LOS ANGELES — In the previous installment in this series on former Los Angeles Kings legendary right wing Dave Taylor, he shared his memories of how everything changed for the Kings when they acquired The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, in August 1988.
Then came the 1992-93 season.
That year began rather ominously, when they learned in training camp that Gretzky had suffered a herniated thoracic disc in his back, and would be sidelined for an extended period. Despite that, they started the season with a bang, going 20-8-3 in their first 31 games.
But then, the bottom fell out.
Right after their hot start, the Kings went into a horrendous nose dive. Then-General Manager Nick Beverley made a surprise move to shake things up, sending then-future Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey, along with forwards Jim Hiller and Sylvain Couturier, to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for center Jimmy Carson, a former Kings player, along with checking forwards Gary Shuchuk and Marc Potvin, on January 29, 1993.
In the deal, the majority of the skill and skating ability headed to Detroit in what seemed like a very lopsided trade. But the deal changed the character of the Kings, giving them quite the shake-up.
“We also had a lot of injuries over the course of the year,” said Taylor. “I know I missed a bunch of time, too. Gretz was out. Tomas Sandstrom always seemed to miss some time.”
As Taylor alluded to, the Kings were able to right the ship, and then, Gretzky returned earlier than expected, breathing new life into the team.
“Down the stretch, we got it back again, and in the playoffs, we were a dangerous team,” said Taylor.
“Gretz missed a big stretch of time, but that turned out to be a blessing, because when we got to the playoffs, he was fresh, and had good jump,” Taylor added. “That was probably his best playoffs with the Kings that year.”
The Kings scored 33 goals in six games to advance past the Calgary Flames in the first round. That set up a second round series against the Vancouver Canucks, who seemed to have the Kings number that season. But that was the back story for some heroics coming from a very unlikely source.
“To get back into Vancouver, in a tight series—to have success in round 2, that was great,” said Taylor. “Gary Shuchuk scored that big goal in double overtime in Game 6.”
The 1993 Campbell Conference Final was an epic, seven-game series for the ages against the Toronto Maple Leafs..
“It was a war, a great series,” Taylor reminisced. “Both teams had some toughness, it was physical and competitive. Both goalies were good.”
“We had a lot stacked against us, but I felt that we were just as good as the Maple Leafs, and that we had a really good chance to win that series,” Taylor added. “I think all of Canada wanted a Toronto-Montreal [Stanley Cup] Final. It hadn’t happened in years, and it hasn’t happened since. We had an entire country rooting against us. But we were a good team, and we were playing well, at the time.”
Taylor noted that, being fresher for the playoffs after starting his season much later than usual, made Gretzky better in the playoffs.
“I always thought that the first year he was here, he was outstanding,” he observed. “He was unbelievable, game after game after game. It was just amazing to watch him play. I wouldn’t say his game faltered, but it wasn’t at quite the same level in [subsequent] years. But in the 1993 playoffs, he was awfully good.”
“As talented as he was, he was competitive,” he added. “That’s probably his greates trait. If we were winning, 6-1, he wanted to make it 7-1. There was no let up in him. He wanted to win at everything.”
Then, Gretzky put the Kings on his back in Game 7, and this came after scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the Kings past the Maple Leafs, 5-4, avoiding elimination.
In Game 7, Gretzky scored the hat trick, including the game-winning goal, with a little backhand in which it appeared that he might have been trying to bank the puck in off of Toronto defenseman Dave Ellett’s left skate [because he appeared to know that no teammates were in front to receive a pass].
“We went in and played a good game, and got some timely goals,” Taylor noted. “On the goal that turned out to be the game-winner, Gretz took the puck behind the Toronto net. [He backhanded the puck in front, and] it went in off of Ellett’s skate. That gave us a two-goal lead, but they came back and scored shortly after.”
Indeed, the Maple Leafs weren’t done just yet, with Ellett scoring less than two minutes later.
After that, the Kings just had to hold on…
“I was on the ice in the last minute,” said Taylor. “They had the puck in our end, and we were, sort of, containing them, keeping them on the outside. But they had the puck in our zone for [nearly] the entire final minute.”
“We never had possession until we chipped the puck out of our zone,” added Taylor. “It went around the [left wing] boards and out over the blue line, at that point, I knew that time was going to run out.”
During that game, there was a rather humorous moment that could have been very costly for the Kings. In the third period, with the game on the line, Kings forward Jari Kurri had the puck behind the net and he threw a centering pass to a wide open Taylor in front of the net. Taylor had a gaping net to shoot at with Canadiens superstar goaltender Patrick Roy down and out, but he missed the net from point-blank range by a wide margin..it wasn’t even close.
“I don’t know how I missed that,” Taylor said, chuckling. “I thought it was in. I didn’t get good wood on that one. [Retired ‘Voice of the Kings’ Bob Miller said to me, ‘Oh my God, if we had lost that game, I had, in the back of my mind, you missing that great chance.’”
What was humorous about that play was that as he skated past Taylor during the next stoppage in play, Kurri was absolutelu incredulous. When he looked at Taylor, he didn’t say a word, but he had that “what the…how did you miss THAT,” disgusted look, which was broadcast on television.
Fortunately for Taylor and the Kings, that botched play didn’t hurt them.
“I wasn’t surprised that we won Game 7 up there, because I knew that we were going to show up and compete,” he said. “It’s probably harder for the home team in the seventh game, because all of the pressure is on them. We played a really good game.”
For the first time in what was then the 25-year history of the franchise, the Kings were going to play for the Stanley Cup.
“It was my 16th year in the league, and finally, we were going to the Stanley Cup Final,” Taylor recalled. “It was really exciting. But you always wanted to be business-like. ‘OK, this series is over. Let’s get ready and get focus the next one. We have a chance to win the Stanley Cup, so let’s get ready for that.’”
“We had a lot of travel in the playoffs that year,” Taylor added. “We played all Canadian teams. Six games with Calgary, six with Vancouver, and seven against Toronto. Lots of lengthy flights. Montreal was well-rested. But we beat them almost easily in Game 1.”
Indeed, the Patrick Roy-led Montreal Canadiens were rested…too well-rested, and they were rusty in Game 1. But the rust disappeared quickly. They went on to win three straight overtime games, and had an easy time with the dejected Kings in Game 5 to win the Stanley Cup.
In remembering his experiences in the 1993 playoffs, other than being injured in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, as he mentioned earlier, he only had positive thoughts.
“The highlight of my career was the opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup,” he noted.
In the next installment of this series, we’ll look at Taylor retiring, as a player, and moving into the Kings front office. Stay tuned.
LEAD PHOTO: Former Los Angeles Kings great (and former general manager) and current Vice President of Hockey Operations for the St. Louis Blues Dave Taylor, shown here during the on-ice celebration following the Blues winning the Stanley Cup on June 12, 2019 at TD Garden in Boston. Photos courtesy Dave Taylor Family Collection.
Frozen Royalty’s Dave Taylor Coverage
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- Another Big Break Helped Dave Taylor Secure His Spot with the LA Kings
- >Dave Taylor Was the Heart and Soul of the LA Kings Triple Crown Line
- Former LA Kings Star RW Dave Taylor: Sky-High Character On and Off the Ice
- Former LA Kings Star RW Dave Taylor’s Biggest Challenge Had Little to do with Hocke
- LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Reminisces About The Miracle on Manchester
- LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Looks Back at the Gretzky Trade
- LA Kings Legend Dave Taylor Reflects on Retirement and Time as General Manager
- Should LA Kings Star Right Wing Dave Taylor Be In the Hockey Hall of Fame?
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