COHEN’S KINGS CATASTROPHES – CHAPTER 1


Ever since the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, many new fans of the team have felt like the LA Kings and their management could do no wrong. But not so fast, my newfound friends. Your pal Jesse Cohen is here to remind you that there was quite an impressive history of ineptitude that occured long before most of you even knew of a thing called Bailey. But I’m not here to pick on the bandwagoners. Let’s be honest… most LA Kings fans in general don’t know their Syl Apps from a Peter Ahola in the ground.

SylAppsCardPeterAholaCard
Presenting your Apps from Ahola in the ground.

So consider this an education, LA Kings Fans. Now when you see us old farts complaining on Twitter or Facebook about “typical Kings blunders” you’ll have some idea of where all the pain is coming from. It’s something we here at The Royal Half like to call…

CohenKingsCat-imp

CHAPTER ONE : The Wrong Legend

 

BACKGROUND

In 1967 the NHL expanded from 6 teams to 12 teams.  The 6 new teams were allowed to draft unprotected players from the rosters of the “Original 6″ teams.  The first two rounds were designated for Goalies.

WHAT THE KINGS DID

The Kings drafted Terry Sawchuk with the 1st Overall Pick in the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft. 

WHY IT LOOKED LIKE A GOOD MOVE

The Kings were breaking new ground in a “Non Traditional Hockey Market”.  Jack Kent Cooke was convinced the large population of Canadians living in the Greater Los Angeles Area would adopt the Kings and fill the Forum.  Terry Sawchuk was a record holding goaltender destined for the Hall of Fame that had just led the Toronto Maple Leafs to a Stanley Cup victory the previous season.

WHY IT WAS A TERRIBLE MOVE

Instead of drafting a young and talented goalie to build around the Kings set a precedent that would plague them for decades and drafted an aging veteran in the twilight of his career.  Despite his recent success with the Maple Leafs, Sawchuk was 37 years old and suffered from alcoholism with severe bouts of depression.  He would only play one season with the Kings and would literally die 3 years after being drafted by the Kings.
 
In his one season with the Kings he compiled a disappointing regular season record of 11-14-6.   Despite playing fewer games in net than Wayne Rutledge, Sawchuk played the bulk of the Kings first round playoff series against the lower seeded Minnesota North Stars going 2-3, including a 9 goal Game 7 loss at home.
 

WHAT THE KINGS SHOULD HAVE DONE

Draft Bernie Parent.
 
The Philadelphia Flyers selected Bernie Parent with the second overall pick in the 1967 Expansion Draft and finished one point ahead of the Kings in the NHL Standings in the 1967-1968 season.
 
Bernie Parent was 22 and while relatively unproven in his two seasons with the Boston Bruins he was a two time winner of the Dave Pinkney Trophy (for fewest Goals Against) and won the 1965 Memorial Cup with the Niagra Falls Flyers.  He would go on to win the Stanley Cup twice, the Conn Smythe Trophy twice, the Vezina Trophy twice, be named to the Hall of Fame, have his jersey retired by the Flyers and be ranked 63rd in The Hockey News Top 100 Players list.  He also appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine.
 
ParentTimeCover

The only thing keeping this from being completely obvious in hindsight is that Bernie Parent was traded away from the Flyers in 1971. One could argue that any of his accomplishments with the Flyers after 1973 shouldn’t be considered in this comparison. Even if one were to limit the comparison of Parent’s accomplishments to his first 4 seasons with the Flyers they would still consist of 3 more seasons than Sawchuk played for the Kings. Parent wasn’t the only option either. Cesare Maniago played 420 games with the North Stars and Glen Hall played 140 games with the St. Louis Blues including 3 trips to the Stanley Cup Finals. Even Wayne Rutledge who the Kings took in the second round had a more impressive career as a Los Angeles King than Terry Sawchuk.

 
Click on the photo for a full-rez image of
IronSight Design’s Sawchuk/Parent Infographic!
 

HOW IT WOULD LOOK TODAY

The Kings drafted an aging netminder with a limited future who barely gave them one mediocre season over a talented but unproven young goalie who went on to be a Stanley Cup Champion.  If the Kings had entered the league in 2007 and had the first pick in the NHL Expansion Draft, instead of taking an untested Jonathan Quick the Los Angeles Kings would have drafted….
 
