The papers were unkind to Jack Kent Cooke. He’d drafted a bunch of unknowns and drawn the ire of Toronto. That aside, how did he do?
As with Philadelphia, Jack Kent Cooke and his Los Angeles Kings purchased an independent AHL team (Springfield Indians) from Eddie Shore (please don’t ask me to write about him, this is going to be a long entry as it is). And as with Philadelphia, the payoff in players was extreme. Los Angeles–in purchasing the Indians–landed the following:
- Bill White (photo): Saved from the minor leagues by the 1967 expansion, White would deliver stunning seasons for the Kings and then Chicago.
- Dale Rolfe: Rangy defender had a similar resurgence, playing NHL hockey well into the 1970s and gaining fame on some very good NYR teams of the era.
- Barclay Plager: Although the Kings would trade him almost immediately, Plager would go on to a strong career with the St. Louis Blues.
That’s just three of many role players acquired by the Kings before the draft. Cooke would also purchase the Seattle Totems (WHL pro league) in July, meaning that at point of entry the Kings had more pro players than any other expansion club. Hell, they probably had more than Chicago!
The Kings drafted Terry Sawchuk (cover photo) in round one of the goalie draft–first overall–and he was the most famous available goalie that day. Long in the tooth and three years from retirement (and death, as it turned out), Sawchuk would play only 57 more NHL games. Wayne Rutledge (in photo above) would play 82 NHL games and followed that with a very successful WHA career.
EDDIE JOYAL (#16)
- Gord Labossiere (199)
- Bob Wall (282)
- Eddie Joyal (355)
- Real Lemieux (455)
- Poul Popiel (221)
- Terry Gray (101)
- Bryan Campbell (260)
- Ted Irvine (723)
- Howie Hughes (168)
- Bill Inglis (36)
- Doug Robinson (126)
- Mike Corrigan (594)
- Jacques Lemieux (19)
- Lowell MacDonald (460)
- Ken Block (1)
- Bill Flett (689)
- Brent Hughes (435)
- Marc Dufour (2)
5,126–a larger number than Philadelphia–and a very nice group of young players. The Kings drafted in a similar way to the Flyers, going with young pro’s who could play. The group with real talent–I’d count Wall, Joyal, Lemieux, Popiel, Irvine, Corrigan, MacDonald, Flett and Hughes–would have quality careers and many would play in the WHA as stars (Popiel an example). The Kings traded a lot of these guys away before they could help them win a thing, but more on that later.
As good as some of those names are–Lowell MacDonald had some outstanding seasons–Bill White was the best expansion King and they never drafted him. Jack Kent Cooke did a lot of good things along with his management group–Larry Regan and coach Red Kelly–but everything was a soap opera.
Montreal Gazette, June 7 1967-
- Don’t invite Punch Imlach and Jack Kent Cooke under the same apple tree. Red Kelly yes, but not JK Cooke. Punch hates to lose veteran hockey players–particularly the aging standbys that won him four Stanley Cups in six years–but he’s annoyed because he didn’t lose one yesterday. In fact, Punch was so annoyed that he decided to retain the player–Red Kelly–himself.
- “They had a chance to take Red for 10 straight shots!” Imlach fumed. “But that guy just kept sitting there. Maybe he can cook up deals with his own league but not with me. I’m okay with Kelly, my beef is with that guy (Cooke) who runs it. The only way to get Kelly was to draft him but he wouldn’t. He was the best hockey player in the whole draft, and look at some of the jerks he drafted!”
- “I don’t want Kelly to get the raw end of the deal,” Imlach continued. “He’s in the clear but I just don’t want to get dirtied on.”
It was a major story for a day, but the Leafs finally settled on Ken Block, taken on the 17th round of the 20 round draft.
As I see it, the original Los Angeles Kings did a lot of things right. They made the playoffs early, had an exciting young team and looked to be heading in a good direction. Their problems were:
- not getting outstanding value in trade. Acquiring Juha Widing was a fine thing, but giving up Ted Irvine (probably a little better player overall) didn’t advance the cause.
- Trading their 1st and 2nd round picks. The Kings didn’t have a first round pick in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978. Put another way, from the beginning of the universal draft in 1969 through Edmonton’s admission into the NHL in 1979, Los Angeles had exactly one first round pick–Tim Young in 1975. Oh, by the way, Young never played for the Kings. Why?
Shortly after taking Young in the 1975 draft, Los Angeles signed Marcel Dionne. The move upset Young, who felt Dionne’s addition would jeopardize his ability to earn a roster spot. Young requested that Los Angeles trade him, and less than two months after the draft, the Kings obliged Young by sending him to Minnesota in exchange for a 1976 second-round pick (Steve Clippingdale) on August 15, 1975.
A look at the expansion Kings without a mention of Rogie Vachon would be a shame. What a wonderful goaltender, and LA won 9 playoff games with Vachon tending goal in 1975, 1976 and 1977. That is perhaps the most impressive total from the first 10 seasons in franchise history, considering the LA Kings won 18 total during the seasons 67-68 through 76-77. Most of the wins before Rogie came in the first two seasons of expansion against extremely weak opponents.
In many ways, the story of the Los Angeles Kings begins with Rogie Vachon.
WHERE DID THE DRAFT PICKS GO?
Where in CHRIST do you think? Here we go:
- May 20, 1968: Boston traded C Skip Krake to Los Angeles by Boston for Los Angeles’ 1st round choice (Reggie Leach) in 1970 Amateur Draft.
- June 11, 1968: Montreal traded Gerry Desjardins to Los Angeles by Montreal for Los Angeles’ 1st round choices in 1969 (later traded to Minnesota – Minnesota selected Dick Redmond) and 1972 (Steve Shutt) Amateur Draft.
- May 14, 1969: Boston traded L Ross Lonsberry and L Eddie Shack to Los Angeles for Ken Turlik and Los Angeles’ 1st round choice in the 1971 (Ron Jones) and 1973 (Andre Savard) Amateur Drafts.
- November 4, 1971: Montreal traded G Rogie Vachon to Los Angeles for G Denis DeJordy, D Dale Hoganson, L Doug Robinson, D Noel Price and the option to switch picks in 1975 draft (exercised, Montreal chose C Pierre Mondou, Los Angeles choosing C Tim Young with the next selection).
- August 22, 1972: Montreal trades D Terry Harper to Los Angeles for their 2nd rd pick in 1974 (Gary MacGregor), 3rd rd choice in 1975 (Paul Woods) and 1st rd pick in 1976 (Rod Schutt).
- May 29, 1973: Montreal trades D Bob Murdoch and Randy Rota to Los Angeles for their 1st round choice (Mario Tremblay) in 1974 Amateur Draft and cash.
- Februrary 15, 1974: NY Rangers trade C Gene Carr to Los Angeles for their 1st rd pick in the 1977 draft (Ron Duguay).
- June 12, 1976: Montreal trades R Glenn Goldup to Los Angeles for their 1st rd pick in 1978 draft (Danny Geoffrion) and 3rd rd choice in 1977 (D Moe Robinson, Larry’s brother). LA also receives 1978 3rd rd pick (which they later traded).
Lordy. Up next: singing the blues.