We have all listened to athletes talk about a game or a season. Lots of clichés and, many times, the question asked isn’t even answered. You may have seen Kings Vision’s post season interviews. As usual, KV did a fine job and although we didn’t hear the questions, thereby listening to the interviews in a narrative format, some of the interviews provided good insight. I have gone through nearly all of them including those of Dean Lombardi.

I know what you’re thinking.

“You are going to translate Dean Lombardi for us, right Scribe?”

While it is true I hold a Doctorate in Lombardi Linguistics, I will take you another direction. Willie Mitchell. Why? Because I have found him to have a low b.s. meter. He comes across very similar to Sean O’Donnell. Open, honest, few clichés and doesn’t waltz around direct questions. One part of Kings Vision’s post season interview with Willie Mitchell that struck me was this:

I think there is always pressure on our defensive corps here just because of the style of play that we play, how Terry does things. Games are, for the most part, low scoring affairs for the Kings and that puts pressure on the defense. You can give up two goals against and lose a game and, for us to be successful, we have to hold a team two and under to give ourselves a chance to win a lot of nights. There is pressure with that knowing that, as a group, you can’t make many mistakes and for Quickie as a goaltender.

Notice I didn’t put Mitchell’s statement in quotes. That is because this is a summary of what he said. It captures just about all of it but to go through and write in every transitional word that we often use in speech was a masochistic exercise I chose to avoid. If you wish to listen to just this part of the interview, click on the link above and go to the 2:42 mark.

So, why is this passage illuminating? First, I have heard advocated that the Kings’ system is no different than any other system and we don’t score a lot of goals on average solely because we don’t yet have the necessary offensive skill. I have found this argument short sighted and hearing it from the horse’s mouth (Willie the Horse) confirms what I have believed. While, of course, we do still covet a 2nd line center and 1st line left wing, to look up and down our lineup and claim we are only scoring 1 or 2 goals per game because Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Ryan Smyth, and, on the back end, Drew Doughty, and Jack Johnson aren’t talented play makers and/or scorers is nearly insulting. It also begs the question, is that why we gave away Matt Moulson and Teddy Purcell, two offensively skilled forwards?

I have also heard and read that Terry Murray’s system doesn’t stifle offense or creativity and that the Kings are losing those 2-1 affairs because the players don’t follow the system. This is a lack of execution argument and the failure to follow the system includes not having the necessary “shot mentality”, not “managing the puck”, not being “strong” enough with the puck, not playing that “heavy” game, etc.

If those words sound familiar, it is because they have exited our coach’s mouth throughout three seasons and, more than ever, this season and playoffs. As an aside, isn’t it telling that even the greatest of Terry Murray apologists (including Terry Murray) don’t bring up that we don’t get the puck to the scoring areas more such as the hash marks and inside the circles or execute lateral passes and attempt one timers? Even they (and our head coach) realize that Murray and Jamie Kompon don’t have any of this within their hockey repertoire. Yet, here is one of our top 4 defenseman telling us that those games we lose 2-1 are exactly within Murray’s team structure and system. Otherwise, the following statement wouldn’t make sense:

You can give up two goals against and lose a game and for us to be successful we have to hold a team two and under to give ourselves a chance to win a lot of nights.

In other words, when the LA Kings play within the system, scoring only one or two goals on any given night needs to be enough to win the game.

The LA Kings were ranked 25th in goals per game.

The “wait until next season” folks preach that will all change because we have more “skill” coming into the lineup or the existing players will be better.

Dustin Penner will be better”, “Brayden Schenn will take the 2nd line center role”, “Andrei Loktionov will stay healthy and find his fit”, “the kids [many of whom are no longer “kids” by the way] will be one year more experienced.”

Ok. Maybe. All of those statements may come true. However, when “the style of play that we play, how Terry does things”, per Willie Mitchell, is the reason 1 or 2 goals per game has to be enough to win on most nights, does it really matter all that much what players you insert into the lineup?

In the end, isn’t the LA Kings’ system the elephant in the room?

Categories: L.A. Kings News

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15 replies

  1. It’s a shame no one who can do something about this (*cough* Lombardi *cough*) sees this the way we do. Great insight Bobby!

  2. Ok, so it is positive to be critical. I think that the system needs tweaking-yes. On the other hand, there are always trade offs in change and we have a good coach on many levels. The question is what is the solution? How do we go about “growing” the good coach that we already have? I think maybe a little influence by people he respects may help. Maybe C&S can write a suggestive letter to Luc????

    • You want a 60 something year old coach whose last coaching job in the NHL was 1997 to change? I would rather have a young winner like Boucher who doesn’t come with that kind of baggage – one who is not a “defensive” minded coach or an “offensive” minded coach but rather brings balance, which is what it takes, without exception, to win the Cup.

  3. I think the people who say it isn’t the system that prevents us from scoring goals are people who don’t really understand how the game is played (i.e. they’ve never played and everything looks the same to them, kinda like when I watch football). You really don’t need extremely offensively gifted players to bring the puck into the zone and get a decent shot on net from a rush, instead of dumping and chasing ALL THE TIME. No one really needs to beat a player one on one with an incredible move in order to do this. Sure, more talent would help. But the Kings rarely are able to do anything like this.

    If your focus is on defensive positioning all the time, you are naturally going to be a little bit more behind the puck, more often between the opponent and your net, and will therefore be less likely to be in the neutral zone with the puck with only 1 defender on you. Since you are more behind the play, the opponent will also have more of their players between you and their net when you do end up getting possession. It just turns the game into more of a defensive stalemate type game.

