Not a Quick journey
With little help from his teammates, and even less fanfare, Los
Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick has emerged as one of the NHL's elite.
LOS ANGELES -- Next time you're at a casino, here's a reason to play
the long shot and put a few dollars down on 32 on the roulette wheel.
Emerging from the nuclear winter that was the NHL lockout, the league
conducted their first Entry Draft a few weeks after returning to
normalcy in Canada's national capital of Ottawa, Ontario.
Unlike the usual custom of showcasing the restocking of the NHL
shelves, the draft was conducted out of the public's purview at the
Westin Hotel; ironically the same venue where an international media
gathering interviewed some of the same selections six and a half years
later about their All Star weekend experience.
Though 2005 was the year Sidney Crosby matriculated to the NHL, other
than his pre-determined selection there was zero fanfare that
accompanied other first round selections like Bobby Ryan and Anze
Kopitar. The latter was likely the finest selection of then-GM Dave
Taylor's career, a wunderkind out of Slovenia, not Slovakia or
Kopitar had the benefit of playing two seasons in the Swedish Elite
League and although he came from a small country without a hockey
legacy, he arrived on the Pacific shores already a man and showed it
in his first rookie and then NHL training camp. Anze never spent a day
in the North American minor leagues and has become a two time All Star
and a vital cog in the Kings' championship hopes.
When one scrolls down the list of Los Angeles selections post-Kopitar
that year, the record wasn't pretty. There's T.J. Fast and Dany
Roussin, best known for scoring a bushel full of goals on Crosby's
line for the Rimouski Quebec junior major team. Roussin's failure at
the highest level of hockey is a minor footnote to number 87's
greatness and furthers the argument that I could pot double digit
markers on if placed on his flank.
With his fourth pick in the third round, Taylor selected a player that
shows although the Kings Hall of Famer may have had challenges
building an organization, his eye for talent is among the keenest in
At the time, Jonathan Quick was a record setting prep goaltender for
Old Avon Farms School in his native Connecticut. His record was a
sterling 47-3 over two seasons with his senior season being the
finest. He fashioned nine shutouts in combination with a 1.14
goals-against-average and .956 save percentage with the goose egg
total still a New England prep record.
Quick declined to go the professional route, preferring to enroll at
the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, at last check not one of
the Boston area powerhouses among NCAA's sextet. Continuing the credo
of low fanfare, high performance, Quick led the Minutemen to their
first NCAA Ice Hockey Championship appearance in 2006 in his sophomore
season. His first NCAA tournament appearance was a shutout victory
over Clarkson, a 33 save affair and while a championship was too
daunting a task given the lack of top talent on the team, Quick
departed Amherst as the holder of numerous records that still stand.
While those numbers were impressive, to say that his future
professional employers were impressed would be a bigger stretch than
one of Quick's own acrobatic saves.
He joined the organization not one step away from the big time with
the Manchester Monarchs, but debuted with the Reading Royals of the
ECHL, with the only similarity to the varsity being the consistency of
monarchial nicknames. Determined to make team executives take rapid
notice, his first pro game was memorable. While a win and shutout is
not unusual, Jonathan became only the second player in ECHL history to
also record a goal in his first game along with the victory and
The season was a success and the solid numbers he put up were worthy
of promotion to the logical next step and New Hampshire was the next
stop to further develop his craft. At the top of the food chain, the
winds of change blew in and the organization that drafted him bore
little resemblance to the crew that stood on the floor in Ottawa.
Los Angeles was unable to make the playoffs in the 2006-07 season,
Taylor was relieved of his managerial duties in favor of Dean Lombardi
and Andy Murray morphed into Marc Crawford behind the bench. Lombardi,
knowing he was managing a franchise with little organizational depth
on or off the ice, signed seven free agents in an effort to keep the
wolves from the door.
Predictably, it wasn't going to work, "people made a big deal of me
signing all those guys but you know you're in trouble when you sign
that many free agents in one off-season," Lombardi recanted a couple
of seasons ago.
Though not knowing it at the time, the switch in the executive suite
was a defining moment for Quick. As he had done successfully in San
Jose, Lombardi knew the key to winning was building from the back end;
Job One was developing an air-tight defense with puck moving
defenseman and reliable goaltending. The second part of the job was
easier said than done as the Kings netminder to achieve All Star
status at the time was Mario Lessard in 1981.
