By Tom Dougherty | @todougherty
In a blockbuster trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday, the Los Angeles Kings acquired center Jeff Carter for defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional 2012 first round draft pick.
Carter, who has 15 goals in 39 games with the Blue Jackets this year, will be reunited with his best friend Mike Richards in Los Angeles only seven months after both were traded by the Philadelphia Flyers.
For the Kings, Carter is a proven goal scorer who ought to improve the team’s scoring, which ranks 30th in the NHL with 2.05 goals per game. Somehow, Los Angeles is still in playoff contention—tied for the eighth in the Western Conference with Dallas, but would be missing the playoffs due to tiebreakers.
But, trading for Carter brings a lot of risk for the Kings. Folks from Philadelphia know of the off-the-ice stories with Carter and Richards; the constant partying nights before games, the countless stories of sexual encounters and the list goes on.
Not only should that be a concern for LA, the fact that Carter shut things down when he arrived in Columbus should be worrisome. How he handled himself with the Blue Jackets was completely childish, and only supports the notion that he’s a cancer.
Nonetheless, Carter’s removed from Columbus. His attitude will change for the better, especially since he’s in a better situation and playing with Richards.
Reuniting Carter and Richards might be something that helps the team in the short term, but it also raises concerns from a long term perspective. We’ve seen their shenanigans in Philly, and now they’re in a city where there are a ton of beautiful women and a huge late-night party scene.
Who knows, the Richards and Carter tag team didn’t work out for the Flyers, but who’s to say that it cannot work for the Kings. Maybe they’ve learned from their experiences that they have to take their jobs a little more seriously.
Then again, TMZ could be jumping for joy knowing that two athletes who picked up so much media attention for off-ice partying in Philadelphia are now together again in a city where Hollywood drama happens 24/7.
The risks aren’t limited to just off the ice, but on the ice as well. It’s never a bad idea to have too many centers, especially when you have three top-line centers signed on long term deals.
But Andy Strickland reports that the Kings initial plan is to play Carter on right wing with Richards.
Carter has experience playing wing in the NHL; he played some of it last year for the Flyers, and in the Stanley Cup Finals against Chicago with Richards, but anyone who’s watched him play wing can tell you that he looks lost.
He’s a natural center who needs the puck on his stick to be successful, not because he’s looking to make plays, but because he shoots the puck from anywhere on the ice. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t.
If anything, the Kings should put Richards on the wing because he’s much more of a versatile hockey player than Carter. Or, they could just have three lines with top centers on it.
The idea with putting Richards and Carter together on the same line is to have a line that’s capable of scoring goals. The two have played together, and have chemistry together, but Carter’s more lost in the woods playing wing than Ilya Bryzgalov is playing goalie in Philadelphia.
Is Jeff Carter the answer for Los Angeles? I don’t think so, but there’s no question that adding Carter makes the Kings a better hockey team.
It brings a lot of risk, but it’s a hockey move worth the risk for the Kings.
About the Author: Tom Dougherty is a journalism student at Temple University, a web producer for CSNPhilly.com, and runs Flyers Focus (http://flyersfocus.net/). He loves coffee, hockey and Pearl Jam -- preferably at once.