After hoisting their second Stanley Cup in three years, the Los Angeles Kings had their annus horribilis in 2014-15.
First came the arrest of Slava Voynov, who would eventually go to jail for domestic violence and whose future with the team remains unclear. A few months later, Jarret Stoll was arrested in Las Vegas for drug possession. And not long after that, Mike Richards’ contract was terminated, with word that he was part of a police investigation involving oxycodone.
On top of all that, the Kings missed the playoffs by four points.
Upon reflection, GM Dean Lombardi conceded that “clearly we could do more” when it came to educating players about the consequences of their actions.
“The Voynov thing, I walked down to Jeff Solomon’s office and said, ‘This is my fault,'” Lombardi said, per the L.A. Times. “We neglected to educate our players. We missed a big step here in trying to make sure they understand right and wrong and that this has to be reinforced, not only as a human being, as somebody who is representative of the community.”
That message was echoed recently by Kings executive Michael Futa, in an interview with Yahoo Sports.
“I think it’s just re-educating and reminding them how important it is that when you leave the rink that same professionalism you bring to the ice has to stay in tact, no matter what you make or who you are or some of the special treatments you might get,” Futa said. “It’s a privilege to be an NHL player, not a right. And you can’t abuse that privilege.”
But that’s just the off-ice stuff. For Lombardi, the pressure is two-fold. Not only do his players have to stay out of trouble, they have to get back into the playoffs.
“Well, this time there’s no excuse,” Lombardi told NHL.com. “It’s a marvelous opportunity for our top players to take over that room, and they start by doing that, becoming the best they can be, and I think they will. There’s no doubt in my mind what guys like Kopitar and (Jonathan) Quick and (Drew) Doughty stand for, and hopefully this is an awakening. It’s no fun watching the playoffs. In the long run, we could benefit from this.”
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