Take a journey, any journey, with an awaiting prize and those who blaze the path will fall into one of three categories. The first are the ones who have not reached its end. They come with wide eyes and anticipation, ready to accept the challenge that awaits. The second are those who have been to the end, only to watch another take the treasure. They wear a scowl, are ill-tempered and strive to never fail again. The third are those who have reached the end and achieved the fruits of their effort, one they seek once more. They use their experience to channel the will to victory.
Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Trevor Lewis, Dwight King, Brad Richardson, Jordan Nolan, Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez, even Willie Mitchell and of course Jonathan Quick. Be they rookies, established NHL players or veterans, each brings to the Stanley Cup Finals varied experience of the first category while they play their best hockey and have earned the right to be here. Each of them comes with those wide eyes, anticipation and ready for battle.
Justin Williams, Rob Scuderi, Dustin Penner and Colin Fraser. They have been to the Finals and won. The first three were a critical part of their team’s success. All four learned what it took to lift the Cup. Their experience and knowledge is immeasurable and they will channel that experience to bring victory to the L.A. Kings.
Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. They have been to the Finals and lost. It is these four players from whom I look for something different, something we will measure in a unit called “redemption.” If you have ever failed at something you wanted more than anything at that time, that thing you had worked for all of your life, that angered you, nearly broke you and haunted you when you did not achieve it, that may haunt you still, you understand. Would you give anything to earn another opportunity? What would you do if you were presented with exactly that? Move heaven and earth?
The experience that comes with success teaches an individual what it takes to succeed. The one that comes from failure etches in the psyche what it takes to not feel failure again. The last group, the four, are what I consider to be the X factor in this series. These four players who carry with them the shot at redemption come to the Stanley Cup Finals from a different perspective than the other two groups. It is one that should not be underestimated.
It takes a team effort to win at a team sport. The Kings are a team that possesses a balance of youth and veterans, those who have drank from the Cup, those who yearn to and those who will not let it slip away again.
May our L.A. Kings earn their way to victory and immortality.