JEFF CARTER: Leader One?


I know what you’re thinking, but I’m going to ask that you not focus on the fact that this 11ft tall robot has what appear to be eyebrows. The ’80s were a crazy time. Instead I would like to draw your attention to a far more outlandish fact…Jeff Carter is a leader on the LA Kings. This is no joke. He wears an ‘A’ on his jersey and everything. During games. For the Kings!

Nashville Predators v Los Angeles Kings

Jeff Carter is a bonafide team leader, and the Kings are better because of it. Since his coronation on October 16th, presided over by Lord Darryl the Grumpy, the Duke of Hermosa Beach has lead the Kings out of the dark world (a little place I like to call Oileria) and back to their rightful place in the realm.

What a difference a week makes, hey guys!? Bet those first three games were kind of horrifying, eh[1]? Goalies getting shelled on a nightly basis, offence can’t squeeze a drop, defence frazzled and undisciplined. That sounds more like a team from Canada, than a team from California. But fear not my sunbaked friends, for a new champion has emerged to carry the crown. The nightmare was destined to end, but could it be any more astonishing that the Kings march to the top of the Pacific Division coincides with the ascension of Jeff Carter to alternate captain?

You have to hand it to the guy. Following one of the most publicly (as far as the modern NHL is concerned) bitter divorces in recent history, and a less-than stellar reclamations in Columbus, Carter seems to have exorcised whatever demons had haunted his career prior to his LA arrival. Jeff Carter has established himself as not only a premiere offensive player, but a player who attributes leadership characteristics on and off the ice. Apparently. Look, he has the ‘A’, okay?

[1] Eh: An interjection used to prompt a person to respond to what was said. 


Dustin Brown is still the captain of the Los Angeles Kings (apparently), and the team still has Drew Doughty, Matt Greene (!?), Milan Lucic, Marian Gaborik, and Anze Kopitar as veteran leaders. All of these men are considered to be leaders on this LA Kings team, and rightfully so.

Many players have come and gone from this team that would have to be considered part of the leadership group during their time in LA. And these past players have set the bar high for any future leaders on this team. Mike Richards, Willie Mitchell, Jarret Stoll, and Justin Williams all played a significant role in keeping the Kings focused on the task at hand while winning Stanley Cups in Los Angeles. But now it’s time for a new group to take the wheel of this magic carpet ride.

Or the oversized cell phone ride.

An interesting note on the leadership group of yore, is that not all of these players actually wore a letter for the team, but all of them were counted on to provide a level of leadership. Jeff Carter did not need a letter to be a leader on this team, but he’s been tapped to wear one all the same. This is worth noting, because not only does the roster still boast many players that are equally deserving of a letter, but prior to this season Jeff Carter seemed like the least likely candidate.

Time is the great equalizer; it has a way of blurring one’s memory, or at the very least adding a certain rose-coloured tinge to our view. It’s what allows us to look back at the ending of Lost and think: “that wasn’t THAT bad…right?” or what allows fans of the Oilers to show up to the rink 41 times a year and truly believe that the team has a legitimate shot at not breaking your heart before the first intermission.

Jeff Carter is about to turn 31 years old, and that’s got to mean something. There are no guarantees that every single person will develop along at a similar rate, but 30 is pretty good benchmark for when you should(ish) begin to develop a sense of all-encompassing maturity and stability in your life, as well as your career.


Carter has always had the tool to be a difference maker on the ice. You don’t have multiple 30+ goal campaigns just because your eyes are so dreamy they can hypnotize any goaltender in the league. But that doesn’t hurt your chances either. The knock against Jeff Carter, the one that has followed him from Philadelphia and Columbus, is that for all the talent he possessed he just couldn’t seem to get his act together off the ice. Allegedly.

What has been growing in anecdotal evidence over the last few seasons, are the strides the Carter has made to transform himself into, not only a gifted veteran, but honest to goodness leader for the LA Kings. Receiving a letter from Darryl Sutter should be considered a huge coup in the veterans career, as Darryl Sutter knows a thing or two about great leaders.

King Carter

“Devastatingly handsome is the head that wears the crown.”

It should come as no surprise that this turn-around in Jeff Carter occurred at a time when the Kings were introducing a fresh crop of young players, namely his That ’70s Line mates Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. It does not seem out of the realm of possibility that the arrival of a group of fresh-faced, upstart whipper-snappers has given Carter a new lease on life.

Is it possible to suggest that Carter may see some of himself in Toffoli and Pearson? Does it seem plausible that Carter has examined his career path and realized that he would be better served to play the role of positive role model?

All in all, Jeff Carter deserves a certain level of commendation for taking on such initiative.  It’s one thing to talk about being a better leader and a better teammate, but it is a whole other kettle of fish to actually apply the concept.

Now during this 7 game streak the Kings’ goaltending has been an absolute revelation, but that fact really has no bearing on this piece so we’re going to avoid talking about it, at all cost.


The fact is whoever plays with Carter seems to see a boost in their production numbers, going back to his playing days with Toffoli and Pearson, but certainly not limited to. Since the GoBots line has begun to click the Kings have become a force in West once again.

During the Kings’ 7 game win streak Leader One, Turbo, and Scooter have gone 4-5-9, (Carter), 2-5-7 (Lucic), 8-1-9 (Toffoli) respectively. Couple that with a combined Corsi of HAHAHAHA just kidding! I don’t do math. But seriously…these guys have been lights out.

They may have stumbled out of the gate, but the LA Kings seem to have gotten themselves back on track, and not a moment too soon. A 7 game winning streak is about as good as it gets when it comes to taking the pressure of your team, and providing a much needed bump in confidence. At the same token, Jeff Carter has rebranded himself as a genuine leader of the LA Kings, and the team is far better off because of it.

I cheer for the Edmonton Oilers. Have since I can remember, which is 1987. I know more about pain and suffering than you will hopefully ever have to experience as a hockey fan. Except for Canuck fans. Those guys are jerks. You can follow Ryan McKenzie on Twitter @RyanMcKenzie85.