LA Kings: Why a healthy Jeff Carter is so good for the team

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings need a healthy Jeff Carter, that’s a fact. The 2006 first-round pick came to the Kings in a 2012 trade deadline deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets and paid immediate dividends, helping the club win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.

He was especially outstanding during the 2014 championship run, centering “that 70’s line” with Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson on his wings. In his ten years with the Kings, Carter has played 541 games, scoring 187 goals and 179 assists. His best single-season as an LA King was 2016-17, when he scored 32 goals while adding 34 assists.

Now 36 years old, a healthy Jeff Carter is still one of the fastest skaters on the team. His laser-like wrist shot can still find openings with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Known as a shooter, an underrated part of Carter’s game is his ability to dish the puck. From 2014-15 through 2016-17, he had three straight seasons with over 30 assists.

When the glory years of the Stanley Cups began to fade, so too did Carter’s scoring numbers. In the seventh game of the 2017-18 season against Montreal, “Carts” (Carter’s nickname) suffered a freak leg injury when Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry‘s skate accidentally severed a tendon in his leg. The injury would require surgery to repair, and when he came back toward the end of the season, it was obvious the after-effects were still there.

The LA Kings need a healthy Jeff Carter to make a playoff push

After that, the injury bug would not leave Carter alone. The 2019-20 season would shut down prematurely after the Kings had played 70 games, but Jeff’s ended even sooner than that. After only 60 games played, Carter’s season would end after he needed surgery to fix a core muscle injury.

Some wondered if this meant his playing days were over, given his age and the perception that he had “lost a step.” The Kings missed the playoffs meaning they wouldn’t play a game for approximately ten months. While this wasn’t ideal for most aspects of Kings hockey, in Carter’s case, good things come to those who wait.

Fast forward to January 14 and the LA Kings first game of the 2021 season.

Overall, the team had some rust to knock off, Jeff Carter was flying. Playing right wing on a line with Blake Lizotte and fellow burner Andreas Athanasiou, Carter looked like he was back in his prime. Although the Kings were defeated 4-3 in overtime, Carter scored a goal and added an assist.

Does this mean Jeff Carter is on his way back to being a dominant number two center for the Kings? Probably not, as the team has a plethora of young centers to fill the void at that position. Jeff Carter does wear an “A” on his sweater, however, and his value as an alternate captain for the youngsters on the Kings cannot be overstated.

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Additional offense on a team starved for goals would be great, but leadership is the reason why a healthy Jeff Carter is so good for this LA Kings team.