You know what blows in sports?
We’ve seen the fickle fans in baseball, football, and of course hockey, especially at the top. I mean, it’s so much easier to fire a manager or a coach rather than rebuilding the product on the ice, isn’t it? The Cubs win a World Series after 108 years and three years later they fire the manager. The Rams are in the Super Bowl one year and the next they underperform a bit and it must be the coach. Even the Kings do it. Win two Stanley Cups in three years and two years later they fire the only guy who figured it out.
I’m not saying that Coach Sutter wasn’t the issue, but after watching the coaching dregs that came along after him, we were all hopeful it wasn’t the players that caused the Kings to crater in a bottom five feeder. But after watching Todd McLellan in practice, behind the bench, and in postgame pressers, you realize that it isn’t the coach. It’s the players.
Long before news leaked from Kings management that anyone not named Anze Kopitar or Drew Doughty is on the trading block, people around town were trading off our assets in the hope of landing top draft picks.
I used to be a proponent of trade them a year early, rather than a year too late. Mostly still am, but the entire loyalty aspect from a fan’s perspective has been wearing on me lately, especially when it comes to Jeff Carter.
I’ve written this too many times already: when did we, as a fan base, become entitled? It’s starting to get annoying don’t you think? Win now. Win all of the time. Rob Blake is dumb. Blah, blah, blah. It’s all old now. There’s 31 teams who want all of that winning. There’s about a dozen teams who are run really well. Another dozen that will never be run well and the other 11 are either over-rated or under-rated. I’ve been watching this game up close and seen it all—even some from inside the owner’s office—and I will tell you the Kings are in good hands. So let’s slow the roll on guys like Carter and Jonathan Quick need to go for a few minutes.
You know what you get when Jeff Cater is on the ice? Your ticket gets you a first-class, professional performance, no different than reservations at an especially good restaurant or hotel. He always delivers a top-notch effort. Always. Game in and game out. So now it looks like he might be switching teams, as soon as even this week. Last Saturday, I watched him live in his 1,000th game going full Jeff Carter, relentless in his pursuit of the net, looking to create at all times, and finally deflecting a Matt Roy shot in for the winning goal.
Despite the trade cloud flowing him around the ice for his 17:06 of ice time, he still played his tail off. Standing out as always, Carter attacks the ice in waves, almost like a surfer who doesn’t wait for the perfect wave and instead takes them all looking to turn nothing into something. He still plays with a controlled, cyborg intensity and there never was a more under-appreciated player in the league.
Even after twelve plus punishing seasons, even on an afternoon game slumming for a crummy 29th place team, Jeff Carter is still worth seeing. And now that he’s about to be traded—about two years too late, by the way—I’ve been astounded by the lack of respect for his abilities by so many GMs around the league and so underappreciated by the writers and talking heads who expect vintage Jeff Carter from the 2012-14 playoffs, painting him as past-his-prime and unable to recover from a tendon injury that no one has ever really explained the extent of since that fateful early season Montreal game last season when his leg was sliced open.
There’s a bias twinge to the anti-Carter coverage, pushed by media folks from out of town of those who pigeonhole him and would rather mention his infamous aversion to play in Columbus (overrated over the years, see: Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin) above describing the amazing delight of seeing him in person. The truth of the matter is that Carter has been nothing but a model teammate. One you could arguably state made Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli into $4 million a year guys and isn’t too selfish to coexist with other quality players. He probably should have sat out last season and collected his $5.27 rather than endure the nightmare of Willie D.’s pathetic coaching, but he didn’t. In true Carter style, he endured and attempted to play himself back into the scorer he always was. His play and lack of explosiveness proved that maybe that was the way to go. I mean, if he was selfish like so many others are.
Can you blame Rob Blake for wanting to convert a $5.27 million-a-year former center with 19 goals in his last 96 games into a first round draft pick? Heck, no. That’s why we’re knee-deep into a rebuild nobody wanted with the Kings effectively putting a borderline future Hall of Famer on eBay, with a trade expected to be consummated at the very second someone offers anything considered to be a “high draft pick.” any second — and I’m not sure anyone fully understands the ramifications here. This isn’t just any All-Star player. This could be the hockey bargain of recent years for a contender.
This isn’t a column to make the other GMs want to trade for him. That’s not for me to decide or weigh in on. The thing that irks me is everyone calling into radio shows and posting their pithy comments on Twitter about Jeff Carter. All of the entitled Kings fans—many who wouldn’t even pass the bandwagon test that the Vegas Golden Knights perfected over the last three years—should settle down and appreciate the Jeff Carter they have forgotten.
Maybe we forget that just three seasons ago, Carter was battling Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy through 60 games on a team that couldn’t crack 200 goals for an 82-game season. Maybe we also forget his 51 combined points in the 2012-14 playoffs. How about his three game winners in the 2012 Stanley Cup run? Did you also forget that he ranked second in playoff scoring in 2013-14 with 25 points (10G, 15A) in 26 games? That year, he had more goals than eventual Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams (and the same point total) but was never mentioned as a candidate despite playing with two rookie wingers. For some of you with bad memories, lest you forget his three game winners this season on a team with only eight wins?
Carter has proven to be someone you would be happy to be on a team with and go proudly into the hockey wars. Would you want him out there in the last five minutes of a Game 7? Could he help carry a good team and make it great? Would he come through when it mattered? Heck yes you would.
He’s someone who you should want on the Kings, not be actively trying to trade from your armchair GM seat at home. It’s time to be a loyal fan to someone who deserves our sports loyalty.
For me, I don’t know how all of this rebuild is going to turn out, but for now enjoy what little time Jeff Carter has on a terrible Kings team.
You should as well.