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Kings End a Dismal Season in Dismal Fashion

April 06, 1986|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

"Brutal."

That was how Rollie Melanson of the Kings described the club's disastrous 1985-86 season.

And Melanson may have been giving the woeful team the benefit of the doubt.

The Kings ended their worst season in 14 years with a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Saturday night before 9,987 fans at the Forum.

"We were a complete failure as a team," King defenseman Jay Wells said.

"We had so many chances to make the playoffs and we couldn't. This is something we have to put out of our minds and get ready for next year."

Fittingly, the Kings finished the season with a five-game winless streak (0-4-1). They will miss the playoffs for the third time in the last four years after finishing in last place in the Smythe Division behind Vancouver.

The Kings ended the season with the second-worst record in the National Hockey League (23-49-8, 54 points) behind the Detroit Red Wings, and will have the No. 2 pick in the NHL draft next June at Montreal.

But the Kings have a history of trading away high draft choices and making poor selections.

"Without question, it's been a long and difficult year. And I'm not happy it's over," King Coach Pat Quinn said.

Asked what changes the club will make next season, Quinn said: "It's hard to say at this particular time. We need to get better on defense. We started with too many young guys on defense. I'm hoping that our young players will learn something and come back with more grit in front of the net."

The Kings began this season with high hopes after they compiled 82 points to finish fourth in the Smythe Division in 1984-85. They gave the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers a good test in the first round of the playoffs. Although the Oilers eliminated the Kings in three straight games, the Kings took the Oilers to overtime twice.

When training camp opened last fall, the Kings said they were aiming to finish second in the Smythe Division. Instead, they experienced a 28-point dropoff from last season, the biggest in club history.

Asked to comment on this season, King left wing Dave (Tiger) Williams said: "What season?"

Said center Marcel Dionne: "It (the season) was one to forget. Some of us are going over to (the Soviet Union) to play in the World Championships, and I hope we can regroup over there for next year. We have to start from scratch.

"It's been a strange season. I'm as responsible as anyone else. We've got to definitely improve our defense.

"Last year should have been this year, and this year should have been last year. I think it caught everyone by surprise.

"For years, we have been hanging on. We finally hit bottom this year. We can't do any worse.

"There was no reason for us to lose as many games as we did."

There has been speculation that Dionne, 34, might not return for next season, but he said that he wants to play again.

Dionne became the NHL's second-leading scorer this season, passing Phil Esposito. Dionne finished with 36 goals and 58 assists for 94 points. He has scored 1,599 points in his career, behind only Gordie Howe (1,850).

"It might sound funny, but one thing I found out is that I've been playing with the wrong sticks," Dionne said. "I was using fiberglass sticks, and my hands were hurting and swollen all the time. I went back to using wooden sticks and I'm shooting the puck much better."

The Kings set team records for most home losses in one season (27), most consecutive home defeats (9), most goals allowed (389), most power-play goals allowed (104) and most penalty minutes (2,006).

The Kings ranked last in the league in power-play conversions and next to last in defense, goaltending and penalty killing. They folded during the stretch, winning just three of their final 18 games.

Wearing their purple road uniforms for the second time this season, the Kings got off to a fast start Saturday night, taking a 2-0 lead after the first period, but they quickly blew the advantage (sound familiar?) as the Canucks outscored them, 5-1, in the final two periods.

While it was a meaningless game for the Kings, Vancouver (23-43-13) was trying to secure third place in the Smythe Division.

The Canucks will finish third if they win their final game of the regular season tonight against Edmonton at Vancouver. They can also finish third if they tie Edmonton and the Winnipeg Jets lose to the Calgary Flames today.

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