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Photo Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Kings of Offence?

The Los Angeles Kings and offensive force in the same sentence is similar to me being mentioned as a leader for trendy new hairstyles. Unlikely.

The Kings have finished top-ten in goals scored once in the past seven seasons.

They were 25th this season and 14th, 18th, 26th, 10th, 29th and 25th dating back to 2010/2011. In 2012 they were 29th in GF in the regular season, averaging 2.29 goals/game, but in the playoffs they scored 2.85 goals per game and won the Stanley Cup. In 2014 they were 26th in GF in the regular season at 2.42/game, but in the playoffs they suddenly became an offensive juggernaut scoring 3.38 goal/game and won another Cup.

Sound defensive play has been their team identity for the past many years in the regular season. They were sixth in GA this season with a 2.45 GAA, and they’ve finished third, fourth, first, eighth, second and seventh going back to 2011.

They know how to defend, but scoring goals has been an issue. While I’m comfortable with my lack of hair, the Kings want to spice up their offence so they’ve hired an “Offensive Coordinator.”

On Monday Pierre Turgeon was hired as an assistant coach, but his focus will be in the offensive zone.

Turgeon ranks 38th in career scoring with 515 goals and his 1,327 points in 1,294 NHL games is 32nd most all-time. He knows offence and the Kings are hoping his instincts, insight and offensive mind will help their team score more.

There is no doubt it is more difficult to score today than in previous eras because the goalies are better, but it’s mainly because now you have to beat more than one player to score. The gap between the best and worst skaters in the game is much smaller than it was even 10 years ago, but it’s microscopic compared to the 1980s and 1990s.

There are other factors as well.

Teams have hired goalie coaches, and most teams have two or even three in their organization. Goalies receive a lot of one-on-one time sharpening their skills. If a goalie gets in a funk he will spend thirty minutes to an hour working with the goalie coach through video and then they will go on the ice and re-establish proper angles or try to eliminate bad habits which have crept into their game.

A normal NHL practice rarely has as much focus on offensive zone plays as they mostly do defensive zone coverage. I understand much of offensive zone play is instincts and seeing the play, but repetition and reminders help goalies, and I’m positive it would help goal scorers.

Recently we have seen an increase in players hiring skill coaches. Adam Oates works with Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Max Pacioretty and many other proven scorers. He also works with numerous defencemen in developing and honing puck handling, shooting and scoring. This is very individual focused. During the regular season, NHL coaching staffs don’t spend much time on offensive zone practice.

A lack of practice time is a valid reason, but many coaches and organizations would rather focus on preventing goals and winning low scoring games, even if they had more time. The NHL needs more offence, and I’m curious to see if, or how, Turgeon’s hiring helps the Kings’ offence.

PROGRESS?

Apr 14, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a short handed goal in the third period against the San Jose Sharks in game two of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL saw a slight increase in goals last season. Seven NHL teams averaged three goals/game, which doesn’t sound like much, but there were only two in 2016 and three, three, six, three and four dating back to 2011.

We saw 6704 goals in the NHL last year (1375 on the PP) for an average of 5.45 goals per game. My totals do not include SO goals, since those goals don’t count for the individual so they shouldn’t count in the overall scoring totals.

In 2016, the NHL had 6565 goals (1380 PPG), averaging 5.33 goals/game. The increase in scoring last season came mainly at EV.

The 2005/2006 season was the last time the league averaged six goals per game with 7443 goals (6.05/game). The extra 1000 goals was due to the league actually enforcing the rule book and calling penalties. The NHL had  2493 PP goals in 2006.

The “no one wants to watch and endless parade or penalties” argument doesn’t pass the smell test for me. Yes, there were more penalties, because the NHL called infractions. Would you rather have more penalties or more hooking, holding and interference, which limits the best players from showcasing their elite skills? I’ll take more penalties because I’m confident the players will adjust. If they know hooking will be called consistently they will eventually hook less, and simply skate harder to try and disrupt the puck carrier.

The slight increase in goals last year, despite the NHL’s unwillingness to call the rule book, is a step in the right direction. Was the uptick due to the extra work players put in with skill coaches in the summer? I’d guess it was a factor, but how much is difficult to say.

If the LA Kings can score an extra 40-50 goals this season, will other teams consider adding an “offensive coordinator” or spending more time focusing on how to score, where to score from, and having more time for repetitive scoring mechanic drills and formations? I sure hope so.

