Where were you on that one, system? (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Raise your hand if you think the Kings' system sucks.
Now please explain exactly what the Kings' system is. No, not "shitty," but really what the Kings are doing and why that's bad.
The hip new thing among Kings' fans has been to blame the system whenever the Kings lose. The Kings don't score? The system. The Kings fail to draw penalties? That darn system, at it again! The Kings get scored on? FUCK YOU SYSTEM! The Kings score a lot and win big? Oh great, glad to see the players were able to overcome THE SYSTEM.
The problem is, that's kinda dumb. The system isn't why the Kings lost last game. They lost because the Devils adjusted well, played well, and the Kings played like dickheads.
The weirdest thing is that people usually complain that the system is too restrictive. That was true the previous few years but this year? The Kings have opened things up this season, I swear to God. The defensemen are far more aggressive. You can see the positives and the negatives of this. Last game, Jack Johnson pursued Ilya Kovalchuk all the way up to the blue line, kept pressure on him, and eventually forced Kovalchuk all the way out of the zone, forcing Kovalchuk to regroup. That's a positive. The negative can be seen in the game against Buffalo, on Buffalo's third goal. Johnson pursued Nate Gerbe to the boards and then Rob Scuderi & Trevor Lewis got mixed up on who was going to cover the space Johnson left. That was the 2nd game of the season, though, and I think they'll figure it out.
(As an aside, I think that's the reason Johnson seems to be improving this season: he's been allowed to be more aggressive.)
They also opened things up on offense. The forwards have a lot more freedom to curl back around and to also make iffy passes in the zone. They still have a man stapled to the front of the net, which is kind of stupid, but c'est la vie. When they enter the zone, they're not dumping & chasing; they're trying to make a play or holding up to let the rest of the team catch up with them.
The Kings' problem right now honestly seems to be that they don't have enough structure on offense. It almost seems like Murray said, "Alright boys, I'm going to open things up on offense so, you know... go score or something. Don't fuck up, though! I'm talking to you, Penner. Everyone else, whatever."
Justin Williams, making an iffy pass as he enters the zone? OK, I'm willing to accept that he knows what he's trying to do and there are going to be mistakes occasionally. Brad Richardson doing the same thing? Fuck that, there's no excuse. The Kings are being told they can be more creative but I don't think they're being told how. Because it's been so tight-fisted before, they're not recognizing the difference between an acceptable & unacceptable risk. It's like dropping a conservatively raised Christian into Mardi Gras right now. There's a reason teams dump & chase; it's because it is pretty easy to do and you're probably not going to get a costly turnover out of it. It's weird to say but I wish the Kings were playing more conservatively on offense, at least on the bottom six.
But it's early. They'll figure it out. They're too good not to. That's one of the good things about having a good team. And I think that's why people whine about the system, because in their minds the team is too good not to win all the time. And that's OK. I like this team, too. But there's a difference between pointing out flaws a team has and the ongoing, systemic whining that has become engrained in the psyche in the Kings fanbase. Before, it was individual players: Dan CLOLtier, Randy Jones is the worst defenseman in the world, fuck you John Zeiler (I actually agree with that one, to be fair). Now that we don't have anyone individually to blame because even idiots can see that Dustin Penner is good, we've moved to the coach. And a lot of people criticize his system because no one's going to call them on what specifically is wrong with it.
I personally think Terry Murray should probably be let go at the end of the season because I think his part has been played. But you can think that without trying to make him into a bad guy so you don't feel bad about letting him go. And you can do it without whining about it like a baby. Murray's a good coach. He may not fit what we need to do anymore, but he's still a good coach.
And when people start complaining about Dean Lombardi and saying we need to fire him, and he eventually gets fired because of it, I will whiiiiiiiiiiine like you wouldn't believe.
The Kings made a change today, putting Scott Parse on the 2nd line and moving Dustin Penner to the Stoll line with Brad Richardson. Honestly? I'm fine with that. Penner & Brown don't mix well at all because Penner's a half court player and Brown's more run 'n gun. Also, it's been kind of weird in that Brown & Penner have both been trying to play without the puck so the only guy who actually touches it is Richards. Parse can be useless on that line like Penner has been and Penner's in a role where he has to create offense on a line with 2 idiots, a role he has a lot of experience in. I'm optimistic!
Prediction: Kings play pretty well, they make some mistakes, everyone complains some more.