maguire, Sam McMaster or Dave Taylor, the Los Angeles Kings appeared to be eternally stagnant. Even when they acquired Wayne Gretzky in 1988, the Kings had their championship hopes on one player in a sport where teams needed a full cast to even find themselves in the same vicinity of a Stanley Cup-related conversation, much less winning hockey's Holiest prize. Upon Gretzky's arrival, the Kings had up-and-comers like Luc Robitaille but soon traded away Bernie Nicholls, who scored 70 goals during the Great One's maiden season in SoCal. But when they made the Stanley Cup Final in 1993, the Kings did so with the aforementioned Gretzky and Robitaille, up-and-coming defensemen Rob Blake, Darryl Sydor and Alexei Zhitnik and the pair of players who were traded for Bernie Nicholls: Tony Granato and Tomas Sandstrom. The '93 playoff run was especially significant as the Kings made due without Gretzky for the first half of the regular season. It was without their star that the Kings excelled. But after losing in the Final in '93, most would have assumed that the Los Angeles Kings were on their way up.
Instead, the Kings traded away many of their assets as then-owner Bruce McNall was going through a great deal of financial and legal trouble. By the time the Kings traded Gretzky in 1996, the team was irrelevant, having relegated themselves to bottom-feeders. It would be years - not to mention multiple failed rebuilding attempts - before the Los Angeles Kings mattered, and for those fans who stuck by their team through the worst of times, should be commended today.
While the aforementioned Dave Taylor hasn't been celebrated in Los Angeles for his tenure as the team's general manager, he did draft Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick - all integral pieces to the Kings' current success. But it was Dean Lombardi who took the reigns and made all the long, suffering fans wait another few years, but made it worthwhile.
For as long as anyone can remember, there have been teams in any of the four North American sports who were looking for the quick-fix, that one player to deliver their team to the Promised Land, even if it meant parting ways with a significant piece of their future. While it would be unfair to mention names, anyone reading this can think of a few examples right off the tops of their heads. But since Dean Lombardi was named Kings' GM in 2006, he could have went out and solved his goaltending issue with Roberto Luongo or Jean-Sebastien Giguere or even Ilya Bryzgalov. I say those three names in particular because at different times, each of them was the league's hottest netminder during Los Angeles's rebuilding phase. In hindsight, Dean Lombardi and the Kings look like geniuses as each of those three netminders put their respective teams in, for all intents and purposes, financial peril with Luongo and Bryzgalov still being paid by their former clubs. As for Los Angeles's goaltender-in-waiting during that time, all he did was help win the Kings two Stanley Cups - with a Conn Smythe to boot.
If fans of the Los Angeles Kings were to look back on the last eight or nine years, do you think they'd have it any other way? I sincerely doubt it.
As far as I'm concerned, the growing success of the Los Angeles Kings is akin to the classic fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.
Whenever the calendar turned to July, those free agents who wanted to win went to Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York, San Jose or even Ottawa. Yet while all these teams were welcoming the big names by forking over the big bucks, the Kings minded their own business and flew under everyone's radar as they built their team from the inside, drafting and developing their own players in order to enjoy lasting success down the road. That was the plan, they stuck by it and it paid off.
Players that Dean Lombardi has either traded or let walk away via free agency - Eric Belanger, Joe Corvo and Patrick O'Sullivan all come to mind - have since either become journeymen or are out of the NHL altogether. While I do not mean any disrespect towards the aforementioned, it underlines just how great of a job Dean Lombardi has done in Los Angeles as it is a testament to why the Los Angeles Kings are miles better than they were even five years ago.
The Miami Heat had their success, but now it appears that after just four years, that window has closed. The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks were forced to trade some of their key assets after their Stanley Cup win - although, to their credit, they did restore that success - and despite their ability to woo the top players, the New York Yankess did not win a single World Series between 2000 and 2009. Then, there's the Los Angeles Kings who not only celebrate their current success but continue to build for the future with the same solid drafting and developmental records they have had since 2006.
It may be still be a tad premature to talk dynasty but the Los Angeles Kings are closer to that than most teams are, or ever will be.
For Mike Richards and Dustin Brown, whom some fans think are overpaid underachievers, the Kings made up for it with role players like Justin Williams, Tyler Toffoli or Kyle Clifford. Not too many teams have that luxury. Actually, not too many teams can hang onto that luxury after two or three years. The Los Angeles Kings can and that is what makes them stand above the rest.
Opposing fans can hate the Los Angeles Kings all they want to, but that just goes to show how great the Los Angeles Kings. No one ever hated the Colorado Rockies or the Atlanta Flames because they were never any good. Fans hated the Montreal Canadiens for many years or the Detroit Red Wings or the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980's because they were not only good, but they were dominant - and this is exactly why opposing fans hate the Kings. They may not have the track record as the any of the aforementioned powerhouses but they are certainly headed in the right direction.
Plus, fans can head out to Staples Center to watch their team play in the middle of January in flip-flops and shorts after spending a day at the beach. That may not be paradise to hockey purists but it is paradise nonetheless.
There is no better team to be a fan of than the Los Angeles Kings. That is a statement you will have a difficult time debating.