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2015-16 Season Review: Milan Lucic

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How much are the Kings going to miss Milan Lucic?

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Player

Lucic Player Card

Key Numbers

  • 9.35% 5v5 On-Ice Shooting Percentage: This was the second-best mark on the Kings (behind only Anze Kopitar). When Milan Lucic was on the ice, the Kings did an excellent job converting their chances. Over the past few years, the Kings have been terrible at turning shots into goals. The rest of the roster was bad at finishing as ever this year (the Kings overall shot 6.79% at 5v5, 26th in the NHL), so Lucic's finishing ability was sorely needed. This talent of his appears to be sustainable; he was among Boston's leaders in on-ice shooting percentage during his time there, and has been above average in this stat each of the last five years. I think Lucic's personal success around the net is driving that success. He shot a whopping 16% at 5v5 this year. That's high even for him (certainly not sustainable), but he is clearly an effective finisher around the net, legitimately skilled at turning possession into goals.
  • 5.09 5v5 Shots/60: On the flip side, while Lucic is excellent at converting shots, he takes very few of them. He generated 5v5 shots at a lesser rate than Anze Kopitar (5.35). Lucic has never been a prolific shot generator, but this was low even for him; a career low, in fact. I am not one to get too bothered about individual shot rate if a player is otherwise effective. Lucic was driving play just fine last year, so I don't see this as a huge red flag; it just means his teammates were doing the shooting, not him. But the decline is worth noting.
  • -15 Individual Penalty Differential: This is the biggest flaw in Lucic's game. -15 was the worst number among Kings forwards (Kyle Clifford was next at -9) and was a big contribution to LA's league-worst -47 penalty differential. Lucic does this every year. He put up a -16, -19, -10 (in a short season), -11, and -11 over his last five seasons in Boston. It's safe to say he will never fix this.
  • 4.31% Corsi Relative: Lucic was an excellent possession player this year. His possession numbers were not that exceptional in his last two seasons in Boston, which was a cause for some concern when the Kings traded for him; but Lucic was definitely a play-driving force this year. He did spend about half his 5v5 ice time with Anze Kopitar, but Lucic actually posted a better Corsi% away from Kopitar (60.8%) than with him (57.9%). I wouldn't read too much into that, because it's only a one year sample and because Lucic probably received more favorable zone starts away from Kopitar. But there's no reason to dismiss Lucic's solid possession numbers as merely the product of his more celebrated teammate.
  • 3 Fights: Lucic fought much less in LA than he did in Boston, where he averaged about 7 fights a year. I think this is a good thing; while Lucic is certainly good at fighting, fights don't directly contribute to winning hockey games. They do, however, contribute to getting Lucic and/or his opponent hurt. Since Lucic typically fights players who are less talented than him, the exchange tends to hurt his team, anyway. I don't know if it was at LA's request or not, but I'm glad Lucic cut back on the brawling.
Assessment

If a player does an excellent job driving play and an excellent job converting opportunities, then that player's team is probably going to get the lion's share of the goals. So it was for Lucic and the Kings this year. LA scored 60.1% of the goals when Lucic was on the ice at 5v5, which is terrific. He had a very good season, made all the better by a healthy dose of shooting luck.

Highlight

It's not the most celebrated aspect of his game, but Lucic is a pretty good passer. He had 17 first assists at 5v5 this year--only Anze Kopitar (18) had more on the Kings. This pass to Jeff Carter was beautiful:


Lowlight

This probably has to be the unnecessary charging penalty Lucic took in Game 2 of LA's first round series against the Sharks. As charge happened concurrently with a Toffoli rough away from the play, the Kings had to kill off a two-minute 5-on-3, which they were unable to do. The resulting power play goal against turned out to be the difference in the game. Lucic showed his contrition in Game 3 by spearing Justin Braun.

I never like to pick out individual instances because over a long season, everyone is inevitably going to have a bad moment or three. I don't think you can learn that much about an NHLer from one play, good or bad. Lucic putting his team shorthanded, though, is most definitely a recurring problem. The good he does on the ice outweighs the bad, but whichever team signs Lucic should expect his lack of discipline to occasionally cost them.

The Future

All signs point toward Lucic leaving in free agency. The Kings tried to re-sign him, which was smart. The team is in win-now mode and Lucic is an effective player who, being only 28, likely has a couple near-prime years left. Unfortunately, Vancouver and Edmonton have a lot more money available to offer than the Kings do, and I can't blame Lucic for being interested in that. One wonders if the Kings considered this possibility when they traded Colin Miller, Martin Jones, and the 14th overall pick for him.

Grade

Lucic was good. He was not good enough to justify the trade, in my view, since the Kings paid a truly exorbitant price for him (nearly the equivalent of three first round picks!) Odds are good Lucic will only ever play 86 games for the Kings, and almost no one could have provided enough value in that short a time to justify the price LA paid. Still, Lucic had one of his better years and delivered just about everything the Kings could have reasonably hoped for. The fact that the trade was still not worth it says more about the trade than it does about him. He gets an A.