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2015 Season Review: Jake Muzzin

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Why can't Jake Muzzin get a break from Kings fans?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who would you say was LA's number-one defenseman?

Defenseman #1:

Defenseman #2:

These charts cover 2012-15.

Positives

Defenseman #1 is Drew Doughty, while #2 is Jake Muzzin.

Of course, these graphs aren't be all, end all. Since 2012, Doughty has averaged seven more minutes a game than Muzzin. Drew was also forced to drive over 900 5v5 minutes with a flat (Robyn Regehr). Both Jake and the Flat Man are lefties, so they teamed for just five minutes in three seasons.

Anyway, the purpose of citing Doughty's chart isn't to impugn on the 2015 Norris Trophy nominee's reputation. It's to make the point that his regular partner is really, really good.

But hold up: Who wouldn't shine at a two-time Norris nom's side? In fact, Muzzin's Corsi For % rises without Doughty:

2012-15 5v5 TOI CF%
Muzzin w/ Doughty 2235:57 59.7
Muzzin w/o Doughty 981:08 61.4

While it's no confirmation that Muzz is actually better away from Drew, the higher CF% apart strongly suggests that he isn't simply the creation of his more-lauded partner.

Anyway, all this is probably well-worn territory for the regular Jewels reader. You probably would be more interested in hearing the negatives, especially from me, Jake's future agent.

But first, a quick recap of his 2014-15!

Once again, as Muzzin did in his previous two seasons, he paced the defense in 5v5 CF% (58.2), Scoring Chances For % (56.0), Scoring Chances Against/60 (22.19), and High-Danger Scoring Chances Against/60 (11.31).

These figures are actually weaker than in past years, but impressively, he lived up to his usual team-leading standards while seizing the mantle of LA's number-two defenseman. His ATOI shot up from fourth among Kings blueliners (19:01) in 2013-14 to second (22:41). This playing time bump mirrors last postseason's increase. His minutes also became more challenging (his ZSO% Rel went from a cushier 5.42 to 2.98).

As for counting stats, Muzz kicked up his points scored from 24 to 41, while cutting penalties taken from 27 to 11. He also led the backend in power play goals (4) and Power Play Points/60 (4.12).

Negatives

Muzzin's 5v5 Goals For % was an uninspiring 51.0 in 2014-15, which placed him second to last among Los Angeles defenders.

There's a perception that he makes an inordinate number of mistakes (see these LA Kings Insider comments) which lead to goals. His underwhelming GF% lends support to this notion.

On the other hand, he led the blueline in GF% from 2012-14. So did greater usage tax him this year? Or was it a defensemen-worst 91.2 on-ice save % and 97.8 PDO in 2014-15, which suggests at least some bad luck?

Consider that his aforementioned top-notch SCF%, SCA60, and HSCA60 contradict the idea that he's more mistake-prone than any other Kings' defenseman.

Watch the game did you say? OKAY. I've made a GIF for every Muzzin 5v5 goal against in 2014-15:

10/28/14
@ Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux's shot deflects off Muzzin, right into Michael Raffl's wheelhouse.

(the MUZZ-TAKE-O-METER goes from 1 MUZZreally not his faultto 5 MUZZsdammit Jake)

10/31/14
@ Detroit Red Wings

Dwight King is pickpocketed by Pavel Datsyuk. Datsyuk's attempted pass on the ensuing 2-on-1 deflects off Muzzin.

11/4/14
@ Dallas Stars

Okay, I'm not sure what Muzzin was doing out at the point.

11/8/14
VS Vancouver Canucks

Linden Vey's pass deflects off Muzzin and onto Chris Higgins's stick. Hmm...

11/12/14
@ Anaheim Ducks

I'm going to call this an Act of Jon i.e. WTH Quick.

11/12/14
@ Anaheim Ducks

Between Muzzin, Drew Doughty, and Anze Kopitar, there's a fair share of blame.

11/12/14
@ Anaheim Ducks

Muzzin fails to tie up Ryan Getzlaf's stick on the deflection.

11/13/14
VS Dallas Stars

Muzzin was slow to cover Ryan Garbutt.

11/20/14
VS Carolina Hurricanes

Muzzin makes an ill-advised pinch, leaving his partner to face a 2-on-1.

11/25/14
@ Nashville Predators

Muzzin gets caught flat-footed and is beat by Craig Smith up the ice.

11/29/14
VS Chicago Blackhawks

Muzzin gets beat out of the corner by Daniel Carcillo. Okay, it was a rough couple weeks in November!

12/6/14
VS Philadelphia Flyers

Anybody care to cover Giroux? Muzzin's got his guy.

12/12/14
@ Montreal Canadiens

Tyler Toffoli fails to advance a Muzzin outlet, then Jake can't stop a 2-on-1 pass.

12/12/14
@ Montreal Canadiens

AV Club Muzzin tries to ask Cindy Starling to prom.

12/14/14
@ Toronto Maple Leafs

Muzzin doesn't make the (somewhat challenging) clear, then a seeing-eye shot threads past Quick.

12/16/14
@ St. Louis Blues

Muzz has his man.

12/18/14
VS St. Louis Blues

Act of Jon

12/20/14
VS Phoenix Coyotes

Muzzin is outmuscled by Martin Hanzal, but Handy's a strong dude.

12/27/14
VS San Jose Sharks

Justin Williams gives it up.

12/29/14
@ Calgary Flames

Even the Oilers would be ashamed of this kind of forward support.

1/3/15
VS Nashville Predators

Mike Fisher beats Jarret Stoll to the puck.

