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Without Kopitar: Carter & Stoll & Richards VS the World

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Dean Lombardi spends more at center than any other position. In a nightmare scenario, how would his pivots stack up against the rest of the NHL?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

(Consider this an alternate history piece with the news that Anze Kopitar's injury shouldn't be too severe.)

You know what the best/worst thing about Twitter is? The ability to share totally unsubstantiated claims with the world.

Like on Sunday, when Kopitar went down with an injury, and I suggested that a lot of teams wouldn't mind a trio of Jeff Carter/Jarret Stoll/Mike Richards up the middle.

So I decided to investigate the facts. It's a good thing that I didn't specify the exact number of "a lot of teams"!

Figuring out each team's top three centermen at any given time is difficult, but I tried my best by utilizing a combination of Daily Faceoff's latest lines and 2014-15 Average Time on Ice statistics.

Keep in mind that I'm not assessing contracts or potential at all. I'm pitting the merits of Carter/Stoll/Richards versus the rest of the league right now, based on play.

The gem of this trio is Carterthere aren't many better 1C's, and he's arguably the best second-line center in the league, depending on who you consider to be Boston's 2C (Bergeron receives slightly less ATOI but is clearly a superior player to Krejci). As for Stoll and Richards, I believe Jarret can still produce at a reasonable level and that Richie suffered from a spot of bad luck last year:

Name Team
2013-14
5v5 Points/60
2013-14
CF% RelTM
2013-14
5v4 Points/60 (Team Ranking, F>100 mins)
2013-14
4v5 FA60 RelTM
(>100 mins)
Carter LAK 1.86 -0.2 3.53 (3) 3.67
Stoll LAK 1.25 -1.4 2.6 (4) 5.71
Richards LAK 1.32 -2.8 2.2 (6) -7.65

In no particular order, here are the 12 center trios that I'd take over LA's group out right:

Name Team
2013-14
5v5 Points/60
2013-14
CF% RelTM
2013-14
5v4 Points/60 (Team Ranking, F>100 mins)
2013-14
4v5 FA60 RelTM
(>100 mins)
Getzlaf ANA 3.27 -0.2 4.29 (2) 3.82
Kesler ANA 1.3 0.4 2.8 (4) -7.44
Thompson ANA 0.84 0.9 1.08
Krejci BOS 2.18 -1.9 5.49 (4)
Bergeron BOS 2.27 10.1 4.32 (5) 0.28
Soderberg BOS 2.12 -0.7 7.38 (1)
Toews CHI 2.35 5.1 3.99 (3) 3.83
Shaw CHI 1.77 1.4 2.33 (6)
Richards CHI 1.57 2.3 2.96 (7)
Seguin DAL 2.77 3.7 4.84 (1)
Spezza DAL 2.22 -0.2 5.84 (1)
Fiddler DAL 1.4 -2.9 11.23
Zetterberg DET 2.45 1.5 5.5 (2)
Datsyuk DET 1.95 6.1 4.21 (4)
Glendening DET 0.7 -5.6 4.4
Koivu MIN 1.62 9.3 5.09 (2)
Granlund MIN 1.79 -2.1 3.89 (4)
Haula MIN 2.1 0.7
Zajac NJD 1.52 5.9 3.43 (5) 8.82
Henrique NJD 1.33 -2 4.46 (2) -1.79
Elias NJD 1.71 0.2 4.38 (3) 11.23
Tavares NYI 2.33 1.2 6.01 (1)
Nelson NYI 1.29 4.3 3.3 (4)
Nielsen NYI 1.9 -0.4 4.74 (2) -3.17
Giroux PHI 2.08 4.1 7.35 (1)
Couturier PHI 1.52 -0.5 1.73 (8) 1.91
Bellemare PHI n/a n/a n/a n/a
Crosby PIT 2.54 7.7 6.52 (2)
Malkin PIT 2.57 3.2 6.11 (4)
Sutter PIT 0.94 -5 0.23
Thornton SJS 2.5 9.2 3.55 (4)
Couture SJS 2.12 0.8 3.47 (5)
Tierney SJS n/a n/a n/a n/a
Backes STL 2.02 1.4 5.05 (1) -3.99
Berglund STL 1.56 1.4 1.51 (8) 0.89
Lehtera STL n/a n/a n/a n/a

And here are the 17 teams that might be delighted if they had LA's Kopi-problem:

