The Kings have grown accustomed to seeing a beloved former player from their Stanley Cup runs return — Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi come to mind. But center Jarret Stoll was part of the team’s leadership core, its emotional fabric.
Seeing Stoll in a Minnesota Wild uniform on Thursday night at Staples Center will take some getting used to, for all concerned.
“It will be fun. It will be weird,” Stoll said Wednesday after the Wild’s morning skate in Anaheim before facing the Ducks.
“Seeing the other side of it — going into the visitor’s dressing room. Going to the visiting bench, or warmups on the other side. Stuff like that was so routine, ritual kind of stuff.”
Stoll scored the series-clinching goal in overtime against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs during the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2012, and also was part of the 2014 championship team. He was arrested shortly after last season in Las Vegas and faced a felony count of drug possession, which was later reduced to two misdemeanors. He had six goals and 17 points in 73 games for the Kings last season.
Stoll signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent in the summer and was picked up by the Wild on waivers in December. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter has stayed in touch with Stoll and texted him after he moved to Minnesota. Stoll scored his first goal for Minnesota against the Ducks and has two points in 17 games with the Wild. He had one goal and three points in 29 games with the Rangers.
Even though the Kings were able to keep their core together longer than some title teams, it was inevitable that the pieces would have to change, especially in a salary-cap era.
“It’s not easy to see people go,” captain Dustin Brown said. “But it is what it is. You kind of get used to it. The longer you’ve been in the league you understand that guys move around.”
Sutter said of Stoll, “It’ll be good to see him.”
There was an extraordinary bond between Stoll and his Kings teammates. He said he couldn’t say “anything negative” about his seven seasons in Los Angeles.
Stoll also reflected on how Sutter could get the most out of his players and said he wasn’t surprised the Kings have been able to hit the “reset button” this season.
“I loved him. He was great … he got the most out of me,” Stoll said. “That’s how you win. Was he hard at times? Yeah. But you need that. Every team needs that.
“You’ve got to have a coach that you want to play for. You feel bad if you make a mistake. You feel bad if you have a bad game. You don’t just feel bad for your teammates and the players you’re playing for, but your coaching staff. That’s the way I think we all felt. When you win with someone like that, it means a lot.”
One of the early trades in the tenure of General Manager Dean Lombardi was his move to acquire Stoll and defenseman Matt Greene from the Edmonton Oilers in 2008. The deal signaled a new era for the Kings.
“It was probably the start of a lot of the good things we’ve done over the last few years,” Brown said. “He was a big part of our team for a long time.”
Said Stoll: “You play to play in big games and win the Stanley Cup. We were fortunate enough to do all those things, have great teams, have great fan support; sold out Staples Center every game. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
KINGS VS. MINNESOTA
When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790
Update: Wild Coach Mike Yeo told reporters that he is leaning toward having goalie Darcy Kuemper get the start against the Kings.
Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa
Correspondent Curtis Zupke contributed to this report