One of our readers, 3TeamFan, had an interesting comment that merits discussion in its own article. He posed the question, would a new coach make that much of a difference with this lineup? He wrote:

When I look at the Kings, here’s what I think are reasonable projections for goals from these players in an average season regardless of who is coach.

1st line:
Dustin Penner: 19
Anze Kopitar: 30
Dustin Brown: 22

2nd line:

Simon Gagne: 21
Mike Richards: 26
Justin Williams: 23

3rd line:

Kyle Clifford: 6
Jarret Stoll (getting 3rd line ice time with poor wingers): 12
Brad Richardson: 9

4th line:

Andrei Loktionov (on 4th line): 4
Colin Fraser: 3
Ethan Moreau: 3

Defense:

Drew Doughty: 11
Jack Johnson: 9
Willie Mitchell: 4
Rob Scuderi: 1
Matt Greene: 2
Slava Voynov: 6

That’s 211 goals. That’s what I believe is the mean for this team. It could go as high as 220-225 if Penner, Brown, Gagne, Williams, Stoll, etc score a little more than I projected, but the paces I projected for most of them are a lot higher than they’re on right now, so it could easily be 10-15 less than I projected too.

211 goals would have ranked 25th in the NHL last year, 1 goal more than Columbus, 2 more than the Kings were last year and just behind Montreal, Nashville, and Toronto.

So regardless of the coach, how is this going to get to 236 goals? If that’s even enough.

The premise is, are we overestimating the L.A. Kings’ offensive abilities?

My response:

The issue (which we will explore in more detail) isn’t just scoring, per player, over the course of the season but 5 on 5 scoring. The Kings are the NHL’s second worst team 5 on 5. L.A. averages 1.39 5 on 5 goals per game. The Islanders are at 1.33 5-on-5 goals per game. To put things in frightening perspective, the Ducks and Blue Jackets have better 5 on 5 scoring. That is why looking at statistics in an isolated setting can be dangerous. Where we fail, and have consistently failed, is our inability to enter the zone with speed, set up the play and generate offense. Any game we play against better teams demonstrates our ineptitude in this regard.

To address our reader’s premise, I first look at this season. Right now, the leading team in goals scored is the Philadelphia Flyers. As a side note, the fact Dean Lombardi wants to model this franchise after Philly but that our system of offense doesn’t resemble them in any way is an irony that should not be lost on you. Moving on, they are at 3.48 goals per game average. They have scored 80 goals, which is incredible. The L.A. Kings, by comparison, have 53. What gets us in the top 10? 64. I look at this lineup and ask myself, there aren’t 11 more goals in here?

Justin Williams 3 goals. Should be 7

Dustin Brown 4 goals. Should be 7

Jarret Stoll 2 goals. Should be 5

Drew Doughty 2 goals. Should be 4 (taking injuries into account)

Kyle Clifford 1 goal. Should be 3.

Dustin Penner. 0 goals. Should be 4 (taking injuries into account)

Consider nobody else and you have 18 more goals right then and there. Suddenly, we are at 71 goals, which puts us tied for 5th.

Over the course of the season, being in the top 10 is what I would expect (assuming a competent offensive system) with the additions of Richards and Gagne, each of whom increase the offensive skill set of our top 6. I am being conservative but expect the best players to be exactly that because they are each skilled enough and have the intangibles and work ethic to be. If you came into this season believing Kopitar, Richards, Williams, Gagne, Brown, Stoll, Clifford, Doughty, Johnson, and Martinez would all take offensive steps backward or, at best, some of them would tread statistic water, then you should expect that from every team in the NHL when projecting stats.

My expectations:

# POS PLAYER G
11 C ANZE KOPITAR 30
10 C MIKE RICHARDS 30
14 R JUSTIN WILLIAMS 25
12 L SIMON GAGNE 25
23 R DUSTIN BROWN 25
3 D JACK JOHNSON 10
28 C JARRET STOLL 15
8 D DREW DOUGHTY 17
33 D WILLIE MITCHELL 5
26 D SLAVA VOYNOV / ALEC MARTINEZ 6
2 D MATT GREENE 1
17 L ETHAN MOREAU 0
13 L KYLE CLIFFORD 10
7 D ROB SCUDERI 0
47 R TRENT HUNTER 7
25 L DUSTIN PENNER 15 (only player I expected less from)
21 L SCOTT PARSE 4 (never expected him to remain healthy)
19 R KEVIN WESTGARTH 0 (expectations already exceeded)
? L ZACH PARISE 30 (oops, how did that get in there!?)
48 C ANDREI LOKTIONOV (See Penner since Lokti is likely a fill in)
24 C COLIN FRASER 3
15 C BRAD RICHARDSON 7
22 C TREVOR LEWIS 5
44 D DAVIS DREWISKE 0

240 goals, not counting Parise.

Is that unrealistic? Based on the players’ histories, and natural forward progress, I say it is damn realistic.

That is, last season and likely this one, top 10 numbers. I will tell you this – if Dean Lombardi had a dramatically different set of expectations going into the season, then all of that talk about taking it to the next level was a fabrication and I don’t believe for one second he believed at the start of this season (or now) that this L.A. Kings team, with the players assembled, wasn’t ready for that step, nor do I believe he looks at our current offensive numbers and is not left scratching his head unless of course he is being honest with himself about the common denominator.