There's been quite a bit of talk about Oscar Moller being the odd man out this fall. It goes something like this: Purcell is having a great camp and it appears he will be given first crack at LW on the second line, with Stoll and Brown. Moller, meanwhile, is small and slight and easy to bump off the puck. He would do well to spend a season in Manchester. I put all of that in italics because it's at least partially wrong and also because it irrationally pisses me off. Purcell is in fact having a good camp, maybe a great one; certainly, he has improved his attitude, and bulked up a bit, since last year at this time, when he got beat out by Moller for a roster spot on the team that was Purcell's to lose. I am not anti-Purcell. In fact, I love Purcell in nine out of the ten ways it's possible for a fan to love a hockey player. But this is not a battle between Purcell and Moller, not even if Purcell wins that spot and Moller is sent down to play on Loktionov's line in Manchester. [UPDATE: since I started this post, both Moller and Loktionov have in fact been assigned to Manchester.] Purcell vs. Moller doesn't matter.
The real battle is Moller vs. Stoll.
Let's start with this: a list of Kings' players with NHL experience who are capable of playing the role of top-six center.
That's it. Three guys. And everyone basically admits that Stoll is really a third line center, like Handzus. If you include people in the pipeline, the list includes Schenn, Azevedo and Loktionov, none of whom are ready now. Now, it's possible that Moller is truly not ready now for that job and really should spend the season (or part of it) in Manchester getting bigger and better against men. And it's also possible that Stoll is not crippled by arthritis and will click with Purcell and Brown and everything will be fine until Moller is "ready." However, let's look at some numbers:
Jarret Stoll is a guy who has scored 20 goals in his career exactly once, four years ago.
Since then, he has scored 13, 14 and 18 goals. Moller, in his first season, was on a pace to reach 14 goals, when he left mid-season to captain the Swedish WJC team. These are basically the numbers Stoll has settled into in his prime.
Now, consider that Stoll scored his 18 goals last year while playing with the best players on the team (his QUALTEAM number is 0.056, 2nd highest among Kings forwards), while Moller scored his 7 goals while playing with just about the worst quality teammates possible (his QUALTEAM number is -0.098, which is with Purcell at the bottom of the barrel ahead only of the Zeilervananstrong party). Stoll mostly played top line minutes. Moller mostly did not.
Okay, that's offense. I don't think anyone would really argue that Stoll's upside is higher than Moller's. The main knock against Moller would be his size. You know, that bit about being knocked off the puck and being weak. So, if Stoll is better than Moller in that regard, I would expect Stoll to -- for example -- draw more penalties than Moller (being stronger on the puck, etc.). But does he?
Not even close.
Stoll draws 0.7 penalties per 60 minutes of icetime, which is just about the worst on the team among forwards. Moller, meanwhile, draws 1.3 per, nearly double Stoll's number, and second on the team only to Brown, who is the best in the league. So let's underline that: when Moller is on the ice, people have to take penalties to stop him; Stoll, no.
What about penalties taken? Because if Moller is so small and weak, he would have to take a lot of penalties, right? And Stoll should easily be able to best Moller in this category.
Moller, penalties taken per 60 minutes of icetime: 0.6. This is just a hair from the team best (Kopitar and Handzus are at 0.5). And Stoll? 2.0 penalties taken per 60 minutes of icetime, the worst on the entire team, and DOUBLE the number of the next closest forward (Calder).
How about Corsi numbers? [Corsi is like plus/minus, except shot "events" are counted instead of goals; missed shots, blocked shots, saves and goals all count the same; as a result, goaltending is factored OUT, and you get a sense of generally how much offense as opposed to defense is generated when a given player on the ice.] Moller's CORSI is 7.3, 2nd among Kings forwards only to Kopitar, who is at 9.5. Stoll is at 2.8, which is behind Kopitar, Moller, Brown, Purcell and Williams among players who could be considered top-six. Actually, Stoll's CORSI is below all the top-sixers except Frolov, who is the one top-six forward who has huge defensive duties. Stoll is also lagging behind Calder, which I mention just for fun.
5-on-5 plus/minus... Moller -1 (tops among top-six forwards, second to Calder [!] among all forwards), Stoll -6.
Goals For While on Ice, Stoll has an edge, 2.21 to 1.90 per 60. However, the figures are reversed for Goals Against: Stoll, 2.65; Moller 2.05. We know that Moller scores more on the power-play. So this stat tells us that Stoll scores a bit more than Moller at even strength, but is not as good defensively, so it cancels out his even-strength offensive edge and puts him behind Moller on the whole (again, that doesn't "fit" with the accepted wisdom that Moller is small and weak and Stoll is not; especially since Moller plays with much worse teammates than Stoll...hmmm....).
So now I get to spend money on Monarchs webcasts. I wonder who will be the third guy on the Moller/Loktionov line. Lewis? Can't wait.