The Los Angeles Kings were, to put it lightly, in a tailspin. While hockey fans across the continent were happy, nay, relieved when the dreaded lockout came to a merciful end, the picture wasn’t as promising in Southern California. The Kings had narrowly missed the playoffs in the two seasons before the work stoppage and to make matters worse, their draft record was nothing to brag about. But on the last weekend of July in 2005, the NHL met at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa for the NHL Draft.
Then-general manager did not have a promising record at the league’s annual event. Outside of picking Dustin Brown in 2003 and Cristobal Huet in 2001 (whom he traded the previous June), few of his picks ever played with the team that drafted them. But in 2005, something was different. After picking Anze Kopitar 11th overall, the Kings were off on the right foot. With the 60th, they chose a forward by the name of TJ Fast. Then, 12 picks later, Los Angeles made a decision that some may have very likely thought was nothing more than an ill-conceived joke. With the 72nd pick, the Los Angeles Kings drafted a goaltender out by the name of Jonathan Quick.
Fast, then Quick. How was this not a joke? The situation certainly is something to laugh about in hindsight but I don’t believe I can say the same thing if this were 2005. Nevertheless, since Quick played the next two years with the University of Massachusetts, it would be a while before Kings fans were introduced this aptly-named netminder.
After starting the 2007-08 season with the Reading Royals (Los Angeles’s then-affiliate in the ECHL), Quick moved up to Manchester for a while before making his NHL debut with the Kings later that season. To be perfectly honest, if it weren’t for his name, I would have forgotten all about Jonathan Quick – and that isn’t mean as a shot against him. That season, the Kings went through seven netminders. After Jonathan Bernier started the first four games, the unreliable Dan Cloutier re-emerged, as did Jason LaBarbera, then Jean-Sebastien Aubin and after Daniel Taylor got his feet wet, Erik Ersberg joined the fray. But in between all of that was Jonathan Quick. As for my first impression of Quick, I sarcastically said how nice it would be to have a future goaltender with such a prophetic name. Little did I know.
Outside of Felix Potvin, the Kings up to that point had not had a stable netminder since Kelly Hrudey left the team in 1996 – and even then Hrudey’s stock had plummeted.
Speaking personally, I spent many of the early-to-mid 2000’s longing for a goaltender who would, at the very least, exceed the status of “marginally good” in Los Angeles. Gradually, the Kings found their No. 1 guy in Jonathan Quick, and in no time, Kings’ fans found their knight in shining armor. Whether the design of his mask is just a coincidence is unknown but nevertheless, the Kings had at last found their premier goaltender.
After going 1-2-0 with a 3.84 goals-against average during his brief stint in 2007-08, Jonathan Quick was back in Los Angeles for more the following season – and he just kept getting better and better. While his 21-18-2 record in 2008-09 was just a shade above mediocre, Quick made up for it with a 2.48 GAA and four shutouts and while the Kings missed the playoffs, fans in La La Land knew their team was on the rise.
The next season, Quick was a workhorse playing in 72 games, going 39-24-7 while setting the team record for wins in a season. His 2.54 GAA was a tad higher than his total the year before but he did post another four shutouts and the Kings did return to the playoffs after an eight-year hiatus. But after bowing out of the opening round to Vancouver, the outsider “experts” doubted that Quick was better than a one-year wonder. Playing in all but 10 regular season games, many thought Quick would be burnt out and like a young pitcher overusing his arm, his career would be over before it really started to take off. But Quick had none of it. In 2010-11, Quick went 35-22-3, earned six shutouts and saw his GAA dip to 2.24 and then to 1.95 the following year.
It was that year, 2011-12, that elevated Jonathan Quick to star-status.
In addition to his 1.95 GAA, Quick went 35-21-13 with 10 shutouts and a career-high .928 save percentage. Not only that but he led the second-worst offense in the NHL not only into the playoffs but to upsets of the top three seeds in the Western Conference, a feat that had never been accomplished in the NHL’s long, storied history. But while the offense did pick up in the playoffs, Quick was no less important to his club’s success. Los Angeles’s phenomenal 16-4 playoff record en route to their first Stanley Cup was mentioned in the same breath as the dynastic Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s. As for Quick, his 1.41 goals-against average gave him the best totals of any netminder since the legendary Terry Sawchuk way back in 1952. That combined with a stunning .946 save percentage and three shutouts made Quick the unanimous winner of the Conn Smythe trophy as the post-season’s most valuable player.
But his accomplishments that spring didn’t seem like they were enough. After losing out on the Vezina trophy to Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick had back surgery. Some suggested that such a procedure would curb the netminder’s success. Again, wrong. After getting into the playoffs with an 18-13-4 mark, Quick was spectacular in the 2013 playoffs, leading the Kings to the West Final. Quick was nearly just as good this time as he was the previous year, posting a 1.86 GAA, a .934 save percentage and another three shutouts.
This season, the legend of Jonathan Quick has been retold. The later the season goes, the better No. 32 plays. He’s won so many games on his own, passing Felix Potvin, Mario Lessard and Kelly Hrudey. Entering this season, he trailed only the legendary Rogie Vachon as the winningest netminder in franchise history. Vachon’s mark of 171 was soon to be in jeopardy as Jonathan Quick, coming into the season with 149 wins, found himself within striking distance.
Despite a couple of losing streaks and being sidelined for six weeks with a groin injury, Jonathan Quick was no less determined to break Vachon’s record, even if individual records were superseded by team accomplishments.
On Thursday night, Quick was solid against Washington but needing a shootout to tie Vachon’s mark. On Saturday afternoon, he surpassed Vachon to reach No. 172 thanks to a stellar 4-0 shutout victory over Roberto Luongo and the Florida Panthers. The shutout was his fifth of the season and 30th on his career which would make one think how fitting it is that Quick surpassed his mentor’s mark while notching shutouts number that matches Vachon’s jersey number with the Kings. Funnier, Vachon still holds the franchise record for most shutouts: Quick’s jersey number, 32.
Having Jonathan Quick donning the uniform of the Los Angeles Kings has been the wildest, most exhilarating ride to date. When his teammates go through slumps, it’s Mr. Quick himself who picks up the slack and makes all the fans around him, whether in the arena or watching from home, even prouder to be Kings fans.
Initially calling Jonathan Quick the Los Angeles Kings’s “knight in shining armor” had me thinking that the design of his trademask mask is not a coincidence but a prophetic sign that he is the hero long-suffering Kings fans had been dreaming of for so long.
Here’s to 172 wins, Jonathan Quick, and a heck of a lot more to come. Congratulations.