Kings' reign could last for quite some time - NBC Sports

Kings' reign could last for quite some time
As L.A. parades Cup around, remember champ's top players are young and hungry for more
June 12, 2012, 4:06 am

On Monday night, the Kings won the Stanley Cup, their first ever. They've heard about the Stanley Cup, seen glimpses of it here and there. In 1993, they actually were three victories away from obtaining it before collapsing against Montreal. But after Game 6 against the New Jersey Devils, they were brandishing it like pirates of the Caribbean.

That may be an image the hockey world might have to get used to.

It's absurdly early to predict what the future will hold for an NHL team. The Kings, seeded eighth in the West, defeated the first, second and third seeds to get to the Stanley Cup finals, testament to how foolhardy it is to handicap this sport (Detroit was the last team to win back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998). A hot goaltender here, a timely trade there, perhaps a coaching change - all, incidentally, factors in the Kings' run - and an also-ran can become the leader.

But it's impossible not to look at the Kings' situation and see prosperity ahead, maybe even the "D" word - dynasty - or at least the potential for it.

"We feel we're set up for a while," said Kings president Luc Robitaille, a member of that '93 club and a Hall of Famer. "Our best players are all our youngest guys."

"We're going to enjoy this," he said, "and next week we'll start worrying about next year. But it's amazing."

Barry Melrose was standing nearby. He coached the team in '93 when it lost, 4-1, to the Canadiens, a series made infamous by the Marty McSorley stick incident: it had too much curve, and as a result, the Kings went off the road.

He's been an unabashed fan of these Kings, and gushed about their future.

"All their young guys are in the prime of their lives," he said as he prepared to interview goaltender Jonathan Quick, one of the team's young stars and maybe its most important. Quick won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.

"They're big, physical, and they'll definitely be here for a while."

Start with Quick. He's only 26, and yet he dominated in these playoffs. He allowed only 29 goals in 20 playoff games during this run, and stopped 125 of 132 shots in the finals. The Devils know what a superstar goaltender means to a franchise - in their case, three Stanley Cups with Quick's idol, Martin Brodeur, in net - so the Kings have the centerpiece of future riches.

"I don't know if I can put it into words," said center Anze Kopitar, when asked to describe Quick's performances in these playoffs. "You can go ahead and look at the stats. He was just awesome for us."

During the post-game championship celebration in their lockerroom, while they were opening and spraying champagne, I swear I saw some of them getting carded by the cops.

And then there are some geezers clogging up the roster. Justin Williams will be 31 next season. Dustin Penner turns 30 in the fall. Simon Gagne is 32. They're still highly effective. They just need a little longer on the massage table after games.

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Perhaps the biggest asset of all is ownership. Philip Anschutz runs AEG, and the president of his company, Tim Leiweke, is kooky for hockey, always has been. Guiding the Kings to the Stanley Cup has been one of his most burning ambitions. Now that he's attained that goal, he's not the type to stop at one.

Again, it isn't that easy, as Penner explained during the postgame Cup festivities. "It's such a mental grind," he said. "There were many times when we could have quit and just said, `Oh well, maybe next year.' But we don't have those kinds of people in our organization. We have amazing guys here."

Expectations. They start to sprout almost immediately after championships occur. When you're the Los Angeles Kings who have never won a Stanley Cup since your inception in 1967, most sports fans will give you a pass. But when you've finally ended that skein of futility, and you have a roster brimming with talent, and you have an owner who puts an emphasis on success, people start to yammer about more.

"It's gonna be expected. We should be one of the favorites to win it next year," Penner said. "But we're not going to worry about next year yet. We've focused on the next game, the next shift. And there aren't any for a while."

But as the coach of an NHL team that might have a few more Cup runs in them? He made it clear he's amenable to it.

"Take a run at it again," he declared. "That's the next thing."

Yes, rest of the NHL. It just might be.

Michael Ventre is a regular contributor to NBCSports.com; follow him at http://twitter.com/MichaelVentre44.

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