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Kings see Cup as part of their future, not just their past

The expectation of success runs deep as they play their home opener. The return of defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene, who missed most or all of last season, fuels the optimism.

October 07, 2013|Helene Elliott
  • Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell skates with the Stanley Cup in 2012. Mitchell and the Kings hope to bring another championship to Los Angeles in 2014.
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell skates with the Stanley Cup in 2012. Mitchell… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

The new video and song fell painfully flat, but the light show was nifty and the introductions brimmed with rah-rah enthusiasm before the Kings' first game at Staples Center this season.

The festivities — mercifully — were brief, but that wasn't the only difference between Monday's opener and the events the Kings staged to launch last season. This time there was no Stanley Cup banner to raise or title to defend.

"It kind of feels like we had something taken away from us last year, which angers me," winger Justin Williams said.

"Every team at the start of the season, whether they believe it or not, they say, 'Our goal is to win the Stanley Cup,' where it might not be realistic. But certainly here it's a belief that if we bring our best game forward, we're the best."

Five years ago, that sentiment would have been laughable. But the process that built the 2012 championship team and the moves General Manager Dean Lombardi made to keep the roster largely intact have created an expectation of success.

If it wasn't there before, "now it is and it should be," defenseman Drew Doughty said before the Kings' 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers.

"We feel like we can be the best team in the league as long as we play our game and work as hard as we can to play our systems properly. I think we have a good shot once again."

A key reason to agree is that defensemen Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene are back and playing hard minutes. Mitchell missed all of last season because of knee problems; Greene was injured in the opener and didn't return until the final four games.

Without them, the Kings did well to reach the Western Conference final, where they lost to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks. With Mitchell and Greene — and a better effort offensively than they had Monday — this team could be formidable.

"I think Mitchy would have been a big help going into that Chicago series last year. I think with him we would have been a lot better. Could have even defended that Cup again," Doughty said.

"And even though we're not the defending champs, we still see that Cup as just part of us, and we want to get it back."

Taking a Flyer on Berube

Coach Peter Laviolette was put on a short leash after the Philadelphia Flyers missed the playoffs last season. He ran out of slack after they started 0-3 and was replaced Monday by assistant coach Craig Berube, another bizarre move by a team now better known for its strange personnel decisions than for winning.

General Manager Paul Holmgren said he had concerns last season but wanted to give Laviolette a full training camp and beefed-up lineup. But Holmgren couldn't ignore the Flyers' ineptitude in being outscored, 9-3. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek and Scott Hartnell have no points.

"It was more about how we played. It was unacceptable," Holmgren said at a news conference in Philadelphia. "We don't look like a team at all and I felt just a gut feeling that I needed to make the decision."

Holmgren is on the short leash now, with assistant GM Ron Hextall waiting in the wings.

One happy footnote: former King Ian Laperriere will be one of Berube's assistants.

If the Flyers aren't inspired by the gritty Laperriere, they are beyond help.

Money well spent

Patrick Roy's checking account was dented by the $10,000 fine the NHL imposed for his "irresponsible" actions at the end of Colorado's 6-1 victory over the Ducks last Wednesday, but it could prove to be a good investment.

Roy nearly pushed over the glass that separated him from Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau, upset that Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy had delivered a potentially dangerous hit on prized rookie Nathan MacKinnon.

Roy has a history of losing his temper ,but in this instance there might have been a method to his madness: His outburst got the attention of a city that had largely ignored the Avalanche the last few seasons and earned his players' respect.

"It just shows that he cares about his players a lot," MacKinnon said. "He's very passionate and he'll stand up for what he believes in and not really think about the circumstances or the criticism."

Slap shots

Which is more surprising: that 80-year-old Scotty Bowman is on Twitter or that he tweeted his support of general managers who advocate ending or severely penalizing fighting?

The fighting debate was revived after Montreal enforcer George Parros suffered a concussion in a face-first fall during a tussle with Toronto's Colton Orr.

"We're stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be," Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman told Canada's TSN network. "Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting." Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford was blunt. "We've got to get rid of fighting. It has to go," he told TSN. Pittsburgh's Ray Shero said league officials must "be leaders, not followers, in this area" and consider a ban.

Bowman (@coachwsb) then jumped in.

"I support views of Steve Yzerman Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford on their opinions for Addressing most Fighting Issues Poll all Players," he tweeted. When Bowman talks, or tweets, the NHL should listen.

Twitter: @helenenothelen

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