What went wrong?
That’s the question Los Angeles Kings fans found themselves asking after the disappointing 2016-17 season. The Kings turned in a mediocre performance this year, collecting 86 points and 10th place in the West, which was good enough to get 2-time Stanley Cup winning coach Darryl Sutter fired. Los Angeles has not been able to recapture the magic that they had during their championship runs in 2012 and 2014 as of late. With only 1 playoff game win in the last 3 years, Kings fans and front office alike are trying to solve that question. What went wrong?
Looking at the numbers, it seems like Los Angeles should have had a great season. The Kings were a Corsi machine in 2017. They led the league in Corsi Against (CA) with 49.9 and in Corsi For Percentage (CF%) with 54.4, while coming in second in Corsi For (CF) with 60.4. The Kings played the possession game all year long. They also dominated in zone time, with 38.3% of face-offs taking place in their offensive zone (OZFO%) . Finally, the Kings also were not afraid to let the shots fly. They had a Shots For % of 54.6 and Shot For per 60 (SF60) of 30.8, just below the league leading Bruins. We would expect a team that led the league in CF%, OZFO%, and SF% to translate their style of play into wins. However, this did not happen with the Kings.
While the Kings excelled in the more advanced sections of the stat sheet, they seemed to forget what actually wins hockey games; goals. The Kings allowed 201 goals on the season, while only scoring 199. Almost any hockey fan can tell you that a team isn’t going to get very far with a negative goal differential. The Kings can pat themselves on the back for averaging 31 shots per game. However, shots don’t always turn into goals. The Kings had a shooting percentage of 7.79%, which ranked 27th in the league.
So while the Kings can applaud themselves for some good possession numbers, the praise will ring hollow. The reality is the Kings could not score when they needed to score, and that lack of scoring landed them outside of the playoffs. Possession doesn’t mean much, when that possession doesn’t turn into goals.