Tuesday, May 23, 2006

California Crow

The rumour became the fact on Monday, as the Los Angeles Kings introduced Marc Crawford as the next head coach of the team that tinseltown follows (Suburban fans have their Ducks, but from Hollywood to San Bernadino it's the Kings who count).

Crawford joins the management team being assembled by new General Manager Dean Lombardi, who has already met with each and everyone of the Kings from last year, all in a bid to find out what went wrong and how to turn around one of California's original franchises.

With eleven free agents on the Kings roster it probably will be a bit of a different looking Kings team that takes to the ice next September, injuries and infighting took its toll on the team as the wheels began to fall off by the Olympic break and never really got back on afterwards.

Andy Murray ended up carrying the can for the free falling Kings as he was dismissed with 12 games to go in the season, his replacement John Torchetti didn't provide enough of a shock to put them into the playoffs and GM Dave Taylor was relieved of his duties as the playoffs began and the Kings watched on TV.

Hiring the former Canuck coach was Lombardi's first major move since taking over the team and it sends a message that the players will now have to be accountable for their performance on the ice and possibly off it as well. The backbiting and other shenanigans off ice will be dealt with by the new GM and his coach.

Which is an interesting study for hockey fans as one of the problems in Vancouver at the end of the Crawford era were the reports of too many cliques being formed, working against each other instead of for the team's common good.

Lombardi at his press conference said one of the reasons he hired Crawford was his readiness to admit that he had made mistakes and would learn from them. Perhaps that is one of the mistakes he referred to, keeping a tighter rein on the Kings dressing room might go a long way to improving the overall success of the team.

It's a good move for LA, they are picking up a coach who has had his successful years, who seems capable of making teams better but perhaps has a certain shelf life. The key will be for the Kings to either achieve their goals before the Crawford system runs out of steam or they will have to replenish the squad through the years to ensure that the message by Crawford remains accessible by willing participants.

Either way, the next few years will be pretty exciting ones for LA hockey fans, they finally seem to have a management structure in place that will be pro-active instead of reactive. Could make all the difference in the amount of time between Kings appearances deep into the months of May and June in the future.

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