Dionne, Taylor, Gretzky, Blake, Robitaille, Palffy, Kopitar, Doughty, Quick.
An incomplete list to be sure, but each widely recognized as all-time legends to be remembered for decades to come. However as Kings fans, perhaps especially as Kings fans, we have a long list of bad to truly terrible players to remember from rosters’ past. And I am willing to bet that for every superstar you can remember cheering for there are a couple of truly awful Los Angeles Kings you could not help but defend.
I hope that you will take a moment and share a member of the Los Angeles Kings you once rooted for and defended for asinine reasons. Obviously, every player mentioned here is better than any of us could ever dream of – I see you interwebs commentator - so let’s get that out of the way. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll get this ball rolling…here are two random LA Kings I just could not quit.
Player: Gary Shuchuk
1992-1996, 136 games played, 12G/24A/64 PIM
It would be unfair to describe Gray Shuchuk as an awful hockey player. Rather, it would be most accurate to say that he was a below-average National Hockey League player. Quite successful in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, 176 points in 177 games played at the University of Wisconsin, and American Hockey League, 204 points in 185 games played with the Adirondack Red Wings, he was unable to stick with the Los Angeles Kings, posting 36 points in 136 games before exiting the NHL for good.
But oh, what a point one of them was. I will never forget watching Shuchuk pot a game five, double overtime winner versus the Vancouver Canucks in the 1993 Smythe Division finals.
Looking back, I think the magic of that ’93 Kings team remained in my eyes for too long and colored my vision of Gary Shuchuk. I was convinced he was a shift away from being a reliable NHL goal scorer when in reality his talents just weren’t up to the challenge.
Player: Matt Johnson
1994-1999, 182 games played, 6G/8A/681 PIM
Ugh. I’m not really sure what to say about this one other than this: Matt Johnson was not good at the hockey. He was quite good at punching people, and for a while there such a thing mattered to me.
Johnson came into the NHL at eighteen years old, and, simply put, this is why I rooted for him. We’re all used to 18-year-old players in the league nowadays, but this was not the case in 1994. Yet here was Johnson, still a kid but by law, challenging the Stu “The Grim Reaper” Grimson in his first professional pre-season match.
Johnson’s primary attribute was of course his size, and it is what got him into the league, as Lisa Dillman would attest to in this classic LA Times story.
My rooting interest in Johnson ended abruptly, however, and in very definitive fashion. On November 21, 1998 Johnson sucker-punched NY Rangers defensemen Jeff Beukeboom in retaliation for a perceived slew foot.
The play was horrifying, and I’ve never lost rooting interest in a player for an in-game infraction more quickly than I did Matt Johnson. Not even Tony Granato (ok, I still love Tony).
So how about you? What terrible player did you somehow find yourself rooting for?
P.S. – Nolan/Andreoff are way too easy. Think harder.