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LA Kings React To Carter-Johnson Trade; Wait For Possible Other Skate To Drop

LA Kings newly-acquired forward Jeff Carter, shown here with the Columbus Blue Jackets after recording a hat trick during a 6-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on February 21, 2012, at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Photo courtesy: Los Angeles Kings

EL SEGUNDO, CA — The morning after the blockbuster deal that sent defenseman Jack Johnson, along with a conditional first round draft pick, to the Columbus Blue Jackets, in exchange for forward Jeff Carter, both determination and a bit of shock seemed to be apparent in the Los Angeles Kings dressing room following their practice on Friday.

With their horrendous play of late, a deal to shake things up seemed inevitable.

“I think we all thought something was going to happen,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “We didn’t know who, or what, or anything like that. You never want to see anyone go, but it’s part of the business.”

“With the way we’ve been scoring goals, there was that possibility,” said right wing and team captain Dustin Brown. “There was the thought that we needed more goal scoring help. We’ve been stumbling lately, so that puts the pressure on a little bit.”

“On a macro scale, we’re not naive to the fact that we haven’t done the job as well as we wanted, or scored as many goals as we wanted,” said defenseman Willie Mitchell, who was signed to a two-year contract extension valued at $7 million on Friday. “It’s pretty obvious that we’re underachieving in that department. Sometimes, you need a little kick in the pants to get things going, and [Kings President/General Manager] Dean [Lombardi] felt that was necessary.”

That the Kings acquired Carter speaks volumes about their glaring weaknesses this season, and the players know it.

“I think it’s on us,” Doughty stressed. “We shouldn’t have needed a shake-up to get things going. I think every single one of us needs to look in the mirror, and give everything [we’ve] got. We’re really frustrated with how we’re playing right now.”

“You got that feeling, that sentiment, that sense around here [that a trade was coming],” said center Jarret Stoll. “We weren’t getting points, we weren’t winning games, and that was the bottom line. That’s all of our faults in here. Myself, [center Anze] Kopitar, Brown, [defenseman Matt] Greene—everybody in this room.”

“We just weren’t doing the job,” added Stoll. “It’s been a tough year, [in terms of changes], but we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to go out, play the game, and win. Individually, everybody’s got to be better. I’ve got to be better. You can go right around the room. Everyone has to pick it up a notch or two.”

The addition of Carter gives the Kings something they really do not have…a true sniper.

“He’s a goal scorer, he’s a big guy, with a lot of speed,” said center Mike Richards, who played with Carter in Philadelphia. “He’s a smart hockey player, and we’re lacking that goal scoring touch. He can shoot the puck.”

“I played against Jeff in junior, and he’s a goal scorer,” Brown noted. “I think he’s definitely going to help our team in a lot of areas. He’s a big, strong, fast guy, and he can shoot the puck. I think the guys are excited. It definitely gives us another top six forward, which, I think, we’ve needed, with some of the injuries we’ve had. I think everyone’s excited about him coming in.”

“We’ll benefit from Jeff coming,” said Stoll. “He makes us a better team. He’s a proven goal scorer everywhere he’s been. It’s no secret that we need to score more goals to win games. Our defensive game has been pretty sound, and our goaltending has been great. We just have to create more. This is a great opportunity to do something special. Regardless of where we sit in the standings right now, I think we’re a good hockey team, and we can win.”

Carter should also help on the power play.

“It’s good to get Carter here, because he’s a shooter, a goal scorer, and that’s something we’re lacking,” said Doughty. “The power play has been struggling of late, and he’ll be great to add to that, too. Overall, the deal is really going to help our team.”

“He’s got a great shot, and skates pretty well for a big man,” said Mitchell. “He’s really good at finding that soft spot in the zone. That’s where you want to give him the puck, because he’s got a world-class shot. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”

As much as Carter is expected to help the Kings offensively, they also know that he alone will not fix what’s broken.

“Jeff’s not going to come in and [instantly solve our offensive problems],” Stoll emphasized. “We’ve got to work together. Jeff’s just another piece of the puzzle. But he has the skill to [do the job], and he’s done it before. We look forward to him coming. It should be exciting.”

“You can’t look to one guy and say that he’s going to come in here and be the answer,” Mitchell noted. “Can he be part of the answer? Absolutely. But part of the answer is all of us doing a better job of putting pucks in the back of the net.”

Despite the fact that he will be joining a new team, the Kings will not be entirely unfamiliar to him, and vice versa, as Richards is his best friend, and he knows Lombardi, assistant general manager Ron Hextall, and assistant coach John Stevens from their days with the Philadelphia Flyers.

“It’s a name the organization is very familiar with,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “Dean, Ron Hextall, and John Stevens are all very familiar with Jeff.”

“I talked to him last night,” said Richards. “He’s excited. He knows a lot of the guys here, and to have him come to a team—he’s familiar with [assistant coach John Stevens]—that’s going to make him more comfortable, and help him adjust a little bit easier, better and faster.”

