LOS ANGELES — Coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi were the Los Angeles Kings’ leaders during the best years of the franchise’s mostly ordinary history.
When they couldn’t replicate that success over the past three seasons, not even their Stanley Cup pedigree could keep their jobs secure.
The Kings fired Sutter and Lombardi on Monday, abruptly dropping the duo that led the franchise to its only two NHL championships.
The Kings promoted former defenceman Rob Blake to vice-president and general manager after four years as Lombardi’s assistant. Longtime team executive Luc Robitaille was promoted to president in charge of all hockey and business operations.
The moves bring an emphatic end to a remarkable era for the Kings, a Second Six expansion franchise. Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, but has won only one playoff game since.
Sutter is the winningest coach in Kings history at 225-147-53, while Lombardi is the winningest and longest-serving GM in franchise history.
“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 season for the second time in three years, posting their worst record since 2009 despite top-end talent including Norris Trophy-winning defenceman Drew Doughty, All-Star forward Jeff Carter and captain Anze Kopitar.
Los Angeles finished 10th in the 14-team Western Conference, fading down the stretch with a team that struggled to keep up with faster, younger opponents.
Sutter, the stoic Canadian farmer, is still popular among most Kings fans. The club finally decided it couldn’t wait any longer to capitalize on the remaining years of its core’s prime.
“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.”
The Kings made the Stanley Cup Final just once in their first 44 years of existence before Sutter and Lombardi created a team that won 10 playoff rounds and two titles in three incredible seasons.
Lombardi patiently rebuilt the franchise after taking over in April 2006, but then undermined it by handing out lucrative long-term contracts to fading veterans.
The former lawyer also made several disappointing acquisitions at the expense of his player development system in a win-now attempt to keep open his core’s championship window.