41 down, 41 to go (okay, so now it's 42/40) - Kings at the mid-point +1

Back before the season started, I characterized late December/early January like this:

Games 33-41 - leading up to the mid-point - Jewels From The Crown


When the Kings return from their five-game road-trip right before Christmas, they commence a giant block of 18 games where they play 13 at Staples and a paltry 5 road games, never venturing farther from home than St. Louis. [...] The first nine games take us to the exact mid-point of the season.[...] The middle of that run (@SJS @PHX PHI SJS CHI NSH) is a little playoff series all its own.

Oops. We went 1-5 in that stretch.

[By the beginning of January] you know who the heroes and goats are, you know what your needs are, you know who's hurt and who's about to return, and the trade-deadline is in sight. And the teams that are on the bubble are starting to talk about what they have to do to get back into the playoff mix. In that context, I think this string of games (especially PHI SJS CHI NSH CBJ all at home) is huge.

Again. Oops.

Must win: EDM, ANA, CBJ. (target: 5 points)

Won all three.

Tough: SJS, PHX, PHI, SJS, CHI, NSH. (target: 7 points)

Got two points.

If we hit all our targets, at the mid-point we would have 52 points. Last year at this point the Kings were 23-15-3, 49 points, 8th place.

Well, we didn't hit all the targets, and so we're at 47 points, two points behind last year's team. The always fascinating Sports Club Stats (which runs simulations of the remaining games in the season for all teams -- updating every day -- and posts the results) has the Kings at an 80% probability of making the playoffs, down from nearly 100% before the five game slide. In the simulations, the Kings most frequently finish 3rd in the conference (24%), followed by 5th or 6th (both 12%) and then 4th or 7th (both 10%). Strangely, the Dallas Stars, who are first in the Pacific, finish 3rd 43% of the time, but aren't significantly less likely to finish 4th-6th (9%, 10%, 8%, respectively -- Kings are 10%, 12%, 12%). I know this is splitting statistical hairs; the point is, it's very tight in the West, and those numbers could be swapped in the matter of a couple of games.

I also made, back in the pre-season, some predictions arbitrary targets for goal output for the Kings. I thought we would look at how they're doing against my target, which of course is made up by me and has nothing whatsoever to do with reality.

[goal targets after the jump]

Goal Targets and Crazy Talk - Jewels From The Crown

Since the lock-out, no team with an even-strength goal differential of +14 or better has missed the playoffs. In that span, the Kings' differentials have been +1, -44, -33, -31 and +16 (that's the last year of Andy Murray, two Crawfords and two Terry Murrays). Those numbers exclude power-play goals-for and short-handed goals-against. Adding those back in, the Kings' differentials, since the lock-out, are -26, -54, -37, -24 and 20. It's pretty easy to see why the Kings made the playoffs last season.

Two years ago, before Terry Murray had coached a game, I suggested the Kings needed to get their GAA down around 2.75, which was about 1/2 a goal per game lower than the previous season. The idea that this was possible was met with gales of derisive laughter. They ended up at 2.78 (226 goals), one goal-against above the target of 225. But they didn't score much, and the result was an improved but still not playoff-worthy differential of -24.

So, this time last year, I said, if the Kings want to make the playoffs, it would be a good idea to get their GPG up to 3.00 and their GAA at least to hold steady in that 2.75 range. That meant 246 goals-for and 225 goals-against. For the sake of simplicity, I rounded 246 up to 250 and called that the target. There was some head-scratching.

So I budgeted it out.

I assigned goal-targets to the different likely scorers [...] I tried to be conservative in my expectations, while still pushing for something worth striving for. The Kings finished the season with 231 GF and 211 GA. So they closed about half the distance between the target and where they had been the season before (202 GF). And that 231  [...] does not include ten shoot-out "game winning goals" which I ignored because (well, because they're stupid, but also because) those goals aren't assigned to anyone. And of course, 231 - 211 = +20, which is above the +14 needed to be a playoff team (since the lock-out anyway).

Looking ahead to 2010-11, I think the same targets hold. Keep the goals-against below 225 and shoot for a goals-for of 246+. I looked at the likely roster -- and being an optimist -- I started to feel like 250 is too low a target.

The uber-optimistic target I settled on was 280. Here's how the the players are doing so far:

loT T A42 T42 D42 loT42 loD42 Apro82 %T %loT
Smyth 15 20 17 10.2 6.8 7.7 9.3 33.2 166% 221%
Williams 15 20 16 10.2 5.8 7.7 8.3 31.2 156% 208%
Brown 20 25 17 12.8 4.2 10.2 6.8 33.2 133% 166%
Stoll 15 20 11 10.2 0.8 7.7 3.3 21.5 107% 143%
other D 5 10 5 5.1 -0.1 2.6 2.4 9.8 98% 195%
9, 12, 13, 22 10 15 7 7.7 -0.7 5.1 1.9 13.7 91% 137%
Simmonds 15 20 9 10.2 -1.2 7.7 1.3 17.6 88% 117%
Richardson 10 15 6 7.7 -1.7 5.1 0.9 11.7 78% 117%
Kopitar 30 35 15 17.9 -2.9 15.4 -0.4 29.3 84% 98%
Handzus 15 20 6 10.2 -4.2 7.7 -1.7 11.7 59% 78%
21, 10a, 10b 15 20 4 10.2 -6.2 7.7 -3.7 7.8 39% 52%
Johnson 15 20 4 10.2 -6.2 7.7 -3.7 7.8 39% 52%
Ponikarovsky 15 20 3 10.2 -7.2 7.7 -4.7 5.9 29% 39%
Doughty 15 20 2 10.2 -8.2 7.7 -5.7 3.9 20% 26%
210 280 122 238.2 85% 113%

T = my (optimistic) goals-for target for that player for the season.

loT = my low-ball target.

A42 = the player's actual goal total through 42 games.

T42 = the target, prorated to 42 games.

D42 = the difference between the target and the actual.

loT42 = the low-ball target, prorated to 42 games.

loD42 = the difference between the low ball target and the actual.

Apro82 = the player's actual goal total, prorated to 82 games.

%T and %loT = percentage of target(s) fulfilled.

Some observations (and a couple clarifications):

  • The table is sorted by the number of goals each player each player is off his low-ball target. I did this because, while the optimistic targets might be seen as unfair, the low-ball targets certainly are realistic.
  • The numbers in the "name" column are jersey numbers, which I used when the row indicated more than one player (and their names would make the row fat and ugly).
  • 10a and 10b are, naturally, Brayden Schenn and Marco Sturm. I think, if they are ever on the team at the same time (unlikely), those should be their real numbers.
  • We knew that Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams and Dustin Brown were doing well. No surprise there.
  • I was surprised that Anze Kopitar isn't even on pace to reach my low-ball target for him, though he nearly is.
  • Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are not filling the net anywhere near like I thought they would. But their assist numbers are good, so I choose not to worry.
  • But: the left-side of the first and third lines is a bit of a black hole. I guess we knew that, too. But I had hoped the numbers would talk me out of that a bit. No such luck.