Nobody cares about Jake Muzzin.
Sorry, but it's true. Alec Martinez? People love him. Thomas Hickey? People here still defend him passionately and write lovelorn tweets about him:
looking into Thomas Hickey's fancystats makes me feel pretty bad.— Robert P. (@RobertJFTC) November 14, 2013
But Muzzin? Pfft, who cares. They couldn't even find anyone to write this post about him so they had to ask me.
I think Jake Muzzin is underwhelming because we were all hoping about 30 other people were going to end up being Drew Doughty's long-term defensive partner: Jack Johnson, Martinez, Hickey, anyone. Instead we get some gangly fucker that wasn't even drafted.
When you think about it, though, Jake Muzzin is kind of the perfect partner for Drew Doughty. Think about Drew Doughty's perfect complement:
1) Plays left side, obviously;
2) Great shot;
3) Good passer;
4) Bigger guy since Drew's only average-sized;
5) Doesn't resemble an eel.
Jake's got all but that last one.
Note that I didn't say "Great defender." Doughty isn't 19 anymore and can make pretty much any defender look competent. There's often been a thought that Doughty needs a solid defensive defenseman with him in order for him to fully unleash his offensive abilities. I think that's misguided; Doughty doesn't create offense by jumping up into the play or gambling such that he needs someone behind him. Doughty creates offense by making the smart read and getting the puck into open areas. Doughty is always happy to pass it to his wide open defensive partner, which is great... except when Robyn Regehr or Rob Scuderi is waiting to shoot.*
*Rob Scuderi's slap shot is a pretty good approximation for what a slap shot in space would look like.
No, what Doughty needs is someone who can actually do damage with the huge amount of open ice Doughty provides. That's Jake Muzzin. It looks too easy, and we write off a lot of Muzzin's success by saying, "Well, that's just because he's playing with Doughty," but haven't we watched Doughty's defensive partners lightly scuff the opposing goalie's pads for long enough to know that isn't true? Jake Muzzin gets ample opportunity to make something happen but, more importantly, he actually makes stuff happen.
The flip side to Muzzin's offensive ability is that his defensive ability... leaves a little bit to be desired. That's the nice way of putting it, right? Muzzin has made his fair share of mistakes this season (whoops) (shit) (oh no!) but that's okay. He's only 24, which is still pretty young for a big defenseman like Muzzin. And anyway, it's kind of nice to see the Kings for once sacrificing defense just a little bit for offense. It's refreshing, don't you think? Besides, Doughty covers up most of his mistakes and if Doughty's not there then Kopitar or Richards are. Muzzin's well taken care of.
There's also the advantage in having Muzzin with Doughty because, well, they don't actually have to play defense that often. When Muzzin & Doughty have been together this season they've been dominant, far outshooting the opposing team whenever they're playing together. For Muzzin, the best defense really has been a good offense.
I think Dean Lombardi has been pretty clearly looking for a defenseman in a certain type of player, a big mobile defenseman who can complement Doughty pr Voynov. In the past few seasons Lombardi has drafted Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel, traded for Keaton Ellerby, and signed Jeff Schultz & Jake Muzzin. Lombardi wants to find the Seabrook/Beauchemin/Rafalski to Doughty's Keith/Niedermayer/Lidstrom. Is it Jake Muzzin? Don't know. Gotta admit, though, that he's been doing a pretty damn good job so far.