What explains the Kings’ turnaround?

Derek Zona of www.coppernblue.com tweeted last night that he didn’t know who was responsible for the Kings’ recent success. His candidates were Darryl Sutter, Jeff Carter, Jack Johnson and variance. Variance, I imagine, is another way of saying, “just because this is happening doesn’t mean it’s likely ever to happen again.” Or, “if you stick around long enough, everything that can happen will happen.”

Seriously, though. You could, for example, have a runner who consistently runs a 4:05 mile and has, statistically speaking, a zero percent chance of running a 4 minute mile. And then, you could have another runner who has in fact run a four minute mile, but his range of times is all over the place. Variance in the Kings’ case would mean they were like this second runner. And the cup would be (if they in fact win the cup) their four minute mile. The first runner, with his consistently great but not cup-winning time, would be like the Canucks, or the Sharks (at least, as fans of those teams see them) or the Bruins in the late 70s.

Or, I could be entirely wrong about what Derek means. Maybe he’ll member up and explain in the comments. Maybe that’s my whole evil scheme.

But I have another explanation

Lets look at the Kings opening night roster.

Rich Hammond (10/6/11): Call it the Richardson Rise

Richardson started training camp as the fourth-line left winger. He moved up to third-line right winger after some ineffective play by Scott Parse. Now he’s up to the second-line left-wing spot, replacing Simon Gagne, who moves up to the first line to replace the injured Dustin Penner. The Richardson Rise, in Terry Murray’s eyes, is a product of Richardson’s strong training camp and preseason, and Richardson is scheduled to play Friday on a line with center Mike Richards and right winger Dustin Brown.

Gagne / Kopitar / Williams
Richardson / Richards / Brown
Scott Parse / Stoll / Trent Hunter
Clifford / Lewis / Ethan Moreau
Mitchell – Doughty
Scuderi – Johnson
Martinez – Greene

So, who do we have here?

  • Brad Richardson in the top-six.
  • Dustin Penner injured, but — generally under Terry Murray — ineffective and befuddled.
  • Scott Parse bouncing around between top and bottom six (he had been on the first line the week before), not entirely healthy and soon to be out for yet another season with yet another hip surgery.
  • Trent Hunter and Ethan Moreau taking up space in the bottom six.
  • An out-of-shape Drew Doughty with contract-shock, soon to be concussed and out for a handful of games.
  • Jack Johnson, playing great for Jack Johnson, pulling Scuderi’s numbers into the mud.
  • Terry Murray, running on fumes.
  • Trevor Lewis, in the line-up at this point, but soon to be a healthy scratch under Murray.
  • Voynov in Manchester.
  • Nolan and King in Manchester and on nobody’s radar. (Well, Nolan was on mine, but I’ll save bragging about that for another post.)
  • Jeff Carter rotting in Columbus.
  • Colin Fraser a month away from playing his first game.
  • Simon Gagne, healthy for the moment but soon to be injured, then sort of healthy, then out for the rest of the season until yesterday.
  • Darryl Sutter on a ranch in Alberta.

What changed?

