Los Angeles Kings: Why the Kings Aren't Scoring & Why It's Dean Lombardi's Fault

Sheng Peng@@Sheng_PengCorrespondent IMarch 2, 2012

Los Angeles Kings: Why the Kings Aren't Scoring & Why It's Dean Lombardi's Fault

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    The Kings' scoring problems go beyond their top-six forwards.

    The top-six has been maligned all season, and rightly so.  However, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards are scoring at a rate roughly similar to their pace last year.

                                    2010-11 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection) 2011-12 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)
    Dustin Brown 0.34 goals per game (28 goals) 0.28 (23)
    Anze Kopitar 0.33 (27) 0.28 (23)
    Mike Richards 0.28 (23) 0.25 (21)

    Ryan Smyth was part of LA's top-six last season and Richards has matched Smyth's performance, up to the annual midseason injury and slump. 

      2010-11 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)
    Ryan Smyth     0.28 (23)

    Justin Williams has struggled to score, though he's still providing much-needed offensive creativity. Simon Gagne being hurt, well, hurts because the Kings never adequately replaced him.  Of course, Dustin Penner has driven off the cliff. 

      2010-11 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection) 2011-12 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)
    Simon Gagne   0.27 (22) 0.22 (18)
    Justin Williams         0.30 (25) 0.20 (16)
    Dustin Penner 0.28 (23) 0.11 (9)

    The Kings are hoping that Jeff Carter can make up for both the loss of Gagne and the Penner Triangle, which is a tall task, but quite possible, given Carter's track record. 

      2007-08 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection) 2008-09 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection) 2009-10 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection) 2010-11 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection) 2011-12 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)
    Jeff Carter 0.35 (29) 0.56 (46) 0.45 (37) 0.45 (37) 0.36 (30)

    So full credit must be given to Kings GM Dean Lombardi for finally patching up the top-six.

Don't Blame the Defense

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    Scoring from the defense is also roughly the same as last season, even swapping Jack Johnson out for Slava Voynov.

     

    2010-11 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)

    2011-12 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)

    Jack Johnson

    0.06 (5)

    0.13 (11)

    Drew Doughty

    0.14 (11)

    0.12 (10)

    Slava Voynov

    N/A

    0.11 (9)

    Willie Mitchell

    0.09 (7)

    0.07 (6)

    Alec Martinez

    0.08 (7)

    0.06 (5)

    Matt Greene

    0.03 (2)

    0.05 (4)

    Rob Scuderi

    0.02 (2)

    0.02 (2)

Dean's Fault

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    So what wasn't fixed at the Trade Deadline, during the season, or during the offseason? [1]

    The third line. 

    These are the Kings who have spent time there this season.

     

    2010-11 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)

    2011-12 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)

    Andrei Loktionov

    Only played 19 games with Kings

    0.08 (7)

    Jarret Stoll

    0.24 (20)

    0.08 (7)

    Kyle Clifford

    0.09 (7)

    0.06 (5)

    Brad Richardson

    0.10 (8)

    0.06 (5)

    Trent Hunter

    Not with Kings

    0.05 (4)

    Trevor Lewis

    0.04 (3)

    0.04 (3)

    Ethan Moreau

    Not with Kings

    0.04 (3)

    Colin Fraser

    Not with Kings

    0.02 (2)

    And these were the third-line players last season who left.

     

    2010-11 Goals Per Game Average (82-game Projection)

    Wayne Simmonds

    0.18 (15)

    Michael Handzus

    0.15 (12)

    Alexei Ponikarovsky

    0.08 (7)

    Nobody has accounted for Handzus and Simmonds' lost production.  Stoll figured to at least match (assuming some drop-off because of less even strength and power play time) either player's goal-scoring pace, but he's currently scoring at a fourth-line level.

    The problem isn't that Lombardi let Handzus or Simmonds go.

    Handzus had clearly lost a step last season, and despite early returns, I will still staunchly defend trading Simmonds and Brayden Schenn for Richards.  Handzus has played to mixed reviews in San Jose, and while Simmonds has flourished in Philadelphia, it's hard to see him scoring quite as much in LA's defense-first system. 

    The problem is Dean Lombardi didn't replace them adequately.


    [1] Remember that the Kings were already the 25th-ranked scoring team last year.  So we're just talking about matching just THAT level to make the playoffs.

