Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best of the Decade: Acquisition

The following article was written by The Mayor as part of a special series for the LA Kings website.

As they said goodbye to the first decade of the 2000s, took EIGHT days to FIGURE out the best of the last 10 years.  This article focuses on the Best Acquisition made by the team via trade, free agency, etc.

Acquiring a player always comes with risk. Each guy brings his own set of issues - things like health, future productivity, chemistry with the current team, etc. Yet, often one of the most overlooked components has nothing to do with the player himself...timing.

When a GM gets it right, he's publicly praised as a genius. In turn, when he gets it wrong too many times, he's usually looking for a new job.

All factors united to create the perfect storm in early 2001 for then-GM Dave Taylor. Months earlier Rob Blake, the Kings captain, had resigned his 'C' as ongoing contract talks weren't to his liking. When a player of his caliber literally or figuratively asks for a trade publicly like that, the bargaining power of his current team is instantly weakened. (Fear not Blake lovers, this isn't an anti Rob rant, that's just an intelligent point of view.)

Such was the case facing Taylor on February 21st that year when he pulled off the Trade of the Decade for the Kings franchise. In a block-buster move he shipped Blake and Steve Reinprecht to Colorado for Adam Deadmarsh, Aaron Miller, two first round draft picks and prospect Jared Aulin.

The Kings franchise had a history of trading first round draft picks. Now, in the midst of jettisoning their captain to a conference rival they were ACQUIRING not one, but two first round picks. Shocking. But that wasn't all, the deal also included Miller, who had been a strong defenseman in the league for several years. In fact, it's been reported the Kings would only complete the trade if he was part of the package.

Then of course, there's the other guy - Adam Deadmarsh. In Deader they acquired a former number one draft pick with a Stanley Cup ring, a guy who was a consistent 20 goal scorer and had tons of international experience. Most of all, they picked up an elite power forward. Something the Kings had been lacking. Prior to this point, they never had that 5-tool player (a baseball reference just for Dean) that could change the game with his stick, a hit or his fists. There are only so many Roenicks, Iginlas and Doans to go around. Now the Kings had one.

The hockey world was stunned with what Taylor was able to accomplish. A fleecing of the highest order. One that earned him NHL Executive of the Year from the Hockey News.

And the timing? Rather than imploding a team when its' captain was traded, this was just the shot in the arm the Kings needed. They went on to upset Detroit in the first round and pushed Colorado to a 7th game of the second round.

Deader's tremendous efforts in the playoffs just weeks after first donning a Kings jersey will forever be what Kings fans remember most. He may have just been getting started though. He scored 29 goals the following season - his first full year in LA. Then, with optimism at nearly a ten year high, it all came crashing down 20 games into the third year. A series of concussions forced him out of the game far too early. Ah, what coulda been.

Second Place: Kelly Buchberger - Sure, it may be a bit off the board. But, let's go back to timing. When the Kings brought him in on March 13, 2000 they were hoping to win a playoff game in the months to come - something they hadn't done in seven long years. In KB they added a guy with grit and experience. Your talking about a guy that made his NHL debut in the Stanley Cup Finals! Look at the Kings roster they day before the trade - lots of talent, very short on proven winners. The Kings went on to make the playoffs all 3 years he was on the team and the leadership he brought to the Kings can't be understated.

Third place: Draft picks - Since I went trade on my first two selections, I have to give a tip of the hat to the draft picks that currently have stocked the entire franchise with a foundation for hope. Guys like Brown, Kopitar, Frolov, Doughty and Quick at the NHL level...on down to Schenn, Teubert, Voynov, Hickey and Bernier still to come. Like every other club, they haven't gotten them all right, but more picks from the last 10 years have worked out than at any point in franchise history. The Kings are working on something special and it's just about to bubble over.

The Mayor

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