SBD/June 13, 2012/Franchises

With Financial Backing Of AEG's Tim Leiweke, Kings Could Contend Next Season And Beyond

Leiweke's financial backing could help boost the Kings' presence in L.A.
There are reasons to believe the Stanley Cup champion Kings "can be more than a one-hit wonder," according to Helene Elliott of the L.A. TIMES. The team has the "backing of [a] fervent fan" in AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke, who allowed the franchise "to spend close to the cap limit this season." Most of the Kings' "key players are signed long-term except," save Conn Smythe Trophy winner G Jonathan Quick, "who has one year on his contract." Kings LW Dustin Penner said, "I think it's going to be expected now. We should be one of the favorites next year." Leiweke said, "We built this for a long run. It's a good young team with the core tied up, and we have the resources to keep our key guys and look to add. We want to compete for a long time now." Elliot notes parity brought about by the NHL's salary cap system "makes it difficult to build and sustain perennial contender" as success brings "demands for higher salaries and each team can stretch its budget only so far" (L.A. TIMES, 6/13). The GLOBE & MAIL's James Mirtle writes, "As hard as it is to repeat as Stanley Cup champs these days, the Los Angeles Kings may be better positioned than any other recent winner to pull it off." The team this season was "tied as the second youngest group in the league." Additionally, the Kings have "more than enough cap space to improve their team." The team "will not be, in other words, anything like the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, who had to dismantle their roster the season after winning to fit in new contracts for core pieces" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/13).

CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE: In L.A., Tom Hoffarth writes there is "credit to be shared in how these Kings were envisioned, built and maintained." Hoffarth gives Kings GM Dean Lombardi 25% of the credit, and Penner said, "We wouldn't be the team we were without having him at the helm." Blues Player Personnel Dir and former Kings GM Dave Taylor gets 10% of the credit, as does Leiweke. Hoffarth writes of Leiweke, "Those who control the purse strings make the rules. He got the OK from the AEG boys to spend the money that made things happen, then was smart enough to get out of the way when he realized his input wasn't all that bright" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/13).

BRAND-NEW FEELING: L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said the Kings’ victory seems like the NHL “just opened an expansion franchise in the entertainment capital of the world.” Plaschke said, “It’s like we have a hockey team all of a sudden. People who didn’t pay attention for so many years, suddenly there’s Kings flags flying, there’s people wearing Kings jerseys. ... It feels like hockey’s finally arrived in Los Angeles.” SB Nation’s Bomani Jones, who is from Raleigh, said, “Take this from somebody in a non-traditional hockey city that won a Stanley Cup: You don’t perform in the next two years after, it will go back to the way it was before” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 6/12).

WILL THE FANS RETURN? The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes the "larger question is, can the Kings’ Stanley Cup victory have a longer-lasting effect on the market -- and attract more than just the small, but hardcore fan base that has [supported] them so well, year in and year out." The Kings’ unexpected 16-4 run through the playoffs "created the usual celebrity sightings." Duhatschek: "The die-hard fans will remain, through thick and thin. For everybody else?" Kings TV host Patrick O'Neal said, "There's going to be a nice celebration. They'll show up for the parade, people will go 'Yeah' and then they'll go about their business again" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/13). Meanwhile, organizers of the Kings celebration set for Thursday at Staples Center said that all 18,000 tickets "are sold out." In L.A., Robert Lopez noted the hour-long "championship rally" is scheduled to begin at 2:30pm PT. Free tickets were distributed "on a first-come, first-served basis and were available online." Officials had said that season-ticket holders and suite and premier seat owners "would be given priority, with the remaining tickets made available to the public" at 6pm yesterday (LATIMES.com, 6/12).

BEACH PARTY: In L.A., Sam Allen notes nearly all of the Kings players "live in the South Bay, and they train at a practice facility in El Segundo." Manhattan Beach Council member Richard Montgomery said that he was busy yesterday "trying to arrange an event at which residents could take pictures with the cup." Montgomery said, "Our city is going crazy. Our businesses, our downtown restaurants, our bars, everyone's happy for the Kings. ... Now we get to enjoy it as a community" (L.A. TIMES, 6/13). An L.A. DAILY NEWS editorial states, "This ranks as one of the most joyous of L.A.'s many sports championships precisely because it was so unexpected. ... Another thing that makes this championship cool: The franchise has been so uncool in the eyes of most L.A. residents. Angelenos who looked beyond the trendy and stuck with the Kings have been rewarded with a well-earned memory" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 6/13).

PARITY OR MEDIOCRITY? In N.Y., Mark Everson writes parity in the NHL "produced a Stanley Cup final between an eighth-seed and a sixth-seed, strongly suggesting there is not much difference among the top 16 teams." Everson: "Don’t be surprised, then, when the recent schemes to expand the playoffs to 18 or 20 teams are revived for negotiation in the CBA. The more mediocrity, the better." The regular season must be "re-emphasized to matter, and that means de-emphasizing the playoffs." Everson writes, "Heresy? No. The NHL has already de-emphasized the playoffs in the wrong way, by achieving mediocrity through parity" (N.Y. POST, 6/13). 
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