  • Terry Murray got fired.
  • Darryl Sutter got hired.
  • Trent Hunter and Ethan Moreau were sent to Manchester.
  • Jordan Nolan and Dwight King were recalled from Manchester, making a big Kings team even bigger.
  • Jack Johnson was traded to Columbus for Jeff Carter, giving the Kings two legitimate scoring lines for the first time in ten years.
  • Nolan and King relegated Kevin Westgarth to the press box. Kevin Westgarth is cool, and a good guy, and a pretty good hockey player. But Nolan plus King plus Clifford made him redundant. Westgarth is the type of player Murray apparently loves, but Sutter — well, I don’t know Sutter’s opinion. But Westgarth hasn’t played in ages.
  • Trevor Lewis went from Murray’s dog house to Sutter’s penthouse. Lewis is at the top of the list of players Sutter has rejuvenated. Tied with:
  • Dustin Penner. Sutter is directly responsible for Penner’s re-emergence. (I would love to hear Derek’s take on this, since I know he was a huge Penner fan during Penner’s time with the Oilers). I’m not sure what the secret ingredient was (trust, sticking with him, I don’t know), but the Penner we have now is everything the Kings hoped he would be when Lombardi acquired him last season.
  • Trading away Johnson in effect equaled acquiring Voynov, since Voynov stepped into Johnson’s slot and didn’t miss a beat. Better than that, he didn’t miss beats that Johnson missed routinely.
  • Second Johnson trade benefit: Scuderi switched over to playing with Doughty. Making Scuderi better.
  • If you’ve noticed in the playoffs it’s been Voynov bailing out Mitchell more often than the other way around.
  • Colin Fraser got healthy and established himself as an anchor of the fourth line. This allowed Lewis to move up and take the spot wasted on either Hunter or Moreau.
  • If you saw how slow those two vets were in the first half of the season, you understand what a huge upgrade it is to have the speedy Lewis firing on all proverbial cylinders. Is that how you spell cylinders? It looks weird. Stoll is fast, but his speed was wasted when he was skating alongside Moreau or Hunter. But Stoll plus Lewis…now that’s some speed.
  • Brown moved to left wing. He’s just better on the off-wing.
  • Jeff Carter on Richard’s wing. Even if those two aren’t scoring, the opponent has to attend to them. And the addition of a big body on the left — first King and now Penner — has made that line frequently awesome.
  • Health. Early in the season there were injuries to Penner, Doughty, Richards, Fraser, Gagne, Parse, Martinez. The team is relatively injury-free.

To sum up

Before: befuddled Penner, out-of-shape Doughty, concussed Richards, demoted Voynov, scratched Lewis, injured Fraser, hobbling Parse, old Moreau and Hunter, Murray on fumes and a fully-operational Jack Johnson.
After: optimal Penner, Doughty hits stride,  symptom-free Richards, add Voynov, add Nolan, add King, add Fraser, subtract Hunter and Moreau and Johnson, energize Lewis, add a 40 goal scorer and a coach who is (and who keeps his team) intense, focused and ready. And doesn’t sit his goalie after three consecutive (or 15) record-setting performances.

In other words, it’s the same team, but completely different.




  5 comments for “What explains the Kings’ turnaround?

  1. June 5, 2012 at 4:22 PM

    Well, it makes more sense than entropy.

  2. DougS
    June 5, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Did you read Hammond’s article on Jack Ferreira? Ferreira says that he was “banging on the table” for both King and Nolan back in October (part of his job being to keep a close eye on Manchester).

    Your point about Voynov and the Carter trade echoes what I’ve said about it, that what the deal so elegant from the Kings’ point of view was that Voynov was ready to step right on for Johnson. At worst, he would be a suitable patch, and at best he would be a real improvement. Since there was no place for him to play with Johnson around (and apparently, he thought about bolting to the KHL), the Kings really traded the 1st rounder + the difference between Johnson and Voynov, not Johnson in and of himself, for Carter. Advantage: Kings.

  3. June 5, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    This is, by far, the best summation of events I have seen. Kudos.

  4. Bayern Lieber
    June 6, 2012 at 12:14 AM

    Own-horn-tooting time:

    I took a lot of crap for saying many times starting last year that TM needed to go. Those BringBackTheShieldJersey and soccersucks posts were mine. My first tag line was, “line combinations are irrelevant until Murray is gone.”

    Arguing over and over again that the problem was more system/coaching than players. Yes, players were changed and improved. But the biggest difference Sutter has brought (and what has made the Kings so successful in the playoffs) is the attack-attack-attack on the forecheck, while with TM everything was about dropping back and being positionally secure that you won’t get beat on defense.And, yes, Kompon still needs to go. Take your ring and go, Jamie. We hopefully will win despite our horrendous power-play which you are in charge of.

    Moving Brown to left wing was, to me, a no-brainer. He’s always been better over there and attacks the net more frequently and with more effectiveness. He sees the ice better.

    • June 6, 2012 at 10:22 AM

      I remember those posts. Toot away.

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