Since the lock-out, no team with an even-strength goal differential of +14 or better has missed the playoffs. In that span, the Kings' differentials have been +1, -44, -33, -31 and +16 (that's the last year of Andy Murray, two Crawfords and two Terry Murrays). Those numbers exclude power-play goals-for and short-handed goals-against. Adding those back in, the Kings' differentials, since the lock-out, are -26, -54, -37, -24 and 20. It's pretty easy to see why the Kings made the playoffs last season.
Two years ago, before Terry Murray had coached a game, I suggested the Kings needed to get their GAA down around 2.75, which was about 1/2 a goal per game lower than the previous season. The idea that this was possible was met with gales of derisive laughter. They ended up at 2.78 (226 goals), one goal-against above the target of 225. But they didn't score much, and the result was an improved but still not playoff-worthy differential of -24.
So, this time last year, I said, if the Kings want to make the playoffs, it would be a good idea to get their GPG up to 3.00 and their GAA at least to hold steady in that 2.75 range. That meant 246 goals-for and 225 goals-against. For the sake of simplicity, I rounded 246 up to 250 and called that the target.
There was some head-scratching. So I budgeted it out. I assigned goal-targets to the different likely scorers (this is the T09 column in the chart below). I tried to be conservative in my expectations, while still pushing for something worth striving for.
The Kings finished the season with 231 GF and 211 GA. So they closed about half the distance between the target and where they had been the season before (202 GF). And that 231 (which is the A09 column -- A for actual -- in the chart below) does not include ten shoot-out "game winning goals" which I ignored because (well, because they're stupid, but also because) those goals aren't assigned to anyone.
And of course, 231 - 211 = +20, which is above the +14 needed to be a playoff team (since the lock-out anyway).
Looking ahead to 2010-11, I think the same targets hold. Keep the goals-against below 225 and shoot for a goals-for of 246+.
I looked at the likely roster -- and being an optimist -- I started to feel like 250 is too low a target. After all, we expect Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson and Wayne Simmonds to improve, and it's (possibly) reasonable to expect Justin Williams to top last year's total of 11, and Scott Parse should do better than last year, and Alexei Ponikarovsky ought to be able to top Alexander Frolov's paltry 19 goals. Just making those assumptions (or are they wishes?), while keeping everyone else at a conservative target (Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll, Poni, Michal Handzus all at 20 each, Dustin Brown at 25, Anze Kopitar at 35)...the Kings end up with 280 goals.
That seems impossible somehow.
So I thought I had better reduce the targets for some of these players. I started to do that, but it really seemed, not only depressing, but really unlikely. I included in the chart below what I consider to be a worst-case scenario, the result of which is 210 goals...still better than two seasons ago. But I'm keeping the 280 as the target because I like having something to shoot for. Even if it's just in my own mind.
(The 280 target is represented by the T10 column of the chart; the low-ball target is LB10)
T09 = Target for 2009-10.
A09 = Actual for 2009-10.
LB10 = a Low-ball Target for 2010-11 (a.k.a. worst case scenario).
T10 = Target for 2010-11.
I was sitting around idly admiring my beautiful chart, and I realized: I have ten or eleven players (Parse and Brayden Schenn share a slot) scoring 20 goals or more. That would be, literally, the league record for 20 goal scorers in one season. Eleven, set by Boston in 1977-78.
- Bruins (1977-78) - 11
- Blues (1980-81) - 10
- Bruins (1970-71) - 10
- Habs (1974-75) - 10
- Sabres (1974-75) - 9
(Thanks to Gabriel Desjardins, Derek Zona and Robert Lefebvre for pulling these numbers out of the ether.)
Probably that alone makes the 280 target out of reach.
I don't care.