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2019- 20 Season Preview: Whose net is it?

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Can Jonathan Quick avoid the injury bug?  Can the Kings greatest goalie of all-time return to championship form? Is Cal Peterson ready? Is Jack Campbell?

Los Angeles Kings v Vegas Golden Knights Photo by David Becker/NHLI via Getty Images

King of the Nets: Jonathan Quick

#32 has backstopped the team to two Stanley Cup championships, while all other goalies in the history of the franchise have combined for a whopping one Finals appearance and zero rings. He holds every significant franchise mark for goalies, is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, and former winner of both the Conn Smythe and Jennings trophies

Unfortunately, time marches on and last season’s career-worst performance may indicate Quick, a New England native, is no Tom Brady when it comes to eluding the grasp of Father Time. After logging over 4000 minutes in both 2014-15 and 2015-16, Quick suffered a season-shortening groin injury in early 2017.

He returned to form the following year, starting 63 games, and winning the Jennings Trophy with a record of 33-28-3, a 2.40 goals-against average, .921 save percentage, and five shutouts. Last year, however the injury bug hit again limiting him to only 2600 minutes and 46 games.

However, it’s not the reduction in workload that is concerning, it’s the decline in performance. Although Quick’s career goals against average is 2.40 with a save percentage of .918, he posted a dismal 3.38 goals against average and an even more troubling .888 save percentage, his worst on both fronts since joining the big club for good twelve years ago.

Has Jonathan Quick fallen off the proverbial cliff? It’s a question that should be answered before the leaves fall from the trees (they do that in SoCal, right?). If the season starts slowly for Coach McLellan and the Boys, even if Quick’s play is solid, I’d counsel Rob Blake to pivot the youth movement toward the pipes, particularly because Quick has four years left on a contract paying him more than $7 million this year. However, that figure gets halved to $3.5 million next year and is then reduced by $500,000 the year after and then another $500,000 in 2021-22. Thus a team looking to make a deep playoff run now may accept his temporarily inflated salary as the price to pay for the leadership and experience he can provide a young team with limited postseason experience. Finally, although the thought of #32 wearing another club’s sweater makes my stomach queasy, let’s all take a few deep breaths and remember what Michael Corleone said in the Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.”

The Heir Apparent: Jack Campbell

The 27-year old was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2018-19 Kings campaign. The former Dallas first-round pick spent six years in the minors before finally sticking around The Show long enough last year to make 25 starts, posting a 2.30 goals against-average and a .928 save percentage. Notably, Campbell substantially outperformed Jonathan Quick last season, letting down a full goal a game less than the aging, injury-prone veteran with a far higher save percentage.

If the team gets off to a poor start like last year, Rob Blake might feel Campbell’s $700,000 salary is far more palatable than Quick’s $7,000,000, particularly because a Quick in decline will still maintain trade value for a future draft choice, and it’s no secret that in order to successfully rebuild, the team must get younger (that means you, Jeff Carter) as the Kings fielded the oldest roster in the league last season. However, the question remains: can Campbell be relied upon to bear the burden of being a number one starter in the NHL?

The Future: Cal Petersen

The youngest of the Kings’ three goalies, the 25-year old Petersen signed a three-year deal this summer. While it is a two-way contract this year, it carries an average cap hit of over $850,000 each of the next three years. The former Notre Dame captain split time between the Kings and Reign last year making 11 appearances for the big club, posting a 2.61 goals against average and a .924 save percentage. Barring pre-season injury to Quick or Campbell it’s a given Petersen will start the year with the Reign. However, with a salary relatively low and stats last year far better than Quick’s, he’ll be called up to the big club if the team starts slow and management decides to part with Quick.

Outlook

A repeat from Jonathan Quick of last season’s 3.38 goals against average is not getting the team back into the playoffs, which should be a realistic goal for Luc and Rob Blake heading into this season. Together, Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen make less than 25% of Jonathan Quick’s salary. The team is not four times better with the aging and oft-injured veteran in goal than with a combination of Campbell and Petersen. As much as it will hurt to jettison a franchise legend, Lord Stanley’s chalice will not be paraded down Figueroa as long as #32 mans the cage. If the season begins slowly, Luc and Rob should not hesitate to pull the trigger. The team needs to free-up cap space and get younger. If that means trading Quick and his big contract, well, remember the Kings did trade Wayne Gretzky and that (eventually) worked out (twice).