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Dan Maloney: The People’s Choice

The internet demands to know why I left Dan Maloney off last week’s list of top-5 all-time Kings tough guys.

There is always the danger of generational bias when comparing players from different eras. There is also the psychological principle of “recency effect”, which provides that “the most recently presented items or experiences will most likely be remembered best.” What’s this have to do with the Kings, you ask? Well, last week I posted my list of top-5 all-time Kings tough guys. It was definitely my best received post Twitter-wise, and fans generally agreed with my selections.

However, one player kept being suggested as having been erroneously omitted. That player was Dan Maloney, a 6”2” 195-pound former first-rounder, whom the Kings acquired from Chicago late in the 1972-1973 campaign. Maloney played 159 games for the Kings over three seasons before being traded to Detroit as part of the Marcel Dionne deal. Had I embarrassed myself by leaving Maloney off my list? I opened up the laptop, took a deep breath, and googled “Dan Maloney Hockey”.

The first entry on Google was Maloney’s Wikipedia page. An unusual (for me) feeling of self-doubt crept in when Wikipedia told me Maloney was “known as having had one of the hardest right-hand punches in his day.” However, self-doubt soon turned into genuine pride in the knowledge that while my devotion to the Kings traced its roots back to the Triple Crown line with a little Rogie Vachon thrown in (pun intended), I actually had readers and Twitter followers, who were not only bigger Kings fans than I, but a handful had actually attended games played at the Long Beach Arena or LA Memorial Sports Arena prior to the opening of the Fabulous Forum. At that moment I decided that 140 characters be damned, wherever the stats took me I would answer the call and respond to those who took the time to engage. It is to that constituency I direct, nay I owe, this rebuttal.

Triple Crown Line
Dave Taylor #18. Marcel Dionne #16, and Charlie Simmer #11, at the 1981 All-Star Game
Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images

There are plenty of great things to say about Maloney’s game. He and Dave “Hammer” Schultz were consensus fighters number one and 1-A of that era. Thus it’s no coincidence that the season following Dionne’s arrival in Inglewood the Kings acquired Schultz to fill the enforcer vacancy left behind after Maloney was sent to the Motor City. Unfortunately, video of Maloney fighting in a Kings uniform is hard to come by. In fact, the video posted above is the only video I could find of Maloney “engaging” in the Forum Blue (not purple) and Gold. Thus I have to assume from readers’ comments and watching videos from Maloney’s time with other teams (he played for four teams over 11 seasons) that this is due to the “fact” that if Maloney’s January 4th, 1975, fight against Schultz was widely disseminated it would likely break the internet (or at least the Canadian internet).

Certainly not a goon, Maloney also had a solid offensive game, He scored 46 goals and 95 assists for 174 points in 159 regular season games with the Kings. He also tallied 27 goals in both 1974-1975 and 1975-1976, although the latter season was while he was playing with the Red Wings.

So you ask, with a pedigree like that why is Maloney still not on on my list? My answer lies solely in the numbers. First, it’s a five-person list. Second, according to Maloney ranks only 54th in Kings carer penalty minutes. Third, according to Maloney’s team-leading 165 penalty minutes in 1974-1975 not only fails to break the top 30 on the team’s single season leader board, it was also only good enough to rank 12th in the NHL that year, 300 minutes(!) behind league leader Dave Schultz, who was still playing for the Cup champion Flyers that season. Fourth, in 1973-74, Maloney’s only other full year in Los Angeles, he was actually fourth on the team in penalty minutes, behind Terry Harper, Mike Corrigan, and Barry Long, Fifth, Maloney’s 113 penalty minutes in 1973-1974 put him only 27th in the league. Sixth, to those who argue Maloney played only 65 games in 1973-1974 year compared to team leader Harper, who amassed 119 penalty minutes in 77 games, I counter that Maloney still averaged less than two penalty minutes per game that year. While admittedly that pace would have been enough for Maloney to surpass Harper for team honors, it no way comes close to the numbers put up by the top two players on my list, Tiger Williams and Marty McSorely. As noted in my original post, in 1985-1986 Tiger had 320 penalty minutes in 72 games, besting Dave Schultz’ previous franchise mark by 98 minutes despite playing four less games than Schultz did when he set the prior team mark in 1976-1977. Moreover, Tiger had 94 more penalty minutes than Jay Wells who was second on the team in penalty minutes that year. In 1986-1987 Tiger bested his own team record by gathering 358 penalty minutes in 72 games, an average of 4.97 minutes per game. In 1992-1993 when McSorely set the current team record of 399 penalty minutes, he averaged 4.93 minutes per game.

Finally, even the less heralded players on my top-5 list statistically outpace Maloney. Playing with McSorely on the 1992-1993 conference championship team Warren Rychal accumulated 314 penalty minutes in 70 games for an average of 4.48 penalty minutes per game. The following year Rychal played 80 games, spending 322 minutes in the box, for an average of just over four minutes a game. Jay Wells, who upon further review may be the weakest link in my list due to his numbers being overly influenced by his longevity with the team (nine years), managed 113 penalty minutes in 43 games his rookie year while scoring zero points and posting a plus/minus rating of -22. Thus Wells matched the amount of penalty minutes Maloney had in 1974-1975 despite playing 22 less games. Finally, the only reason Wells is third on the Kings all-time penalty minutes chart 143 minutes behind behind second-place Dave Taylor, is because Taylor played 507 more games with the Kings than Wells played. Finally, Jay Miller served an average of 3.76 minutes per game in the sin bin over his three and half years with the Kings, which far outpaces Maloney’s Kings average of 1.86 minutes a game in the box.

So that’s why Dan Maloney was not included in my top-5. The many fans who reached out by leaving comments or messaging me at @MarkDevoreNHL deserve (and will always receive) justifications for my opinions. One thing practicing law for 25 years has done to me is give me lots of opinions and the desire to share them (although some will say it was a trait present at birth). Have a happy and healthy holiday season. GO KINGS GO!