The team had made infrequent playoff appearances and only traveled
once to the Stanley Cup Finals, so it was little surprise that almost
three decades had passed since they had developed a legitimate NHL
goaltender. Though Lombardi and his scouts whiffed badly on their
first draft, selecting Thomas Hickey with the fourth-overall pick, his
selection of Drew Doughty and Colton Teubert in the 2008 Entry Draft
first round combined with the acquisition of the draft rights to
University of Michigan stud Jack Johnson could only encourage a goalie
that was ticketed to be the starter in Los Angeles into the next
And although that goalie was named Jonathan, he was not the subject of
our story. A year after selecting Quick, Taylor's critical eye had
already targeted the Kings' goalie of the future; an almost
technically perfect one in Jonathan Bernier, out of the hotbed of the
QJMHL where the likes of Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy started their
The Kings first round selection in the 2006 draft was a clear signal
that Bernier was the chosen one and when the Kings started the 2007-08
season in London, England, Bernier was on the varsity. In the days
leading up to their European vacation, Crawford dared to draw a
comparison to the aforementioned Roy and 500 or so Kings fans that
made the transcontinental trip were high with the anticipation that
their goaltending problem was solved.
There were only two problems.
The Kings were bad.
Jonathan Bernier wasn't ready.
Only four games in his NHL career, Lombardi wisely sent Bernier back
to his junior team in Lewiston, Maine. It's hard enough to develop
into an NHL goaltender while still in your teens and when the team in
front of you is destined to finish last in the conference; the risk of
crushing a netminder's confidence far outweighs the handful of
additional wins that could accrue. So with his main rival dispatched
back to junior hockey and with a solid start to his AHL season, one
would think the door was flung wide open for an NHL opportunity.
Not so Quick, my friend.
The record shows that the Kings used seven goaltenders that season,
including the notorious Dan Cloutier (Crawford's anointed guy) and
Jean Sebastien Aubin (only one of two players ever to be involved in a
Kings-Ducks trade). I have a vague remembrance of Quick's December 6,
2007 debut at Staples Center against Buffalo, a resounding 8-2 win for
the home side and was the initial and lone NHL victory for him that
season. I'm sure looking at his pedigree and record from the game
night notes I said to myself, "another Barry Brust or Daniel Taylor
into the bargain."
Though Quick's personality and demeanor allows observers a limited
glance at his personal side, it can't mask the intensity he brings to
the ice every game. He's never been THE guy, never the ones fan's
hopes were pinned to, even his 32 jersey number is a statement that
he's doesn't care about what the norm is.
When he played well enough to start the 2008-09 season in the NHL and
Terry Murray sent him back to Manchester in favor of Erik Ersberg and
Jason LaBarbera, it only served to build an even greater fire inside
of him. He was recalled on Dec. 16, 2008, a day that would mark the
final time he would earn a minor league paycheck. The Kings were only
marginally better than their prior bottom feeding season but Murray's
installation of an effective defensive system gave Quick the
confidence to become the starter by season end, finishing three games
over .500 for a team that ended three games under. His play was
encouraging to such an extent that the Kings were able to harbor
Bernier in the juniors for an additional season, a true reversal of
fortune for the two Jonathans.
Even with Bernier's graduation to the professional ranks, Quick's
improving play allowed the former first round pick to continue his
development in the AHL. Having been told he was 'the one' for years
only to see his spot taken by a less heralded goalie didn't sit well
with Bernier, who spent most of the 2009-10 dealing with maturation
issues as well as fine tuning his game. Ever the good teammate, Quick
minimized the strife between teammates.
"It's hockey, there's always going to be competition for jobs, so our
relationship is fine," the American Olympic Silver Medalist explained.
Bernier surfaced after the All Star break and won three important
games down the stretch but it was Erik Ersberg who served as the main
caddy for Quick. His 72 appearances and 39 wins are Los Angeles single
season records and his 2.24 goals against (likely eclipsed this
season) tied Kings Legend Rogie Vachon as a season best.
Through it all, Quick has never rested on his laurels; he's as great a
perfectionist as we've ever seen¸ thinking that he could and SHOULD
have stopped every puck that gets by him and when critics point to
gaps in his game, he takes it to heart and uses it as motivation.
When he first appeared in the league, his gangly frame had some wonder
that even if his skill level turned out to be NHL caliber, he couldn't
stand the rigors of heavy use playing three times a week against grown
Observing him at the All Star game, he's become one of the most
athletic goalies in the NHL and there's far more muscle on his frame
than the kid from Milford who showed up six years past.
Two seasons ago, fans and media would cringe when he left the crease
to handle the puck. He quietly took the off-season to work on his
stick-handling skills and while he's not yet Ron Hextall-like, he's no
longer a liability outside the blue. While he grew up a big New York
Rangers fan and admirer of Mike Richter, "every goalie has their own
style; I didn't really pattern myself after anyone in particular."
