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Old 03-08-2008, 10:44 AM   #223
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Default It's time for Kings' owner to pass puck


Enough already.

Enough bluster. Enough talk of a different future.

Enough mediocre/simply bad hockey.

It is time for Philip Anschutz to sell the Kings. Time to wave goodbye.


It has been 13 years of failure for the Kings under Anschutz. Thirteen years with one playoff series victory. Thirteen years of pained, absentee ownership.

Devoted Kings fans deserve better. The Kings deserve better. A lot better.

They don't deserve another year of watching the playoffs go by. They certainly don't deserve this horrific season, in which their only claim is: worst team in the NHL.

Anschutz would have a lot to answer for when it comes to the Kings, except he doesn't speak about his team. Our Garbo doesn't speak publicly at all.

Billionaire Phil is a veritable recluse living in Colorado, running an international empire that's believed to include more than 100 companies.

If the Kings are more than some toy, more than an anchor for his Staples Center and downtown development, he should say so. Better, he should prove it.

But he hasn't, and he won't.

He has the country's largest cattle and farm property, its largest theater chain, largest oil fields, a railroad, a telecommunications firm, arenas in London and Berlin and Kansas City, a movie production company, newspapers and Celine Dion to worry about.

It's not like he hasn't done wonders for Los Angeles, and vice
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versa, but when it comes to the Kings, his commitment simply isn't there.

He'll bring in David Beckham for his Galaxy. Build "L.A. Live" and the Home Depot Center. All while the Kings flounder, again. While the organization rebuilds again and gamely speaks of better days to come.

Only it has been 13 years of talk, of letdowns and failed promises.

Time to sell the team to somebody whose focus is not spread so thin. Who is less concerned with running the world than winning an NHL championship.

Disney was another world-wide company that owned and failed at running a hockey team. They sold the Ducks to Henry and Susan Samueli in 2005, and two years later Anaheim hoisted the Stanley Cup.

It's not like it can't be done. The Kings need someone less fractured and more involved, need an owner whose connection goes beyond some weekly report and approval of expenditures.

Kings fans are among the most loyal in all of L.A. sports. Their overall numbers don't compare to Lakers and Dodgers fans, but their devotion is unquestioned.

Actually, it's incredible.

Despite the Kings owning the worst point total in the NHL, fans continue to flock to Staples. Continue to show up at the rate of more than 16,000 per game. Continue to support the NHL's most feeble brand of hockey.

Two years ago, this culture of losing was supposed to all change. The NHL finally adopted the salary cap that the team's then-president, Tim Leiweke, had long championed.

No longer would the New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings outspend everyone else on the way to titles. It was an even playing field.

Leiweke announced it was a new day, and fired almost everyone of significance in the organization, including - sort of - himself.

"We've had one playoff win in 10 years," Leiweke said then. "Ownership is angry. We're tired of losing and want to win."

Two years later, they must be in a real rage.

Two years later, they plead patience. Leiweke's new president, Dean Lombardi, arrived with a reputation of being an astute observer of young talent and a keen drafter.

And Lombardi has drafted well, built a promising core for the future. The veterans he signed to complement that youth have not been as successful, but he has pretty much done what he was hired to do.

"My biggest point after taking the job was to get the infrastructure in place to turn this around," Lombardi said. "It takes resources for proper scouting and development. Just like in baseball.

"It all takes some time to get up and running. He (Anschutz) has given me the resources. And that's all you can ask for."

For his part, there is no doubt Leiweke - the team's main face during these Anschutz years - is passionate about the Kings. But he's running about half of the Anschutz empire through AEG and recognized he could not give the Kings the time deserved when he hired Lombardi.

Meanwhile, Billionaire Phil remains on his ranch and the Kings continue to stumble. They haven't made the playoffs since 2002, and of course, won't this year either.

Leiweke recently admitted AEG had done a poor job with the Kings, but that's a revelation? He promised in two years they would have a good team, and where have we heard that before?

I asked to speak to Anschutz for this column and was told it wouldn't happen. No surprise.

I asked to speak to Leiweke and was told he was out of town. No surprise there, either. Poor Lombardi had to speak for the organization, and he has been around for less than two years.

Anschutz has owned the Kings, though he hasn't been around, for 13 years. That's long enough.

That's a track record of losing. It's indisputable. It should be as obvious to Leiweke as it is to every clear-thinking Kings fan.

Anschutz is not what is best for the Kings. Los Angeles - and the NHL - deserve a winning franchise here. Deserve an owner whose focus is on his team.

The puck stops with Anschutz, and it's time he passed it on.
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