Name Team
2013-14
5v5 Points/60
2013-14
CF% RelTM
2013-14
5v4 Points/60 (Team Ranking, F>100 mins)
2013-14
4v5 FA60 RelTM
(>100 mins)
Vermette ARZ 1.42 -2.3 3.4 (5) 10.47
Hanzal ARZ 1.69 -0.2 3.45 (4)
Chipchura ARZ 1.6 1.8
Ennis BUF 1.34 0.5 3.71 (2)
Girgensons BUF 1.29 2.1 -0.47
Hodgson BUF 1.34 -1.8 4.84 (1)
Backlund CGY 1.19 6.8 4.17 (2) -7.3
Monahan CGY 1.47 -2.7 2.41 (4)
Stajan CGY 1.59 1.4 9.77
Staal CAR 1.98 1.6 2.22 (5)
Nash CAR 1.46 1.1
McClement CAR 0.55 -4.3 4.25
Duchene COL 2.57 2.8 4.33 (4)
MacKinnon COL 2.07 -1 5.05 (2)
Mitchell COL 1.54 -0.8 -0.77
Johansen CBJ 2.01 1.5 4.78 (3)
Anisimov CBJ 1.9 0.6 1.56 (6) 10.17
Dano CBJ n/a n/a n/a n/a
Nugent-Hopkins EDM 1.5 0.5 4.94 (1)
Arcobello EDM 1.84 4.3
Gordon EDM 0.87 -2.6 6.18
Barkov FLA 1.43 1.6 2.19 (2)
Bjugstad FLA 2.01 -0.2 1.17 (5)
MacKenzie FLA 1.38 -0.1 2.3
Plekanec MTL 1.29 -1.5 3.85 (3) 2.11
Desharnais MTL 1.78 3.3 3.86 (2)
Eller MTL 1.16 2 -15.54
Ribeiro NAS 1.55 3.3 3.15 (6)
Roy NAS 1.49 -0.2 5.05 (2)
Gaustad NAS 1.11 -3.9 10.15
St. Louis NYR 1.93 -1.3 4.51 (4)
Brassard NYR 1.43 1.4 4.81 (2)
Moore NYR 1.1 -2.7 0.78
Turris OTT 2.1 -0.5 4.13 (3) 10.75
Legwand OTT 1.53 0.4 4.35 (3)
Zibanejad OTT 1.69 2.1 3.27 (5)
Filppula TBL 1.76 1.5 4.34 (1)
Johnson TBL 1.74 1.2 3.05 (6) 1.82
Boyle TBL 0.95 0 10.93
Bozak TOR 2.32 0.1 2.82 (6)
Kadri TOR 1.71 3.1 5.71 (1)
Santorelli TOR 1.91 -0.8
Sedin VAN 1.85 4.4 4.11 (1)
Bonino VAN 1.93 0.1 4.38 (1) 2.38
Richardson VAN 1.13 -3.7
Backstrom WAS 1.46 2.3 8.91 (1)
Burakovsky WAS n/a n/a n/a n/a
Kuznetsov WAS 1.78 -4.9
Little WPG 2.09 4.6 3.46 (2) 3.39
Scheifele WPG 1.67 -2.4 1.98 (5)
Lowry WPG n/a n/a n/a n/a

What do you think? I will save any specific explanations for the Comments section, but in my book, featuring a dominating 1C (Giroux) or great duo (Thornton/Couture) offset a relative lack of depth (what's a Tierney or Bellemare?).

While the Tinseltown trio's underlying numbers don't look great compared to their peers, there are some extenuating circumstances: The Kings, by design, score less than say, Anaheim. Also, it's slightly harder to produce a positive CF % RelTM on a very strong possession squad.

To their credit, Carter/Stoll/Richards is the only trio besides New Jersey's that actively participates on both sides of special teams. Richards's low 4v5 FA60 RelTM suggests top-notch penalty-killing ability. It's telling that every significant Dean Lombardi centerman is (or was) a model two-way pivot.

Overall, I still think that the Kings would be OKAY without Kopitar for an extended period of time. OKAY meaning that I'd still expect a playoff spot, comfortably, with decent team health otherwise. Carter is very good. However, the center position in all would cease to be a team strength and become about league-average.

Of course, Los Angeles is still deep at the wings, defense, and yes, in goal (at least so far this season). All that would help cover up a softer center.

Anyway, that's the regular season. If Kopitar were to miss the playoffs once again, who's up for some McTanking?

All stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis and Puckalytics.