LA Kings Defense: State of the Union

By Abby G
In Blogs
Nov 25th, 2014

A quarter of the season is gone, do you know where your favorite team’s defense is?

With just over 20 games done, I think it’s fair to say the Kings’ defense is still… a little up in the air. Here is the current state of things:

offensive zone start vs TOI qualcomp, color = corsi rel

Or, if you prefer to look at quality of competition (QoC) as measured by Corsi instead of time on ice, you get this:

zone start vs Corsi qualcomp

The first chart is from War on Ice, the second from Hockey Abstract.

These two slightly different measures tell us roughly the same thing:

  • Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin continue to play well while dealing with lots of minutes and tough competition.
  • Robyn Regehr, Alec Martinez, and before his removal from the roster, Slava Voynov have been used in a more shut-down type role, and have struggled.
  • Brayden McNabb seems to be thriving, albeit in a somewhat sheltered role.
  • Matt Greene, while still facing some of the weakest competition on the team, is still struggling to break even.
  • Jamie McBain is hardly being played at all, and that is probably for the best.

Breaking down defensemen’s effects on individual players’ Corsi produces a chart that looks like this:

(chart idea stolen from RMNB, stats from Hockey Analysis)

Going down the page there are LA Kings forwards, listed from highest TOI/game (top) to lowest (bottom). Going across, there are the defensemen, from highest TOI/game (left) to lowest (right). The numbers are the forwards Corsi percentage when that defensemen is on the ice. The color gradient is listed at right. In general, green = better than 50 percent, which is good. 🙂

The bulk of green at the left reinforces what everyone generally already knew — namely that Doughty and Muzzin are really good at hockey, and since they are deployed together more than 80 percent of the time, we can infer that they do really well as a pairing. Voynov’s low numbers could show he was off to a poor start this year, but it’s important to keep in mind that they’re biased in that they reflect games played earlier in the year, when the Kings were (especially) struggling. Either way, he’s not in any position to help the team now.

McNabb is a bright spot. He’s been helped by playing with Doughty, but when he’s on the ice, most of the forwards are in the positive column.

Martinez, Regehr, and Greene are a rainbow, which suggests they’re dealing with their current level of deployment unevenly. Let’s not talk about McBain.

Going forward the numbers would seem to suggest a few things. One, the top pairing is the top pairing:

Muzzin – Doughty

The bottom two pairings are in flux. Besides Doughty, McNabb has played with Greene and McBain. Regehr has split time with Martinez (a lefty-lefty pairing the Kings seem not to dig), Voynov (nope), and McBain. We’ve also seen Martinez and Greene paired together.

Say what you will about how much it actually matters, but the Kings seem very attached to the idea of lefty-righty pairings. With that in mind the problem becomes more apparent: lots of options on the left. Not so much on the right.

McNabb/Regehr – ???

Martinez(?) – Greene

It seems abundantly clear that McNabb is being groomed for the second pairing shutdown role. Regehr is the other option here. You could put Martinez up on that pairing (and he has played on his off-side some). Or you could bump him down to the third pairing to play with Greene, which leaves you with a hole the size and shape of a puck-moving, right-shot defenseman. Which option the Kings go with will probably reflect a) the trade options available as the year progresses and b) how the developing prospects look, which Mayor’s Manor touched on some recently as well.

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