With most of his games starting at 10:30PM Eastern time, majority most
fans don't know what style of goaltender he is. He plays from an
extremely low crouch as to help locate the puck in traffic. Lateral
movement is one of his biggest assets as his hands and feet move
rapidly covering the 4 foot by 6 foot area. His flexibility and
athleticism, while responsible for highlight reel saves will need to
yield to better positioning to cover the top part of his cage as he
searches for perfection. You can count on at least one spectacular
save a night and those often get the Staples Center faithful going
most nights given the limited opportunities to cheer the offense. His
emotional style of play and excess movement allow for more rebounds on
average and while it's difficult to criticize a goaltender with a sub
2.00 GAA and whose statistics improve every season, there are
opportunities for improved technical play.
Off the ice, there's far more work to do if the Kings want to develop
a star. Like most goalies, Jonathan won't talk to you after a morning
skate of a game he'll play in but you won't get too much more from him
on the non-game days either.
Earlier this season TFP did a feature with his more vocal teammates
like Kopitar and Drew Doughty looking for 10 Essentials they couldn't
live without. When Quick was asked to contribute his first response
was, "you probably have the wrong guy." With further encouragement, he
started the list but then stalled halfway through, so there's no
BizNasty 3.0 in the making at his stall.
Like his teammates, he's matured into adulthood in Los Angeles, now
married to Jaclyn, his childhood sweetheart from back home from the
tony enclave of Greenwich, Connecticut and have a darling daughter
Madison Mychal, who often seen wearing her daddy's 32 sweater while
waiting with mom in the bowels of Staples Center after a game.
We got a more personal look at Quick during the All Star weekend, our
mindset was that he would be uncomfortable in the spotlight, hindering
the enjoyment of the moment but he was quick to disagree (had to use
it once, you know).
"I'm enjoying this right now, it's not something I'll have to wait to
look back on and appreciate it later," he admitted in the glare of
While sitting on a media riser he even threw in some humor about being
selected (and subsequently winning) for the speed skating competition
against Detroit's Jimmy Howard.
"Henrik (Lundqvist) told me he picked me because of my last name," he
jokingly conveyed in his accustomed monotone voice.
While he's on Twitter, there's never anything earth shattering in
those precious 140 characters, the occasional chirp at Kopitar or his
brother-in-law and former teammate Matt Moulson of the New York
Islanders and he's not on Facebook although there are accounts that
bear his name.
There's a friendly but intense rivalry between the brother-in-laws. "I
love scoring goals but even more or so on Quickie," his former
teammate conveyed while the goalie chirped back, "he's an mediocre
uncle," when asked about Matt's interaction with his daughter.
"There's a personality inside there, we're trying to extract it," said
Jaclyn while the couple enjoyed a free vacation in Ottawa courtesy of
That personality doesn't extend to his post-game comments, perhaps
still focused on the 60 (and more frequently 65 minute) battle just
completed, it's the same cliches about how he takes one game at a
time, needed to stop that goal or how he could have done it better.
This quote after an early season victory over the San Jose Sharks
could be recycled after any win this season... or next.
"Tonight was a big win. Everybody battled hard. A hard-fought game.
They battled too, on their side. It was a huge two points."
The biggest rise I got out of him was over the past two months when we
asked about his hometown New York Football Giants' unlikely march to a
Super Bowl championship. Only he and Mike Richards are Big Blue
supporters in the room, he predicted victory over the last month
accurately weekly and even ventured to give a score for each
subsequent playoff game against a wave of naysayers, par for the
course for the man.
What makes Quick's performance this season even more amazing is the
lack of support given by his teammates offensively. After Richards
fell into Lombardi's lap by virtue of a changing of the guard in
Philadelphia, the thought was that with the additional of former Flyer
Simon Gagne and Dustin Penner motivated to perform in a contract year
would position the squad for a Pacific Division crown and high seed
come the spring.
That best laid plan has gone far awry, as the Kings are safely nestled
in the 30th and last spot in goals scored for most of the season.
Those that put the blame at the feet of deposed coach Terry Murray
haven't seen much better with Darryl Sutter and only this team's
airtight defense, led by Quick has kept this team in the top eight of
the Western Conference in 2012. The big picture concern is that with
Sutter's penchant of riding his starter hard and with every goal
surrendered a possible game winner, Quick's resolve must be steelier
than any other netminder in the league.
"When you've got a clear-cut No. 1 goalie, and he's fresh and sharp,
then he's going to play," were comments uttered by Sutter on the Kings
current six-game road trip that set the tone for the final 30 games of
the regular season.