The league needs it. I’m rooting for the Kings to score more goals, because if they do, other teams might finally realize if you want more goals, outside of enforcing the rules correctly, teams needs to put more of an emphasis on scoring. Teams should find ways for their offensive players to have as much time honing their scoring skills as goalies have to prevent goals.

QUICK HITS…

  • “You can work on targets, or shooting quick release, or shooting and finishing on the left side or right side of your legs. You repeat this in practice, you get in a game situation and you’re reacting to what you have in front of you without thinking about it,” Turgeon said in an interview with Helene Elliot of the LA Times.
  • NHL coaches need to adapt and have more time in practice focused on scoring, and if I was running a team I would have one, possibly two coaches dedicated specifically to this. I’d ensure players had consistent one-on-one time repeating scoring situations in practice. I firmly believe the main reason goalies have improved so much in the past decade is due to how much time they work on the basics of their position. They get a lot of one-on-one instruction from the goalie coach combined with lots of video work, visualizing themselves taking the proper angle.
  • Scoring goals is more difficult than ever, and most of the goals are scored from close range. How often do we see a player in a good position to score, but he doesn’t raise the puck? I don’t expect players to find every opening and see a massive jump in goals, but if players spent as much time refining their scoring touch as they do a breakout, defensive zone coverage or other practice drills, there is no doubt we’d see an increase in scoring.
  • Working with skills coaches in the summer is fantastic and it will help, but teams need to continue this throughout the season. Hockey in general, especially at the lower levels, needs to change its approach. There needs to be more of an emphasis on the scoring areas, how to get there, how to score from there and then consistently repeat these drills during the season.
  • The Oilers were eighth in goal scored for last season with 243. They hadn’t finished in the top-ten in GF since 2004, when they finished 9th with 221. In the eleven years in between they finished 25th, 26th, 24th, 18th, 19th, 27th, 27th, 18th, 17th, 30th and 15th in 2006 when they went to the Cup Finals. Connor McDavid was in on 41% of the Oilers goals this season, however, in 2014 Taylor Hall scored 80 points and picked up a point on 40% of the Oilers goals. He was in on 40.6% of their goals in the lockout shortened 2013 season. Of course McDavid played a major role in the Oilers increased scoring this past year, but they finally have scoring depth, and as their young players continue to emerge you’d hope they become more of a dominant offensive team.
  • The NHL tends to follow trends, and I’m hopeful teams try to emulate how Pittsburgh plays. The Penguins led the NHL in goals with 278 and averaged 3.39 goals/game. Minnesota (278), Washington (261), NYR (253) and Toronto (250) were the other teams to score 250 goals. Pittsburgh was 17th in goals against with . Sidney Crosby had a point in 32% of their goals. Evgeni Malkin missed 20 games and was in on 26%. Their entire team played uptempo and attacked and they weren’t scared to give up scoring chances.
  • I’m very much a fan of scoring and I hope the Kings hiring of Turgeon and the skating and attacking style of the Penguins are the new trends for the NHL moving forward.
  • Take a moment and listen to this week’s podcast. It is rare a diehard fan gets to interview his favourite player, but Wanye Gretz did so this week with Jordan Eberle. It was fun to watch and see them interact. You can listen on Soundcloud here, and on iTunes here.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Just a Fan

    Teams are not rewarded in the playoffs for goal storing during the regular season. The old axiom that ‘defense wins championships’ has been the justification for years to throw the rule book away after the regular season ends. If you want more goals scored during the season, call the playoffs the same way you call the regular season. It will encourage skill development and eliminate the teams like LA that are ‘built for the playoffs’.

    • Jason Gregor

      Are you referring to CF%?

      Pittsburgh was 16th. Nashville was 6th. Ottawa 22nd, Anaheim 18th. The final four teams.

      Edmonton was 18th, St.Louis 15th, NYR was 25th and Washington was 4th. Those were all final eight teams.

      So two of final eight teams were in the top 14. Puck possession can have value, but it can also be overvalued as well.

    • freelancer

      Certainly. And while I’m in favour of stats like Corsi and Fenwick it’s also a good reminder that good possession does not automatically translate into goals

      • Glencontrolurstik

        I’d argue that it does translate to goals, IF the right skill-set exists.
        But, to your point, it could also translate to better defense & goals against.
        When a team has the puck more, they can do whatever they want to do with it.
        Depending on the skills that have been developed.

