Jeff Carter of the Los Angeles Kings has had every label in the book attached to him at various times in his career: sniper, whiner and enigma have all been used to describe the 29-year-old. Now it is time to add another label to his resume, mentor. His line with rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli (dubbed “That 70s Line,” as a tribute to the classic sitcom and their jersey numbers being in the 70s) has been without question the best line of either team in the Western Conference Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks.
When Carter was traded from the Philadelphia Flyers, his lack of leadership and intangibles were at least partially attributed to his move to the Columbus Blue Jackets. When he shot his way out of Columbus to rejoin his long-time partner in crime, Mike Richards, in Los Angeles, his bad attitude and poor body language on a nightly basis with the Jackets personified these concerns. Since arriving in L.A., however, he has been a model citizen in both the tangible and intangible parts of the game. Carter has won a Stanley Cup, played big minutes for Gold Medal winning Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics and is on the verge of going back to the Stanley Cup Final. All since being traded twice in the span of eight months in 2011-12.
Being a veteran of over 500 NHL games puts Carter in a position to show the ultra-skilled rookies how to be successful NHL players. Carter’s size, skill and veteran know-how has allowed Toffoli and Pearson to play their respective games and excel in doing so. Carter has proverbially shown the rookies the ropes and made their line one of the most exciting in the playoffs.
Pearson has been able to show his crafty playmaking ability and Toffoli has been showing why he is such a highly touted sniper as he is getting his shots from where he wants them. Their chemistry is unique and undeniable as they are making one of the preeminent teams in the NHL look overmatched on almost every single shift. Their play has shown just how the deep the Kings really are. For the first time in the playoffs, a line other than Anze Kopitar’s has been able to consistently wreak havoc on the opposition.
If the Kings vanquish the reigning champions and win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, Jeff Carter’s contributions will be at the forefront. In addition to his on the ice contributions, his leadership and intangibles in elevating the play of his rookie linemates will be equally important. When a line of a twice-traded veteran and two rookies is vastly outplaying Patrick Kane and co., winning a seven-game series becomes more achievable.