The Tale Behind the Numbers
Statistics are often the most overanalyzed aspect of professional sports. Diehard fans around the globe pour over their favorite players’ statistical output down to the very decimal. These numbers can be used for good or for evil – to grant a prestigious award or to spin a debate on an internet message board. Yet despite the swarms of sophomoric “my favorite player vs. yours” pseudo-arguments that statistics can produce, they are still capable of divulging a frighteningly true story. This Kings’ fan happens to think the following tells such a tale.
On November 5th, 2009, the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup. At least, that’s how many fans reacted when the Kings beat an injury riddled Pittsburgh Penguins, 5-2. Since this grossly overexaggerated home win, the Kings have played ten times. Over that ten game span, I’ve noticed some alarming, perhaps overanalyzed, statistics:
Home Record: 0-3-0
Away Record: 4-3-0 (two SO wins)
Goals scored: 19, or 1.9 per game, good for 30th in the league
Goals surrendered: 33, or 3.3 per game, good for 27th in the league
Power Play: 6 for 40, or 15%, good for 26th in the league
Now that we’ve gotten these dismal team stats out of the way, let’s look at some individuals:
Kopitar: 10 games played, 1 goal, 7 assists, -5, currently riding an eight game goal scoring drought
Brown: 10 games played, 1 goal, 3 assists, -5, currently riding a nine game goal scoring drought
Frolov: 10 games played, 2 goals, 3 assists, -7
Williams: 10 games played, 1 goal, 3 assists, -3
Smyth: 6 games played, 1 goal, 2 assists, -3
These are the statistics from, arguably, the Kings’ top five forwards. I post Smyth’s stats for a reason, because I’ve seen far too many fans attribute the Kings’ recent lack of good hockey to Smyth’s injury. But, as I said earlier, the numbers tell the story, and Smyth wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire before his unfortunate injury.
One constant over the past ten games, other than every Kings’ player being in the minus, has been their lack of offensive output and creativity. Terry Murray has engendered quite the love/hate relationship with Kings’ fans during his tenure, reminiscent of the Andy Murray era (maybe it’s just the Murray). When the team is playing tight, structured, defensively sound hockey, T. Murray’s name may as well be Scotty Bowman, according to some Kings’ fans. When the team is running around in their own zone and playing the same dump and chase offense, T. Murray’s name may as well be Rob Blake, because the same four letter expletives are sure to follow.
As far as this writer’s opinion goes, I’m honestly just as torn. It’s hard to argue with Murray’s record thus far, what he’s done with such a young team, and where the team is today in relation to where the team was under Marc Crawford. However, it’s also hard to ignore Raitis Ivanans’s bloated icetime, the “name out of a hat” line juggling philosophy, and, once again, the dump and chase. When world class puck possession skill rests in the wrists of such players as Kopitar, Frolov, and Doughty, why force them to shoot the puck into the boards, skate after it, and basically leave it up to a coin flip’s chance of whether or not a cycle results? Why stifle such skill? Why attempt to turn a talent into a grinder? I simply don’t understand this, and perhaps for good reason. I’ve never coached a professional hockey team. I have no idea what goes into such an undertaking. However, I do know the game; I do know this team; I can read the numbers. The numbers don’t lie.
In closing, I’d like to ask the reader’s opinion. Is dump and chase offense effective in the new NHL, or simply a relic of the past?
Whatever your answer may be, at least there is one thing we can all agree on. This team needs to start putting the puck in the net, or we’re in store for a long and very frustrating season.