Leafs need to start from scratch

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:21 PM ET

If Brian Burke really wants to build the Maple Leafs ­— and not by trading two first-round picks for a guy who has tons of talent but can’t score with regularity — following the model of the Los Angeles Kings might not be a bad idea.

No less than six members of the Kings, who were in sixth place in the Western Conference prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Maple Leafs, were drafted by the club in recent years.

Where the Leafs are a mess and are on their way to missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, the Kings stand a good chance of returning to the post-season for the first time since 2002.

“Having the same group of guys is a huge part of it,” said captain Dustin Brown, L.A.’s first pick in 2003. “We have been through the growing pains and you start building confidence in each other. Most of the guys have grown together.”

It’s not as though the Kings consistently finished last in the NHL and simply plucked the best prospect available. Defenceman Drew Doughty was a no-brainer in 2008 at No. 2, but Wayne Simmonds, who has 30 points in 47 games, was the 61st pick in 2007, goalie Jonathan Quick, a U.S. Olympian next month, was chosen 72nd in 2005 and even centre Anze Kopitar was not a sure thing when the Kings took him at No. 11 in 2005. Solid scouting has played a large role as the Kings try to leave their losing ways in the past.

There has not been a quick fix attempt in Hollywood, at least not since Dean Lombardi took over as general manager in 2006. Veterans such as Ryan Smyth, Sean O’Donnell and Rob Scuderi have brought wisdom to the dressing room, ensuring that the youngsters aren’t left to fend for themselves.

“You can see the plan Dean Lombardi put in place here,” Quick said. “It’s starting to work.”

Doughty should be a stud for years, but Kopitar is the jewel in the Kings’ crown up front. For the third consecutive year, Kopitar, the first Slovenian to skate in the NHL, is leading the club in scoring.

“He is becoming one of the better players in our league that nobody knows about,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “He can make any defenceman in the league look bad at any moment.”


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