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Hockey

Los Angeles Kings

Team Page | Schedule | Roster | 1998-99 Stats

Sports Illustrated Ranking: 20

By Richard Deitsch

 
1998-99 Leaders
Stat Leader No.
Goals
Assists
Points
+/-
Shots
Ice time (F)
Ice time (D)
Faceoff Pct.
Hits
PP Pts.
SH Pts.
Luc Robitaille
Luc Robitaille
Luc Robitaille
Donald Audette
Luc Robitaille
Glen Murray
Rob Blake
Jozef Stumpel
Mattias Norstrom
Luc Robitaille
Murray/Tsyplakov
39
35
74
+7
292
20.5
24.9
54.0
236
21
3
Sports Illustrated The hiring of anonymous rookie coach Andy Murray to replace Hall of Famer Larry Robinson is a curious case of casting, especially by Hollywood's standards. Just how low-profile is the new king of the Kings? Last season Murray coached a prep school team in Fairbault, Minn. "Since we're sharing the same training facility as the Lakers, some friends asked how they would know which side the Kings were on," says Murray, who was an NHL assistant for seven seasons and coach of the Canadian national team for two years. "I told them you'll see Phil Jackson's Rolls-Royce on one side. My pickup will be on the other side."

With the opening of the Staples Center this month, L.A., which was a dreadful 32-45-5 last season, needed a marquee name to promote. Six days after hiring Murray, the Kings acquired 27-year-old star right wing Zigmund Palffy and 29-year-old enigmatic center Bryan Smolinski from the Islanders for three top prospects and a No. 1 draft choice. For a team that had two goals or less in 48 games last season, Palffy's goal-scoring (a combined 93 in 1996-97 and 1997-98) is a welcome addition. Only time will tell whether the Kings mortgaged their future to simply return to mediocrity. Center Jozef Stumpel and Luc Robitaille round out a potent first line.

Defenseman Rob Blake, the Norris Trophy winner two seasons ago, will lead a defensive unit that has undergone a makeover. Finland's Aki Berg, the third pick in the 1995 draft, and 25-year-old Czech star Frantisek Kaberle will replace the aged legs of Doug Bodger and Dave Babych. Los Angeles is also banking on 24-year-old Jere Karalahti, one of the best defensemen in Europe, who will join the Kings when he obtains a visa. Mattias Norstrom, who has missed training camp because of a contract holdout, is a steady stay-at-home blueliner. Goalies Stephane Fiset (2.60 goals-against average last season) and Jamie Storr (2.40) form a competent duo, though neither will remind anyone of Dominik Hasek.

Murray logged more miles than Gulliver in the off-season to meet his players, even traveling to Vienna to dine with Palffy and Stumpel. After Palffy polished off his pizza and Stumpel finished his schnitzel, Murray picked up the tab. "The check was about 10 percent of my salary," he laughs, "and about one millionth of theirs." Call it a good investment. If Palffy gets 50 goals this season, Murray's pickup may feel like a Rolls.

Issue date: October 4, 1999

ALSO:
SI's Scouting Report Main Page
SI's Pierre McGuire Insider Rankings


BRIGHT SPOTS   GRAY AREAS
  • Luc Robitaille wishes they all could be California goals. His 39 was his most in five years . . . and he also appeared in all 82 games.
  • Ziggy Palffy, who ended a string of three 40-goal seasons last year while grumping with the Islanders, is currently on a line with fellow Slovak Jozef Stumpel and Robitaille. That could be dynamic.
  • D Frantisek Kaberle is making waves and could be a mainstay on the blue line. He is the older brother of Toronto D Tomas Kaberle.
  •  
  • After his Norris Trophy campaign in 1997-98, Rob Blake was ineffective and injured last season, playing in only 62 games.
  • Andy Murray is a hard-working (some say obsessive) coach who generously serves up tough love. That may work with high schoolers and amateurs, but will it work with millionaires?
  • While the Kings like their goaltending tandem of Stephane Fiset and Jamie Storr, an expansion draft at end of season may mean trading one of them.
  • People, Places and Things
    GM: Dave Taylor
    Coach: Andy Murray; 1st season; 1st overall
    Assistants: Dave Tippett, Mark Hardy
    Captain: Rob Blake
    Last year: 32-45-5 (22nd overall)
    Playoffs: None
    PP: 24th (13.1%)
    PK: 9th (85.8%)

    Get The Highlighter
    Sat., Oct. 2: Opener at Nashville.
    Wed., Oct. 20: After a seven-game road trip to start the season, the Kings finally open the Staples Center against Boston.

    Notable Number
    24: Games lost last year by one goal or with an empty-netter making it two goals

    Quoteworthy
    "I told the guys, `You guys almost look as good as the kids at Shattuck-St. Mary's did after the first practice last year.' " -- coach Andy Murray



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