With Jeff Carter heading to the Pittsburg Penguins, the Los Angeles Kings have parted ways with the last standing member of the team’s memorable, ‘That 70s Line.’ The line consisted of Tanner Pearson on the left wing, Jeff Carter through the middle, and Tyler Toffoli on the right wing. The trio introduced themselves to the hockey world during the 2014 playoffs, specifically in the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
With the Kings’ top-line struggling for goals somewhat, ‘That 70s Line’ picked up the slack propelling the team to their second Stanley Cup Final appearance in three years. Carter led the way with 11 points in seven games, while Toffoli and Pearson both collected six points in seven games. The three players would spend the next four and a half seasons playing together frequently before Pearson was traded to Pittsburgh for Carl Hagelin at the beginning of the 2018-19 season. The three forwards complemented each other perfectly to make up one of the best second lines in the league.
Carter was acquired by the Kings on Feb. 23, 2012, in exchange for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick in the 2013 draft. He was brought in to reunite with former Philadelphia Flyers’ teammate and good friend Mike Richards to add offense to the Kings.
His addition to the team would be pivotal to the Kings — as they went on to win their first Stanley Cup that same year in 2012. His nine points in 16 games to finish the regular season would help the Kings sneak into the eighth and final playoff spot, and his 13 points in 20 games would help the team steamroll their way to victory. In his prime, his powerful stride backed defensemen off — allowing him the freedom to make use of his magnificent shot. He was an offensive powerhouse that could beat you in a lot of ways.
While he was pivotal to the teams’ success in 2012 — it was his contribution to the 2014 Cup win that should take center stage. Heading into the 2014 playoffs expectations on the team were high, and after a solid 27 goal season, people expected him to play a massive role in another Cup run. With two rookies on either side of him, he exceeded expectations. With 25 points in 26 games, he was second only to Anze Kopitar for points on the team and tied with Justin Williams, who posted the same point total. He would then spend the next six and a half seasons anchoring the team’s second line before becoming a victim of the teams’ rebuild on April. 11, 2021, when he was traded to the Penguins for two conditional draft picks.
His Role on ‘That 70s Line’
As the center of ‘That 70s Line,’ Carter was also likely the best individual player of the three. His ability to drive offense with the puck on his stick was key for this line. His offensive dynamism was often the catalyst for this lines’ success when they established themselves as one of the most dangerous second lines in the league. It was not only his offensive ability that he brought to this line, though — he is a solid player in his own zone who the Kings could rely upon in all situations. Often hovering around the 50% mark for faceoff percentage (FO%), he brought a complete package to this line. He also posted his best statistical season with the team in 2016-17, playing predominantly with ‘That 70s Line’, posting 66 points and 32 goals. Although his time with the Kings has come to an end, he should be remembered as one of the teams’ best players over the last decade.
Pearson was the Kings’ first-round pick following their first-ever Stanley Cup win, making it very fitting that he would play a big role in the team winning their second Cup two years later. After a solid first season and a half of pro hockey with the Manchester Monarchs, he would be called up to the NHL about halfway through the 2013-2014 season. However, it was in that seasons’ playoffs he would make the biggest splash — with 12 points in 24 games, he announced himself as a very effective forward during these playoffs. While he was never a massive point producer, he was still a very effective middle-six-player during his five seasons with the team.
A very hard worker with good straight-line speed, he was a versatile player that could be utilized on all four lines and in all situations. Despite his versatility, he was an early casualty of the teams’ rebuilding process, being traded to Pittsburgh in 2018. After a sub-par 44 games for the Penguins, he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Since arriving in Vancouver, he has seemingly found a home in their lineup — recently agreeing to a three-year, $9.75M extension with the team. He can often be relied upon for 40 points and will always deliver great effort on the ice.
His Role on ‘That 70s Line’
As the left winger on ‘That 70s line,’ he often played the workman role. Usually, the first player in on the forecheck, he excelled at retrieving the puck and dishing to his line-mates. He also had no issue getting his hands dirty in front of the net, often picking up rebounds caused by Carter or Toffoli. His speed and hard work opened up space for the more productive pieces of his line. His role was one that often gets overshadowed by more flashy players and higher point totals, however, it’s important to remember how pivotal his contributions to this line were.
Most people would consider him the “worst” player on this line, which I think is fair, but he still had some decent production for his team. Like Carter, he had his best statistical season in 2016-17 with 44 points and 24 goals in 80 games. A solid player with decent production during his time with the team, Kings’ fans will likely all have a soft spot for Pearson due to his involvement with ‘That 70s Line.’
The only one ‘That 70s Line’ to not be selected in the first round, Toffoli would prove to be a fantastic player for the organization. After four seasons in the OHL, he finally made his Kings debut in 2013 when he played 10 games to finish out that season. After a modest six points in 12 games in the 2013 playoffs, he was again called up to the NHL squad the following season, this time to play his first full season in the league. He had a solid rookie campaign posting 29 points in 62 games, but it was in that years’ playoffs where Toffoli really showed his potential. With 14 points in 26 games, he helped the team hoist the Stanley Cup in 2014.
When asked to describe his play, I think most people would answer, “goal scorer,” and for good reason. He has a fantastic shot — specifically his release and accuracy — and the knack for being in the right place at the right time. He has that “it” factor for scoring goals that coaches tell you can’t be taught. The puck always seems to find him, and his shots always seem to find a way through. While he doesn’t dazzle you with his speed or skill, he is an efficient goals scorer who can beat a goalie in multiple ways.
In 2020, after nearly seven full seasons with the organization, he was another causality of their rebuild — being dealt to Vancouver for forward Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden, a second-round pick in the 2020 Draft, and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2022 Draft. It was a sad day for many Kings fans as he was a fan favorite. After a very good 10 games during the regular season and a solid playoff performance for the Canucks, he was signed by the Montreal Canadiens in the summer of 2020. So far, things are going great with the Canadiens, as he’s currently leading the team in points with 30 in 36 games. He’s also sitting joint eighth in the league with 19 goals. Habs fans are loving him on their team, with Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette considering him quite the bargain, stating:
“The Canadiens’ Tyler Toffoli is turning out to be one of the best bargains in the NHL this season.” (Canadiens get their money’s worth from crafty sniper Toffoli, Montreal Gazette, 3/19/21)Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette
He was a fantastic player for LA, but if he can sustain this level of play for Montreal the best may still be coming from Toffoli.
His Role on ‘That 70s Line’
I always viewed his role as the “finisher” on this line. The line would often look to get him the puck in scoring areas and let him do what he does best, put pucks in the net. He often looked to float around in the quiet areas of the ice, waiting for his chance to pounce on goal-scoring opportunities. That isn’t to say he was a lazy player by any means though he was a very hard worker in his own right. Often a beneficiary of Pearson’s hard work and Carter’s talent with the puck, his ability to turn half-chances into goals was massive for the success of this line. Unlike his linemates, he did not have his best statistical season in 2016-17. His best statistical season in a Kings jersey came in 2015-16 when he put up 58 points in 82 games, including 31 goals. A key member of the Kings Cup win in 2014 and a very solid top-six winger during his time with the team, many fans will have nothing but great things to say about Toffoli.
With all three members of ‘That 70s Line’ now gone, it’s a great time to look at the memories they all left. When hearing ‘That 70s Line,’ most fans will remember their fantastic play in the 2014 playoffs that saw the team hoist its second Stanley Cup. They will also remember a line that established itself as one of the best second lines in the league. The line was made up of three very good players who, when put on a line, bolstered the team’s offense, and gave them the secondary scoring needed to be a great team.