When Lundqvist slips on Broadway, he's got Marian Gaborik or Brad
Richards coming to the rescue; if Jimmy Howard whiffs, Pavel Datsyuk
or Johan Franzen can return the favor on the next shift. Kopitar is
the leading goal scorer on this team, but only projects to a total of
25 over a full season, giving most Kings' fans to assume they'll see a
2-1 shootout loss when they settle in their seats on an average night
at Staples Center.
Legitimate goal scorers like Rick Nash, Jeff Carter, Ray Whitney and
Ryan Malone have been rumored to be California-bound since
Thanksgiving but the Kings have stood pat despite the fact that Gagne
has likely played his last game this season with concussion issues.
Unless Lombardi pulls a rabbit out of a hat at the deadline and
extracts two goal scorers from other rosters, Quick is going to be
life and death with every goal surrendered through early April and
hopefully, if they enter the post season.
While this season's stats have placed him among the league's elite,
those hoping for a Vezina win or an even less likely Hart nomination
will go by the boards due to the lack of support that have resulted in
ten overtime losses this season.
Last year, the deadly combination of Quick and Jarret Stoll's wrist
shot made the Kings virtually unbeatable in the shootout and was a
major contributor in a return to the post season for a second
consecutive season. Not so the case this season, the same shootout
magic hasn't been found in Jonathan pads and the lack of W's combined
with East Coast bias will likely see King Henrik raise the Vezina in
Las Vegas in June. Quick will acknowledge a Vezina nomination
gracefully but the only hardware he's really concerned with has a
first name of Stanley.
A far greater concern sits with his employer and more specifically,
his employment status in two seasons from now. Quick's contract,
presently an undervalued $1.8 million cap hit, actually pays him less
in its final season, graduating down to $1.7 million. The NHL
collective bargaining agreement doesn't allow contract extensions to
be signed until the final year of the deal, but there's already
significant concern in the Kings front office that a continuance of
his current sterling season will yield to contract demands that will
be in the neighborhood of Pekka Rinne's $ 49 million, 7 year extension
with the Nashville Predators.
Quick's only 26 years old and entering the prime of his NHL career,
with the only chink in his royal armor being the inability to win a
playoff round, he's suffered first round eliminations against
Vancouver and San Jose the past two seasons. If the Kings don't get
out of the first round this season, the lack of post season wins will
be brought to the negotiating table while his representatives will
likely draw parallels to Vezina nominee Rinne, who was 29 on the day
he inked his big money deal and possesses only four more lifetime
Adding to the intrigue are Quick's East Coast roots, he's clearly
uncomfortable when discussing the transition to life in Southern
California and gives non-descript answers when pressed about
California living. While he's visible during at team events and visits
to local children's hospital, he's not aligned himself with any local
charity like Captain Dustin Brown and keeps a very low profile off the
ice. While it may be a function of his introverted personality, it's a
lock that the Quick won't be residing in Los Angeles after his playing
days are over.
On the Kings' trips back to the east coast, he's been known to take
the entire family with him and with the connection to the Moulsons on
Long Island through his wife (sisters are also best friends) there are
strong family ties to the New York metro market.
"When we play the Islanders, the bigger rivals are our wives more than
me and Matt," the goalie admitted.
While the Rangers are set for years for two more years contractually
(and likely beyond) with Lundqvist and the Islanders have an albatross
of a Rick DiPietro contract likely blocking any interest in another
big money goaltender deal, the third metropolitan area New York teams
presents a unique future opportunity.
The New Jersey Devils current goaltenders, first ballot Hall of Famer
Brodeur and able backup Johan Hedberg both hit unrestricted free
agency this summer. It's not too far-fetched to think that GM Lou
Lamoriello would offer either or both a one year deal to either goalie
as a bridge to a Quick offer two summers from now. While the Devils
are likely to lose Zach Parise due to ownership (read: cash) issues,
one figures they get their house in order over the next 18 months.
While there's no guarantees in life, you can bet that the Devils
recruiting visit would include a tour of his Giants home, Met Life
Stadium and probably a private meeting with Eli Manning (salsa dancer/WR
Victor Cruz's alma mater is UMass too but he and the goalie have never
Though some inside the Kings locker room think that Quick would take
less, perhaps $25 million over five years to stay at Casa del Staples,
management resistance on dealing away Jonathan Bernier is more about
Quick than about Bernier's ascendance to the starter spot between the
pipes. As the rumors about a Jeff Carter trade increased in Los
Angeles, an insider gave more credence to the Quick exit strategy.
"You're last in offense, you're offered a 35+ goal scorer for a goalie
who will play no more than five games more this season and you don't
make the trade? The Kings are worried that Quick will price himself
out of the market or wants to go home and play in the New York area."