With the 2018-19 NHL season firmly in the rear view mirror, it’s time to look back at what we learned about the players of the Los Angeles Kings. How did they fare in a down season? What’s next for each of them? Who will still be here on opening day? Join us as we take a look back at the season, try to figure out what went wrong, and see where we go from here. We start our series with a look at Jonathan Quick — should he stay or should he go?
(*If you didn’t, it’s required reading. You’ll be bitter that the Kings and their players are overlooked on the national scene. I understand it though, because before 1988 (Gretzky trade) the Kings were an afterthought for the NHL. No one took the Kings seriously until 2012 and that first Stanley Cup. Well, maybe that didn’t happen until the 2014 Cup was raised. Based on the 2018 Hart Trophy voting, maybe the #EastCoastBias still exists. Yet, I digress…)
Maybe you’re like my family and you know that Quick’s athleticism and fundamentals are still elite and he played through his recovery last year. Maybe you’re like us and you are sick and tired of hearing that Jonathan Quick should be, and will be, traded. We sweated out the 2019 trade deadline and now we have to get through the pre-draft trade season. I hear all of the detractors telling us that Quick is washed up and that Jack Campbell/Cal Petersen tandem can more than fill his skates. I also hear the naysayers crying about there being no room for loyalty during a
rebuild reset. For those who are just plain mean, I heard all of your jokes about Quick’s groin literally exploding during the second period of some random game this season**.
(**While not all that funny, if Quick’s groin does implode and he winds up on long term injured reserve, that does solve a major salary cap issue and perhaps that’s why interim coach Willie Desjardins insisted playing Quick at abnormally high levels for a player coming off a fairly severe injury playing for a team seemingly out of a playoff spot.)
I’m not saying that Quick’s 2018-19 was anything other than putrid. I mean, the numbers don’t lie:
46 games played, 16 wins, 23 losses, 7 overtime losses, 2 shut-outs
.888 save percentage, 3.38 goals against average
Terrible as it was last season, when you see plays like this, you know he still has it:
However, since I brought up Willie D. earlier, I have to address the elephant in the room. You know what I haven’t heard? That Quick hated playing for Willie D. and didn’t respect him like the rest of the team. Yep, that’s my hot take and here’s why...
How does a goalie who knows how to come back from injury—who’s coming off a Jennings Trophy-winning 2017-18 season—go from great to terrible? You start by bringing a coach who can’t even run a practice [“Pathetic practices...” —Tyler Toffoli]. Now, I ask you to give it your own eyeball test. When you watched the games last season, how many times did you say, “nobody is playing in front of Quick”? How many times was the play all Keystone Cops in front of him?
Did anyone ever think Willie D. misused Quick after he returned from injury? Not once did I hear this analysis in post-game scrums or written about by the hockey pundits. But yet, it was obvious Quick was misused.
Did you know that Quick played in 14 of 16 games after his return? Did you also know that Quick played in 74 per cent of the Kings games in that span? What coach does that?
You know who didn’t do that? David Quinn (Rangers) and Jeff Blashill (Red Wings). Those coaches—leading their bottom-of-the-division teams—played their aging top goalies 63 per cent (Henrik Lundqvist) and 55 per cent (Jimmy Howard) respectively.
Please just stop if you’re going to sell me that the Kings were showcasing Quick for a trade because the Rangers and Red Wings were both shopping Howard and Lundqvist, yet they respected their legacy goaltenders and didn’t embarrass either by trotting them out game after game and falling asleep when their goalies needed protecting.
Now, I’m not a true hockey anthropologist, but allow me to go back to 1995 and the Patrick Roy Situation. Back in 1995, Roy was coming off a subpar, injury-filled 1994-95 campaign. This was the first season where he didn’t place in any of the All Star team, Hart, Conn Smythe, or Jennings discussions and voting. His stat line looked something like this:
43 games played, 17 wins, 20 losses, 6 overtime losses, 1 shut-out
.906 Save Percentage, 2.97 Goals Against Average
[For the next few paragraphs, go ahead and stop me if any of this sounds familiar…]
The rabid Montreal media was hounding him, saying he was washed up, and his coach, Jacques Demers, desperately clinging to his job, wasn’t exactly sticking up for his star goaltender.
