Vin Sylvia: Kings recognize Monarchs' role in Cup push
BEDFORD -- Darren Abbott didn’t exactly say he was rooting for the Rangers to win Game 3 or 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, but it was clear before New York faced off against the Los Angeles Kings Monday night that he wouldn’t mind seeing the series go to Game 5.
That’s because if the Rangers were to avert a sweep and get the Final back to Los Angeles, Abbott and the rest of the Manchester Monarchs’ front-office leadership team would be there as the Kings’ guests.
As Los Angeles’ top minor-league affiliate, Manchester has played a major role in putting the Kings in position to win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, and the hierarchy in L.A. wants the folks in New Hampshire to know that what they do is appreciated.
“It’s been a real treat,” Abbott, the Monarchs’ president said of the Kings’ postseason run. “The parent club has really gone out of its way to make us feel a part of it. We stay in pretty close contact.”
Hubie McDonough keeps in even closer contact with the Kings’ front office. As the Monarchs’ director of hockey operations, his primary responsibility is overseeing player movement between Manchester and its affiliates, first and foremost the Kings.
And there’s been a good deal of movement in that direction, as evidenced by the presence of 12 former Monarchs on L.A.’s roster and another seven on its practice squad, the group known as the Black Aces.
McDonough also was in Chicago to see the Kings face the Blackhawks in the Western Conference, and he was in Los Angeles for Games 1 and 2 against the Rangers. He was back in New Hampshire on Monday for the annual Ace Bailey Golf Classic — a Monarchs Care Foundation fund-raiser held in honor of the former Bruins player and Kings scouting director who was killed en route to Los Angeles in the Sept. 11 attacks — but he’ll be in New York for Game 4 on Wednesday night.
McDonough’s current priority is helping the Kings find a new coach to lead the Monarchs, the position vacated when L.A. president and general manager Dean Lombardi decided not to renew Mark Morris’ contract for a ninth season in Manchester.
He said he was surprised by the decision to let go a man who had done so much to develop so many Cup finalists but also said he understood.
“The Kings knew Mark was looking to move on to the NHL, and with so many staff openings right now, they felt this was his best opportunity for him to make his move,” he said. “Mark is a good man and a good hockey man. I’m sure he’ll land on his feet.”
McDonough took part in interviews with two candidates in Los Angeles, and he has two more interviews scheduled in New York. He expects the Kings to name Morris’ successor before the NHL Draft, set for June 27-28.
Meanwhile, at least one of Morris’ former players, Ian O’Connor, is doing some interviewing of his own. After two stints with the Monarchs in his three-year professional career, the Londonderry High and Providence College graduate is thinking of hanging up his skates for a career as a financial planner.
In fact, O’Connor had an interview in Boston Monday morning before hustling up to the Manchester Country Club to make tee time at the Ace Bailey Classic.
But while it appears he’ll never get a chance to skate for the Stanley Cup, O’Connor recognizes that, like Abbott and McDonough, he played a role in getting the Kings to where they are now — within reach of another championship.
“That’s kind of a cool way to look at it,” he said, responding to the suggestion that organizations, rather than teams, win championships. “I was a Manchester-contracted player, unlike the guys who played here this season before joining the Kings, but I competed hard against them in practice, and that may have contributed to their development.”
That, according to McDonough, is exactly the way O’Connor should view his role with the Monarchs.
“I’m glad he sees it that way,” McDonough said. “Ian’s exactly the type of person we want here. That’s one of the main reasons we signed him. He absolutely contributed to the NHL guys’ development.”
Will the franchise in Manchester still be contributing to Los Angeles after the 2014-15 season? Abbott said he’s confident the city will remain home to an AHL team — some AHL team — even if the Kings decide to move their top feeder team closer to L.A. at some point after next spring, but that’s a topic for another day.
In the meantime, Abbott, McDonough, O’Connor and everyone else in Manchester who played a role — big or small — in getting the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final deserves to enjoy the run.
Vin Sylvia is a New Hampshire Union Leader deputy managing editor. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @vinsylvia.