Who's to Blame for Los Angeles Kings' Failure to Reach the 2015 NHL Playoffs
The Los Angeles Kings, the 2014 Stanley Cup champions, will not be participating in the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs. Why? Because after a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, the Kings are mathematically eliminated from postseason contention with one game remaining.
How and why are the Kings, by far the NHL's top possession team over the 2014-15 season, not one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference?
They are complicated questions with complicated answers.
That's why this slideshow has been created. There's no one definitive answer—there are many answers, and maybe none of them offer a satisfying resolution.
So click through and either enjoy the answers to those questions or revel in the failures of a defending champion falling short of the postseason.
1. The Los Angeles Kings
Come on. For all the reasons that are either viable or fanciful inventions of imagination, the Kings did this to themselves. Possess the puck all you want, if you're not taking it and putting it into the other team's net more frequently and consistently than they are putting it into your net, you have to take some responsibility for that.
The Kings are 19th in goals per game (2.64) and seventh in goals allowed per game (2.42), and that thin margin of error left them on the outside looking in.
There's certainly some blame to be dispensed on an individual levelmore on that to come—but as a group, the Kings just didn't do enough to reach the playoffs.
2. Stanley Cup Playoffs, 2012-2014
In 2012, the Kings won the Cup. In 2013, they reached the conference finals. In 2014, they won the Cup again—and did so by winning a Game 7 three times.
Over the past three years, no one has played more hockey than the Kings.
"Yeah, that’s true," Drew Doughty said after losing to Calgary, per LA Kings Insider. He continued:
A ton of hockey really, and we’re not going to use it as an excuse because we’d do it all over again obviously. We’ve had a tough go. Maybe we’re not our best this season. Maybe sometimes guys were a little tired out there, but everyone still gave it their all. Everyone tried to play their best. Sometimes it just doesn’t go the way you want it to.
While players will never admit to fatigue over the course of a season, the Kings looked like a team that was out of gas when it mattered most.
3. Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown is the Kings captain and possesses a $5.875 million cap hit, which is the second-highest on the team. His production simply does not match his contract.
That was also the case last season, when he produced 15 goals and 27 points in 79 games, figures he followed up with a career-low 11 goals and 27 points in 82 games this time around. In 2013-14, Brown had a raw Fenwick of 56.5 percent, which was a positive number in relation to the team (55.6); this season, he fell to 54.1 percent, a negative compared to the team (54.5).
The Kings were able to overcome Brown's regular-season inefficiencies last season, but this season, Brown slipped and so did the Kings.
4. The Luck of the Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames are perhaps the luckiest team of the analytics era. At 45.6 percent, the Flames finished with the third-worst raw Fenwick number this season. Prior to that, at 46.8 percent, the 2009-10 Anaheim Ducks had the worst raw Fenwick of any playoff team since 2007-08.
Bad teams make the playoffs every year; there are 30 teams and 16 reach the postseason, so by definition, there will be one below-average team that qualifies no matter what. But if you think bad teams don't reach the playoffs mostly because of luck, acquaint yourselves with the 2013-14 Avalanche or the 2013 Maple Leafs. The Flames' 101.2 PDO speaks to that. Luck happens.
And when it happens, a good team usually has to pay the price. This year, that team is the Kings.
5. Mike Richards
If Dustin Brown and his $5.875 million cap hit were a waste of money, then Mike Richards at $5.75 million deserves even more blame.
Richards had five goals and 16 points in 53 games and spent part of the season in the AHL because of his poor play. Richards' raw Fenwick fell from 53.2 percent last season to 49.1 percent this time around.
That's a lot of money tied up in two players who were huge disappointments.
6. The Shootout
As is sometimes the case when a good team misses the playoffs, the Kings were frequently hurt by their inability to win the NHL skills competition that awards an extra point to the winning team.
The Kings went 2-8 in shootouts; last season, with virtually the same roster, they went 8-6.
It's almost as if shootouts are a coin toss because there's no true way to repeat success.
The Kings also went 1-7 in overtime, but that's less about luck and more about losing hockey games.
7. Slava Voynov
While Dustin Brown and Mike Richards were disappointments on the ice, Slava Voynov faced allegations of being an even bigger disappointment off the ice, and it wound up hurting the Kings on the ice.
Voynov played his final game of the 2014-15 season on Oct. 19, as he was charged with felony domestic violence. The Kings were consequently stuck with his $4 million cap hit and left with a hole on the back end that could not be filled.
There's no denying his off-ice behavior matters more than what it did to the Kings on the ice, but it was a real issue the Kings could not solve.
8. Martin Jones
In 2013-14, injury limited Jonathan Quick to 49 games, but Martin Jones (.934) and Ben Scrivens (.931) were fantastic in a backup role, with Jones taking over that role after Scrivens was dealt to Edmonton.
This season, Jones was a liability.
Jones made 11 starts in 2014-15 and the Kings won in just four of them; last season, the team won 12 of his 18 starts. His save percentage fell all the way to .906 this season.
On nights when Quick was given a rest, Jones' form was detrimental and helped cost the Kings a playoff berth.