The news has come out that no Los Angeles Kings fan wanted to hear: Jonathan Quick has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 groin strain and while an official timetable has yet to be released, it is believed he can miss anywhere from two to eight weeks. Regardless of the timeframe, this is a transitional time period for the Los Angeles Kings whether they’ll be missing their star netminder for just a handful of games, the remainder of the calendar year or, dare I say it, longer.
While it's perfectly natural to get initially discouraged over this type of news, what is unfortunate is that there are some fans I’ve come across that are so negative about any sort of bad news out of the Kings camp that they say something along the lines of “Oh, there goes the season,” even if it’s the middle of October and a fourth-liner tweaked a muscle in his leg. I mean no disrespect to any of Los Angeles’s fourth-liners but I’m sure you understand my point. There are others who would suggest that the Kings should have never traded Jonathan Bernier. As much as I’ve always liked Bernier, the latter suggestion is just ridiculous. But here’s an idea to all the fans that look at the Los Angeles Kings’ glass as half-empty: Plain and simple, make the most of this time.
Like the rest of the Kings supporters, I held my breath when Jonathan Quick left the game on Tuesday night in Buffalo and, also like the rest of the Kings supporters, I immediately hoped he wouldn’t miss any time because, selfishly, we need Jonathan Quick for the Los Angeles Kings to achieve any success. Or do we necessarily?
I cannot even pretend to underestimate the impact Quick has on the Kings. After all, he was more-or-less solely responsible for carrying the second-worst offense into the playoffs and with the help of a suddenly-rejuvenated offense, winning hockey’s ultimate prize in 2012.
Even last season’s run to the Western Final was in large part thanks to No. 32 which naturally leads Kings fans to wonder aloud, “What would we ever do without Quick?” Fans will have their question answered in due time.
To some, Jonathan Quick’s injury may seem like the end of the world – but it doesn’t have to feel that way. While most of the players on the Kings’ current roster were there during the Stanley Cup run in 2012, an even bigger challenge awaits them: winning without the team’s most valuable player for a fairly significant amount of time - and despite their displays of futility thus far, there isn’t any reason to believe that the Kings cannot overcome this obstacle.
It would be one thing if the Kings had a ragtag bunch of amateurs who had little to no chemistry with each other. But that’s not the case. The least-experienced players on the Kings roster are Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson and while the jury is still out on the latter, the former two are proving that a lack of experience doesn’t matter in the least.
While they may not be on fire every night, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Justin Williams have all proven how capable they are of carrying a team up front. Dustin Brown can certainly dish out the punishment if he’s unable to score and the aforementioned rookies can even chip in. Speaking of the rookies, what better way to prove themselves than in the interim when most outsiders will already be inclined to count the Kings out due solely to Quick’s injury?
With all that said, there is still plenty of praise due for the defensive unit. While Los Angeles is missing a significant piece in Matt Greene now, they do have Willie Mitchell and Drew Doughty who are each leading the team on the back end. The same can be said for Slava Voynov who has a tendency to turn up his physical game in addition to his already-impressive defensive prowess. As for Jake Muzzin, he’s still learning the ropes and playing decently despite some defensive lapses every now and then. But as much leverage as I’d like to offer Muzzin, the time is now to elevate his game. After all, while the Kings may say they have faith in Ben Scrivens (and they have every reason to), the third-year netminder’s importance to the Kings pales in comparison to that of Quick’s. While I mean absolutely no disrespect to Scrivens, it is the truth. But whether he’s ready or not, it is now time for Ben Scrivens to step it up and build on his 1.90 goals-against average, regardless how much help he gets from the guys in front of him.
As for Martin Jones, it will be exciting, albeit momentarily nerve-wracking, to see how he fares with the big club.
The news of Jonathan Quick’s injury is what no one in Los Angeles wanted to hear. But, contrary to how he plays at times, Jonathan Quick is human and even the game’s best netminders have had to miss some time with respective injuries, especially hamstring and groin afflictions: Patrick Roy, Grant Fuhr, Mike Richter, the list goes on. But this is no reason for the Kings to take their ball and go home, so to speak.
The so-called experts who either don’t like the Kings or are simply too lazy to pay attention to them will come to the conclusion that the silver-and-black are in serious trouble and being that it’s tougher to make the playoffs this season with the new wild card format, there won’t be any playoff hockey next spring in the City of Angels.
First of all, as much as their respective fan bases would like to believe this, the Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes and San Jose Sharks will not go the entire season without relinquishing a division lead at least once. In fact, despite their fast start, the Sharks have found themselves on a bit of a skid lately which means, like Jonathan Quick, they are human. The same goes for the Vancouver Canucks, the Minnesota Wild and, well, every team in the National Hockey League much less the Western Conference.
Second, while I am going a bit off track, despite the format change, there are still eight playoff spots in each conference. In fact, with two teams (Columbus and Detroit) having moved to the East, making the playoffs in the West is a shade easier, even though the conference is no less competitive that it was a year ago.
Of course with all this said, the Kings have yet to play a game without Jonathan Quick so only time will tell to see how they will fare without the 2012 Conn Smythe winner. But again, I’m not worried. If I’m wrong and the Kings implode without No. 32, then I’ll admit. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been wrong and contrary to what I like to believe, it certainly won’t be the last. But if ever there was a golden opportunity for the Los Angeles Kings to put their character on full display, this is it and there are no two ways about it.
The Kings have, for all intents and purposes, relied on Quick to win games for the better part of the last four years. For the time being at least, that luxury has gone out the window – and that’s okay, as it simply means the Kings need to show everyone – their fans, their critics and, most importantly, themselves – that they are represented by a heck of a lot more than an all-star goaltender.
I certainly believe in the Los Angeles Kings right now. How about you? It’s time to spill the beans, Los Angeles. Are you with me or not?