Taped to a file cabinet in his office at the Kings' practice facility near LAX, Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi has a slip of paper that contains a single handwritten word: WINNER.
Of course, there is a story behind this artifact, which is almost two years old but might as well be 2,000 given its totemic significance to a franchise that has been destiny's doormat since it entered the NHL in 1967. It is the word Lombardi had wanted Drew Doughty to utter at the May 2008 scouting combine. Doughty had done everything else. He had lost some 30 pounds of nachos-and-Coke suet that he had toted around his last season of junior hockey (two-and-a-half months earlier, the 6'1" Doughty had stepped on a dressing-room scale and proclaimed, "Holy damn," or words to that effect, "I'm 235"), and he had sparkled nearly as much in predraft interviews as he had on the ice. But in a mere three weeks Lombardi was going to make the second pick in the NHL draft, a potential franchise-altering selection, and he needed to hear the gifted 18-year-old defenseman from London, Ont., say the magic word. During a previous talk Lombardi had prepped Doughty on the three stages of a great NHL career—player, star, winner—but now in a hotel conference room packed with Los Angeles management, Doughty was drawing a blank.
Lombardi asked, "In building a new culture, what among all your talent and ability is most important? That you are a ...?"
Lombardi prompted, "Now what was Wayne Gretzky?"
Doughty riffled through a few more nouns before blurting, "Winner."
Lombardi was ecstatic. This was definitely his boy. He didn't discover until later that Jack Ferreira, the Kings' special assistant who had been sitting behind him, had written winner on that slip of paper and held it over Lombardi's shoulder in Doughty's line of sight.
"Jack gave me that piece of paper," Lombardi says. "Told me that someday it might be worth something."