    • I feel the same way when I watch football :)

      • To be fair to the both of us, football is a pretty damned complex game from a coaching and strategy point of view.

        And I just want to be clear that, although I am blaming a system for lack of offense, I don’t dislike Murray as a coach or what he has done with this team. Along with the drop in offense came a drop in goals against, and he did that with a very young team and 3 young defensemen. I think that perhaps his role was to instill sound defensive play allowing the team to build upon that foundation. It’s not a bad strategy, especially with our youth.

        Unless he surprises us though, I don’t think he can add that offensive aspect into our game that will put us over the top. I hope I’m wrong though.

  4. Those who see it as players don’t really see the game systematically anyways. They only see players skating and taking shots, and hitting.

    The fundamental differences in why the Kings play along the boards more than other teams in the offensive zone escapes them, and they believe it is the players fault, because they make the choice to go there themselves. They are not talented enough to take the puck to the middle of the ice and make plays.

    When I see people blaming the players, or saying we lack the talent I get frustrated, because I know better. Edmonton plays that way and they don’t have near the talent we do. If anything we have the talent to make their system succeed. The Kings porposely slow the game down because a slower pace means more control.

    TM has established a system that is a blanket predetermination of what to do, and has all 4 lines deployed the same way. The main reason is to take the decision process, and reads out of the players hands so that everybody is on the same page on the ice. Individual effort is frowned on, unless it is within the perameters of this predetermined strategy.

    He also does this so that he can interchange any position with any player. This is his way of adjusting to other systems i.e. more offensive player here, more defensive player there.

    Speed is also a major frustration for me. When I see comments about needing faster players I can’t help but shake my head because speed puts the reads and decision making back in the hands of the players. If the Kings slow the game down systematically then how are the players supposed to be creative?

    As soon as a player goes off reservation they end up in the dog house, and young players who don’t play a slow and methodical physical game are sent away.

    What is the Kings system in a nut shell? Push everything to the boards in both ends to manage and control with size and stregnth. Where do they fail? playing through the middle with finesse and speed. Why? because that’s the system TM forces the players to play, not the players refusing to play that way.

    I could go on, but it probably sounds more like a rant, which wasn’t my intention.

    • Again, Dom is right on point. Watching almost every game last year, it was frustrating to see outnumbered attacks by the Kings evolve into plays where the puck carrier turns towards the boards with his back to the net only to slow down the attack.

      And to answer Bobby, yes it is the “elephant in the room.” And when a team like SJ can see the pressure, break out effectively, push the Kings deep into their own zone only to drop the puck to a wide open trailer (over and over again) it is not only we fans that see the shortcomings of this “system” it is the rest of the league.

      Free-wheeling will not win a CUP, but there must be some sort of middle ground where your “system” controls the game but at the same time does not stifle natural talent, creativity, and speed.

      Its all very frustrating.

      Great article, Bobby.

      • I totally agree. Everybody keeps saying we’re exactly like Boston, but we’re nothing like them. They take the puck through the middle as much as possible, and they always circle towards the slot from the boards. When their attacking the middle you can see them execute tick tack toe plays between the dots.

        I can’t even remember the last time I saw a tick tack toe play between the dots from the Kings. I’m sure it’s happened, I just can’t remember any because the Kings don’t take it there that much.

        It’s like the elusive backdoor play on the power play, or the onetimer from the slot. Brown scored a beauty then no one took a shot from the slot again for the rest of the season.

  5. Mitchell’s comment stuck out to me too, and I give it a lot of credibility because he has played different styles with other teams. You know I’m not a Terry Murray hater, but he and Lombardi are the architects of this system and in charge of choosing the players to execute it. If we’re convinced we have the right mix of players to execute the system and we fail, then the system is flawed. Not sure we can make the argument we have all the player pieces in place YET, but we should next season. Then there’s really nothing left to do but point to the system.

    • What is going to happen next season? What leads you to believe we “should”? You see, in Murray’s system, the system is never the problem. We could be as deep as the Canucks, get eliminated in the first round and it would be because the Sedins did not work hard enough, that Burrows wasn’t going to the dirty areas, that there was not enough puck management, that we need to be stronger along the boards, not enough shot mentality and the same tired bullshit he spews on a regular basis. If you intend to wait for the Kings to have a team of star two way players before they compete for the Cup, I guarantee you that you will die of old age first. No team is that. Two way players are the exception, not the rule and a good NHL coach gets the best out of the players he has, which Murray does not and cannot on the offensive end of the puck.

  6. We have more offensive talent than Boston, We have better defenseman than Boston, and our goalie is just as good as Bostons. The difference is that they are in the cup and we didn’t get close.

  7. Player execution hurts more than system. His system is archaic, but not completely ineffective. Kompon’s powerplay hurts far more than Murray’s system. What chokes the life out of Murray’s system is his player utilization, it is so horrid that players seldom develop any chemistry and when they do it gets smashed to pieces. He needs to stop being the players’ friend and start being their battlecommander, put the lines together that would be most effective and stop pandering to his feelings such as loyalty or seniority. When he establishes the lines, keep them intact. Most elite lines/top 6 lines of other teams remain the same mostly throughout the system, sure there is tweaking, but not after the line gets a very long look, and they work on issues within the line rather than mixing it up every 30 seconds. We need a master of war and Murray comes off as a cub scout den mother to me…


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