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2014 Season Review: Jake Muzzin

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stunning
stunning
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports


Jake Muzzin Corsi, 2012-2014

GP Corsi Relative Corsi On Expected Corsi dCorsi
2012-13 45 21.7 26.439 10.451 15.988
2013-14 76 13.5 23.712 12.616 11.096

(dCorsi from @Mimicohero. Those dCorsis were 1st and 7th among all NHL defensemen, respectively.)

Positives

Jake Muzzin led all defensemen in 2013-14 with a 61.1% Corsi. That was no one-year aberration - he was just repeating what he'd done in 2012-13 (63.1%). Muzzin hasn't been leading the league by just a little bit, either; if you look at the last two years, Muzzin's Corsis are 2.5% better than the next guy. Raw Corsi needs to be adjusted for context, and we'll certainly discuss that in this article, but that's an awesome accomplishment.

So the possession numbers are great. But Drew Doughty is the elephant in the room during any discussion of Muzzin. How can we possibly give Muzzin any credit for these eye-popping numbers when he's mostly playing with a future Hall of Famer? That's why I want to spend most of this article arguing Muzzin's results are not a product of Doughty.

Muzzin has bounced around between the first and third pairings the last two years, so he has a fair-sized sample away from Doughty. So one of the first things we can do is look at Muzzin's results without his best friend:


Muzzin-Doughty WOWY, 2012-2014

TOI Corsi%
Muzzin With Doughty 1288 60.6%
Muzzin Without Doughty 554 64.5%
Doughty Without Muzzin 1047 55.1%

Well. That would certainly be a point in Muzzin's favor. If Doughty does much better with Muzzin than without, and less so the other way around, that would suggest, absent of other evidence, that Muzzin is doing much of the play driving on the first pairing. But with or without yous like these scream out for context, so let's look and see if there is any other evidence we're missing.

First, Doughty is at a bit of a disadvantage here because he plays the right side, which means when not with Muzzin he is often stuck with Robyn Regehr (the worst possession player on the Kings). The 489 unfortunate minutes of the Doughty-Regehr pairing make Doughty's "without Muzzin" numbers look worse, but don't explain everything - Doughty-Muzzin is still much better than Doughty-Mitchell (56.6%) or Doughty-Martinez (55.7%).

A second objection might be that Muzzin gets easier minutes than Doughty. This is true, but only to a point. Muzzin and Doughty matched against the same QoC over the season, so nothing to see there.

In terms of zone starts, though, Muzzin had an easier time (+6.0% ZS relative, Doughty -0.9% ZS relative). That explains a little bit of Muzzin's great Corsis, but don't overstate the impact. Unlike, say, Chicago (which gave Patrick Kane a +21.2% ZS relative and Marcus Kruger -46.1%), the Kings don't give players extreme zone starts. The adjustment required to Corsi% is therefore not very big. The overall effect of Muzzin's zone start push is approximately one defensive zone start replaced with an offensive zone start every three games. That makes a difference, but only a small one.

Just for fun, let's break down "Muzzin without Doughty" by partner:


Muzzin Without Doughty, 2012-2014

Partner TOI with Muzzin Corsi% with Muzzin Corsi% without Muzzin
Greene 192 60.8% 54.7%
Voynov 153 68.3% 53.4%
Drewiske 91 68.6% 54.5%
Ellerby 85 61.4% 50.9%
Martinez 27 67.8% 56.8%

Fantastic results here. No matter who he's paired with, Muzzin has put up tremendous Corsis, and everyone does way better with him. Individually these are pretty small samples, so I don't want the takeaway to be that the Kings should rush to reunite Muzzin-Drewiske. But combined, I think they show that Muzzin is the best play-driving defenseman the Kings have. Doughty has more raw talent and probably the potential to be a better player, but the numbers make a powerful argument that, for now at least, Muzzin is doing the best work of anyone on the blue line.

Negatives

It's worth taking the time to refute a common criticism about Muzzin. The first is that he's careless with the puck and turns it over way too much. To this I'd firstly say who cares, if Muzzin's team still gets the vast majority of shots and goals when he's on the ice? Hockey is about outscoring the opposition, and Muzzin taking risks with the puck clearly helps the Kings in that regard.

To people not convinced by that argument, I might also say that the NHL does track turnovers with the "giveaways" stat. Using this stat puts Muzzin at a disadvantage because the Kings have the puck more with Muzzin on the ice than with any other player, so Muzzin will inevitably have more opportunities to give the puck away (obviously you have to possess the puck before you can turn it over). Even so, Muzzin committed 57 giveaways in 1446 minutes this year, a rate (2.36 giveaways/60) basically the same as Responsible Veteran Willie Mitchell (2.17) and less than Drew Doughty (2.45) and Slava Voynov (2.46). Muzzin doesn't seem to turn over the puck all that much. Although the real lesson here is, as always, that a hyper-focus on turnovers is a terrible way to judge a defenseman.

Muzzin's 24 points in 76 games seems uninspiring. But his 16 5v5 points is actually pretty good (Doughty had 13 in more minutes). Muzzin had a lot of trouble recording points on the power play, which seems pretty likely to regress back to reasonable levels next year. Plus, Muzzin's shooting percentage is due for a rebound. He got 175 pucks on net last season (well over twice as many as Martinez managed); if he does that again in 2014-15, he's likely to score a lot more than 5 goals.

Highlight

Muzzin fakes a pass with his eyebrows, the goalie falls for it, and Muzzin scores!

Roman Emperor Comparable: Claudius

Claudius (ruled 37-54) was the black sheep of the Julio-Claudians. Born with a limp, a severe stutter, and a twitch, Claudius was considered an idiot, unfit to be seen in public, even by his own mother. Claudius probably didn't like being an object of contempt and pity most of his life, but it had its advantages. While the rest of his crazy family fell victim to treacheries and assassinations, Claudius survived, too harmless for anyone to bother with killing.

By sheer accident, Claudius was the last family member standing, and so found himself one of Rome's more unlikely emperors in 37. On assuming the throne, Claudius proved everyone wrong - despite his disabilities he was actually a very capable man. He ruled well for over a decade and even managed to conquer Britain during that time.

Much like Claudius, Muzzin can look clumsy out there, and I get why people who don't pay attention to stats scoff at the notion of Jake Muzzin, superstar. But as the story of Claudius teaches us, appearances are deceiving.

Going Forward

Muzzin will be Doughty's partner next season, and if Doughty gets his wish, a long time after that. Muzzin hits restricted free agency after 2014-15. His price is only going to go up as he plays more minutes next to Doughty (and likely puts up higher point totals), so the Kings would be advised to lock him up long term sooner rather than later.

Grade

Muzzin had a spectacular season so I will give him an A. I'm guessing many of you will vote B and comment that he commits too many turnovers. This will make me sad.