The Kings are coming back a lucky group, one that remains just about fully intact from last season. They’re a team that’s roster is also returning mostly, if not completely, 100% healthy. It’s a sexy start, a smooth ride after a Stanley Cup championship.
That’s a transition teams can only dream of; it’s inexplicably special.
This isn’t about a single player, or a certain line coming back, it’s about the whole thing; it’s about this roster’s impeccable depth and the depth of the organization as a whole.
For the Kings, that depth is quickly developing in net, where a suitable backup goaltender seems to be another luxury brewing for this tight-knit roster. And, also, it’s where youth and inexperience is watching, learning, talking, and playing with the opposite – which is an extremely valuable asset in such a team-sport, at such a position.
If you can learn from Jonathan Quick, the process might be, well, you know, sped up a bit.
“He’s a good mentor to have,” Martin Jones said of Quick after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s not only from watching him play, we’re pretty vocal with each other, if we see anything, we’re helping each other out. But, I mean just getting to watch him day in and day out and the way he works, how hard he battles in games, he’s definitely a good guy to watch.”
Quick will return to head the Kings’ net Wednesday night against the San Jose Sharks. The goaltender, coming off of another stellar season, posted the league’s fifth-best GAA last year in 49 regular season games, allowing a stingy 2.07 goals per game. Quick’s season, albeit cut a bit short due to an early season injury, led the Kings to be the NHL’s top defensive club – the team only allowing an average of 2.05 goals per game, undone by none.
Jones was called up from the Manchester Monarchs on November 13 of last season, the day after Quick suffered a groin injury in Buffalo. Jones, the rookie, started hot in his call-up to the big leagues, winning his first eight games between the pipes in a Kings uniform, and as a NHL goaltender. Jones came one game short of matching the league’s record for consecutive decisions won by a goaltender to start their career, set by Ottawa’s Ray Emery (nine) in 2005.
In 19 regular season games last season, Jones posted an out-of-control 1.81 GAA, while compiling a 12-6-0 record.
But, alas, when it comes to what churns the Kings’ camaraderie, it’s all about ‘buying into the system.’ Those who don’t, well, they don’t last very long. Especially when you’re playing behind Jonathan Quick.
“You want to have a good relationship with all of your teammates,” Quick said on Tuesday. “We’re really lucky, we have a good group here. We all have the same interest in mind in trying to compete for a championship every year. That’s everyone in the locker room, from both goalies right on up to all of the forwards.”
There’s a certain point of understanding that goes on in this team’s room. And, it’s across the board.
“We set our training camp up for these two goalies, and made sure that they were ready,” Head Coach Darryl Sutter noted on Tuesday. “Martin Jones is just like a lot of players [that] even though they were on the championship team last year, [they] didn’t play a lot or played few minutes, so they have to play lots in preseason. That’s what Martin Jones did.”
Although Jones’ playing time won’t match that of a regular #1 starter, he holds the rather, and heavily underrated difficult task of being prepared for anything, and on short-notice.
Jones’ presence, with help from Ben Scrivens last season, let people know just how crucial having a reliable option behind Jonathan Quick really is. If it’s not someone to fill in for an injury, it’s someone to call on for a break.
In three preseason starts, Jones went 3-0-0, including a pair of shootout wins against the Arizona Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks. Jones filled in for Jonathan Quick in the third period of the Kings’ final three preseason games, and was perfect in those relief appearances, until the Colorado Avalanche beat him for the tying goal and the shootout winner on October 4 during Frozen Fury XVI at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Jones let it all out.
“That’s my job, just to be ready when called on.”
And that ain’t part-time work.