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Comparing D production of Stanley Cup winning LA Kings to 29th Place Edmonton Oilers

The Los Angeles Kings are known as a team that built itself from the blueline out. Drew Doughty was the centerpiece of that rebuild, being selected second overall in 2008. He led the LA Kings blueline with 36 points this season, a healthy total but far from his career high of 59 he set back in 2009-10. Here were the other defencemen with the LA Kings, and their point totals.

In total, the LA Kings blueline combined for 44 goals, 97 assists and 141 points. Kings defencemen accounted for 23% of the team’s 188 goals. Based on the above totals the average Kings defenceman, over an 82 game period, would record ~7 goals and ~ 16 assists for ~23 points. Even strength, Doughty again led the way with 23 points, with former Vancouver Canuck Willie Mitchell placing second with 15 even strength points, while former Edmonton Oiler Matt Greene and young Slava Voynov placing third with 14 even strength points each. Over an 82 game period the average LA Kings defenceman would record five goals, 10 assists and 15 points. Shorthanded, the average Kings defenceman would record only one assist over a full 82 game season.

The LA Kings ranked 29th in the NHL in goals for this season, scoring 188 goals overall and just 131 at even strength. LA Kings defencemen accounted for 23% of the team’s entire offensive production. On the powerplay, where the Kings ranked 17th in the league, Kings defencemen scored 28.5% of the team’s 49 goals with the man advantage. At even strength, Kings defenders scored 30 of the team’s 131 goals, or 23%. The average Kings defender recorded two goals, six assists and eight points with the man advantage. Doughty led the way with 13 points.

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With the Edmonton Oilers, it’s a different story. Call it a difference of talent or systems, but Oilers defencemen didn’t produce at the rate of their LA King counterparts. The average Oiler defenceman produced four goals and 18 assists for approximately 22 points. That’s a 4% difference from the Kings, not a big number. But, the average Kings defenceman scored seven goals, 75% more than the average Oilers defenceman.

Leading the way for the Edmonton Oilers was Jeff Petry with 25 points. Behind him were UFA find Corey Potter, Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert. Ladislav Smid, posting a career year offensively, was fourth amongst the team’s defencemen in scoring. Here is the production of the Edmonton Oilers blueline in all situations.

Overall, Oilers defencemen contributed about 11% of the team’s 207 goals with 22, or less than half that of the LA Kings defencemen. On the powerplay, Corey Potter led the way with 11 points, with Whitney behind him at 10. For the league’s 3rd best powerplay, defencemen accounted for seven of the team’s 54 goals, or 13%. The average Oilers defenceman scored one goal, five assists and six points for a far superior powerplay.

At even strength, Petry was far and away the leader in points for Oilers defencemen, with 19. Smid was his closest competitor with 14. The interesting thing I found was that, if you projected both Doughty and Petry’s point totals 5 on 5 over 82 games, Petry would have produced 21 points, while Doughty would have had 24. Not an enormous difference, yet the average fan’s perception is that Doughty is the far superior player.

At even strength, the average Oilers defenceman produced three goals and 12 assists for 15 points, which is about the same as the average Kings defender. At even strength Oilers defencemen accounted for just 10% of the team’s 148 goals.

What can we conclude from this data?

At one point it was uncertain whether the LA Kings would even make the playoffs, and they clearly had issues with their offense as it was the second worst in the NHL. Even their powerplay was below average. While their defencemen out produced the Oilers, I feel that the difference in philosophy was due, in large part, to the fact that the Kings coaching staff hadn’t anticipated its forwards producing so little. As a result, defencemen were relied upon to do shoulder a bigger load offensively; in the Kings case 23% of the team’s total goals.

With the Edmonton Oilers, there weren’t as many issues when it came to goal scoring. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins produced more than expected, with Taylor Hall doing the same before he got injured. With the forwards producing, defencemen weren’t as relied upon to produce offense. I was surprised to see how similar Jeff Petry and Drew Doughty’s production were offensively at even strength. The lack of production from LA’s forwards essentially forced its defencemen to make up for that. I also feel coaching philosophy plays a major role here as well, as LA’s blueline produced double the number of goals as the Edmonton Oilers blueline, 44-22. This indicates more of a shoot-first mentality.

Follow Salim Valji on Twitter

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