Dave Taylor is a legend to Kings fans. Everything he has done in his professional career has been done with a drive and work ethic that have made him a successful forward in the NHL for 17 seasons and now the General Manager of his beloved Kings. How has he done? It’s hard to day. You would have to compare him to his predecessor, Sam “the Disaster” McMaster.
The Disaster was forced out in 1997. Kings fans everywhere, including yours truly, called for his head and wanted our fair-haired boy DT to take over after his three year apprenticeship under the Disaster. DT was the most appealing choice to succeed the Disaster because of his lifelong dedication to the Kings. Kings fans were elated- not only to have DT as the GM, but to have the Disaster out of the organization. Well Kings fans, I have some bad news. We would not be enjoying the limited success we have if Sam was not the previous GM.
This fact came to me as I prepared to research the premise that DT has saved a franchise that the Disaster had ruined. The more I looked, the more these facts stood out to me. Firstly, Dave drafts in a similar fashion as the Disaster. Sam had alot of downside but he knew talent and made some great moves while at the helm. Trades like Eddie Olzcyk for Glen Murray and Marty, Jari and Shane Churla for Lappy, Norstrom, Lafayette and Ferraro were great moves that are paying off for the Kings now. Trades like Zhitnik for Fuhr and Boucher, the Gretzky trade and sending Luc away were moves that were so visible that they eventually cost him his job. A trade that McMaster will be forever vilified for is the Sydor for Zmolek and Churla move. Sydor is a top defenseman, Churla is out of hockey and Zmolek is with Chicago. This is another move that looks worse than it was. Any Kings fan could tell you that Sydor was a mess here and needed to go. As a Kings fan I would have traded Sydor for a roll of toilet paper just to get rid of him. He never would have prospered in LA, and the Kings were able to make the New York trade (Lappy and Norstrom) with Churla and got a fourth round pick for Zmolek. Players like Aki Berg, Jamie Storr, Pavel Rose, Josh Green, Matt Johnson and Pavel Rosa were also property of the Disaster. He made some solid later round picks like Kai Nurminen in the sixth round(he was a solid contributor until Eric Lindros laid him out), Nemecek in the 9th round, Rosa in the third round and Eric Belanger in the fourth. The bottom line is that he never drafted a superstar and botched huge trades. The caveat to that is that he was under terrible ownership and was working with a sinking ship he inherited from Nick Beverly.
Perhaps the trading failures that McMaster suffered have lead to DT being a little gun-shy. Before the Palffy trade, Taylor hadn’t done much. His move for Audette gave the Kings a solid second line winger who can score and signing Galley seems to have been a good move. DT also has the failures of Duchesne and the Perreault trade on his ledger as well, but these moves dealt unpopular players and did not have the visibility of many of Sam’s greater blunders.
DT has had some good drafts and seems to use a similar philosophy that the Disaster used. Olli Jokinen and Mathieu Biron are effective NHL players right now and were keys to get Palffy and Smolinksi. Richard Seeley and Jason Crain are potentially solid blueliners and Frankie Kaberle in the third round was a steal. Justin Papineau, Alexei Volkov, Joe Rullier, Andrei Shefer and Scott Barney (pending health) all seem like potential impact players in the Kings system. The most amazing thing is that not one of the aforementioned players was a first round pick. Other potential NHL’ers like Corey Campbell, Kip Brennan, Kevin Baker and Brian McGratten were DT selections. Taylor has missed on a few picks like Matt Zultek in round 1 of 1997 (he re-entered the draft and is now Boston property) and Joe Corvo in round 4 of 1997 who are out of the organization. Dave will almost certainly be judged by his next move. How will he deal with expansion? Which goalie will he keep and what will it cost him to keep both goalies? What about Aki Berg? What about toughness? The Kings need to make a move of some sort to bolster themselves for a playoff run and that may well be what takes DT to legend or disaster status.
The bottom line? The Disaster may have lived up to that moniker, but the Kings’ success has clear traces to his reign. If Dave Taylor has success as GM it will because he garners the respect that the Disaster couldn’t (having never played the game) because their styles are similar. Here’s hoping DT’s next move earns him a better nickname.