Recently, I touched on the fact that Vinny Lecavalier is not a very good hockey player.
How did the rest of the hockey world respond? By stating the opposite. Let's start with hockey journalist icon Elliotte Friedman.
On March 1st, in his typically-enlightening 30 Thoughts column, Friedman said the following:
Heard the Kings were disappointed the Ted Purcell/Justin Schultz deal fell through with Edmonton. Obviously, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli thought he did better with the picks he received from Florida and Pittsburgh. For Schultz, LA was a perfect destination. John Stevens does a great job with defencemen, and we've seen some rejuvenated careers in southern California. Exhibit A at this time being Vincent Lecavalier.
I bolded the important part. It seems strange to me to suggest that Vinny Lecavalier revitalized his career in LA, particularly as recently as March 1st. In the 10 games preceding Friedman's column, Lecavalier managed to post a single point, a secondary assist against the Buffalo Sabres. Lecavalier did manage to post a positive Corsi% (54.1%), but it was still a negative Corsi relative to the rest of the team's performance during that time (-3.3%). This was while playing with teammates putting up a 56% Corsi, and against opponents putting up a 49.6% Corsi.
He does win faceoffs, at least. I guess. Whatever.
Just by Corsi, he was being outperformed by, well, just about everyone. Only Andy Andreoff, Kyle Clifford and Dwight King lagged behind him during this time. Even Jordan Nolan managed to outperform Lecavalier in the five games he played during this stretch.
(Gaborik played 1.3 games. He does not count.)
Other metrics involve cutting the sample too much for my liking, but it's worth noting that he did outscore his opponents during this stretch (4-3 according to hockey-reference, 4-2 according to war-on-ice).
I don't need to harp on this stretch any more. Elliotte Friedman is generally a smart hockey man. He was not here. I can forgive it, because no one really cares about the Kings.
What I really find frustrating is when the head coach of the Kings says things like this:
I mean, that's what you want out of a veteran. It doesn't matter if it's Scuds or Vinny or Brownie. I mean, you want guys who are consistent. Hey, look at Lecavalier, how consistent he's been for us, how good he's been. That's what you're looking for, is just consistent.
I can forgive a lot of people for seeing Rob Scuderi the way they do. I can recognize that this is a part of the game I am just not going to agree with some people about, and that's fine. I'm pretty sure I'm right, but sometimes you just gotta let people be wrong.
What I don't get is what anyone has seen in Vinny Lecavalier since his initial hot streak as a King. Even when he was playing "well", he wasn't really playing well. His streak was alright - 8 points in 13 games is not that special, and a lot of very bad players have managed to pull that off - but he was secretly getting demolished while this was happening.
First: not one of his goals came during 5v5 play. It's not bad to score on the power play - those goals count just as much as any other - but for a man that isn't going to see minutes with Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Jeff Carter, and Tyler Toffoli regularly, it is already a number that likely isn't going to keep up. Combine that with an absurd shooting percentage (29.4% all situations, 66.7% on the power play) and you have a player that's about to crater.
Second: during that same stretch, he was by far the worst King at controlling the puck during 5v5 play. His 47.2% Corsi was abysmal, and the fact that his -12.7% Corsi Rel was almost twice as bad as the next most terrible player - Andy Andreoff - is jarring. Miraculously, he was not outscored in this stretch.
If you look at his WOWYs, you'll see that every single player on the Kings that has played more than 50 minutes with him puts up a worse Corsi with Lecavalier than they do without him. Every single one! Without fail!
Now that his power play production has stalled, he has been a somewhat useless player. At the very least, he's been a misused player. He has ways to be utilized, but head coach Darryl Sutter is not doing things correctly in my opinion.
Vinny Lecavalier is a designated hitter at this point. You throw him on the 4th line in the hopes that he can utilize his skills against weaker opposition. You use him for crucial offensive zone faceoffs sometimes but definitely not always. You put him on the power play in the hopes that he can hit a home run. See that Dean Lombardi? Baseball metaphor. Please read and understand.
I don't think putting Nick Shore on the 3rd line would drastically change things, mainly because when Nick Shore gets in the offensive zone he turns into J. Cole from Wet Dreamz and it seems a lot like it's his very first time there. He's been practicing his stroke! But he doesn't know what he's doing because he's never scored before in his whole life. I do think that I'd rather see him there. In all honesty I'd prefer that they just let Trevor Lewis be the 3rd line center with faceoff help in important draws, but mostly I just don't want Lecavalier on that line.
There will be a time when luck turns even further against Vinny and goals start pouring in against him. That time increasingly looks to be the playoffs, and it would be an easily avoidable misstep if it were to happen.