Olaf Kolzig.  
2007 Olaf Kolzig.
olaf-kolzig
I know… this photo is sad on so many levels.

HOW IT LOOKS IN HINDSIGHT

To fully appreciate the impact a moment like this can have on a franchise I thought I’d ask some of my friends in the Hockey World to weigh in on Sawchuk and Parent and the impact they had on their respective franchises.
 
First I spoke to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen:
“Um… I don’t have any “feelings”, really… He was LA’s inaugural G, and he was lousy late in the 1968 series vs MIN, esp. in Game 7?”
Greenblatt:  To explain how “our generation” feels about Bernie Parent is not doing justice to the greatness that was Bernie Parent. I’ve seen Parent play once, at the 2011 Winter Classic alumni game. From what I’ve been told, he is the best goaltender in Flyers history (I honestly agree) and that only God saves more than Bernie.
Cooper: Bernie, of course, led the Flyers to Cups in 1974 and 1975 (after a brief stint in Toronto and a year in the nascent WHA) and along with Bob Clarke has remained the Flyers’ all time most popular player even though he has not played in a game since his career was ended by an eye injury 34 years ago in 1979. While virtually no current Flyer fan under 40 ever saw him play, he got a standing ovation from a crowd of over 45,000 when he stepped between the pipes for five minutes at Citizens Bank Park on December 31, 2011 for the Winter Classic Alumni Game against the Rangers. The phrase “Only God save more than Bernie Parent” remains on the lips of every Flyers fan today and he is still the most popular and recognizable pro athlete in Philadelphia.
Finally I asked former Kings Color Commentator and Current Predators Play By Play Announcer, Pete Weber, what could be said about Bernie Parent.
Bernie is still the standard against which all Flyers’ goaltenders are measured. He took them to their only two titles and perhaps could have won more were it not for his eye injury. Only Ron Hextall and Pelle Lindbergh even approach his work for the Flyers and not to be overlooked: the role his mentor in Toronto and Philly -Jacques Plante – played in his success.
 

FINAL ANALYSIS

BENEFIT

Sawchuk had a losing record in 36 games for a Kings team that surprised many by making the playoffs and finishing one point out of 1st place.  Any hopes that drafting a succesful player might translate to popularity amongst Canadian expatriots living in Los Angeles were dashed as Jack Kent Cooke famously said “Now I know why they left Canada: They hate hockey!”

COST

The Kings won the Draft Lottery so technically they didn’t have to give anything up to acquire Sawchuk.

OPPORTUNITY COST

Of the 11 other goalies drafted, only two played in fewer games after the expansion.  The two Kings goalies combined to play fewer NHL games than the other 5 tandems and fewer than 6 of the individual goalies drafted.  

WHO’S TO BLAME

Owner Jack Kent Cooke and General Manager Larry Regan

LEGACY

This was the first player transaction the franchise would make and the Kings chose a path that would lead them to ruin time and time again.

SILVER LINING

The Kings failure to acquire stable goaltending in their first few seasons allowed them an opportunity to correct their mistake and acquire Rogie Vachon in 1971.
 

ROYAL REPUGNANCE RATING

(on a scale of 0 to 99, 99 being the worst)

*97*

Of all the members of Team TRH Jesse Cohen probably comes closest to actually hating the Kings. Whether obsessing over the 1998 sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, wishing he had witnessed the fight between Dmitri Khristich and Barry Potomski or cursing their attempts to fool the fans by dressing Randy Robitaille for 18 games, Jesse harbors a deep-seeded resentment towards the Kings.You can follow Jesse Cohen on Twitter @KingsMenPodcast.
  • peaches

    well…cohen has done it again…a sage piece which helps to explain the King’s first 40 years… hopefully there will be more articles by Cohen….he appears to have real genius when it comes to this blogging thing….why,”if I had a son, I bet he would look just like Cohen”….

    • Orange Bands

      This Cohen is obviously on to something here. My only concern is the statement: “Jesse Cohen probably comes closest to actually hating the Kings”. This may cloud his judgment; in fact, he might not even like Rob Blake being hired as AGM.

      • yelir

        He doesn’t like Rob Blake, but I kinda don’t like him either