As the calendar turned to the 1995-95 season, Demers was blown out and replaced by Mario Tremblay whom Roy despised from his playing days. Roy stumbled out to a 12-9-1 record and a nearly 3.00 Goals Against Average. The media was still frying him and his coach was indifferent to stop the onslaught. Then on December 2, 1995, everything changed.
On that fateful night against the Detroit Red Wings, Roy was stranded in net for nine goals against while his coach originated what we’ve come to think of as the dreaded Lost Willie Desjardins Look. Roy eventually pulled himself in that 11-1 loss, skating right to then-team president Ronald Corey, informing him it was his last game.
I recall in game 79 vs. the Calgary Flames, Quick was left to roast in the goal light glare, giving up seven goals while being pummeled with grade A chance after grade A chance. Why Willie left Quick in the game, we will never know. You can only speculate as to why he would want to embarrass our Conn Smythe winner in a meaningless late-season game. What kind of coach does that?***
[***I’ll tell you who wouldn’t have left Quick in (or Roy for that matter) and that’s nine-time, Stanley Cup-winning coach Scotty Bowman. Bowman who was the Red Wings coach during that 11-1 win had this rule of thumb: “I usually waited till the fifth goal, depending on the game and the score.”]
After Willie D. finally pulled Quick 8:45 into the third, Quick was so enraged that he stormed into the tunnel, presumably to tell Luc Robitaille that he was taking Roy’s lead and had played his last game in a Kings uniform (note: unverified speculation). Cooler heads prevailed and Quick returned to the bench for the rest of the game.
And who can forget this moment towards the end of the Kings 10-game losing streak in February?
Attention: Rob Blake and @LAKings ... always pick the franchise goalie over the interim head coach. Time to say goodbye to the worst coach in #LAKings history. Thank you for listening. pic.twitter.com/rSwtTfkH7s— Michael Lloyd (@MarketingVIP) February 27, 2019
These are just two microcosms of Willie D.’s “pathetic” coaching which was not suited for the NHL and guaranteed to be the biggest proofs that Quick’s bad season points directly to the coach.
Back to 1995, four days after Roy said he would never play for Montreal again, the Canadiens engineered one of the most lopsided trades ever sending perhaps the best goalie of all time**** and team captain Mike Keane to the to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky, and Andrei Kovalenko. What happened subsequently left the hockey world shaking their heads.
(****Marty Brodeur was great, but no one could touch Roy when it mattered.)
After the trade, the Colorado Avalanche ripped through the Stanley Cup playoffs that same year going 16-6 behind Roy’s .921 save percentage and 2.10 goals against. And, uh, they also won the Cup in 2000-01. Meanwhile, Roy picked up another Conn Smythe (2001), a Jennings (2002), he finished second (2002), third (1997), fourth (2003), and fifth (1998, 2001) in the Vezina voting, and made two more All Star teams including a first team All Star in 2002.
How did the Canadiens fare? Well, they’ve struggled in the 24 years since, haven’t they?
I bring up Patrick Roy not to give you a long-winded hockey history lesson, but to talk some reason into the Kings’ brass and implore them to reconsider dumping Quick for pennies on the dollar.
If you’re one of those who think a Jack Campbell / Cal Petersen rotation and their $1.6 million salary hit is a better play than Quick’s $5.8 million for the next three years, you may be correct. Keep in mind that Petersen needs a new contract this year and Campbell is only signed through the end of next season. Also keep in mind that Campbell and Peterson played their best hockey while sharing the 26 per cent of the games that Willie D. graciously allotted to them in his big brain goal rotation. Finally, don’t lose sight that the NHL has an expansion draft coming up and they can only protect one goalie.
All of this adds up to that if Rob Blake trades Quick, he better be right and he better get a lot more than Thibault, Rucinsky, and Kovalenko back in return. So I call on Rob to recall that Albert Einstein quote they always used to tell us in those UCLA philosophy courses: “If you want to know the future, look at the past.”
I can tell you that the past instructs you not to give up on a goalie coming off injury that didn’t like his coach.