2014 Season Review: Kyle Clifford

Harry How

He ended his season perfectly, but what happened before the final play?

dCorsi Table


Clifford's dCorsi (2011-14)

YEAR EXPECTED CORSI FOR ACTUAL CORSI FOR dCORSI
2010-11 8.66 2.58 -6.08
2011-12 15.35 9.45 -5.9
2012-13 13.35 11.06 -2.29
2013-14 19.67 13.76 -5.91

(stats via Behind the Net and @mimicohero)

Positives

Fact:  Kyle Clifford is a fourth-liner. Fact: the fourth line was better with him than it was without him. Check out his stats with and without his five most frequent linemates:


Kyle Clifford With or Without You (WOWY) Stats

Player with Clifford without Clifford
CORSI FOR% CF20 CA20 CORSI FOR% CF20 CA20
CLIFFORD, KYLE 53.8 17.74 15.25 N/A N/A N/A
LEWIS, TREVOR 55.6 18.28 14.61 51.8 18.15 16.91
NOLAN, JORDAN 54.3 17.2 14.49 53 18.41 16.36
RICHARDS, MIKE 49.8 16.88 17.01 55.4 20.93 16.85
FRASER, COLIN 55.6 17.06 13.65 48.7 17.64 18.6
TOFFOLI, TYLER 48.9 17.28 18.02 62.3 22.53 13.61

(stats via Hockey Analysis)

The trend? The low-offense, bottom six forwards saw improved possession numbers with Clifford, though higher-end guys such as Mike Richards and Tyler Toffoli were held back quite a bit. Though he was a healthy scratch from time to time, he outplayed Nolan, Fraser, and Dan Carcillo to earn his spot for the playoffs. And aside from Nolan, he's the only King who fought more than twice; if LA sees a need to keep a fighter around, you could do worse than Clifford.

As as much as anyone, Clifford gets points for finishing strong. His best game of the season just might have been Game Five of the Stanley Cup Finals, and he was rewarded with a secondary assist on the most famous goal in Los Angeles Kings' history.

He also stole the show during the Stanley Cup celebrations, thanks to his baby (who is somehow more adorable in person).

Negatives

Clifford was going to have a difficult time matching his goal-scoring productivity from last season (second on the team in goals/60 minutes!), but when his 5v5 shooting percentage plummeted from 13.2% to 4.1%, it led to a grand total of... three goals. However, even if Clifford had been shooting at the same rate this season, he would have dropped off due to worse possession numbers. As shown by the table at the top of this page, Clifford's performance this year was much more like 2012 (when he was up-and-down and scratched during the playoffs) then 2013.

Game Five of the Stanley Cup Final showed another reason why Clifford can be maddening. He was excellent throughout, even creating scoring chances to go with his aggressive forechecking and energy, but he took a boarding penalty in the second overtime session which nearly put all of his efforts to waste. Clifford's -13 penalty differential was second-worst among forwards in the regular season, behind only Jarret Stoll, and it was markedly worse than last season's -4 in 48 games.

In last year's evaluation, we noted that Clifford's performance in 2013 indicated that he might be capable of a fill-in role in the Kings' top six. That ship has sailed. A lot of that is due to the arrival of Marian Gaborik and the emergence of Tanner Pearson. As shown in the WOWY table above, though, Clifford didn't do himself any favors in limited shifts with the Kings' top players.

Highlight

Clifford forechecks hard, forces a turnover, and goes to the net. We get to see all of the reasons why Clifford can be a perfect fourth-line forward in about ten seconds.

(Clifford joins Colin Fraser in the "Scored the Kings' first goal of the Stanley Cup Final" club, too.)

Looking Forward

Here we are again, talking about Kyle Clifford's ceiling. Clifford is 23 years old, and every bit of criticism he gets may be countered with that fact. But after taking a big step forward last season, Clifford was at best stagnant in his progress this season. Clifford survived a whirlwind of trade rumors (Clifford for Sam Gagner?!) and should be able to hold off Jordan Nolan and Adam Cracknell for the fourth line left wing spot. Unlike last year, though, there's basically zero chance of him jumping Gaborik, Pearson, or Dwight King long-term.

Grade

Kind of a difficult one to call. Clifford outperformed most of the rotating crew of players that took up the Kings' fourth line during the regular season, but he lagged well behind the rest of the Kings' forwards. Should we punish him for that, considering how good the Kings' forward corps is?

Eh, he gets a C. Assisting on the Stanley Cup-winning goal earns you the benefit of the doubt.

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