In the wake of the Ducks' Stanley Cup championship in 2007 and the consistent elite status of the Sharks, Kings fans Pavlovian response has—and continues to be—"your teams are only here because of Gretzky." The truth is, the only team still coasting on the ghost of Gretzky is the Kings.
In an other wise decent eulogy on the 2011 San Jose Sharks, this Kings fan writes:
The Sharks were the Los Angeles Kings' misbegotten child, the prodigal son born of the Gretzky era's incomplete success.
First, let's review a few facts: Wayne Gretzky is not from Los Angeles. He was not drafted by the Los Angeles Kings. He never won a championship with the Los Angeles Kings. He is easily the best player of the recent era in the NHL, but the majority of and the most impressive of his accomplishments came in an Oiler jersey.
Somehow, Kings fans seem to want to take credit for the Sharks and Ducks as if Gretzky sprung fully formed from their heads. Being old enough to remember the 80s, I can tell you that the NHL at its peak of popularity was indeed fueled by the magical play of Number 99, but the NHL decided to cash in on this success throughout the country, not just in California, and it had nothing to do with the Kings as a team.
Simply put, any expansion is going to include the most populous state in the nation with the largest economy in the nation. To not have a team in the Bay Area would be about as smart as not having a football team in LA or only one hockey team in Toronto. (lol.) The truth of the matter is, the Bay Area has experienced a more profound grass-roots level growth of the sport than Southern California (says me: who grew up learning to skate at the rink in Paramount, California), even though Southern California has far more hockey than the rest of the country acknowledges. To suggest that the fans in San Jose and Anaheim were just high on Gretzky dust is to buy into the anti-California slander that lies about the strength of the sport in this state.
And even if there was something to this snark in 1993, it says more about the history of the Kings franchise at this point than it does about the other two. Since that time, the Kings have made it to the second round exactly once. They show more promise now than in a generation, but have done nothing to match their pseudo-Original Six arrogance.
The Sharks have failed to live up to their expectations. But the thing is: they have been expected to win the Cup! Just because simply making the playoffs is the only expectation that matters at the Staples doesn't mean thing.
And then there's the Ducks. Should their Cup parade have been in LA (or Edmonton?) or maybe New Jersey? Trades happen. Teams get the players they get, but someone finally brought the Cup to California and it wasn't Barry Melrose.
If I had my way, all three California teams would be in the final four every year and the Cup would be renamed the California Cup. Unlike some people, I don't suddenly become a fairweather fan of Texas teams when they are playing against a California team (like certain Dodger fans last Fall or certain Norcal fans during the NBA playoffs).
In 2011, the Ducks have a decade of success and a Cup to fill the pages of their history. The Sharks similarly have a decade of elite status and deep playoff runs to look back on and be proud. The only team that seems to still be talking about Gretzky is the Kings. It's getting pathetic.