    I realize the high prices that elite third-liners like Paul Gaustad commanded at the deadline do make a GM pause, but waiting until the Trade Deadline to address this issue was a mistake from the start.  Finding a third-line scorer or two who can chip in 10 goals shouldn't be this hard when you have a whole season and offseason to do it.

     

Why Jonathan Quick Looks on Jealously

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    While Stoll's offensive collapse couldn't be foreseen, Hunter and Moreau were longshots from the beginning based on their ages and injury histories.  And no one from the remaining pool of Loktionov, Lewis, Clifford, Richardson, Westgarth or Fraser has ever provided consistent secondary scoring.  To boot, Oscar Moller and Bud Holloway went to Sweden [1] over the summer, and after Loktionov, they would've been the first players called up to try to provide secondary scoring.

    Now this may sound like much ado about nothing.  It's the THIRD and FOURTH lines.  It's the BOTTOM-six.  But the difference between bottom-six production last year and this year, at this rate, will be about 20 goals. [2]

    Do you think Jonathan Quick could use 20 more goals this season?


    [1] Is it conceivable that Moller and Holloway might have put up 20 or so goals between them over a full season?  Moller has scored 12 goals in 87 NHL games; Holloway is leading his team in Sweden with 28 goals, as he led Manchester in goals last year too.  Could those 20-or-so goals in the lineup over-waiver fodder like Hunter and Moreau be the difference between making or missing the playoffs?  Yup.  Moller and Holloway’s departures may end up being the overlooked domino that brought down Lombardi’s regime.

    [2]

    Kings Bottom-Six Forwards (All Forwards Except Top-Six)

    2010-11 Goals (82-game average)

    2011-12 Projected Goals (82-game average)

     

    54 Goals (0.66 Goals Per Game Average)

    36 Goals (0.44 Goals Per Game Average)

     

Looking Forward

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    Dean should have known.

    He made a bet on cast-offs like Moreau and Hunter and unproven players like Clifford and Lewis that looked bad at the beginning of the season.

    Looking forward, the Kings are hoping that Dwight King and Jordan Nolan (Moller and Holloway almost certainly would've beat them to the big club) can sustain their early productivity.

    The Kings have also set Stoll up with Penner for the last three games, and both have played well.  However, trusting Dustin Penner to be consistent is like giving these guys your Ferrari.

    The Kings have the same problem that was predicted in October, a problem exacerbated by slightly less-than-expected scoring from the "big" guns: the third line sucks. [1] The lack of scoring isn't from a lack of confidence, it's from a lack of talent. 

    JC might provide the scoring boost to the top-six necessary to drag the Kings into the playoffs, but without a threatening third line, Los Angeles is looking at another first-round bounce anyway.

    And we're looking at life, AD (After Dean).


    [1] If the third line is not creating consistent offensive pressure on the other team, doesn't it stand to reason that opposing teams can key in more on the top-six?

Postscript: What Dean Should Have Done at the Deadline

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    I wouldn’t have waited until the Trade Deadline to address the problem because of the higher prices. 

    However, if I had waited because I thought that Stoll or Hunter might turn it around, I would’ve anted up for a solid grinder like Daniel Winnik or gambled on Mike Knuble or Brian Rolston or Dominic Moore.  Steve Downie probably would’ve been a pipe dream.  I would’ve looked at Ponikarovsky again; by the end of last season, he had really started to play a decent grind game.  I would’ve overpaid for Travis Moen, but I don’t know if he was available.  Why didn't LA pick up Anthony Stewart off waivers a month ago?

    It might cost a solid asset like Loktionov or Toffoli or a second-rounder, but unless I was very sure that the asset was going to develop into a top player, it wouldn't be worth it because the team is trying to win now.  Granted, none of the aforementioned players (except Downie) have a lot of goals this year, but they have track records.  If you have a need and the market is weak, but you know that your guys can’t cut it, you take a chance.

    A couple years ago, Lombardi fortified his bottom-six at the Deadline.  He threw away a solid asset in Teddy Purcell to get middling play by Jeff Halpern and literally gave up nothing (a conditional seventh-round pick—the condition? The Kings winning the Stanley Cup) for terrific play by Fredrik Modin.  Even though Purcell has become a solid scorer (I'm not sure he would've ever blossomed in LA's conservative system of play), I applauded and still applaud the intent of those deals, and Modin’s mini-renaissance (couldn’t you have seen Knuble come back to life for the Kings?) exemplified the upside of the gamble.