The Kings had a disappointing season in 2016/17. They racked up 86 points and failed to reach the post-season. Led by Jonathan Quick in goal, the Kings have keyed in on strong team defense as an identity. Today we explore their blue line and which off-season changes may have an impact next year.
Note: For detailed methodology, feel free to read up on our puck movement and defensive metrics here.
Rapid Fire Observations
+ Drew Doughty leads the way on the blue line for Los Angeles. Don’t be fooled by the QoC Doughty faces based on where he lies on the Y-Axis – the graph is merely tilted because of how sheltered Gravel and McNabb were. Doughty faces the oppositions’ best (top QoC on the Kings) and logs big minutes doing so. He had a very strong PMF of +1.37 in 2016/17 which is even more impressive when you account for the fact that he does so despite facing top opponents. Doughty is a strong puck mover and hes been the leader on the back-end for almost a decade (more on him later).
+ Derek Forbort, McNabb’s replacement, struggled immensely as a puck mover in 2016/17. His PMF of -5.69 is replacement-level bad and worst on the team. While he did face the top QoC too, these numbers cause concern and make one wonder if the Kings erred in protecting Forbort over McNabb. Still only 25, 2017/18 will be an interesting, and telling, season for Forbort.
+ Brayden McNabb is an intriguing name (now a member of the Vegas Golden Knights). McNabb was left unprotected and taken by Vegas in the expansion draft. McNabb excelled as a puck mover (PMF +2.00) and minimized opposing scoring chances (defensive ability metric, DAM, +1.49). That said, he did so in a highly sheltered role (weak QoC and started 43% of shifts in the offensive zone). What’s also interesting is that the Kings elected to go with Forbort as a defense partner for Doughty over McNabb. McNabb assumed that role in 15/16 and was also extremely solid as a puck mover then (Doughty would go on to win the Norris). McNabb is a name to watch in Vegas next season.
+ Jake Muzzin is another rock on the blue line for LA. Posted a solid PMF of +0.66 while facing tough QoC and big assignments. Alec Martinez was average as a 2nd pairing guy, posting a PMF of -0.79 while also facing solid QoC alongside Muzzin. Both should continue to play top-4 roles next season.
+ Gravel was highly sheltered in 2016/17, starting 45% of shifts in the offensive zone and facing weak QoC. That said, he did fine as a third pairing guy. His PMF of +0.07 is acceptable and his DAM of +4.93 was extremely impressive. He should battle for a 5/6 role in training camp next season.
+ Perhaps to replace McNabb, the Kings signed Folin as a free agent this off-season. Folin is a depth guy who will battle for a 5/6 role as well.
Drew Doughty = Mr. Consistency
Doughty’s 8-year average PMF of ~+2.00 highlights what an exceptional puck-moving defenseman he is. Doughty consistently drives possession and makes his teammates better. You’ll notice one of his peak seasons in 2015/16 (PMF +2.86) where Doughty won the Norris trophy.
Here is an example from last season of Doughty’s dominance.
His d-partner, Forbort, with Doughty had a CF% of 52.6%. Without Doughty? 48.6%.
From 2014-2017 on the ice WITH Doughty, Kopitar, Brown, and Carter had CF% of 58.1%, 57.4%, 56.4%.
From 2014-2017 on the ice WITHOUT Doughty, those numbers all drop by ~5%.
Heading into 2017/18, one thing is certain: expect Doughty and Muzzin to lead the way. No signs point to either one slowing down. The bottom half of their blue is filled with questions: Will the Kings come to regret losing McNabb to Vegas? Will Forbort take a big jump as a top line defender in 2017/18? Can Folin solidify the 3rd pairing? Time will tell. But you can count on Mr. Doughty being in the Norris race, again.