Shot Mentality And Players’ Roles
I love it when readers submit their articles to us. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. It means they felt so passionate about a subject that they needed an outlet and internet message boards where the word “poop” appears as p**p and statements like “Go To Hell Ducks Fan” somehow show up on the screen as, “shucks, I feel unhealthy negative emotions against you, let’s be friends (edited by moderator)” just won’t cut it anymore. It is unfiltered, honest and unabashed. Here is our reader, Sydor25′s article. I haven’t read it yet but knowing his history of comments, I will guess it is strong praise for Terry Murray and a scolding to each of you who refuse to accept that defense in the absence of offense is worth defending. Without further adieu, enjoy! – Bobby Scribe.
For 3+ years we’ve all heard Terry Murray talk about a “shot mentality” and how it will improve the goals scored. He’s also talked about 5-on-5 scoring and the improvement needed by the Kings. That I agree with, 5-on-5 scoring is a huge indicator of a strong team; the last three Stanley Cup Champions have been 1st, 2nd and 4th in 5-on-5 goals. The Kings under Murray have been 30th, 18th, 17th and currently 23rd after 8 games. Let’s see if shots on goal have any bearing on goals scored by the Kings.
The Kings were 30th (dead last) in the NHL in 5-on-5 goals during Murray’s first season in LA. They were 17th in shots per game. So the Kings were middle of the road in shots, but the worst scoring 5-on-5 team. We all know the Kings had an okay PP% that season (17th), but LA missed the playoffs. So we learn that the PP% and shots don’t equal wins. The Stanley Cup Champion Penguins were 4th in 5-on-5 goals that season, 20th in PP% and 18th in shots.
In Murray’s second season the Kings improved to 18th in 5-on-5 goals and made the playoffs, ultimately losing in the first round. The Kings PP% was ranked 7th and their shots per game ranked 22nd. So the Kings’ 5-on-5 scoring improved and their shots per game rank decreased (but their shots stayed the same at 29.1 per game). So LA’s 5-on-5 scoring went from 114 to 145 while taking the same number of shots. According to the shot mentality, this can’t happen. The Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks were 2nd in 5-on-5 goals, 16th in PP% and 1st in shots per game. Chicago was a dominate team that season.
Last year, Murray’s third season, the Kings improved to 17th in 5-on-5 goals (145 to 148) and again made the playoffs, losing again in the first round. The Kings PP% was ranked 21st in the NHL and their shots per game ranked 23rd at 28.8 shots per game. So, the Kings took fewer shots and score more 5-on-5. This again contradicts Murray’s shot mentality. The Stanley Cup Champion Bruins were 1st in 5-on-5 goals, 20th in PP% and 3rd in shots per game – another dominate Stanley Cup Champion. This shows some correlation between shots and 5-on-5 scoring, but again confirms that the PP% isn’t important.
So, there might be something to the shot mentality overall, but it hasn’t meant anything to the Kings. So why is Murray still preaching a shot mentality and not changing the Kings’ overall attack? I think the Kings would be better served with clearly defined and different roles for each line. It is stupid to ask the Richards line to be the “shutdown” line and still score 5-on-5. Those are 2 very different roles and they don’t lend themselves to each other. Penner is being treated exactly the same as Frolov and Poni. They were also asked to take on a defensive role and still score at the same rate as a player in an offensive role. It is also not a good idea to treat every player and every line the same. There is no use fitting square pegs in round holes. A good coach identifies his players’ strengths and weaknesses and puts them in a position to be successful. Individual success translates to team success, especially when everyone has a clearly defined role.
My assigned roles would be:
1st line – Scoring Role: Penner-Kopitar-Williams. They don’t have to worry as much about the “checking side” of the game. Just score and create. It starts in the offensive zone more than the other lines and there are very few defensive zone starts. This line is rarely used against top offensive lines.
2nd line – Scoring Role / Slightly more 2-way play: Gagne-Richards-Brown. Play more of a 2-way game than the Kopitar line, but primarily a scoring line. Gets some starts in the defensive zone. Used against offensive lines when the 3rd line is tired.
3rd line – Defensive role, no high expectations of scoring 5-on-5: Moreau-Stoll-Hunter. Starts in neutral and defensive zone. Plays hard and cycles, more of a dump and fore-check game. Plays more conservative than the other lines. BTW, Stoll and Moreau have the lowest goals against per 60 minutes on the team. Take away the expectations of scoring and they are a successful line.
4th line – Speed and energy: Clifford-Richardson-Lewis. Mostly neutral zone and offensive zone starts, no defensive zone starts. Use their speed and energy to harass the opponent. No expectations to play a “heavy” game. When Westgarth plays, Lewis moves to the defensive line.
Of course, these roles aren’t absolutes and hockey is a very free flowing game. Kopitar and Richards will still be strong 2-way centers, but by limiting Kopitar’s defensive zone starts, his line has greater offensive chances per game. Starting this line in the defensive zone restricts far too much their chances of scoring goals and scoring goals leads to wins. Relying on the PP and goalie is not a recipe for long term success. In the past 2 games, the Kings had only 1 PP opportunity per game. If the Kings had the best PP in the history of the game, they would have still only scored 1 more goal per game, which isn’t enough to win. 3 goals is the main tipping point for wins in the NHL.
Now you have a basis for evaluating each line. If the Stoll line is getting lit up, then you can discipline/bench the player(s) or move the 4th line guys up a line. If the top lines aren’t scoring, then you can discipline/bench the player(s) and move them down a line or 2. This prevents the second guessing and scapegoating of specific players. If Penner is in an offensive role and isn’t producing, then move him down to the 4th line. But if you are asking him to be a defensive player and his goals against are low per 60 minutes, then you can’t get on him for not scoring. He will never be an elite 2-way player like Datsyuk and asking him to be is just stupid. If Brown isn’t scoring, then move him down to the checking line and let him excel there. Even Richards is struggling to score 5-on-5, which isn’t a surprise when he is assigned the toughest opponents.