2013-14 Preview: Hoping to Represent Canada in Sochi, Jeff Carter Determined to Prove His Worth as a Natural Goal-Scorer
When he was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings in February 2012, I wasn’t the most enthusiastic of those who learned of the news. When general manager Dean Lombardi tried to address the offensive woes of his team, he picked up Carter from Columbus in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson. As far as I was concerned, it was simply the swapping of two large contracts. Even with his reunion with Mike Richards wasn’t enough to leave me feeling ga-ga of Carter’s arrival to La-La.
But I was wrong – and I’m glad that I was.
In the 16 regular-season games he suited up for the Kings following his trade from the lowly Blue Jackets, the London, Ontario native scored six goals and added three assists to help boost the offensively-anemic Kings into the playoffs during the campaign’s final weekend. Not only that but Carter went on to score eight goals and five assists in 20 games in a post-season the Los Angeles Kings or their fans will ever forget.
While the Kings eventually got their offensive juices flowing in 2013, they did have a slow start. But the one player who led the way offensively early on was Jeff Carter who ended the lockout-shortened season leading his club with 26 goals and adding seven assists along the way.
In the playoffs, while his numbers weren’t as scintillating, Carter was still able to have an impact by scoring six goals and seven assists in 18 games last spring. Even the chemistry with his former linemate in Philadelphia, the aforementioned Mike Richards, blossomed once again which alone gives Kings fans ample reason to be excited about the 2013-14 season.
Even when the 28-year-old doesn’t score, the opposition would still be wise to stay on their toes as Carter’s 133 total shots in 2013 was good enough for third on the team during the regular season trailing only Dustin Brown and Justin Williams who each finished the campaign with 142.
While he’s not the most notorious King to excel in the category, Jeff Carter’s 52.6 percentile in the faceoff circle in 2013 is certainly something to take note of as he gives his team an advantage, along with Jarret Stoll, in winning the key faceoff at the most opportune times.
Despite his 6’3, 200-pound frame, Carter registered only 25 hits last season in 48 regular-season games and 18 hits in 18 post-season outings. Also, his 23 blocked shots during the regular season and his eight during the playoffs don’t exactly speak volumes about the former first-rounder’s defensive abilities. While there are plenty of Kings who are both proven and willing to shoulder the load defensively, it is more than fair to point out that Carter’s defensive game is by no means a liability – just not as active as that of most of teammates. After all, when you’re a natural goal-scorer like Jeff Carter, having a defensive game that doesn’t rank among the best in the business can be excused to a large extent.
Entering the 2013-14 season, however, there will be one area in particular that will give Jeff Carter the determination to have his best season to date: the Olympics.
Four years ago, Jeff Carter narrowly missed the cut that would have sent him to Vancouver to represent Team Canada.
While Mike Richards did make the Canadian squad in 2010, the general consensus seems to be that he is less likely to wear the maple leaf again in 2014 while Carter is more likely to represent his native country in Sochi next February mostly due to the fact that, as previously mentioned, he is a natural goal-scorer.
But what’s said by the experts and written on paper does not make anything a guarantee. So, Jeff Carter will have the first few months of the regular season to prove to (Team Canada GM) Steve Yzerman and the rest of his staff that he is deserving and more-than-worthy of donning the maple leaf in Russia and ultimately, hoping to help Canada to their second-straight gold medal. A trip to Sochi for Carter will also mean (most likely) being teammates with current King and fellow London native Drew Doughty. The 28-year-old has enough incentive to represent Canada and soon, it will be time to get to work.
A lot’s at stake this coming season for Jeff Carter but there is no pressure involved. For a player of his immense caliber, the former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound will be itching to excel in Los Angeles right from the get-go.
Like Ken Morrow, Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith before him, Jeff Carter hopes to win an Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup in the same year.
But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. After all, as the old cliché goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.