Carter Is Committed
"I don’t know if it’s given me a leg up, but it’s definitely helped keep me kind of on the same level as everybody else."
Jeff Carter’s level of fitness is a key asset in this compacted schedule
Kings Head Coach Darryl Sutter was asked about the potency of Jeff Carter’s shot two weeks ago, and while delving into a tangent to detail what has allowed the 28-year-old to make the advances he has this season with the Kings, he used the term “commitment.”
“When we got Jeff Carter last year, he was 199 pounds, and he trained like a son of a gun last summer,” Sutter said. “He’s 210 pounds.”
In the 29 games and 18 goals since the National Hockey League returned, it’s apparent that his off-season regimen has played a part in his blistering 2012-13 goal scoring pace.
“There were a lot of guys that played overseas that were right up to midseason form, so I think for the guys that didn’t like myself, it was on us to get up to that level and get up there quick,” Carter said.
“With the [one] week training camp, you didn’t have much time. It was on you to do the little extra, whether it would be in the weight room or wherever – on the ice, or whatever it was to get up to their level. You saw some teams with good starts there that were up to that level, and I think it took us a few games to get there, but we got there, and now we look pretty good.”
There wasn’t any real change to his off-season conditioning. In the throes of the NHL lockout, he did attempt surfing without having taken any lessons and found about as much success as one would find hopping into a car with manual transmission for the first time and attempting to drive a stick shift.
Other than his Hermosa Beach rite of passage and a workout routine that had been extended by several months due to the work stoppage, there weren’t any changes to his traditionally rigorous off-season, on-ice workout program. According to Carter, that routine was “nothing different than what we usually do.”
While much of the hockey world turned blue after holding its collective breath for four months, Carter was at the rink early with his teammates as well as Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres and George Parros of the Florida Panthers, amongst others.
“I think when I came out here, it was a huge plus for me during the lockout,” Carter said. “[I was] working out with Lewie (Trevor Lewis), Greener (Matt Greene). Stick (Justin Williams) was here. There were probably seven or eight of us. Scuds (Rob Scuderi) was here. You’ve got a few guys like Greener and Lewie, and they’re workers. They work hard in the off-season to come in in top shape, and just…being around them, it brushes off on you, I guess. I think it was great for me. It’s always easier to get things done when you’ve got a good group of guys, and a bunch of guys together every morning doing it.”
Though Jarret Stoll had been a Stanley-Cup winning teammate of Carter’s for almost nine months at the time, the extra workouts that extended past October and into the late fall gave the veteran center a special appreciation of Carter’s dedication.
“He’d been really serious throughout the whole lockout in making sure he’s in the gym, he’s on the ice, he’s working hard. He takes care of his body. He eats right,” Stoll said. “If you’re going to indulge here or there, you can do that as long as you pick your spots. All in moderation.”
There hasn’t been anything about Carter’s performance that screams out “moderation”. He’s tied for second in the league in total goals and even strength goals. His six game-winning goals lead the league.
In a season in which teams opened the year with varying degrees of regular season-readiness, Carter appeared to have an extra step in his stride as some opponents were looking to find theirs. During a 17-game March, the level of conditioning maintained mornings in the rink throughout October, November and December are paying off.
“I don’t know if it’s given me a leg up, but it’s definitely helped keep me kind of on the same level as everybody else. It’s a tough month. There’s not much practice [time].”
“I think I had a good summer. I felt strong – and I still feel strong – and it’s kind of helped me carry things through.”
There was doubt in the darkest days of the lockout, and when the NHL proposed a two-week moratorium of negotiations in November, lacing up the skates in the mornings wasn’t quite as easy as when positivity emanated from later discussions.
“There were a couple times there where it seemed like things were going well, and we’d see our skates kind of pick up a little bit,” Carter said.
The preparation never wavered in the face of often murky labor news.
“The most important thing is take it seriously, have pride in it and want to do it,” Stoll said of Carter’s off-season approach.
Though surfing made it onto his horizon last summer, he made it clear he wasn’t getting anywhere near the start line for the L.A. Marathon.
“No, no, no. I’m not a runner,” Carter said. “Bad hips.”