With the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in the past three seasons I figured it would be a good time to take a look back at the history of this original expansion franchise. Though they might not have seen the same number of legends grace their roster as Original Six franchises like the Montreal Canadiens or Detroit Red Wings have, they have boasted some of the game’s all-time greats, including one player that is widely considered the greatest of all time. Read on to see who made the cut:
10 – Jonathan Quick
Though he has just six full seasons as an NHL goalie under his belt, Jonathan Quick has certainly done enough in his relatively short career to merit inclusion in this list. He has been one of the game’s dominant backstops over the past half decade, consistently posting stellar numbers, particularly in the 2011-12 season when he finished the regular season with a ridiculously low 1.95 GAA, notched 10 shutouts, and finished second in Vezina voting. He followed that effort up with an even more brilliant playoff performance, posting a stingy 1.41 GAA and winning 16 of 20 games to help the Kings win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. He earned the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP to go along with his Stanley Cup ring.
9 – Charlie Simmer
Though not quite as famous as his Triple Crown Line linemates – Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor – Charlie Simmer was a deadly trigger-man that helped make the line one of the best in hockey during the early 1980s. Over a two season span between 1979-81, Simmer racked up an amazing 112 goals and 206 points in just 129 games played. Though he had stops in other NHL cities over the course of his career he is best remembered for those glory years in Los Angeles.
8 – Bernie Nicholls
Only four players in NHL history have ever scored 70 goals and 150 points in a single season. Three of those four are Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Phil Esposito. The fourth? Bernie Nicholls. Not bad company in anyone’s estimation. Nicholls’ amazing accomplishment was overshadowed by Gretzky himself as that same season The Great One put up 168 points in his first season with the Kings. Though that was by far his most productive campaign, Nicholls was far from a one hit wonder. He had two other seasons when he scored 100 points or better for the Kings, and tallied 758 points in just 602 games overall.
7 – Anze Kopitar
Like Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar continues to build his resume with the Los Angeles Kings, and you can bet he’ll be a fair bit higher up this list by the time he is finished. He is on track to not only win his second Stanley Cup, but through two games of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals he is also the odds-on favorite to win the Conn Smythe. He had been a model of consistency throughout his NHL career, leading the Kings in scoring for each of his eight seasons in the league.
6 – Rob Blake
Though younger hockey fans might think of Rob Blake first and foremost as a member of the Colorado Avalanche – the team he won a Stanley Cup with in 2001 – Rob Blake was an absolute beast for the Los Angeles Kings during the entirety of the 1990s before joining the Avs. Blake was a titan on the Kings blueline during that span, not only offensively, but physically as well, punishing his opponents in equal measure on the scoreboard and against the boards. He won the Norris Trophy in 1997-98 and was a first-team All-Star that same year.
5 – Dave Taylor
Dave Taylor played a total of 1,111 NHL regular season games and each and every one of them was spent in a Los Angeles Kings jersey. This L.A. lifer was a linchpin on the team’s famed Triple Crown line, and eclipsed the 90 point barrier on five different occasions during his career. He went on to record 431 goals, 1,069 points and racked up 1,589 penalty minutes over the course of his career with the Kings.
4 – Rogie Vachon
Jonathan Quick is one of the best goalies in the game right now, but he still has some work to do if he one day wants to be known as the greatest Los Angeles Kings goalie of all time. At the moment that title is held by one Rogie Vachon. Vachon had already won two Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens before arriving in Los Angeles, yet despite the fact that he was never able to deliver the ultimate prize in the City of Angels, it is as a King that he is identified to this day. Vachon was brilliant for the Kings in the 1970s, posting minuscule numbers and even finishing in the top 3 in Hart voting on two separate occasions.
3 – Wayne Gretzky
What, the NHL’s all-time leading scorer only merits the third spot on the list of the greatest Los Angeles Kings of all time? Sorry folks, while it would have been easy to slot him in at number one on this list I felt he was (narrowly) edged out by a pair of legends who are more representative of the purple and gold. Gretzky will always be an Oiler first in the minds of hockey fans. Still, that hardly diminishes what he accomplished for the Kings. He scored 121 points or better in five of his first six seasons with the Kings, including 168 in his first season with the club. He won a Hart Trophy and three Art Ross Trophies with the Kings, and helped them make it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1993. His two biggest career milestones – passing Gordie Howe in career points, then in career goals – both came while he was with the Kings. However, Gretzky’s greatest accomplishment came off the ice. His arrival in this major American market raised fan interest in the U.S. to an all-time high, and was truly a watershed moment in the history of the sport.
2 – Luc Robitaille
The man they call Lucky comes in at our number two spot. Luc Robitaille was almost an afterthought in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. A superstar in junior hockey, Robitaille’s slow skating speed had scouts doubtful that he could make the transition to the pace of the NHL level. As a result he wasn’t drafted until the ninth round (171st overall) when the Los Angeles Kings decided to take a flyer on him. Robitaille would prove every other GM in the league wrong in the years to come. He scored 45 goals and 84 points in his first season, earning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, and went on to score 392 goals and 803 points in his first eight seasons with the club. After brief, relatively unsuccessful stops with the Penguins and Rangers, Robitaille returned to the Kings for a second stint. He rediscovered his scoring touch, scoring 36 goals or better in three of the next four seasons. After two more years away, during which time he won a Stanley Cup Championship with the Detroit Red Wings, Robitaille returned to finish out his career as a King. In all he scored 557 goals and 1,154 points in 1,077 games with the Kings and is arguably the most popular player in the history of the organization.
1 – Marcel Dionne
In the mind of most hockey pundits this diminutive superstar is the greatest player in NHL history to never win a Stanley Cup. While that may be a dubious distinction, his rank as the greatest Los Angeles Kings player of all time certainly is not. While linemates Charlie Simmer and Dave Taylor put up impressive numbers in the 80s, they did so riding the coattails of one of the most skilled players in the history of the game. Dionne started his career with the Red Wings and finished it with the Rangers, but the prime of his career was spent in Los Angeles where he racked up points at a dizzying rate. He had 107 points or better seven different seasons, including 137 in 1979-80 that saw him earn the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. In all he racked up 1,307 points (most in Kings history) in just 921 career games with the club, and overall finished with 1,771 points, which was second to only the legendary Gordie Howe at the time.