Stevens: Kings "expended a lot of energy trying to win a hockey game"

Kopitar postgame quotes (Dec. 13) " LA Kings Insider
KOPITAR: "It’s pretty much the same story, I guess. We’re throwing everything we can out there. I think we had 41 shots and we had a couple of really good opportunities. We hit a couple posts. We’ve just got to keep going. Eventually we’re going to score. Eventually they will go in.’’

Stevens postgame quotes (Dec. 13) " LA Kings Insider
STEVENS: "[...] I thought the guys tried really hard tonight. I thought [...] they expended a lot of energy trying to win a hockey game."

What is this, pee-wee house league? They "tried really hard"? That's small consolation, given that the "they" in that sentence is twenty-three guys making roughly $60 million dollars this season to play hockey. Don't they try "really hard" every night?

But it's the Kopitar quote in particular that sticks out for me. I've been trying for a couple of years to put my finger on what bothers me about this kind of sentiment, and we've heard it a lot from the Terry Murray-era Kings. It's not something Murray invented, but he honed its use into an art form. I'm talking about "We had some good looks. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. And eventually they will start going in."

This is a by-product of the "shot mentality." Because the shot mentality is essentially about playing percentages. Put the puck into a high-scoring area, crash the net, get a favorable bounce.

And somewhere along the way, "getting opportunities" that "could have gone in but didn't" (that's a paraphrase of Stevens from tonight) becomes somehow a stand-in for actual goals. As though getting chances was some kind of achievement in and of itself. Of course, whether you're getting chances is a measure of whether you're actually playing competitive hockey or not. But it's not a substitute for scoring; that is to say, it's not a substitute for winning.

if I weren't so exhausted from all of this trying so hard and losing, I would compile a greatest hits of "we're getting good looks" quotes from last year's two nasty slumps and this year's coach-killing one. Certainly, it's an attitude that served Murray and the Kings well in his first season (especially) and well into the second. But for awhile now -- say, going back to most of last season -- all this talk of how great the team played or how hard they tried despite any statistical evidence to the contrary (I mean: goals and wins) has been about as appropriate as a college student expecting praise for good spelling.

I guess what I mean is: getting opportunities, and trying really hard, are necessary but not sufficient. And it might be a good idea to hire a coach who can drive that point home.

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