July 13, 2013

Dave Taylor

No player in the long history of the Los Angeles Kings has worn the uniform with most class than Dave Taylor. For 17 seasons Taylor gave his all on and off the ice and is regarded as one of Hollywood's greatest, albeit quietest, sporting heroes.

Taylor turned out to be the steal of the 1975 entry draft as he was drafted in the 15th round. He was relatively unknown as he played with little known Clarkson University (he still holds all the scoring records there) in a time when it was very rare for university players to make the NHL. Oh, and he successfully earned his bachelor of science in industrial management in 1977, by the way.

Through hard work and gritty effort, Taylor never needed to fall back on his education as he managed to make the Kings and became the ultimate compliment to the greatest King ever, Marcel Dionne. With Dionne's incredibly wizardry, Taylor's career blossomed from a regular player to a first line star. Combined with left winger Charlie Simmer, the trio was known as the Triple Crown line.

A fearsome body checker, Taylor became an almost as fearsome scorer, though highly underrated. Most people tend to pass off Taylor's offensive record as by-product of playing with Marcel Dionne, but in reality Taylor was a gift offensive player in his own right.

He was an excellent skater, agile for a big man and making up whatever he lacked in breakout speed with his incredible balance that made him almost impossible to knock down. He had great anticipation and opportunistic hands, able to work with Dionne as if the two were born to play with one another. In fact, Taylor was as much of an influence on Dionne's success as Dionne was on his.

The heart of his game was grinding up and down the right wall and in the corners. He would do the dirty work for his linemates, and often also act as their defensive conscience. He patrolled his wing with great strength and tenacity. Though big and strong, he was not much of a fighter. Though he dropped the gloves when he had to, he is probably best remembered for flattening Wayne Gretzky when he was still with the Oilers.

No hard feelings would linger from that incident. Of course Gretzky would leave Edmonton and come to Los Angeles in 1998. Taylor showed what a great leader and a selfless team player he was. It was Taylor who insisted that Gretzky wear the "C" of the team captain on his jersey.

Though he was generally underrated by observers around the league, the L.A. fans adored Taylor. He took home many team awards, including team MVP and most popular player, and represented the Kings in 5 NHL all star games. He was given the ultimate sporting thank you when he had his number 18 retired to the rafters of the Great Western Forum along side Marcel Dionne and Rogie Vachon.

He also won the Bill Masterton and King Clancy awards in 1991, after years of tirelessly working towards charity and community endevors. The highly respected Taylor was very proud of these two significant NHL honors.

In his career he tallied 431 goals and 1069 points. He played in 1,111 career games, all with the Kings. Needless to say that is a team record he is very proud of.

Taylor retired and stepped into management, serving as the long time Kings GM (1997-2006) before moving on to the Dallas Stars organization.

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