May 24, 2012

Swirling emotions and the Los Angeles Kings.

When Mike Richards and Jeff Carter led the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010, the city was theirs. A series win would have solidified the duo as the hottest young stars in the area.

Well, we all know how that ended. But now, so soon after falling just short of their goal, Richards and Carter have another shot at the most famous trophy in all of sports.

As members of the Los Angeles Kings.

This, of course, has become a hot-button issue in Philadelphia. Carter and Richards making the Finals immediately after the team "gave up" on the two is bound to sting, especially when the Flyers wilted in the middle of their own Stanley Cup chase.

I think most fans aren't quite sure how to view the forever-linked forwards. Did they hurt the team by partying too much? Maybe. Alright, more than maybe. Did expectations grow too high and too fast after that unexpected Finals run? Were they moved too soon? Was there a chance that they'd grow into complimentary roles around future superstar Claude Giroux, that they'd learn to mesh with Chris Pronger and Peter Laviolette?

Either way, Paul Holmgren and the Flyers brass grew weary of it all. And even though I was in praise of the trades -- "let's roll with this unique brand of balls to the wall hysteria" -- it was obvious that the two were extremely talented players who would probably blossom with a change of scenery. They were best buds who didn't know professional life outside of Philadelphia, and being shipped out of town could very easily end up being the boot to the ass they both needed.

Richards stumbled into the best possible situation: the bright lights and big dreams of the up-and-coming Los Angeles Kings. Meanwhile, Carter was banished to Columbus, maybe the saddest place to play in the National Hockey League.

But fate intervened (and Carter apparently bitched incessantly behind the scenes), and the two were eventually reunited in L.A. A few months (and 12 playoff wins) later, the Kings are by far the favorite to take home this year's championship.

It's been a long, strange saga, and I don't blame some fans for disliking Carter and Richards (and, by proxy, the team that they now play for). But after thinking about it (and watching the Kings play), I would like to see Los Angeles win the Stanley Cup. I sure as hell would prefer that to the New Jersey Devils or New York Rangers winning, and I'm impressed at how Mikey and Jeffy have helped turn the Kings around after the midseason slump that nearly cost them a playoff spot.

I just wish the Flyers had gotten there first. That's the stinger. Wayne Simmonds, Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn; Holmgren brought in some amazing young talent for his two big-name forwards. The team's future remains bright. Both Los Angeles and Philadelphia got what they wanted; the Kings are just reaping the most immediate, and prominent, benefits.

At the end of the day, this is Jonathan Quick's coming-out party far more than it is Richards and Carter overcoming whatever labels were attached to them in Philadelphia. They're a piece of the puzzle in Los Angeles, not the stars, and that seems to be what suits them best. Anze Kopitar's the stud, Dustin Brown's the captain, Quick is the superstar goalie. Richards and Carter just are. And it's looking like that formula will lead all of them to a Stanley Cup.

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