It’s one of the many cliches in sports, ‘Player X is in a contract year, so expect him to put up big numbers this season.’
For Jarret Stoll, the saying couldn’t be further from the truth.
With five goals on the season – and only 17 games left on the schedule – he’s on pace to add one, maybe two more. Since becoming a full-time player in 2003-04, he’s scored 20 or more goals twice and has scored at least 16 goals in each of the last three seasons.
Much of that drop off can be attributed to being used as a third line center now, due to the Kings off-season acquisition of Mike Richards.
Yet, if you go all the way back to July – soon after the deal happened – he said he didn’t care where the Kings played him.
“I consider myself a guy who will play any role, any situation in order for us to win and to be a good teammate,” Stoll said in a MayorsManor interview last summer. “I’m happy to play anywhere, as long as we win, have fun and get into the playoffs.”
Even so, there’s a very good chance his season totals will end up right around half of the 45 points he’s averaged over the last two seasons.
“For me, I don’t think numbers,” he said when we recently spoke about how things have played out this year. “Yeah, everybody likes to put up numbers and I would like to put up more, score more and create more. I try to do a lot of different things out there though, whatever my role is. I think I bring a lot of different things to our team in other areas.”
Two other elements that Stoll adds to the Kings’ arsenal are his talents in the faceoff circle and his determination to finish checks. He leads all Kings players on draws, with a 58% winning percentage so far this season. It’s also a stat he’s lead the team in every year since arriving in LA via trade from Edmonton prior to the 2008-09 campaign.
Along the boards, he’s remained among the Kings’ leaders in hits the last few seasons – usually just a notch below Dustin Brown and Matt Greene. With 135 hits recorded and 17 games to go, he’s actually on pace to top last year’s mark of 164.
Don’t think he’s forgotten how to create offense though. Whether it’s his three assists against Chicago last weekend or some of the occasional goals he’s scored, there’s a similar feeling on the ice when things are rolling.
“The game seems slow, that’s when you see everything,” Stoll explained. “In reality, it’s not slow and you don’t have as much time as you think. But, in those games, everything slows down for you. In a way, it almost feels easy at times in a game like that.”
Perhaps he’ll have a few more of those ‘slow’ nights as things wind to a close over the next five weeks. After all, he’s found part of his comfort zone again.
“I like center,” he said with excitement, referring to his return to the third line now that Jeff Carter has assumed right wing responsibilities with Richards. “It’s my natural position and where I’m more comfortable anyways. I hadn’t really played much wing in a long, long time.”
Through it all, with millions of dollars potentially lost come July 1st, Stoll keeps singing the same ‘ol song.
“Hopefully we can have a great stretch run here – get in the playoffs, go deep and have some fun. That’s what it’s all about, winning games. Whoever scores, whoever does whatever, it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re playing hockey in June – that’s our goal and it was from the start.”
The fact he still finds a way to push forward, during a season which many other players in his position would have sulked or openly complained, hasn’t been lost on his teammates either. Several, including Brown, have commented on how Stoll continues to come to the rink every day and put in the hard work.
It’s been service with a smile.
Note: If you’re not familiar with the ‘Strollsy’ comment, watch this.