20, 19, 18, 17, 16 Days to Go: Playing the Retired Number Game
Which current Kings will see their numbers raised to the rafters?
Our countdown to the 2016-17 season continues, with 16 days to go... consider this one a combined post to cover the last few days.
The Los Angeles Kings have retired six numbers in their history. The first was Rogie Vachon, the most recent was Rob Blake, and the most notable was Wayne Gretzky. In between those, the Kings took 20, 18, and 16 out of circulation, for Luc Robitaille, Dave Taylor, and Marcel Dionne (respectively). In general, you either have to be a Hall of Famer or a faithful servant to get your number retired by a franchise, and those three fit one or both criteria.
Sometimes it’s fun to look towards the distant future, so let’s try it: which current Kings have the best chance of joining the club? We’re going to follow the criteria set for us by our four forwards, one defenseman, and one goaltender.
Obviously, for the forwards, anyone who even sniffs the accomplishments of Marcel Dionne (550 goals, 1307 points in 921 games with LA) or Luc Robitaille (557 goals, 1154 points in 1077 games with LA) gets their number hanging from the rafters at Staples. If you’re Wayne, your number gets retired leaguewide. So Dave Taylor’s case is the most instructive; he isn’t a Hall of Famer, but he racked up over 1,000 points in over 1,000 games with the Kings. However, he did a lot of it during the 1980s, when scoring was at its highest. Relative performance might be a better guide; Taylor was in the top 25 in scoring between 1980-81 and 1989-90, and was #10 on the scoring list among players who did it all for one team. Let’s take all that into account for...
ANZE KOPITAR: Over the last decade, Kopitar is tenth in the NHL in points, and eighth among one-franchise players. By the scoring criteria, he’s probably done enough, especially given that he’s led the team in scoring nine times. Now factor in the two Cups and the captaincy and the puppy and the international heroics. He’ll be the last #11 for the Kings.
DUSTIN BROWN: Hairier. Over Brown’s first decade in the NHL he scored 415 points, a respectable total that nonetheless was 78th-best over that span. He was top-50 in goals, though. He also made only one All-Star Game to Taylor’s four, but it’s a lot tougher to make one of those now. He does better when judged against the franchise’s history, though; tenth in points, ninth in goals, and fourth in games played. The three guys ahead of him in GP? 20, 18, and 16. My gut says #23 will be retired, but a bounce back season wouldn’t hurt.
OTHER GUYS: 20, 18, and 16 are also the only Kings forwards to top 400 goals and 300 even strength goals. That’s a really tough mark to hit, considering Kopitar only has 243 and 158 in his career. In this era, let’s say 300 total goals would do the trick. Jeff Carter’s got 111 in the equivalent of four full seasons. Tyler Toffoli has 68 in the equivalent of three. They’d both need another 8-10 years to hit that mark, so we’re not even going to try to guess where that leads. (Tyler, I think you should re-sign. Just so you know.) Another point of comparison: 20, 18, and 16 all made four or more All-Star Games. Carter;s got one, Toffoli zero.
If we’re talking defensemen, it’s easier to make the apples-to-apples comparison, as Rob Blake played in a more modern era. DREW DOUGHTY caught up to Blake in Norris Trophies and has surpassed him in Cups, and he only needs 199 games and 176 points to match Blake’s franchise marks for defensemen. He’s locked into a jersey retirement once he does that. After all, that was the case for JONATHAN QUICK, who dominates LA’s positional record book. He’s a shoo-in.
So the current iteration of the Los Angeles Kings will probably get the squad to nine retired numbers, with an outside shot at ten. Only two teams have retired nine or more numbers, three if you count Toronto and their myriad “honoured numbers.” But I guess fifty years of history can get you at least nine truly distinguished players.