1/3/15
VS Nashville Predators

Doughty deflects it past Martin Jones.

1/3/15
VS Nashville Predators

Act of Jon(es)

1/3/15
VS Nashville Predators

Muzzin cuts off Gabriel Bourque, but backcheckers forget Olli Jokinen. This game is a terrific example of the limitations of +/-.

1/8/15
VS New York Rangers

Muzzin (correctly) lets Lee Stempniak go, but nobody picks him up.

1/10/15
VS Winnipeg Jets

Muzzin forces Blake Wheeler to the outside, but Bryan Little beats Drew Doughty up the ice.

1/14/15
VS New Jersey Devils

Muzzin and Kopitar scramble, leaving Mike Cammalleri free for just a second.

1/14/15
VS New Jersey Devils

Muzzin doesn't muzzle Michael Ryder.

1/17/15
VS Anaheim Ducks

Kopitar puck watches, then loses Ryan Getzlaf.

1/28/15
VS Chicago Blackhawks

Muzzin should've tightened the gap on Andrew Shaw.

1/31/15
@ Boston Bruins

Muzzin doesn't tie up Chris Kelly's stick.

2/5/15
@ Florida Panthers

DAMMIT JAKE

2/5/15
@ Florida Panthers

Toffoli is outhustled by Brandon Pirri.

2/7/15
@ Tampa Bay Lightning

LOL whut

2/16/15
VS Tampa Bay Lightning

Cubicle slave Muzzin tries to ask for a raise.

2/21/15
@ San Jose Sharks

An Act of Jon + more awkward Muzz!

2/27/15
@ Anaheim Ducks

Getting tired? Muzzin tries to bat away the puck, then gets picked and Perry'd.

3/3/15
@ Edmonton Oilers

Muzzin doesn't clear and Nick Shore is stick-poor.

3/5/15
VS Montreal Canadiens

Earlier, Muzzin had shaded toward P.K. Subban on the wall to cover for a fallen Kyle Clifford. This left Matt Greene out to dry.

3/10/15
@ Colorado Avalanche

Marian Gaborik loses Tyson Barrie.

3/14/15
VS Nashville Predators

Yeah, so this was unnecessary. I guess Muzzin was worried about Calle Jarnkrok's stick.

3/18/15
@ Anaheim Ducks

Forget it, Jake. It's Toontown.

3/24/15
@ New York Rangers

Doughty doesn't pin J.T. Miller, but Muzzin should've done more to cut off the pass to Mats Zuccarello.

3/28/15
@ Minnesota Wild

Both Kopitar and Doughty shade toward Chris Stewart on the wall, springing Nino Niederreiter.

4/6/15
@ Vancouver Canucks

Muzzin forces Henrik into a difficult pass, except it's not that difficult because nobody bothered to pick up Sedin's Wonder Twin.

4/7/15
@ Edmonton Oilers

The season backbreaker: Muzzin makes a solid pinch, but his support Trevor Lewis makes one move too many, leading to a Benoit Pouliot breakaway.

4/9/15
@ Calgary Flames

And the dagger...Stoll neglects Jiri Hudler...and yes, an Act of Jon.

Of course, just 47 5v5 goals against doesn't complete the picture of any player, which is why shot metrics are generally more usefulthere's more data available.

But I don't wade out of this GIF flood believing Muzzin is a defensive liability who's more likely to surrender goals than his teammates.

There was a lot of bad luck. He does make defensive mistakeswe saw plenty of them from his teammates too, including the current Norris and Selke nomineesand with his frame, he could probably stand to get stronger. He does look awkward at times, which probably contributes to negative perceptions.

But honestly, I continue to be baffled by the opinion that Muzzin's two-way game is anything less than terrific. Of course, you can be picky and say a couple less Muzz-takes and Los Angeles is in the playoffsbut you can say that about any King.

Muzzin's good far outweighs any bad.

Highlight

Jake made a lot of highly-skilled plays on both sides of the puck this year, but this was a personal favorite:

Going Forward

Considering Muzzin's regular possession and previous GF% successes, there's a good chance that his GF% turns around next year.

About to start his five-year extension at a four mil cap hit, he should continue to provide outstanding value over the life of his deal.

War on Ice recently unveiled their attempt to replicate baseball's famous Wins Above Replacement. Essentially, WAR "assesses wins relative to a replacement-level baseline." So a great player might be worth 10 wins to his team more than a replacement-level player (worth zero wins) in a season.

Specific to hockey is War on Ice's Goals Above Replacement. It's similar to WAR, except GAR judges the number of goals a player is responsible for more than a replacement-level player.

At this point in this article, you probably won't be surprised to hear that Muzzin's GAR has far outpaced a replacement-level player in every full season of his career:

GAR Rank Eligible defensemen
2014-15 11.05 3 278
2013-14 8.65 19 297
2012-13 12 5 292

Beyond value, the 26-year-old still boasts upside.

I believe LA's number-two defenseman does have the talent to become an undisputed number-one. Of course, playing behind Doughty for the next half-decade may not afford him the opportunity to truly show his stuff. But anyway, having a 1A and 1B is a good problem for Los Angeles.

And if he turns out to not be a franchise defender? Jon Cooper was speaking of Anton Stralman, but may as well have been talking about Muzzin: "He may not win the Norris Trophy, but his partner will. That’s how good he can make you look."

Stats courtesy of Hockey AnalysisHockey ReferenceNHL.comOwn the PuckPuckalyticsSporting Charts, and War on Ice.

Grade

A.