Searching for Answers

Doughty fall

In the last seven games, the Los Angeles Kings:

  • are 1-6;
  • have been outscored 10-23;
  • have scored 8 even strength goals;
  • have outshot their opponents 248-180;
  • have had a 4% shooting percentage, versus their opponets’ 13%;
  • have out-hit their opponents 201-174;
  • have allowed 2 power play goals, killing penalties at a 91% rate;

Dustin Brown:

“It’s time for guys to wake up. That’s pretty much it, really. Guys have to wake up and take responsibility… I don’t really have an answer…”

Rob Scuderi:

 “You look at just flat-out mistakes that cost us goals, and it’s something that bad teams do… I hope it doesn’t take a game like this to open some eyes. How about the last three weeks? We have to wake up eventually. There’s only so much time left in the season. I’m not sure how many guys have been… in situations like this, but there’s not that much time.’’

I keep getting asked, “What’s wrong with the Kings?”

A week ago I said, ‘they need to fire their coach.’ I can only hope that is still the answer, and when Sutter (regardless of the preconceptions) takes over he installs whatever is missing. Because I sure as hell can’t figure out what it is, except some intangibles.

The statistics above suggest that it’s not for lack of effort. You don’t kill penalties, out-shoot and out-hit your opponents when you’re not trying.

The players are talking about ‘waking up’. Snapping out of it. Getting it together. Whatever the phrase you want to use. These imply some epiphany or realization. What could that be?

You’re supposed to be a better team?

You’re supposed to be able to score?

You’re supposed to be able to win?

I don’t think any of those would be a helpful conclusion. That is a result, not a philosophy. It should probably be more like:

You can be a better team.

You can score.

You can win.

That might be more helpful. But it still doesn’t answer the question of how?

Looking at two of the teams the Kings played this week, arguably the best in each conference in Detroit and Boston, some inferences can be drawn.

Detroit is methodical. They play a puck-possesion, calculated system that doesn’t make mistakes and controls the play at all times, especially with the top two lines. The bottom two lines make up for a gap in skill with an increase in effort, while still dictating the pace and direction. It’s brilliant. But it also requires (I hate this word) execution. They always execute. It’s what really good teams do. Just like-

Boston is a hockey team in the purest form. They beat you in the offensive game. They beat you in the defensive game. They beat you in the physical game. Their attitude is superior. Every line contributes. Every player wants to outmatch his opponent. They know they can win. They know you can’t stop them. And they have the banner to prove it.

The Kings are trapped in a defensive system that is flawed in one major aspect: if it fails, they have no recourse because it is not designed to score.

At least if they had a more offensively potent system, they could afford to give up a couple of goals. That’s what Washington used to do. They would sacrifice defense because they could overcome deficits easily. They just never had the goaltending to support it fully.

For the fans, the defensive system is boring. It’s tolerable if it produces wins. A losing defensive system is the worst of both worlds.

The Kings’ players know this. They know if they get behind, they are unlikely to overcome. And they take it hard. They look like know what they are supposed to do, but are not convinced it will work. It’s simply a philosophy of ‘not-losing’ instead of ‘winning’.  Picture the coach saying,

 ‘OK boys, let’s go out there and NOT LOSE!’  

It doesn’t build momentum. You succeed by doing a job and not screwing up, as opposed to making plays and beating the other team. It’s easy to get discouraged and hard to be motivated because it’s not fun, especially for younger players.

It doesn’t convey that same Boston attitude of, ‘we’re going to go take the win and it’s up to you to stop us.’ The Kings don’t know how to get going to make the other team have to stop them.

The easiest train to stop is one that never leaves the station.

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