4 Reasons to Believe Jeff Carter Was the Missing Piece

Jason Lewis@@SirJDLCorrespondent IIMarch 22, 2012

4 Reasons to Believe Jeff Carter Was the Missing Piece

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    Right before the deadline, the Kings traded Jack Johnson and a first-round pick to Columbus for Jeff Carter in a move that made a lot of Kings fans uneasy.

    Why? Well, Carter wasn't exactly having the most productive, healthy or loyal season with the Columbus Blue Jackets while Johnson was a fan favorite who was considered a "core" player in the Dean Lombardi system.

    Can anyone question this trade now? The Kings are the highest-scoring team since the deadline and have recently gone on a five-game winning streak on the march to the playoffs.

    Whether or not you truly believe Carter was the missing piece is up to you, but here are a few things to consider when asking that question.

Depth

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    Probably one of the biggest reasons for the Kings' great form in the era of Jeff Carter is depth.

    It's now clear to fans who have been watching all season how important it is to have two quality scoring lines on your team.

    Before Carter, the Kings were relying on the production of one line: Kopitar, Williams and Brown. And while those players performed admirably, it's difficult to produce on a consistent basis when other teams' best shutdown defensive pairings and forward lines are matched up against you shift in and shift out.

    Really, in this situation, what line does the other team have to worry about? A 25-plus-game goalless Mike Richards? Rookie Dwight King? Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll?

    Enter Jeff Carter. Now the Kings have two legitimate scoring lines, and thankfully they have a third line that is also jelling at the right time.

    Teams are faced with the decision of shutting down Carter-Richards-King or Brown-Kopitar-Williams. Usually when you look at box scores, or watch the games, if the opposing teams commit to shutting down Richards' line, Kopitar's line is able to go crazy.

    It's all because of the addition of a true scoring threat.

A Trigger Man

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    The Kings, since the departure of Michael Cammalleri, have lacked a true trigger man in every on-ice situation, whether it was 5-on-5 or a power play.

    Carter has six goals (including two on the power play) and nine points in his 12 games for the Kings. The impressive thing, though, is that he has 40 shots over those 12 games. And when you shoot, things happen.

    Also, in hockey, when your defense is cuing on the tendency of one player to shoot, it opens up the ice for other players. Dwight King and Mike Richards, with the addition of Jeff Carter, have started to find the stat sheet on a more consistent basis.

Lines That Make Sense

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    Like I mentioned in the first slide, the Kings have found three lines that are producing on a regular basis, and a fourth line that is logging good, solid minutes and also contributing here and there.

    How does just one player make that happen?

    It's all about a depth-chart shuffle. Before Carter, Richards had a rotation of linemates: Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll.

    Somewhere in that myriad of players, it didn't make sense. Styles didn't add up. Richards like to pass, but who likes to shoot? And equally as head-scratching was the third line that seemingly didn't have a real role for anything.

    Now it makes sense. And with the absence of Jack Johnson, so does the defense. Voynov is on the power play and playing second-pairing minutes while Alec Martinez, who impressed a lot of people last year, is back to a full-time job and playing very well.

    Sometimes, one player doesn't prompt a big depth-chart shuffle, but when that player is Jeff Carter, it does. Everyone on this team has seemingly found their role, from fourth unit to first unit, at the perfect time.

A Mentality of Offense

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    How does a team that prides itself as a defense-first team, with the worst offensive numbers in the league, make such a huge turnaround in as little as 12 games? 

    Like previously mentioned, since the deadline, the Kings are the highest-scoring team in the NHL, averaging 3.5 goals a game.

    Was it all mental? Maybe it was. But certainly the introduction of Carter and his scoring presence gave the Kings a B12 shot, so to speak.

    All of a sudden, this is a team full of goal scorers and snipers. With the recent struggles of Stoll and Penner, it would have been easy for Dean Lombardi to maybe hash out a trade for Paul Gaustad or Travis Moen to help the bottom six and called the deadline done.

    But he went out and got a true sniper and has completely changed the mentality this team has towards offense.

    They are confident and playing like it.