Friday, November 6, 2015
Jeff Carter has learned the right way to play -- and win
By Larry Wigge
With each and every shift ... it seemed like Jeff Carter was becoming a huge part of it.
The 6-4, 210-pound center had to produce for the Los Angeles Kings because center No. 1 center Anze Kopitar went out of the game early in the first period with a head injury and ...
"The coach kept tapping on the shoulder," Carter said of coach Darryl Sutter calling on him.
"No, I never got tired of it."
Carter has become a more effective player with the Kings. More involved. Dynamic even, since his February 2012 trade from Columbus.
On this night in St. Louis, more than just the life of a power forward. Getting to the net. Getting in that heavy traffic. It takes a lot of work to take a pounding ... sometimes.
But Carter, using his big reach snapped a hard shot short side, for the game's first goal in a 3-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.
Jeff has played in all of the 151 games played by the Kings since his trade from the Blue Jackets -- becoming the club's ironman. Against St. Louis, he scored his fifth goal in 12 games -- his second game-winning goals in the last three games.
The London, Ontario, native, finally used his long reach to flick a shot high short-side over Jake Allen while the Kings and Blues were both shorthanded at 15:52 of the second period.
And ... it was the second game in as many days for the Kings. But, there he stood in the middle of the locker room after the game.
In just a few words ... he felt involved, wanted, determined to be a big factor.
"Whenever a player goes out off the lineup like Kopitar did, every body steps in and takes the odd shift," Carter said. "I'd rather take the extra shifts that sit on the bench.
"I want to play."
Carter, who is in his 11th season in the NHL, plays the game like his is 16 going on 30. Jeff has scored 46 goals in 2008-09. He has score more than 25 goals eight times. Jeff Carter took the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2010 and won the Cup twice with the Kings.
You get this impression of him as a KID.
Carter has made the most of his time with the Kings -- they won in the Stanley Cup in 2012 and again in 2014.
"Anywhere you grow up in Canada, it's everyone's dream to win the Stanley Cup," the Los Angeles Kings forward said. "You hear the stories about what it's like and when it actually happened, I remember skating around the ice for four or five minutes and my mind just went blank.
"Everyone's going crazy and celebrating and you just don't know what to think. It's a pretty different feeling."
Sutter said. "He has become a leader. It's good to see a player become a role model."
Down the stretch of two Stanley Cup titles, GM Dean Lombardi said he also had seen the new Carter. It was different from 2012. In 2014, Carter was different from the one in Philadelphia where Lombardi first saw him while working in the Flyers front office.
"He's like a gunslinger -- a potential goal scorer every time he's on the ice," the GM said. "That was the one element we thought we were lacking last year.
"I've known Jeff since he was 17. He kind of always just played ..."
At this point, Lombardi, who had scouted Jeff when he was on the staff of the Flyers that picked Carter in the first round of the 2003 draft, recalled the weight loss wasn't the only thing that was different in Carter.
"When he came back and trained," Lombardi continued. "I've never seen him work so hard. It was like a total about face.
"He's really grown up. I think we starting to see some leadership. I remember watching his training. Watching him run. I've never seen such a commitment from Jeff.
"We were getting more that we bargained for."
The goal on this night was a classic goal-scorer's move.
"It's good to see him score," said Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. "He's a goal-scorer. You're counting on him to score a big goal."
"Jeff Carter is not going to come in and be the cavalry," Lombardi said. "It's not easy to go out in the marketplace and find a guy with the potential to score 40 goals who is 27 and a cap number ($5.2 million per season) that's very favorable in terms of me keeping this nucleus together."
Part of Carter's upbringing was his father's influence.
Jim Carter's claim to fame was being selected between Mike Gartner and Dino Ciccarelli in the 1976 Ontario Hockey League draft. Gartner and Ciccarelli went on to become NHL superstars, combining for more than 1,300 goals and 2,500 points. Jim Carter, a 5-8, 145-pound forward, endured the worst season in Oshawa Generals history, hung up his skates, and went to work at a local copper mill.
"He coached me from the time I could skate until I was 16," said Jeff. "It was awesome.
"He was never one of those dads who just pushes, pushes, pushes. With him, you go play, you go home and you leave the game at the rink. He just wanted me to go out and have fun and it all worked out."
"He'd score 75 or 100 goals in a season," Jim Carter said. "You could tell he was a natural because things came to him fairly easy."
As a coach, Jim Carter said he stressed the fundamentals of the game with an emphasis on skating and positioning.
Carter's best advice to his son, Jeff, "If you can't skate ... you can't play."
Jeff Carter has certainly shown his ability to play -- and lead. If you happen to get his in a talkative mood, you can learn a lot about him.