Carter's Last Laugh The Los Angeles Kings' power forward has been the one constant
throughout a rocky defense of their championship.
LOS ANGELES, CA -- Though the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup victory
was a team effort, they couldn’t have done it without one crucial
The team’s playoff destiny was forever changed on Feb. 23, 2012 when
GM Dean Lombardi went all in and acquired Jeff Carter from the
Columbus Blue Jackets.
Starving for scoring throughout the 2011-12 season, Lombardi
surrendered sturdy defenseman Jack Johnson and a first-round pick for
the man he hoped would return to the 30+ goal scorer he was prior to
his arrival in Ohio. Along with the luxury price tag (still nine years
left on a $58 million, 11-year deal), came the superlatives of a
talent whose career high of 46 goals has been matched by few in the
current day NHL:
“Rare combination of size and speed”
“Wrist shot as good as any”
“Pure, natural goal scorer”
While those facts are indisputable, there’s another trait that
attaches itself to a player that bounces from Philadelphia to Columbus
then to Los Angeles in eight months and its called baggage.
The whispers that settled around Carter is what made Lombardi’s deal
the riskiest in his tenure and could have cost him his just if it
didn’t pay off.
“He’s bad in the room”
“He won’t play through injury”
There were far worse accusations, but absent of any proof we’ll spare
you the details because most hockey fans have heard them all before.
A man of few words when available to the media, Carter's actions speak
far louder since donning the Crown hard by the Pacific shores. His
appearance in Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western
Conference Finals marked his 100th match (regular season and playoffs
combined) in the Black and White.
At the century mark, he’s scored 46 goals, many clutch, 12 of them
game winners with the most memorable being the Game 2 Finals winner in
New Jersey. With all-world talent housed in a 6 foot 4 inch, 210 pound
frame, Los Angeles was a the perfect and truth be told, the only place
where Carter could have returned to an elite level.
The primary reasons for recapturing his full potential are twofold;
the well-publicized “bromance” with the dude he grew up in the Flyers
organization, Mike Richards. Cast out of Pennsylvania and demonized in
many quarters, Richards and Carter have made it to the Final Four
three of the past four seasons, a rare feat in the present climate of
With Mike as the facilitator, Jeff set a blazing pace early this
season that garnered him the nickname of “Cy Young” due to the
disparity between the totals of his goals to assists (I doubt he cares
about his assist total). The chemistry between the two both on and off
the ice is a key to their Los Angeles championship and Carter’s
The second reason is less visible but may be as large a contributor to
his success. Organizationally, the Kings keep a tight ship on player
availability and access by the media. The running joke between our
colleagues in the press box is what the over/under will be in players
available in the post-game locker room and that number is always in
the low single digits. Both Richards and Carter were available early
in their tenures, but are now rarely seen in the locker room, even on
With the hammering both players received by the Philadelphia media (we
won’t judge if it was warranted), it makes perfect sense to shield
these two from daily media scrutiny. You can argue the responsibility
of the player to be available to talk to the media, but the league
rules only state that the room has to be open after the game and any
particular player’s attendance is discretionary. I did a long
interview with Richards upon his arrival in Los Angeles and my
interaction with Carter has been limited, but never adversarial to me
or any other member of the media in my presence.
Does the removal of these two players from the spotlight enhance their
play? You can debate that all you like, but the approach hasn’t hurt
It’s not like these players are unaware of the commentary, whether
good or bad, they know what is being written and the tone of the
opinions. While players may not read stories about them directly, I
guarantee you that a wife, girlfriend, uncle or buddy has. Some
players have active Twitter accounts and monitor them daily; league
execs have disguised ones, so the reality is that everyone is plugged
into what is written, spoken and tweeted about this team.
If you’ve done an interview with Carter, you realize his skill on ice
far exceeds his post-game analyst skills, so we’re missing little by
his lack of recanting a game winning goal. The lack of access is
further minimized by willingness of those like Rob Scuderi, Dustin
Brown, Jarret Stoll and oh-how-we-miss Willie Mitchell to chat you up,
win or lose.
With the Kings’ organization setting him up to win, the final
exclamation point on Carter season has been the leadership he’s
demonstrated in the most challenging series in the Kings last two post
seasons. With Richards getting hammered at the end of Game 1 on a hit
that many feel earned supplementary discipline, Carter slid in to the
void created in the pivot flanked by Dustin Penner and rookie Tyler
Toffoli. As good as he’s been on right wing, he’s been more effective
as a center, creating open ice for him and his teammates. He scored
the Kings’ first goal in Game 2 and registered assists on two goals in
a win that got the Kings back into the series. The newly-combined trio
has been the best Darryl Sutter can offer with the continuing
struggles of Anze Kopitar reaching a point where his coach had no
choice but to place him on the third line for the first Los Angeles
But the play that will be recalled as the weeks roll on will be the
high sticking incident with Duncan Keith, which demonstrates that
Carter is the gamer that many at his other stops tell you he isn’t.
In a play that started inconsequentially, Keith paid some heavy dues
when his anger got the best of him. The resulting stick swing to
Carter’s mouth was both dangerous and careless and as a repeat
offender, Keith should consider himself lucky that the Shanaban was
only for Game 4 and not longer. The blow sent Carter immediately to
the ice. After he slowly rose, he skated to the locker room for
Not soon after he returned to the bench minus a couple of teeth and a
dental bridge but the proud new owner of 20 stitches in his mouth.
Even with the battering, he managed to win 62% of his faceoffs, a must
have for the Kings as the likelihood of Richards returning from his
head injury is low for this series.
Like it or not, due to injuries and ineffectiveness suffered by his
teammates, he’s become a leader in the room and I’d venture to guess
that he truly likes it.
So while safely nestled in his home by the beach with a Stanley Cup
ring on his finger and his future financially secured, Jeff Carter has
had the last, though presently broken-toothed laugh.