In hindsight, it was a great two weeks. Fans of the Los Angeles Kings were initially looking forward to the Sochi Games simply because their struggling team needed a break. Once the Kings representatives flew overseas, however, fans began to express their allegiance to both their own countries and those of which their roster included Kings.
Six different Los Angeles Kings players had the honour of representing their respective counties at the Olympics and some of them proved to be more valuable to their respective teams than others.
As far as the gold-medallists went, Team Canada received plenty of support from both Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter on both ends of the ice. In fact, recapping the tournament, TSN analust Mike Johnson gave each Canadian player a final grade. Drew Doughty (along with Nashville’s Shea Weber) led the way with an A+ while Jeff Carter (and Jonathan Toews) led all forwards with an A-. While I do understand that said ratings are purely subjective, it does make one look back and smile at just how important Doughty and Carter were to their country’s win, whether you’re a fan of the Los Angeles Kings, Team Canada or even the OHL’s Guelph Storm or Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the respective junior clubs of both men.
But as great as they were, the contributions from Kings in Sochi didn’t stop at Doughty and Carter.
Despite much speculation that Ryan Miller would pick up where he left off from the 2010 Games, the United States instead went with netminder Jonathan Quick. The decision wasn’t so much detrimental to Miller but a testament to just how good Quick has been over the last few years.
Team USA may not have finished on the podium like in Vancouver but if anyone is to be blamed for that, it certainly wouldn’t be Quick who was, for all intents and purposes, a saviour, especially during the latter stages of the Olympics. Early on, Quick had plenty of support as the Americans scored 20 goals in their first four games. Then, nothing. Despite getting shut out in the semi-final against Canada and again in the bronze-medal game to Finland, Jonathan Quick stood on his head.
In a pattern very much like the one he’s used to in Los Angeles, Quick was essentially a one-man show, stopping everything he could while the team in front struggled mightily to light the lamp. Dustin Brown helped out with a pair of goals for Team USA but wasn’t nearly as effective as his teammate.
In the risk of sounding bias, Jonathan Quick deserved to leave Sochi with a medal, regardless what the colour was.
Entering Sochi, Slovenia had no chance of winning in men’s hockey – or so most thought. While Slovenia won two games before bowing out in the quarter-final but for a team who was supposed to simply be happy to be there, the Slovenes exceeded expectations. The team’s lone NHLer was none other than Los Angeles’s own Anze Kopitar, but the contributions weren’t just limited to No. 11. Kopitar, though, did chip in immensely and with his help, Slovenia became, for lack of a better term, the Sweethearts of Sochi – although it is somewhat laughable to refer to big, burly hockey players as much. Nevertheless, while he couldn’t help his country reach the podium, Anze Kopitar and his teammates had every reason to hold their heads high when they left Sochi.
As for the sixth and final representative of the Kings, Russian defenseman Slava Voynov didn’t put up any points but did play very well defensively despite his team’s disappointing finish.
Sticking with Voynov, he did ruffle feathers when Kings teammate Jonathan Quick knocked off the net during the Russia/USA game in the preliminary round. The net caused a disallowed goal against the Russia, the game ultimately went to a shootout where the Americans won. Whether Quick deliberately knocked the net off or not, many Russians were peeved, including Voynov. But while that game was over two weeks ago, the wish of most, if not all, Kings fans is that Quick and Voynov will be on good terms once the silver-and-black resume their schedule on Wednesday.
But since their controversial overtime loss in Detroit January 19, the Kings reeled, winning just two of their next 10 heading into the break. For the Kings and their fans, Sochi could not come fast enough. Now, with the Olympics wrapped up and the participating representatives back in North America, it’s about time to resume the NHL season and hopefully, the success of Doughty, Carter and even Quick can carry over with their professional club.
There will be plenty going on North America soon. Once the season resumes, all 30 general managers will be fast preparing for the March 5 Trade Deadline immediately followed by one final playoff run as all the teams must transition from a very short month to the final full month of the regular season.
Hopefully this break will do wonders for the Los Angeles Kings as they hope to turn the tide on their most recent slump, start scoring some goals and, better, winning some more games.
The Olympics were great – but now it’s time to get back to work.
I’m ready. Are you?