Flyers West. That’s what many Philadelphians have been calling the Los Angeles Kings for several years. From the front office down to the front lines, the Kings have many familiar faces to Flyers fans. It is for that reason that many conflicting opinions have come about with the Kings’ recent series win, bringing them to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993.
If you want to get technical, you can say the Flyers/Kings connection started at the end of the ’03 season, when Philadelphia traded Roman Cechmanek to Los Angeles for a 2nd round pick. Or the Flyers trading Jeremy Roenick to the Kings, just prior to the start of the 2005 season, to clear up cap room for recently signed Peter Forsberg. But the majority of the Kings’ transition to ‘Flyers West’ was with the additions of former Flyers’ scouts, Dean Lombardi and Ron Hextall. Lombardi was brought to L.A. in April of 2006 and named President and General Manager, and one of the most respected and liked Flyers’ players of all time, Ron Hextall, became the Kings’ Vice President and Assistant GM in June of that same year. In the 6 seasons these two have been running the Kings organization, there have been 9 former Flyers to wear a Kings uniform:
Sean Burke (2006-2007)
Kyle Calder (2007-2009)
Michael Handzus (2007-2011)
Denis Gauthier (2008-2009)
Randy Jones (2009-2010)
Justin Williams (March 5, 2009 [Trade from CAR] – Present)
Simon Gagne (2011-Present)
Mike Richards (June 23, 2011 [Trade from PHI] – Present)
Jeff Carter (Feb 23, 2011 [Trade from CBJ] – Present)
Along with players, the Kings also had former Flyers coach Terry Murray serve as their Head Coach from July 17, 2008 until he was fired on December 12, 2011. Former Flyers’ and Phantoms’ head coach John Stevens also still sits behind the Kings’ bench as an Assistant Coach, a position he has held since June 24, 2010.
With all of these links to the Flyers organization, it’s easy for any Flyers fan to root for the Kings to win the cup. That last sentence would be much easier for many to swallow if it weren’t for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter being on the Kings. Paul Holmgren looked like a genius when he traded away party-animals Mike Richards and Jeff Carter this past offseason, and still managed to put together a team that finished the season with 103 points. On April 24th, many thought he was snubbed as a nominee for the NHL GM of the Year Award. Less than one month later, many Philadelphia fans have something else to say.
As much as no one wants to see Carter and Richards hoist the cup, simply because it’s too soon, most Philly fans still like former Flyers like Williams and Gagne. Although Williams has already won a cup in 2006 with Carolina, Gagne has not. And with the way his injury situation has gone the past four years, this may be his final season. I know, personally, I’d love nothing more than to see Gagne raise the cup; he’s earned it. There are others, though, who are simply disgusted at the thought of Richards and Carter feeling like they get the last laugh when it comes to them being traded. Philly fans are extremely stubborn, and that wouldn’t sit well.
It has yet to be determined who the Kings will play in the Finals, but with the way they’ve been playing, they will surely go into this series being the favorite; with only 2 losses in the playoffs, it’s impossible not to list them as the favorite. If the Kings do win it all, furious Flyers fans will be sure to share their opinions. It will most likely be negative remarks directed at Paul Holmgren, but it shouldn’t be. It should be positive realizations about leaders on the Kings team like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and some guy named Jonathan Quick.