35 Days to Go: A Less Heralded Goalie Tradition
Looking at the ups and downs of LA’s goaltending, via the guys who never quite owned the net.
What Los Angeles Kings goalie history is complete without those who wore #35?
... Actually, a fairly comprehensive history could be told without including the six netminders who wore the jersey. But why would you do that?
Ever since Tony Esposito donned #35 in the 1970s, a steady flow of goalies have come into league with the number. Today, some of the league’s most familiar faces in net (Rinne, Howard, Schneider) wear it, and a number of Stanley Cup champions were backstopped by a #35 (Moog, Barrasso, Richter, Giguere). In LA, however, no #35 reached the heights reached by #30, #32, or the other #32.
Here are the six goalies who wore #35 for LA; all in all, they give a pretty good summary of what most of the Kings’ history in net looks like. (The list excludes immortal Finnish defenseman Arto Blomsten, who wore #35 for two games in 1995-96.)
- Darren Eliot (debut 1984-85): Eliot backed up Bob Janecyk and Roland Melanson during the middle of the 1980s, for a bad defensive team, in a division with the Edmonton Oilers. No wonder the stats look a bit ugly. Eliot then smartly parlayed his 89 games into a career in broadcasting. Best known for: Why does Little Caesars pop up when you Google Eliot? Because along with being a Detroit in-studio analyst, he runs a youth hockey program sponsored by the pizza chain.
- Glenn Healy (debut 1985-86): Healy got one game in the LA net before returning two years later for a more consistent gig. Unfortunately, Kelly Hrudey stole the net from him in 1989-90. Fortunately (for Healy, at least), he moved on to a long and fruitful backup career in New York, other New York, and Toronto. Best known for: Being that Hockey Night in Canada analyst people didn’t like.
- Robb Stauber (debut 1989-90): Stauber had good timing; after an inauspicious debut, he won the Kings’ backup job in 1992-93 and became an unexpected piece of LA’s run to the Stanley Cup Final by leading LA back from a 2-1 first round deficit against Calgary. Hrudey took the reins after Game 1 of the Smythe Division Final. Stauber’s NHL career ended up being the shortest of anyone’s on this list, but he got a little bit of glory. Best known for: The reason he got his nickname. Imagine the reaction if Quick did this?/
- Stephane Fiset (debut 1996-97): Fiset was in the Kings’ net for a long time. In fact, he’s in the top five in total minutes played in franchise history. He led the team in games played in each of his four full seasons, but he never quite got a solid grip on the starter’s job with Jamie Storr lurking behind him. Case in point: Fiset was in the top ten among NHL starters with a save percentage of .915 in 1998-99, but Storr had a .916. In the end, Fiset struggled with injury and was forced out by the acquisition of Felix Potvin. Best known for: Being the final goaltender in Quebec Nordiques history.
- Cristobal Huet: Huet looked like a decent option in net for the Kings, but just before the lockout, he was traded to Montreal for Mathieu Garon. He responded by leading the entire league in save percentage in 2005-06. He pulled a similar trick in 2007-08, going to Washington and taking Olaf Kolzig’s throne with a stellar stretch run. That got him a four-year, $22.4 million contract from Chicago at the age of 33. Best known for: Being sent to Switzerland so the Blackhawks didn’t have to pay the last two years of said contract.
- Jason LaBarbera (debut): The Kings tied an NHL record by using seven goaltenders in the 2007-08 season. The most frequent? LaBarbera, who was solid in 2005-06, stellar for Manchester in 2006-07, and survived the dreadful lows of the seven-goalie season. Jonathan Quick arrived in 2009, and LaBarbera was shipped up and down the Pacific. The final win of his NHL career came for Anaheim, in relief, on November 12, 2014. Against the Kings. Best known for: Looking really good next to Dan Cloutier./
Tomorrow: #34, and no goalie talk.