I know, I know, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the Los Angeles Kings are going to win the Stanley Cup. Well, at least not tonight. But in all likelihood, it’s a thing that’s happening in the next week.
This year, like every year, it’s fun to wonder: who will the captain give the Cup to first? That initial hand-off always means something – whether the captain gives it to a veteran guy who’s spent years chasing it, a star player, or a guy whose story just dictates that he should get it first (well, technically second), is always something worth keeping an eye on.
Speaking of “veteran guy who’s spent years chasing it,” the most memorable Cup pass I can think of is the year Joe Sakic accepted the Cup, then hot-potato-style passed it to Ray Bourque, who’d played 20 tremendous years in the League without getting to touch that revered piece of silver.
Let’s take a look at the most likely candidates:
Seniority on a hockey team is worth everything. From getting your pick of seats on the plane or bus to just general respect, it matters.
Mitchell is the oldest player on a young team (there are only a handful of guys with ages that start with “3″ – Mitchell is 35), and he’s also a big part of their team. He’s never won the Cup before (unlike the second oldest King, Rob Scuderi), and also has a story to tell: he’s battled concussions over the past few seasons, and has returned to find himself a part of something special.
You never know what relationships are like in the room, but my guess is that there will be a lot of Kings with some pretty huge grins the second Mitchell gets his Mitts on the Cup.
He may only be 24 years old, but he’s become one of the most important pieces of a Kings team that never expected to make it this far. He’s leading the team in scoring (and incidentally is tied for first in playoff scoring), and he also has a cool story – he’s from a small village in Slovenia, left home at 16 to find appropriate competition, and travelled the globe to become the player he is today. His hometown watches every game at 2 a.m. before work, and his brother and father have travelled to watch his big moment. He’d be a worthy guy to get the illustrious second touch.
Richards is a true leader, as evidenced by him having been the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers in the past. He’s been great in playoffs, he’s far from a rookie, and he could be viewed as one of the key turning points that finally brought the Cup to Los Angeles. He’s been close to a Cup in the past, so you know he’s desperate to get his hands on it. The fact that he does everything on the ice “the right way” is also usually viewed favourably in the ‘ol Cup hand-off.
If Quick can keep the Devils to a low number tonight and the Kings win the Cup, he’s going to win the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoffs’ most valuable player. While I can’t remember a goalie getting second touch in the past, I also can’t remember a statistically dominating performance like the one he’s put on this post-season (because there hasn’t been one – he’s could set records for the lowest all-time playoff GAA and save percentage). I could see the Kings seeing him as the main reason for their success, and letting him be #2 despite the fact that he’s a young(ish) guy. Especially since he’ll already be near the front of the pack to get his Conn Smythe.
Doughty has regained the form he had before he signed the contract in this year’s playoffs, and it’s been huge for the Kings. It’s tough to find a Cup-winning team that hasn’t had at least one elite, stud defenseman, and he’s provided that service for his team. He’s one of the franchise’s cornerstones, and while just a young buck (22!), it’s not unthinkable that he could be on the list for touch #2.
Stoll is pushing 30, and has never won the Cup before. He’s another “does things the right way” player that a team would consider a “glue guy.” He was with the Oilers when they lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, so his quest to the Cup this year could seem somewhat like redemption. And he’s been with the Kings for awhile – there’s some value in that too.
Greene wears an “A” for the Kings, so you know he’s a respected guy in the dressing room. He plays a lot of minutes, plays tough, and kills penalties, which has been a big strength for LA lately. He’s also pushing 30, which automatically bumps him up the list on a young team. He doesn’t get a ton of love from the media, but that never correlates to popularity with his team. It could happen.
I’m starting to reach here, but let’s cover our bases – maybe the Kings see the reason for their huge turnaround as a result of the Jeff Carter trade, and they appreciate his contributions. Y’know, OT goals in the Stanley Cup playoffs are relatively big to a team. Maybe he’s fit right in there. Maybe they consider his “story” to be a year where he got dealt twice before finally finding his home there with them. Maybe, but I think it’s unlikely he’ll be the guy.