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?