It was only a couple weeks ago when the Los Angeles Kings traded goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Today, they part ways with defenseman Rob Scuderi who has just signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh where he will join the Penguins for a second tour of duty.
Initially, I had faith that Scuderi would return to Los Angeles for a fifth season. However, as time went on, it became clearer of the veteran defenseman’s desire to return to the east coast – perhaps closer to his hometown of Syosset, New York or his alma matter, Boston College.
Nevertheless, Scuderi chose Pittsburgh and with that, the Kings say goodbye to one of their most successful defensemen in franchise history.
For those who have been following me over the last few years know all-too-well the contempt I hold for the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise. While I admit no one in the organization ever did anything to me personally, I just cannot support a team captain by arguably the game’s biggest crybaby – but I digress.
Despite my feeling towards the Penguins, I am not the least bit reticent to admit that I’m going to miss Rob Scuderi. While I don’t want to see the Penguins win another Stanley Cup, I will take solace knowing that the one we called Scuds will receive his third championship ring barring any unforeseen circumstances.
In his four seasons with the Kings, Rob Scuderi scored a grand total of four goals and 42 assists while becoming the team’s ironman having not missed a single game for the silver-and-black since the 2009-10 season (his first in Los Angeles) when he was sidelined for nine games.
As we all know, though, Rob Scuderi wasn’t brought to Los Angeles to score goals. While watching the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals between Pittsburgh and the Detroit Red Wings, I couldn’t help but be enamored by one player in particular. While Crosby, Malkin, Datsyuk and Zetterberg were the big names that series, it was a blue-collar, fearless blueliner who grabbed my attention almost immediately.
Siding with my father who is a lifelong Detroit fan, I was frustrated to see the Red Wings juggernaut get slowed down by a little-known player who wore #4 for the yellow-and-black. That player was Rob Scuderi and while great offense and timely goaltending helped the Pens win the Cup in seven games, it was the tireless work ethic of Scuderi who made his team’s championship aspirations possible.
During said series, I discovered that Rob Scuderi was to be a free agent that summer. The Los Angeles, who by the summer of 2009, were on the cusp of returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2002, had been known in the previous number of years to have a defensive unit that had a motley mix of players who mediocre defensive ability at best. Blueliners like Joe Corvo, Mike Weaver and Nathan Dempsey made the Kings’ back-end one of the worst units in the entire league.
But with some key additions like Matt Greene in addition to the emergence of both Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, the Kings turned a corner defensively – but they weren’t by any means set.
While names like Marian Hossa and Nikolai Khabibulin topped that summer’s free agent market, I wanted the Los Angeles brass to pursue one player: Rob Scuderi.
The Kings did pursue Scuderi, he signed and another piece to the championship puzzle was in place.
In a team promotional ad to begin the 2009-10 season, Scuderi stated that he didn’t come to Los Angeles to finish second – and he proved to fans just how serious he was.
While I knew Scuderi was a workhorse willing to sacrifice his body to block a plethora of shots, my admiration for the veteran rose to a new level during Game 6 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
While the hometown Kings were up 3-2 in their series against the New Jersey Devils with a chance to clinch their first championship ever, they had lost the previous two games, thus momentum was not on their side.
Early in the game, though, with the game scoreless, Scuderi was viciously run into the boards from behind by New Jersey’s Steve Bernier. Scuderi was down for a few minutes and even drew quite a bit of blood.
But the Kings were given a five-minute power play and they took full advantage scoring three times on the man-advantage en route to winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. But soon after he was run from behind, Rob Scuderi returned to the game bloodied and bruised but back on the ice as if he never missed a beat.
Like in 2009, Scuderi proved that he was a playoff warrior and by night’s end, earned his second Cup ring.
So much can be said about Rob Scuderi from his work ethic to his fearless attitude to his never-say-die spirit. But as wonderful as the success of the Los Angeles Kings has been as of late, it’s hard to believe any of it would have happened without the services of Scuderi. Now, don’t get me wrong – that isn’t to suggest that the Kopitars, the Browns or the Doughtys couldn’t be successful amongst themselves but I think we can all happily agree that the Kings were (and are) just that much better, that much stronger because of Rob Scuderi’s impact.
While I’m very disappointed to see the 34-year-old leave, it’s not as if he pulled a Rob Blake and signed with rival San Jose or, worse, Anaheim.
I understand why Scuderi wanted to sign with, out of all teams, the Penguins. They were, after all, the team that drafted him so it’s understandable that any player would hold a place in his heart towards such an organization.
And who knows, maybe Scuderi will straighten Sidney Crosby out and remind him how important it is to shut your mouth and act like an adult.
In closing, there are no hard feelings with Scuderi’s departure from Los Angeles. Some may disagree with me but as far as I’m concerned, Rob Scuderi deserves the very best and if he believes Pittsburgh fits that bill then good for him.
I wish Rob Scuderi all the success in the world with the Penguins and even beyond and the next time I see I see a player donning a Number 7 jersey in silver-and-black, I’ll be upset when that name isn’t “Scuderi” but I’ll immediately smile knowing what the veteran brought to Los Angeles and what he meant to the Kings organization and the millions of their loyal fans.