The regular season did not get off to an auspicious start for the Los Angeles Kings, and Thursday’s news did not help matters.
After the first period of Wednesday’s eventual loss in San Jose, there was a key Kings player who was suddenly conspicuous by his absence: netminder Jonathan Quick.
After backup Jeff Zatkoff came in to start the second period, the same thought – nay, grave concern – came into the minds of Kings fans everywhere: What happened to Jonathan Quick?
While Zatkoff played very well in stopping 15 of 16 shots – the lone goal against was of no fault of his – in relief, most were simply concerned with the Kings’ starter and, unfortunately, they were given a not-so-promising update following the game, via Twitter courtesy of Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider.
Quick’s recovery “could be a while;” MRI scheduled: https://t.co/VlXSZlFwyr
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) October 13, 2016
After his MRI on Thursday, Quick was placed on Injured Reserve by the Kings and was, in turn, classified as “week-to-week.” So, while Jeff Zatkoff will be seeing more playing time as a result, the Kings called up Peter Budaj from Ontario as per the aforementioned Jon Rosen.
Kings make Budaj recall official.
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) October 13, 2016
But for a fanbase not only aching for hockey all summer long but hoping that their team can win a third Stanley Cup this coming season, their hopes hit a snag on Wednesday in the wake of Quick’s injury. While many fans are simply taking the setback in stride, some are already throwing in the proverbial towel on this very young season.
Let us not forget, though, that while right now, the Kings’ outlook looks somewhat bleak when focusing solely on the goaltending situation, the reality of professional sports is that one’s injury paves the way for another’s emergence. After all, just three years ago, the Kings found themselves in the same situation when Jonathan Quick was sidelined for a number of weeks with a groin injury. However, when comparing the Kings’ current goaltending situation to that of theirs three years earlier, some are quick to point out that it was different then as the Kings had Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones to hold down the fort, so to speak.
While Scrivens and Jones did both provide admirable relief for the Kings injured starter, it is notable to remember that when Jonathan Quick did first go down with his injury in 2013, very few fans were excited for the chances of Scrivens and/or Jones excelling.
At the time of Quick’s injury, many fans were instead cursing their team for trading backup Jonathan Bernier just a few months earlier. Scrivens, while he did have previous NHL experience, had yet to play the role of a starter. Yet, all Scrivens did was guide the Kings to an eight-game point streak right off the bat, winning five of those contents. As for Jones, let us remember that, at that juncture, he had yet to play an NHL regular-season game. In fact, when it was announced the Jones was going to make his debut on Dec. 3 in Anaheim, some fans I spoke to thought (Kings head coach) Darryl Sutter had lost his mind as the Ducks, who were the hottest team in the league at that point, were dominant on home ice. Of course, if the task of beating the Ducks in Anaheim was supposed to be daunting, someone forgot to tell Jones, who made 26 saves to lead his Kings to a thrilling shootout victory.
Suddenly, what started out as a seemingly-unfortunate situation turned out to be an enviable one for the Los Angeles Kings who, by the time Quick returned to the lineup after the holiday season, had three bona fide starters on their hands – even if Scrivens and Jones still weren’t as established.
Another argument that was made in recent days by some was the notion that the Kings’ defensive unit was much different in 2013 as, unlike then, the team had the likes — and defensive assets — of Slava Voynov or Willie Mitchell on their back end. Yet, while this writer certainly doesn’t disagree with anyone making said claim, the current status of Jonathan Quick is nonetheless an opportunity for the Kings’ current defensive unit to step up and make their mark.
Brayden McNabb has an opportunity to get better, Derek Forbort has a chance to, at last, stick with the big club and solidify himself as a dependable fourth or fifth blueliner. Will they become as invaluable overnight as the aforementioned Voynov and Mitchell were? Of course not. With that said, though, the defensive unit will not have Quick to bail them out if something goes wrong. With all due respect to Zatkoff and Budaj, the Kings blueliners will have to be more focused and more accountable for what they do on the ice.
As much as this writer doesn’t want to say it, there will be games where fans will be cursing their club’s defensemen or even their goaltenders, but we should also remember that no successful team thrives without its share of adversity. For a team that has won two Stanley Cups in three years, few should know that better than the Los Angeles Kings and their ever-loyal fanbase.
It only took one period for the Kings to realize that they had their backs to the wall, but better than sooner than later.
While a part of this writer is certainly nervous for the next few weeks, a bigger part is excited for what the Kings coaches and players have in store in the wake of Jonathan Quick’s injury. The current situation may not always be pretty, it may not always be pleasant but it will be, whether anyone likes it or not, necessary.