You Have To Give In Order To Get

Going the other way is Johnson, who arrived in Columbus late Friday.

“We’re losing a great player, but we’re gaining [one, too],” said Richards. “That’s usually what happens in trades of this magnitude, you’ve got to give up something good to get something good.”

“I’ve played with Jack since he came into the league, and I’ve watched him grow, year by year,” said Brown. “He’s a good player, but you have give up something to get something in return. I talked to him a bit last night. He was as OK as you’re going to be when you get traded. I think he’s excited about probably being the guy [on the blue line] in Columbus. I wish him the best of luck, and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

“One door closes, but another door opens,” said Mitchell. “It’ll be exciting for him in Columbus. He’s going to be the guy there [on the blue line]. I’m sure he’s going to enjoy that challenge, and have some fun with it.”

Without Johnson, Doughty must now take on more responsibility as the Kings’ best defenseman.

“We’re going to miss JJ, for sure,” said Doughty. “Ever since I’ve been on this team, I’ve been playing with him. He’s a good friend of mine, and he was a really good player for us, too. We’re sad to see him go, but we have to move on. It’s part of the business. Carter will make us a better team.”

“I definitely need to step up my game,” added Doughty. “He’s a guy who put up some points for us, I need to step my game up, and take over the defensive corps.”

Trade Deadline Looms Large

For every NHL team, the trade deadline causes varying degrees of distraction. But this year, it is much greater for the Kings, who, as reported in this story, have already had a blockbuster deal impact their team.

How much of a distraction is it for the players, some of whom have to be wondering what lies ahead for them, for the next couple of days?

If you ask them, not much at all, especially given their situation.

“You can’t worry about it,” said Richards. “You have no control over what happens. It’s a tough time of the year, a tough part of the business, but you can’t worry about it. You have to play hockey, especially since we have 21 games left, and we’re in a dogfight for a playoff spot. We have bigger things on our minds than to worry about what we can’t control.”

“Not to be cliché about it, but our job, as players, is to worry about what we’ve got to do,” said Mitchell. “I’m trying to worry about what I’ve got to do to get this team into the playoffs. That’s where I want to be.”

“I’ve played in the league a little while now,” added Mitchell. “I’m getting older, the clock is ticking, and I want to win a Stanley Cup. That’s all I’m trying to do—worry about my game, and what I can bring to the table.”

Sutter warned his players about the potential distractions.

“I told them that you’ve got to put distractions aside,” he said. “It’s not like you’re ten points out, or that you’re ten points up. You have to stay in the moment.”

“It’s the same amount of pressure every year, it’s the same story every year,” Brown noted. “Players are going to be moved at this time, just like draft day. After you’ve been though it a few times, you understand that it’s part of the business. You just go about your business, as a player, getting ready to play games. We can’t be sitting back, wondering what’s going to happen, or if someone’s going to get moved. We have to worry about getting wins right now.”

“You can’t say you don’t think about it, but it’s more along the lines of getting here, getting on the ice, and working on what I need to do to play well on Saturday,” added Brown. “My main focus is being at my best for every game.”

This year’s trade deadline is a bit different for Brown, as his name came up in trade rumors shortly after the Carter-Johnson deal went down, the result of posts on Twitter by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, which continued on Friday.

But later Friday morning, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman countered McKenzie’s Twitter posts, stating that the Kings were no longer shopping Brown.

For his part, Brown shrugged off the rumors.

“It’s the same thing every year,” he said. “Your name gets thrown out there, other names get thrown out there. At the end of the day, you’ve got to get yourself ready to play. You can’t worry about stuff that hasn’t happened yet.”

“As players, you just don’t sit here and wonder what’s going to happen,” he added. “You just try to go out there and play. At least for me, I don’t dwell on what’s going to happen.”

Under the circumstances, it would be a shock to see the Kings trade Brown unless they got a huge offer—a steep overpayment—in return. The smart money is on Brown remaining in a Kings jersey.


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2 Responses to LA Kings React To Carter-Johnson Trade; Wait For Possible Other Skate To Drop

  1. IBleedPurple says:

    I hate to see Jack go. He’s certainly getting the shaft for the failure of the team as a whole to get things going offensively. It’s getting very frustrating seeing Quick put up stellar games only to lose them because the kings can’t score a couple of lousy goals. On any other team JQ has 30+ wins. What I find baffling is that they brought in Richards and Gagne for more offensive firepower and neither of those guys have gotten the job done. I know Gagne is injured and he’s been out, which is worrisome in itself, but what’s Richards’ excuse? It’s like once he came over it took a while for him to get that scoring out of his system and now he’s become “kingified” (can’t score if his life depended on it). I think it’s a mindset with these guys. Once they get the puck into the offensive zone they just don’t know how to bear down, get the puck to the shooting areas, crash and “force” that puck to go in, come hell or high water. That’s an offensive way of thinking. They don’t have that right now and I don’t think adding another scorer is going to do that for them.

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