LA Kings: 4 Reasons There's a Crazy Amount of Pressure on Jonathan Quick
Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick will be under a lot of pressure to perform at a high level next season even though he just led his team to their first ever Stanley Cup title.
Success raises expectations for all players in every sport, and Quick will not be immune to this even though he's arguably the NHL's best goaltender.
Now that he's a Stanley Cup champion and a Conn Smythe Award winner, the spotlight will be on Quick going forward, and everyone will expect him to be back at the NHL Awards ceremony next June as a Vezina Trophy finalist.
Let's look at why the Kings goalie is under enormous pressure going into next season despite winning the Stanley Cup last year.
Stanley Cup Defense
The Kings will enter next season facing one of the most difficult challenges in all of sports: to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
The Detroit Red Wings accomplished this in 1998, and in the 14 years since, only three teams have gone back to the Cup Final in the year after winning the title.
If Los Angeles is to reach to the Cup final for a second straight season, Quick will once again have to lead it there. The pressure of repeating rests squarely on Quick's shoulders, and it will certainly be the most difficult challenge of his career.
Like most defending champions, Quick and the Kings will be given a few weeks, or maybe a month, where the fans will be reluctant to criticize their team since it just won the Cup.
However, if the inevitable "Stanley Cup hangover" lasts for more than a month, the fans will not be afraid to point out who's to blame for the team's poor play.
Massive Contract Extension
Quick will need to prove that the Kings made the right decision in committing $50 million over 10 years to keep him in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future.
Any time that a team signs a player to a lengthy contract, there is a lot of risk involved, even when the player involved is a young star that has proven himself at the NHL level such as Quick.
The New York Islanders signed goaltender Rick DiPietro to a 15-year deal in 2006, but injuries have prevented the former Boston University star from playing a full NHL season since.
Quick is, without question, a better player than DiPietro, but there’s still a risk for injury, plus the fact that there's no guarantee Quick will be an elite player for the entire length of the deal.
Now that he has won a Stanley Cup and has signed his first major contract, Quick needs to show the Kings that his desire and motivation to win will continue to be strong for the remainder of his career with the team.
Possibility of Not Having a Quality Backup
Quick's new contract has opened the door for talented backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier to leave Los Angeles and go to a team where he can be the No. 1 netminder.
If Bernier leaves at any point during the remainder of the offseason or before next year’s trade deadline, Quick may have to play more games than normal because the Kings won’t have a top-tier backup to give him a rest.
In year’s past, we have seen elite goaltenders such as Henrik Lundqvist underperform in the playoffs after having to play the majority of the their team’s games throughout the regular season.
Quick cannot afford to go through a lengthy slump next season if Bernier leaves because the Kings won’t have a backup goaltender who can step in and give the team a chance to win games consistently like Bernier could.
Tougher Western Conference
Since many of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season in the Western Conference have made improvements this summer, such as the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild, the Kings will have a much tougher time making the playoffs next season than they did last year.
The Kings also play in one of the most competitive divisions in hockey, the Pacific, where each team has a realistic chance to make the playoffs next year.
Los Angeles became the first ever No. 8 seed to win the Stanley Cup last season after a yearlong fight just to earn a playoff berth, and it should expect a similar battle next season too.
Since the competition in the West will be better next year, the Kings will need Quick to be a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie again just to make the playoffs and have a chance to defend their championship.