Los Angeles Kings have become the model franchise of the NHL

Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown reacts

Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown reacts with center Anze Kopitar (after scoring against the Rangers in the second period during Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, Wednesday, June 11, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

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Sports fans in the East often feel as if they know teams such as the Dodgers and Lakers well because, after all, they are the Dodgers and Lakers, national brands that resonate far beyond Southern California.

But hockey is the most regional of major sports, which for decades mostly has left their counterparts, the Kings, a mystery at best and an irrelevancy at worst to most people east of San Bernardino.

That might still be partly true come next season, but after two visits to the metropolitan area in three seasons to face the Devils and Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, the Kings have announced themselves as a model franchise difficult to ignore.

Not only did they secure the Cup in 2012 and enter Game 4 last night with an opportunity to win it again, they have done it with stability and continuity almost unheard of for championship teams in modern pro sports.

Most of their roster from 2012 remains intact and most of it still will be intact -- and relatively young -- in 2014-15.

How have they done it?

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"The draft," NBC analyst Ed Olczyk said. "If you look at the top teams, that's how you build."

Sure enough, captain Dustin Brown was chosen in the 2003 draft, goaltender Jonathan Quick and leading scorer Anze Kopitar in the 2005 draft and star defenseman Drew Doughty in the 2008 draft.

The idea after that is to supplement homegrown talent with key trades and signings, such as Jarret Stoll (2008), Justin Williams (2009), Willie Mitchell (2010), Mike Richards (2011), Jeff Carter (2012) and Marian Gaborik (2014).

Along the way GM Dean Lombardi, who has been on the job since 2006, and coach Darryl Sutter, who arrived in 2012, have been careful to maintain a positive dressing room culture.

Players have spoken about the lack of cliques on the team and the ability to absorb new personalities; players went out of their ways to integrate Gaborik when he arrived in March.

"There's not one selfish guy in that room," Stoll said. "We understand if there is a selfish guy in that room, we'll either kick him out or he won't play. That's honestly the way it will work."

It helps that Lombardi, Sutter and every player other than Mitchell lives in Manhattan Beach or nearby Hermosa Beach.

"We all do things together on the ice and off the ice," Stoll said. "We get together a lot. We all live fairly close to each other down at the beach, five, 10 minutes apart. So that helps."

Camaraderie is nice; talent is even better. And the Kings have it in all the right places.

Olczyk said the Kings have a disciplined approach, preferring relatively big men with skills and also, like a baseball team, making sure to be strong up the middle.

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That includes Quick, defensemen such as Doughty, and in Kopitar, Carter, Richards and Stoll arguably the best array of centers in the league, with the possible exception of the Penguins.

Beating all of that is a formidable task, as the Rangers knew going in, and as their fans now know, too.

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