They're fit to be Kings
Castoffs Lewis, Stuart land in LA
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. - At this time last season, they were still considered significant blocks of the Bruins foundation.
Dave Lewis, winner of three rings as an assistant coach in Detroit, was in the first season of a four-year deal at the helm of the Bruins. Brad Stuart, brought to Boston along with Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau for Joe Thornton the year before, aimed to be the No. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara by taking advantage of his mobility and toughness.
That foundation cracked, with two of the consequences Stuart leaving town Feb. 10 and Lewis being booted from Boston June 15. Coincidentally, both landed in Los Angeles.
"Still there," Lewis, now living in Manhattan Beach, said of his North End property just a stroll away from TD Banknorth Garden. "You want to buy it?"
Lewis and Stuart were two pieces of a 2006-07 season gone all too wrong. But as members of the Kings, who skated at the
"It's a young team," said Stuart, who's received ice time in all situations so far. "Our skilled guys are still young. The top forwards are young guys. That's a real positive thing."
At least by the looks of his hair, a shaggy brown crop colored with blond streaks, Stuart has found SoCal a natural fit. He's settled into a house nearby, and he reported that 9-month-old son Jake is cruising around the furniture, nearly ready to walk on his own.
After being traded to Calgary along with Primeau for Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew and signing a one-year contract with LA in the offseason, Stuart is looking to put Boston past him. According to Stuart, he never received a contract offer from the Bruins after informing management he most likely would test free agency upon the conclusion of 2006-07.
With contract numbers never being discussed, Stuart figured it was only a matter of time until he was traded. Unlike his previous cross-country move, when he was caught by surprise by the deal for Thornton, Stuart thought too much about his impending trade - at the cost of himself and his club.
"You kind of sense it's coming. You almost expect it," Stuart said. "Not having experienced it before, it's tough. I tried the best I could. I wish I could have done a lot better job of it. I had a couple weeks where I struggled a little bit on the ice because of what was happening off the ice. Not making excuses. But it's tough to separate the two things."
Stuart had a playoff appearance with the Flames but didn't re-sign with Calgary, instead agreeing to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Kings. Following LA's practice yesterday, Stuart and Lewis chatted with several of the Bruins, including P.J. Axelsson, Patrice Bergeron, and assistant coach Doug Houda.
"There's a lot of guys over there that I really like," said Stuart. "To have those friendships probably means more than anything."
Lewis, meanwhile, is back to being an assistant, as Boston was most likely his final chance at a head coach's position. Two summers ago, Lewis, then a pro scout in Detroit, interviewed with LA coach Marc Crawford but took the Boston job instead.
This past August, a little more than a month after general manager Peter Chiarelli fired Lewis, Crawford came calling again. Before Crawford's pitch, Lewis didn't have plans for the 2007-08 season. But after discussing the offer with his wife, Brenda, Lewis decided he wanted to return to coaching.
"I was thrilled when he told me that, 'You know what? Coaching is what I do. I don't want to sit back and do nothing,' " said Crawford. "I think that speaks more to Dave's character than anything. A lot of people could have felt sorry for themselves. He could have felt poorly about the treatment he got in terms of the short chance he got in Boston. But he's not dwelling on it. To me, that speaks volumes of him as a person.
"Things happen in mysterious ways and mysterious reasons. I hope selfishly, for the Los Angeles Kings, that this ends up being a great tonic and he can be part of something great for years to come with the Kings."
Crawford already had associate coach Mike Johnston and assistant Jamie Kompon in place. So Crawford envisions Lewis as a mentor to the players, although he'll tab the ex-Bruin coach for on-ice expertise as well.
"I think we've got a couple of very good technical coaches in Mike Johnston and Jamie Kompon," Crawford said. "In terms of the human side of the game, with all the experiences Dave had as a player, assistant coach, head coach, even father, he's got such a wealth of experience in those areas that he really humanizes our club and our coaching staff."
Lewis declined to discuss last season, saying only that he got an opportunity and it didn't work out. But Lewis, whose property has an ocean view, learned perhaps the most important thing from his short-lived Boston experience.
Said Lewis: "I'm renting."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at FShinzawa@globe.com.