  • Spoils

    Maroon-McDavid-Draisaitl
    Lucic-Nuge-XXXXX
    Jokinen-Strome-Puljajarvi
    Slepy-Letestu-Kassian
    Cagiula

    I’m having fun with lines, let’s say we keep one of the best lines in the NHL together. Let’s say we want center depth so we have Strome on center. Let’s say we are worried about expecting Puljujarvi / Kassian / Cagiula / Slepy to produce like a top 6…

    let’s say we have enough money to bring in ONE more RW scorer…

  • Frisbee97

    I’d be curious to see how much of the uptick in goals per game was due to more games ending in OT vs the shootout because of the league going to 3 on 3

    • Jason Gregor

      Good question. This past year we had 157 goals at 3-on-3. In 2016 there was 139. An increase of 18. Ironically, the Kings lead the NHL in 3-on-3 goals with 10 this year and they also led the league with 12 in 2016. Small increase in 3-on-3 GF across the league, but still more at 5×5 which is promising.

  • madjam

    Learn , adapt and apply is mantra for the first 4-5 years of most players . After 5 years they fall into managing their skills category etc. rather than doing well trying to be more productive/adaptive like their first 5 years . Turgeon will have little effect other than on the youth of the club , very little if any on the older veterans .

  • ponokanocker

    The NHL has really been turning me off as a fan by not enforcing their rules, and not making changes to the game to make it more entertaining. Its unfortunate as my team is finally winning. If they don’t start enforcing the rules they have in place to open the game up more, prevent injuries from slashing and increasing the excitement factor, they are going to lose me as a fan. I don’t want to see stars getting their hands slashed anymore resulting in them missing significant time from broken bones, or McDavid trying to split D only to be held/hooked.
    When are they going to realize that goalies are taller than they were 50 years ago and increase the height of the nets? Players have to have such incredible accuracy, and a little luck to beat a goalie anymore. Increasing the net height will not take away space on the ice, or lower rap-around attempts. Pucks will be shot higher, so the players attempting to block every shot may not every time either now, which eludes to another problem, so many blocked shots. Watching a goalie make a great save is exciting, watching a player take one off the knee and limp off the ice isn’t.
    The NHL is in entertainment industry. They better wake up and start making changes as the NFL and other major sports are doing. Old time hockey is just that, old.

    • fasteddy

      So, so true. Maybe the numbers and the tall foreheads are miles ahead of us regular folk as it relates to popularity of the sport, but I certainly hear a different story from people…..of all the hockey fans I encounter I never, ever hear excitement. It’s the same always and everywhere; “the game is boring”. I guess us fans that witnessed the 80’s and 90’s don’t register in the satisfaction polls! There is simply no such thing as looking forward to watching an NHL game that doesn’t involve your favorite team, that ship has sailed.

  • Slipknot 8

    I cant see the Kings improving the offence while they have aging players on the roster and grinders throughout the line up. Great team for shutting teams down but bad if they want to keep up to teams like Pitt

  • Goalies have certainly improved. In looking at Ranford’s stats in one of the previous articles, it shows his SV% usually below .900. Today, no way you’d be a starting goalie, heck even a backup in the NHL. Are there any stats on shot distance to goals from back then to now? With the enhanced defensive play, I’d guess that more shots are taken in the slot than before, which pumps up the validity that goalies are even much more improved today due to higher shot success.

  • Roberto

    Any possibility that Ebs shoulder injury was his downfall? He was soft to begin with, and an injured shoulder is difficult to come back from… I predict Ebs will never be the same player that he once was.

  • ScottV

    As much as anything – I think the Kings had a problem with injuries to key players and or maybe some off years for guys like Kopitar and Gaborik.

    The streamlining of goalie equipment, is probably the best bet for a goal or so more per game.

    An average of 4 to 3 instead of 3 to 2, would make a big difference for those who want to see more goals.

    I could live with a few more goals under those circumstances, however – a well played 1 – 0 game – here and there is no problem for me.

  • GentleRush

    The NHL needs some new blood at the top. The director of hockey operations, Colin Campbell, was a good but very defensive defencemen who was scrappy and physical. So it doesn’t surprise me that the game is called the way it is. You want more offence? Then Colin Campbell needs to go.

  • The game is robotic as the structures and constraints that kids are forced to adhere to from a very young age have killed imagination and real innovation. And the worst culprit. Hockey Canada.
    Tier em up baby. Tier em up.