The 2017-18 season was just another step in the long and drawn-out decline of the Los Angeles Kings
Ever since their mini-dynasty from 2012 to 2014, the Los Angeles Kings have been in a slow, deteriorating state. Simply put, they just haven’t been the same team that we saw during their two surprising runs to the Cup.
Specifically for the 2011-12 run, they were a really exciting team to watch. Despite finishing with a rather modest 95 points, their advanced stats indicated that they were one of the top teams in the league.
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The playoffs evened this out quite nicely. LA took out the top 3 teams in the west, going 12-2 during the first 3 rounds, meeting and beating the New Jersey Devils in the Finals.
The 2014 run took a lot longer, mainly because Jonathan Quick didn’t look like himself. Nevertheless, they still got the job done. After that season came the decline period the Kings are now deep within.
Los Angeles has still made two playoff appearances in the previous four seasons, but their magic has completely disappeared. The 2017-18 season has really cemented the end to a hope of a continued dynasty.
The Kings have really championed the value of advanced stats. From the 2011-12 season until the 2016-17, they finished in the top 3 teams in the league in CorsiFor percentage every single year.
Shockingly, when you set up a team that controls possession of the puck, you get results. Well, results were exactly what the Kings got. Putting trust into something that hadn’t been tried before, really defined them as a team.
Before those runs to the Cup, the Kings were widely regarded as a complete joke, a lot of the time. Even the Great One Wayne Gretzky ultimately failed to drag them to a Stanley Cup.
In fact, the Kings missed the playoffs three times with Gretzky on the team. How is that even possible? LA was just the team that wasted nearly eight seasons of the Great One’s career. Oh, and Edmonton really hates you for some unknown reason.
Even after the Gretzky years, the Kings never got past the second round of the playoffs. The point is, they didn’t really have much going for them. Their eventual trust in advanced stats was what separated themselves from this reputation.
Ok, but why is this such a big deal? Why is this such an important detail to focus on? Well, this season, the Kings finished 19th in the league in CorsiFor percentage at 49.7. Their defining factor has disappeared.
Now that they don’t control possession, who are the LA Kings? Although not to the extent of Carey Price on the Montreal Canadiens, they are a mediocre team being dragged into the playoffs through the efforts of Quick.
It may sound unbelievable that a team can be defined by a metric like this, but this is who the Kings were. Without it, they just have nothing to their name. This became increasingly clear in the Vegas series. The Kings are no longer the advanced stat powerhouse they used to be.
The Kings going into next Season
Alright, well that’s all well and good. The Kings used to have fantastic advanced numbers and now they don’t. Well, why has their success vanished? Well, a lot of it has to do with their bottom six.
Dailyfaceoff projects the Kings’ bottom six to consist of Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Nate, Thompson, and Mike Amadio. Their third line (Iafallo-Kempe-Lewis) is ranked as worst in the league, while the fourth line (Clifford-Thompson-Amadio) is second worst.
When more advanced metrics are taken into consideration, the situation becomes obvious. With the exception of Iafallo, who is a benefit in terms of shot contributions, the offensive depth is really lacking.
Kempe, for example, is decent at getting into the zone with a 77% zone entry percentage. However, his shot contributions are abysmal, at 26 per 60 minutes. That hurts to look at. His defensive ability also isn’t looking too great.
Lewis doesn’t excel anywhere on the ice. He seems to have a tendency to take more shots than he probably should. He has an above average shot attempts per 60 minutes, but his actual shot contributions are at 32 per 60. This suggests that he shoots the puck too early instead of allowing better chances to develop.
Clifford was only tracked for 8 games to be fair, but his totals aren’t much better. He has a few above average numbers in individual categories, but his overall percentages in these categories are quite low. However, his sample size is probably too small, so it’s hard to judge him at this point.
Thompson is actually good at exiting the zone, and is about average in entering the offensive zone, but his shot contributions aren’t where they need to be to make him a well-rounded depth player.
Lastly, Amadio is good at entering the offensive zone, but nothing else. His sample size is also questionable, but there’s nothing that would indicate that he can really perform.
The Kings have an evident lack of any sort of all-around talent on their bottom six. To the extent that any of these players excel, they usually only excel in very specific areas.
Hopefully, it’s obvious what’s going on here. The Kings’ bottom six doesn’t get enough shots off, and they don’t seem to defend very well. This is what happened to the CF%, and thus, the team identity. This bottom six is killing the Kings.
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When half of your offensive corps is at this level, there’s not much you can really do. The Kings top six is fairly good, as is there defense and, of course, Jonathan Quick. However, there is simply no way a team can compete with this bottom six.
The fall of their CF% symbolizes what point the Kings have reached in their decline. They may squeak into the playoffs a few more times, but this team just doesn’t have another Cup run in them.