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Kings Gameday: The Big Story

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Los Angeles Kings
@ Boston Bruins

Tuesday, Dec 13, 2011, 4:00 PM PST
TD Garden

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So Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty are going to be on the first power play unit for the Kings? This is HUGE for reasons I can't even begin to explain. So I won't.

[In order, what I blame for the firing Terry Murray:

1) Horrific scoring slump

2) Kings fans, who have really outdone themselves in being horrible this time

3) AEG who, nervous about the reactions of said idiot Kings fans, pushed Dean to make this move (I think AEG also might have started sweating once the Angels got Pujols, the Clippers almost got Chris Paul and the Lakers maybe getting Dwight Howard)

4) The players

5) Dean Lombardi

I've said before that the Kings are at the point where they're ready to move on from Terry Murray but I hated when they did it. I hate firing coaches to give a team a "boost" and I hate firing coaches before the trade deadline in general. If you were willing to fire your coach when things didn't go exactly as planned then you should have fired him before the season started. Now we're stuck with either riding out the string with John Stevens or looking at a bad list of coaches because most of the good ones are currently, you know, coaching. I'd prefer to stick with John Stevens this season and then look to Dave Tippett in the off-season, or maybe Carlyle by then.

But hey, time marches on. Here are a few things I'd like to see happen under John Stevens, Head Coach:

1) Break-in variations. No more right wing dumps it in, shifts it to left winger, left winger throws it to defenseman, defenseman's shot gets blocked. The Sharks do this little thing where they cycle it around, then get the puck to Thornton as he heads across the blue line; then, he reads the option and either sweeps it behind him to a streaking Marleau or carries it in himself. It's a small play but it's effective and it gains entry with control of the puck. Also, if the Kings are entering the zone with only one man it needs to be with their left winger, not their right. All our good offensive defensemen are on the right anyway so why not cycle the puck to them.

2) Activate the defense. I don't have much hope for this one since Stevens has been running the defense so far this year, but they really need to be moving in to close the gap between our offense and defense. Voynov has the most goals of any defenseman,and why? Because he's jumping down low when the forwards have their back to him. It's not that hard. Of course, the reason why defensemen aren't jumping in is because they very rarely have support from their forwards. The forwards are told to loop around in a drive towards the net in search of tips and rebounds, and as a result you see a fairly large gap between the Kings' forwards and their defenders. That gap needs to close; if a forward is coming out from behind the net, have him loop around the circle while the defender jumps in for a chance.

3) Step away from the net. A big problem the Kings seem to have is that they plant themselves in front of the net. Murray desperately wants net presence but there's a difference between a guy hunting for rebounds and a guy just standing there. Plopping yourself in front of the net works sometimes but it's far more effective when the defender doesn't know where you are. Penner & Brown should be constantly moving from high to low, popping out for a one-timer as Kopitar or Richards are coming out from behind the net and then hitting the net when the puck goes to the defense. It's a pretty basic thing that you see a lot of good offensive teams like the Canucks and Red Wings do.

4) Go, go, go! The Kings have seemingly had an unwritten policy in recent years that players were allowed to break for on offensive chance if they saw an opportunity, but Goddammit if it doesn't work out then you're benched for the rest of the game. The result? No one jumps up except for the guys who won't get benched, your Richards', Stoll's and Frolov's... well Frolov would jump and get benched but you know what I mean. Players aren't that smart; they know that they'd rather do the safe thing and get to play then take a chance and get burned. The weird thing is, you can teach players when to jump and when not to. Murray never seemed to differentiate between acceptable & unacceptable risk and as a result, you'd see Brown stay back when he had a clear chance to jump into the play while Justin Williams is throwing blind backhanded passes across his own blueline. The Kings this season were basically kids that grew up in abstinence education and then given a pack of condoms when they went to college and told to go nuts. That doesn't work.

Ultimately, a lot of the changes I'm advocating for require the players on the ice to think. That's dangerous because hockey players are idiots. But I think Murray's biggest problem as a coach is that he'd give meticulous attention to detail on defense and then give no instruction on how to be creative safely in the offensive zone. You watch the Sedins play and you marvel at what little moves they do to get themselves open but then you watch Manny Malhotra do the same things and you realize that it's a learned behavior, not just the Sedins being hockey gods. Of course, they're better at it because they are in fact hockey gods but the effort is there throughout the Canucks line-up.

The Kings will probably start picking it up pretty soon, although to be honest I've been saying that for about a month now). I agree with Murray's last comments as coach of the LA Kings that the effort was there (until that last game against Dallas), the puck just wasn't going in. Well, now the players can't blame it on Murray anymore. It's on them. Get to the net, make some plays, shoot the puck. Every coach in the world is going to tell you to do those 3 things if you want to score. It's honestly not that hard. So do it.]

Prediction: Kings win, 3-1. Goals by Voynov (x2) and Doughty. What a move! Oh God I'm shocked!