When youve been to the mountaintop, youre spoiled for anything else, right?
So consider the five veterans of the Kings Stanley Cup championship teams of 2012 and 2014 who are still with the club and helping nurture the franchises next generation. Whether Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick ever lift the Cup again might depend on how quickly the kids are whipped into shape, but there seems to be a confidence and optimism in the room that suggests those veterans have gotten through that valley and are again headed for higher ground.
The Kings are a point out of a playoff spot going into Wednesday nights home game against Arizona. Theyd won six straight before a couple of hiccups in Minnesota last weekend, including back-to-back wins in St. Louis against a Blues club that is one point out of first place.
Browns 11 goals are tied for the West Division lead though, as he noted last week, hes 18 behind Torontos league-leading Auston Matthews while Kopitar is 11th in the league in points. Doughty is second in the league in ice time and has been a mentor to 21-year-old defense partner Mikey Anderson, Carter is still a dangerous second line winger and Quick and Cal Petersen have become an effective 1 and 1A tandem in goal.
But its what the veterans are passing along that will be a valuable contribution for years to come.
They have been here for so many years and had lots of success in the league, so they obviously know the right way to go about things, Anderson said on a Zoom call on Tuesday. Whether we have a question or they have input on something we can do, theyre not afraid to let us know and try to help us out.
In the locker room, that goes a long way. It helps us all feel comfortable. And those guys have done a terrific job so far with all the younger guys.
Its part of hockeys circle of life. Doughty talked Monday of the lessons he learned breaking in and the guy he learned most of them from.
Matt Greene, he said, referring to the big defenseman who arrived in L.A. from Edmonton in 2008, the year Doughty broke in, and was a King through the end of the 2016-17 season.
He was a mentor to me, Doughty said. Hes like a big brother. He took me under his wing in my first season. And ever since then and still to this day, if I have any leadership issues or questions Im calling Matt Greene. I think anybody thats ever played with him can tell you hes one of the best leaders theyve ever seen.
Im not the same leader he is. I go about it a different way. But there are a lot of things that I took from him that I use in my leadership skills.
Let there be no mistake: For proud veterans who have been champions, going through the slog of a rebuild can be really difficult. It takes strength mentally and emotionally to deal with it, to be a good teammate and a leader and mentor where necessary.
Weve chosen those five to be here for a reason, Coach Todd McLellan said last week. They have championship characteristics and qualities that they spread throughout the locker room on a daily basis. We can win 3-0 (or), lose 3-0. Theyre still doing the things we need them to do to bring young players along, and its such a good environment to be a young player right now. (Im not) surprised one bit at what theyre doing.
The transition years are hard on veteran players. You won with a lot of your buddies and you see them leaving. You dont really believe in whats coming until you see it and you get to play with it for a while. The hardest thing is transitioning from one group to the next. The five guys have bought into what were doing. Theyre very coachable. They spread the word quite well from the coaching staff on through the players.
If they werent productive, of course, this wouldnt work no matter how much information they could impart. For players like Brown and Doughty, who had been pretty much written off by observers throughout the league, both team and personal success could be a told you so moment if they wished to consider it that way.
Everyone is probably surprised outside of the room, Brown said when asked if people should be surprised by his teams emergence. I think we have a good team in there. Were kind of building on some of the momentum we had last year and the confidence. And to be honest with you, we have some young players coming in and kind of learning on the fly and doing a pretty good job of that.
Maybe the seven-game winning streak before COVID-19 halted the schedule last March should have been a sign. The Kings were well out of contention by that point and werent invited to the Western Conference bubble in Edmonton later that summer, and maybe that stuck in their collective craw, too.
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I dont think its the first time people doubted players in this room, so its a pride thing for sure, Brown said. If youre not prideful, youre probably not still playing in the league. I think everyone has a little bit of that in them.
Few expected the Kings to be in the playoff hunt when this shortened season began, but as Doughty put it: If anyone doesnt think that we can potentially make the playoffs, whats the point of coming here every day? Thats what were playing for.
So the veterans might also want to plant this seed at the appropriate time: At the end of the 2011-12 season the Kings were the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference, and they wound up going 16-4 in the playoffs and lifting the Cup.
The odds might be steep, in other words, but if you get in you have a chance.
jalexander@scng.com
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter


https://www.dailynews.com/2021/03/02...rt-of-rebuild/