Kings fire coach, GM; promote Robitaille to president, Blake to GM

Former LA Kings player and longtime executive Luc Robitaille (left) has been promoted to team president, while former defenseman Rob Blake is now vice president/GM.

The Los Angeles Kings on Monday fired coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi, who led the franchise to its only two Stanley Cup championships.

The Kings also promoted former defenseman Rob Blake to vice president and general manager, while longtime executive Luc Robitaille has been promoted to team president in charge of all hockey and business operations.

Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, but hasn't won a playoff round since.

"This was an extremely difficult decision and was made with an enormous amount of consideration for what we have accomplished in our past," said Dan Beckerman, the president of AEG, the sports conglomerate that owns the Kings. "But the present and future of our organization is the highest priority."

The Kings (39-35-8) missed the playoffs this spring for the second time in three years with their worst record since 2009. They finished 10th in the 14-team Western Conference, fading down the stretch with a team that struggled to keep up with faster, younger opponents.

The moves bring an emphatic end to the best era in the mostly ordinary franchise history of the Kings, a Second Six expansion franchise.

Since shortly after his playing career ended, Blake has been an assistant to Lombardi, who has run the Kings since April 2006. Lombardi built a Cup-winning franchise and then undermined it by handing out lucrative contracts to underachieving veterans, and most of his recent moves didn't pan out.

Robitaille has been in charge of the Kings' business operations for the past several years. Both Blake and Robitaille are Hall of Fame players.

"Words cannot express our gratitude and appreciation for what Dean and Darryl have accomplished for the Kings franchise," Beckerman said. "They built this team and helped lead us to two Stanley Cup Championships and will forever be remembered as all-time greats in Kings history. But with that level of accomplishment comes high expectations, and we have not met those expectations for the last three seasons. With the core players we have in place, we should be contending each year for the Stanley Cup. Our failure to meet these goals has led us to this change."

Sutter went 225-147-53 after taking over the Kings in December 2011 to reteam with Lombardi, his friend and former boss in San Jose.

Sutter immediately injected discipline and passion into an underachieving group, and the Kings shocked the hockey world by rampaging through the postseason as the eighth seed in the West, going 16-4 and winning the first Stanley Cup in their 45-year history.

The Kings made it all the way back to the Western Conference finals in 2013, losing a tough series to eventual champion Chicago. They won it all again in 2014, rallying back from a 3-0 series deficit against San Jose in the first round before storming to a second title.

But then the mediocre times started: In 2015, Los Angeles became the fourth team in NHL history to miss the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup. After a bounce-back season last year in which they lost the Pacific Division title in their 82nd game, the Kings were easily knocked out of the first round by the Sharks last spring.

The Kings never came together this season despite a wealth of top-end talent including Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Drew Doughty, All-Star forward Jeff Carter and captain Anze Kopitar.

Los Angeles' 201 goals were tied for the fifth-fewest in the NHL, and the Kings seemed ill-equipped to skate with many of the West's young, fast clubs. The Kings again were among the NHL's best defensive teams in front of Jonathan Quick, but they couldn't match the pace of the league's top teams, particularly California's other two NHL powerhouses and the young, fast Pacific Division rivals in Alberta.

With the active support of Lombardi, Sutter molded the Kings into a defense-first team focused on crisp puck possession and grinding play in the offensive end. His old-school approach ran against the modern NHL grain in many ways, but it turned the Kings into a postseason powerhouse that won an astonishing 10 playoff rounds in three seasons immediately after his arrival.

Sutter's approach hasn't produced enough regular-season success in the past three years to get Los Angeles to that postseason stage, however.

Although the 58-year-old Sutter is still very popular among Kings fans, the club finally decided it couldn't wait any longer to capitalize on the remaining years of its core's prime.
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