Our reader, Sydor25, enjoyed writing his first article for S&S so much that he is back with another one. Enjoy. – Bobby Scribe
In my last post I talked about Terry Murray’s “Shot Mentality” and how that is supposed to solve the Kings’ offensive problems. Here we are, three plus years and running with the same message. I also touched on how the lines should be built and the role that they should have. Now I will look at how Terry Murray has used his lines and help explain why, in my opinion, the Kings’ offense still struggles. I will then look at what Dean Lombardi needs to do to get the personnel on the Kings that will allow Murray to use his players his way.
Here are the Kings lines as used by Murray:
Dean Lombardi finally got that elusive #2 offensive center this off-season by trading Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn for Mike Richards. The LA Kings were finally going to have that 1-2 offensive punch. Murray said all the right things in the off-season - that Jarret Stoll will have a new role on the team and will center the checking line. This would give the Kings the tremendous advantage of having Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards in offensive roles. The Kings would finally be able to score 3 goals per game on a consistent basis. Through 8 games, the Kings have barely been able to score 2 goals and without the St. Louis Blues game; the Kings have 12 goals in 7 games. That’s 1.7 goals per game. Without Jonathan Quick, the Kings would not have a 5-2-1 record. Quick has a GAA under 1 and a SA% over 97. Insane numbers that will never hold up for a whole season.
Now, why is the LA Kings’ offensive production contrary to what most fans hoped?
The Kopitar line has been allowed an offensive role and they are scoring at a solid rate, exactly in line with expectations.
We were told that Richards will give the Kings some much needed secondary scoring, yet Terry Murray has neutralized this line by using them as the “shutdown line” and putting them out against the toughest opponents. Richards can handle this, but both Dustin Penner and Dustin Brown should not be expected to perform in a primary defensive role and still score 5-on-5.
This is exactly what is happening.
Murray is telling them to be the stopper unit, but still produce at a 30 goal pace.
How many NHL players can actually do this?
It is only a handful and Penner is not that type of player. Murray did the same thing with Alexander Frolov, Wayne Simmonds and Alexei Ponikarovsky; he asked them to be defensive role players and then was upset that they weren’t scoring enough. The Kings’ big advantage has been destroyed by Murray’s insistence they form the defensive forward line. Now some will say that Richards was brought in to be the great 2-way player and that is fine, but why put Penner with him in this role and if you are going to use Brown in this way, don’t expect strong 5-on-5 numbers from him; his primary scoring will be on the powerplay with Richards and Kopitar.
Since the Richards line is being used as the stopper line, what exactly is the Stoll line’s role on Murray’s team? Are they still a checking line? Are they an offensive line? What do they do? When a line doesn’t have a clear role, they are listless and confused on the ice. Should they fore-check hard to create turnovers and offense or should they hang back in a defensive posture? Right now, they are a line in limbo and are performing as such. Ethan Moreau and Brad Richardson have never been strong scorers in the NHL and to expect them to score at 20+ goal pace (2nd line numbers) is unrealistic.
The fourth line has its energy role and they have been okay. They are not going to score much and they are going to be a liability on defense at times. Murray needs to keep them from defensive zone starts at all costs. This line also needs to exercise discipline and avoid, as much as possible, icing the puck.
So, we are stuck with the Kopitar line as the only scoring line and 3 checking lines whose primary function is not to score goals. Doesn’t this then come back to Dean Lombardi and his ability to see what his coach is doing and bring up players that can perform in the appropriate roles? If Terry Murray insists on using Mike Richards as the stopper/defensive center, then Lombardi needs to call up Andrei Loktionov and waive Scott Parse or Trent Hunter. Murray can then roll with these lines:
Clifford-Lewis-Westgarth/Hunter or Parse
This gives the Kings 2 creative scoring centers, a strong 2-way center on the stopper line that isn’t expected to score at a high rate 5-on-5 and an energy line. Trent Hunter or Scott Parse, whichever isn’t waived, will be the player rotated with Kevin Westgarth. This will again give the Kings the matchup advantage and will put Dustin Penner and Jarret Stoll in a role to succeed at what they do while Stoll can still take important draws. Dustin Penner will never be mistaken for Pavel Datsyuk. This combination still allows Richards to be the primary player on the top powerplay unit where he gets his points. Right now, he has 4 powerplay assists. Mike Richards will also still chip in from time to time 5-on-5, but the proposed line combination frees up the Loktionov line to be a scoring line with primarily offensive zone starts. Don’t expect 20+ goals from Brown and Richards with their role. It’s up to Loktionov to get Penner and Stoll the above 20 goals. Kopitar’s line should have some 30 goal scorers.
Personally, if I had it my way and wasn’t limited by Terry Murray’s thinking, I would remove the stopper tag from the Richards’ line and let Penner and Brown loose in a scoring role. If Jarret Stoll’s line can’t handle the defensive duties, then you call up Loktionov and adjust Richards’ role on the team. At least with clearly defined roles, you can see who isn’t performing. Asking Penner to be a shutdown winger and then asking him to produce more just confuses the fans and his teammates. Why is Penner being singled out when he is performing what the coach is asking of him? Because that is what Terry Murray does and did with Simmonds, Frolov and Ponikarovsky.