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Jonathan Quick was the King who transformed Stanley Cup dreams into reality

As the Kings rebuilt in the early 2000s, it became clear that their goalkeeper of the future would probably be a man named Jonathan. But which?

Early comparisons between Jonathan Bernier, their first-round draft pick in 2006, and Jonathan Quick, their third-round pick, and 72nd overall, in 2005, favored Bernier. He hailed from Quebec, the birthplace of standout goaltenders, and had excelled in the high-scoring Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Quick had played high school hockey at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut. After being drafted, he spent two seasons at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

As a pro, Bernier had solid credentials. Quick had a bad habit of oversleeping and being late for minor league bus trips. Missing a meeting with a coach earned him a demotion from the American Hockey League to the ECHL. It was a wake-up call he couldn’t ignore.

“Bernier was called up in the first round, so…” said Kings president Luc Robitaille, in a tone that showed the respect that was an excellent choice. “But Quickie came in and took the job. That’s what you always say: if you want to make it to the NHL, you have to take someone’s job. He took it and ran away with it.

Quickly learned to set multiple alarms. He worked on his craft and distinguished himself from the seven goalkeepers who played for the Kings in 2007-08 by displaying the athleticism and unquenchable fire that became his trademark. He led them to the only two Stanley Cup championships in franchise history, in 2012 and 2014, and fended off challengers to his No. 1 status until this season, when his reflexes slowed and his struggles were undeniable.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick keeps an eye on the puck during Game 4 of the 2022 Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Edmonton Oilers.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The kings could not win another cup if he carried the burden. Moving on without him seemed almost unthinkable.

He was so much a part of the Kings’ brotherhood and history that they were all shocked when general manager Rob Blake traded Quick to Columbus for muscular defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, a deal announced Wednesday. On paper, the deal makes a lot of sense for a team that was small on defense and inconsistent on goal. But people are not paper clippings.

“I thought Quickie was going to be king for life and we’ll play with him for the rest of our career,” said team captain Anze Kopitar, speaking for himself and defenseman Drew Doughty.

Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick looks up at the scoreboard.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick looks up at the scoreboard during a break in play against the New York Islanders on Feb. 24.

(Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

In an intriguing twist, Columbus traded Quick to the Vegas Golden Knights a day later. His worth lies in his playoff experience, not his recent appearances, but his fire still burns — and it was fueled when he landed with a rival who could block the playoff run the Kings believe they can make without him.

“It’s motivating,” Quick told reporters in Las Vegas before making his Golden Knights debut on Friday as backup to Adin Hill. “I’m looking forward to being part of this team and doing what you want to do every year: you want to win your division, you want to win playoff series, you want to win 16 playoff games. So whatever I can do to help them there, that’s what I want to do.”

He may not live up to his old standards, but it will not be for lack of effort.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick tries to keep the puck in front of him during Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick tries to hold the puck in Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

“He’s had a great career and I know full well he’ll be ready today,” Darryl Sutter, who coached the Kings’ Cup-winning teams and now manages the Flames, said last week. “His whole thing will be, ‘I want to show somebody.’ I can guarantee that.”

Quick’s excellence allowed a low-scoring, eighth-seeded team to become an unstoppable force in the 2012 playoffs. But of all the saves he made as the most valuable player of the postseason, none was more important than when his then 2-year-old daughter Madison started choking on a piece of candy during his post-victory press conference and he drove it off by patting her on the back. “Sorry, M&M crisis,” he said calmly.

He was the reason the Kings won again in 2014, despite losing the first three games of their first round against San Jose and trailing in each of the next two rounds. “If you ask me the first thing that comes to mind, it’s that he’s probably the biggest competitor I’ve ever seen,” said Robitaille. “You always hear that goalkeepers are different, but he was different in a way where his competitiveness was superior to everyone else.

“I know when we were 3-0 down against San Jose, I don’t know when and how, but I know he said to the team, ‘That’s it. We close the door. We turn it around.’ And we know what happened.”

Sutter called Quick “old style,” his ultimate compliment. “That’s a guy who played a lot of playoff games and played injured and had major surgeries after a few times and still came back. He’s a warrior,’ said Sutter. “He’s a great leader in the room. Great work ethic. Great personality. Dominant competitor, I’ll tell you. A lot of those series… they were tough series. Those teams also had good goalkeepers and that was his challenge: he wanted to better than the other keeper.”

Unlike many of his peers, Quick never yelled at teammates that clouded his vision or made his job more difficult. He would shoot the puck past the ear of anyone who scored on him in practice and would sometimes slam his stick against the post in frustration, but never point the finger in games.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick holding the Stanley Cup on June 16, 2014 at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick holding the Stanley Cup on June 16, 2014 at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“You see other guys in the league throw their hands up when their d-man screens them and the puck goes in. You won’t see Quickie do that in a million years,” Doughty told The Los Angeles Times in 2019. “And if there’s a transfer behind the net and it’s clearly a d-men’s mistake, Quickie will say it was his fault when it wasn’t. That’s just the type of guy he is.”

Robitaille admired that too. “That’s what made him so loved by his teammates. He was the ultimate team player,” said Robitaille.

Quick left the Kings as the franchise leader in wins (370), shutouts (57), save percentage (.911), saves (18,188), games played (743), and minutes played (43,215). A two-time Cup winner, 2012 playoff MVP, two-time U.S. Olympian, and two-time Jennings Trophy winner as the goaltender of the team that conceded the fewest goals, he has a strong case for a spot in the Hockey Hall. of Fame in addition to all the honors that kings ultimately bestow.

According to Robitaille, Quick, Doughty, Kopitar and the recently retired Dustin Brown – the core of the Cup teams – will receive special recognition when they are done. “And I don’t know when that will be. And good for Quickie. He will play as long as he can,” Robitaille said. “I told him that: play as long as you can. There is nothing better.”

Quick drove from Southern California to his new job in Las Vegas. Sometime after hitting Barstow and reaching the desert, he said, he got excited about the career landscape change. An enthusiastic welcome when he arrived helped him shift his focus. “For my first new situation in 16 years I feel really comfortable already, and these guys have done a great job,” he said, “so I’m looking forward to working with them and winning some games. “

Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick sits in his kit at the team's practice facility in El Segundo in December 2009.

Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick sits in his kit at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo in December 2009.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

It’s sad that he wasn’t able to leave the Kings on his own terms, but life doesn’t always offer happy endings. Salary restrictions prevented them from keeping him around purely out of sentiment, and he probably wouldn’t have wanted that. Blake had a responsibility to make the best roster now and for future seasons. Quick’s declining performance meant he could no longer be a part of that, much as he was loved by teammates and fans.

Think of Quick back in his prime: a great teammate, a great pressure man, and the Jonathan who brought the Cup to Los Angeles twice more than most fans dared to dream.