And FINALLY, for the first time ever, JD Stylz, aka, Jeff Duarte is writing for HockeyRoyalty.com to talk about our beloved Los Angeles Kings! Plus, this is the first article I have written in almost a full year. So, here’s a big thank you to Ryan Sikes for giving me this fun opportunity to write here and work with some very talented and knowledgeable LA Kings‘ writers and readers!
To celebrate my return to the LA Kings’ sports journalism (*cough* storytelling *cough*) scene, and to shake off some serious rust, I thought I’d start things off here at Hockey Royalty with a fun new monthly column called, “Remember These Los Angeles Kings???”, where I will select a random player or players that most people have forgotten had played with the LA Kings, or had been with the Kings in some capacity.
Whether they played only a few games, stayed for a few years, or were drafted, signed, traded for; or picked up, but never got near the ice at the Staples Center and/or The (Great Western) Forum as a Los Angeles Kings’ player, they will be on my radar.
I promise that no forgotten player will be safe, so without further ado, let’s get this party started with a player that was also the first goalie I got as a hockey card when I was a kid: Sean Burke.
Born in Windsor, ON, Canada, on January 29, 1967, Sean Burke was best known for playing between the pipes for the New Jersey Devils, Hartford Whalers (remember them?), and the Phoenix (now Arizona) Coyotes.
As well, Burke was known for leading the Canadian National team to an IIHF World Championship Gold Medal in 1997 and again in 2003, but the latter as Roberto Luongo‘s back-up (though Burke had better stats than Lu did).
As a rookie goaltender, Burke led the Devil’s to the 1988 Wales Conference Final (remember that conference??), before losing Game 7 to the Boston Bruins. In 2002, as a Coyote, Burke was nominated for both the Hart and Vezina Memorial Trophies.
By the time Burke joined the Kings in 2007, after being picked up through the re-entry waiver, he was at the end of the road for his playing career. In fact, his short time with the Kings would become the final year of his career.
The 2006-07 Los Angeles Kings were definitely NOT a pretty sight — especially in net. Not joining the team until January of ’07, Burke became the fifth goalie the Kings were trying out in net that year. Remember this was the year after the (painfully) EPIC COLLAPSE of the 2005-06 season, where the Kings were near the top of the Western Conference (remember that Conference???) in December, but then fell into a sinkhole, ending the season disastrously right out of a playoff spot by just seven points.
Long-time head coach Andy Murray (who was fired with only 12 games left in the season and temporarily replaced by coach John Torchetti, now wait for it …. remember him???? I know I wish I didn’t). General manager/LA Kings’ legend Dave Taylor paid the price and was let go.
To replace them was the 1995 Jack Adams Trophy-winning coach Marc Crawford (best known for winning the Stanley Cup as head coach of the STACKED 1996 Colorado Avalanche) and former San Jose Sharks GM Dean Lombardi.
With Lombardi now running things, the LA Kings were officially in a rebuild mode (more like rebuilding into a two-time Stanley Cup Champion mode, am I right?), and he hoped that trading for goaltender Dan Cloutier (more on him in future articles), who had some very strong seasons with the Vancouver Canucks with Crawford as his coach, would provide a strong presence in net and a healthy start for a team that wasn’t going to win much for a long, long while. But, Cloutier turned out to be injury-prone. (To be fair, he was pressured a lot by the Kings’ coaching staff to play through a hip injury, which then led to other injuries and issues), and the Kings had no choice but to try different combos of goalies in net with the likes of Mathieu Garon, Barry Brust, and the first-ever Japanese-born player/goalie to play in the NHL, the one and only Yutaka Fukufuji.
(More on Fukufuji in future articles as well).
So, with Cloutier constantly hurt and only Garon having any type of “success” in net, Lombardi pulled the trigger in bringing in the veteran Burke. And things got off … to an okay start. Kind of.
Burke debuted against the much more dangerous Canucks on January 26th, beating them 3-2 in overtime. With the experienced and calm Sean Burke now in net, the Kings were hoping that the extra breathing room would allow Cloutier to heal and Crawford to experiment with the lineups and try out some young prospects.
It didn’t exactly play out that way. The Kings were still a depleted team, and even with Burke keeping most games very close, the Kings still lost A LOT. Burke lost the next three games to the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Chicago Blackhawks, with the latter loss coming in overtime.
Being that this was Year 1 of Lombardi’s five-year rebuilding process (which actually took six years to complete), the expectations by both journalists and fans were not very high, and rightfully so. The Kings finished the regular season with 68 points overall and 28 points out of a playoff spot. (Man, I still feel pain when talking about those rebuilding years, but better that than the dark ages of 1994 to 2000, that’s for sure).
But Burke, with all of his skill and experience, did provide some highlights as a King, such as shutting out the Panthers in a 7-0 victory, beating the (dreaded) Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in a tense shootout, and then beating them again 4-3 shortly later — but this time in OT — and also a 5-1 beatdown victory over the Edmonton Oilers, who had been one win short of winning the Stanley Cup just the year before.
Burke would finish his only (half) season with the Kings with a 6-10 5 record, a 3.11 GAA, 1 SO, and a .901 SV% in 23 games. These numbers are obviously nothing to gloat about, but comparing them to the other four LA Kings’ goalies also used that year, Burke didn’t do that bad.
Garon did better with 13 wins, 2 SO, a 2.66 GAA, and a .907 SV% in 32 games, earning him the No. 1 goalie spot. Cloutier, Brust, and Fukufuji all crashed and burned with horrible numbers. For example, the save percentages of the three goalies were .860 in 23 games for Cloutier, Brust at .878 in 11 games, and Fukufuji with .837 in only (and I mean only) four games.
After not being able to help the Kings return to the playoffs or win a lot of games, Sean Burke decided to retire at 40 after playing 18 seasons in the NHL. Burke’s time with the Kings had quickly (not Jonathan) ended, which is why he was the perfect choice to start off this column of forgotten Kings’ players.
Now ironically, like Burke, both Brust and Fukufuji also never played another game with the Kings after that 2007 season. And Cloutier, well, as previously mentioned, his story will be told another day.
(To be honest, while writing this article, I realized that Dan Cloutier should have been the main topic for this article, but even I had forgotten that he had played with the Kings. So, I didn’t think of him until I had already started my research for Burke. Oh well).
Though the Kings were a terrible team then, and Sean Burke didn’t stay around for long, he still gave it his all while wearing the Kings’ armor. And for this, I give him respect, a loud GO KINGS GO chant, and a Chuck Norris-approved thumbs up.
After his playing career was over, Burke would continue to work in different roles for different teams around the hockey world and the NHL, including becoming the Montreal Canadiens’ Director of Goaltending earlier this year in March.
With Burke on staff, the Habs then went on a run that took them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing in five games to the defending Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Speaking of Chuck Norris-approved thumbs up, here is a thumbs up to all of you for taking the time to read my debut article for Hockey Royalty! I am very excited to write even more articles about forgotten Kings’ players, plus some other fun stuff for this upcoming season.
If you have any fond, or not-so-fond, memories of Sean Burke’s time with the Los Angeles Kings and would like to share it, or if there are any less-remembered LA Kings’ players that you would like me to write about, feel free to let me know in the comments below!
So until next time, remember, if you can’t go full Garon, then you have to go full Burke, but never, ever go full Marc Crawford. Yeah, I said it.
GO KINGS GO!!