Many people forget about Carson's first three years in the league, especially his first two in Los Angeles where he and fellow newcomer Luc Robitaille breathed new life into a long-sagging organization.
For two seasons together, Robitaille and Carson prospered, Robitaille exceeding expectations and Carson, a goal-oriented son of a lawyer from well-to-do Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., more than living up to his advance billing.After his season in Edmonton, Carson moved to his hometown of Detroit and struggled, then bounced around the league for 3 years before simply vanishing. People questioned his heart, making this Bruce McNall quote from the LA Times piece all the more interesting.
Robitaille won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year in 1987, Carson joining him on the all-rookie team. The next season, Carson scored 55 goals to give him 92 before his 20th birthday, more than any other player in NHL history.
But then came Aug. 9, 1988, when everything changed. Carson, who had just signed a new, multiyear contract and bought a house in Redondo Beach, was traded to the Edmonton Oilers in the blockbuster, multiplayer trade that brought hockey icon Wayne Gretzky to the Kings.
He didn't know it then, but his most enjoyable seasons were behind him. He had just turned 20.
Carson was not bad in Edmonton — he rang up 49 goals and 51 assists in his first season with the Oilers — but he was not great. Nor was he, as seemed to be constantly noted, The Great One.
"The end analysis was, I was not Wayne Gretzky," he says.
"In a weird way, I knew Jimmy's heart was not as much into it," says McNall of his friend, who neither smoked, drank nor partied with teammates. "He was an intellectual, multidimensional guy, read the Wall Street Journal, and so many other players just don't have his opportunities and interests. So I always thought, deep down, that maybe long-term hockey wouldn't be for him."There is much more to this worth-reading LA Times piece, and I encourage you to do so.