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If the Kings gave Ron Hextall a model, how close are the Flyers to replicating it? | Mike Sielski

L.A. has fallen off since winning the Stanley Cup in ’12 and ’14. But the evidence shows how closely the Flyers GM is following the Kings’ decisions and principles.

The franchise that serves as the template for Ron Hextall's plan to restore the Flyers to greatness has missed the playoffs two of the last three seasons, hasn't won a postseason series since the late spring of 2014, and fired its general manager and coach in April. The Los Angeles Kings could stay home Thursday night to watch Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators. They've been home the entire postseason, just like the Flyers. When a team climbs as high as the Kings did, there is usually a steep fall, but it's the heights that the Kings reached and maintained not long ago, of course, that Hextall wants to soar to here.

From 2012 to 2014, L.A. won two Stanley Cups and came within one series of advancing to a third Finals. Hextall had a hand in that success as an understudy to former Kings GM Dean Lombardi, the two of them withstanding a seven-year playoff drought to erect the infrastructure of a mini-dynasty. Three years ago Friday, for instance, the Kings were preparing for Game 3 of their Finals series against the New York Rangers, on their way to winning in five, and amid the cool confidence of a post-morning-skate interview, forward Justin Williams acknowledged the time, the patience, and the good fortune that combined to put his team on the cusp of another Cup.

"As a team, it certainly wasn't that quick," Williams said. "This was a process, and it's not a team that was just built through one draft or one free agency or one trade. It was built steadily from within, and listen, we had to lose quite a few games to realize how hard it is to win. Once we beat Vancouver in 2012 in the first round, we had that belief in the room, and we said, 'Why not us?' We were able to snowball that."

If belief were all it took, the Flyers would have celebrated 42 Cups over the last 42 years, instead of waiting all that time for their third. But now that that aforementioned good fortune has given them a gift - the second overall pick in this year's NHL draft, on June 23 - and now that Hextall is three years into his tenure as GM, it's worthwhile to see how their rebuilding compares to the Kings'. What follows are four crucial moves or decisions that facilitated the Kings' growth into champions and analyses of how the Flyers may or may not be positioned to replicate them.

July 30, 2005: The Kings draft center Anze Kopitar.

With the 11th overall selection that year, Los Angeles picked Kopitar, who developed into arguably the best two-way center in the league. Over his 11 seasons with the Kings, he has scored at least 25 goals five times, led all skaters in playoff scoring in 2012 and 2014, and in 2015-16 won the Lady Byng and Selke Trophies as the league's most gentlemanly player and best defensive forward, respectively. At 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, with elite skill and more than enough speed, Kopitar became the Kings' indispensable player up front, able to thrive in any style or system.

As for the Flyers . . .

Sean Couturier has said that Kopitar is a player whom he admires and tries to emulate. But he isn't as beefy (211 pounds) as Kopitar, can't quite match his offensive skill, and hasn't stayed as healthy. (Kopitar has missed more than seven regular-season games once in 11 years. Couturier has missed 35 over the last two seasons.) If Nolan Patrick, who like Kopitar and Couturier is a 6-3 center, falls to the Flyers at No. 2 in this year's draft, he would have the potential to be the same centerpiece for them that Kopitar has been for the Kings.

July 31, 2005: The Kings draft goaltender Jonathan Quick.

In Quick, the Kings have a franchise goaltender, but what's interesting is the strategy they employed to find him. Quick was a third-round pick in '05. The Kings drafted two goalies the year before, 2004, and two goalies the year before that, 2003. They drafted two the following year, 2006, including one in the first round, Jonathan Bernier, whom they eventually traded to Toronto. They hoarded prospects, hoping one would rise. One did.

As for the Flyers . . .

The Flyers' strategy has been similar. Putting aside Steve Mason, Michal Neuvirth, and their uncertain futures, in the system are Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Carter Hart, Merrick Madsen, Felix Sandstrom, and Ivan Fedotov. The Flyers have to find a long-term answer in goal eventually, don't they?

June 20, 2008: The Kings draft defenseman Drew Doughty.

In an era in which smart, tough, puck-moving defensemen are essential, Doughty is among the NHL's best. Enough said.

As for the Flyers . . .

It's tempting to say, "Ivan Provorov. Enough said." Actually, let's just say that. That's how impressive he was as a rookie and how good he might yet be.

Feb. 20, 2012: The Kings trade defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round draft pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jeff Carter.

Johnson was an excellent defenseman for the Kings and has been since in Columbus. But Los Angeles needed a sniper and got one in Carter, and this is the sort of trade that a franchise with depth on defense can make.

As for the Flyers . . .

Provorov. Shayne Gostisbehere. Travis Sanheim. Sam Morin. Phil Myers. Robert Hagg. Who joins the roster this season? Who stays? Who goes? The Flyers need a sniper, too, and Hextall will have options. It doesn't guarantee anything, but it's much better than the alternative, and the alternative defined the Flyers for far too long.