Last season, the LA Kings were near the bottom of the league in many offensive metrics. The lackluster numbers are clear and what needs improvement is obvious: score more goals. However, for this to happen, the defense needs to help generate the offense.
Drew Doughty felt like last year was an improved season for him both offensively and defensively, “I kind of went back to how I used to play: a little more risky, a little more offensive. I still kept that defensive game intact.” This mentality helped him post eight goals and 26 assists for a total of 34 points. Not bad for your No. 1 defenseman.
The problem is down the Kings’ defensive corps. Matt Roy, Sean Walker, Tobias Bjornfot, and Mikey Anderson combined for just 45 points. Even though last year was a shortened season, these numbers are not sufficient. The discrepancy between the output by Doughty contrasted with the rest of the Kings’ defensive lineup is telling.
The problem is apparent, but the answer is simple: the Kings’ defense cannot solely rely on Doughty to have a sustainable offensive impact while their collective input remains stagnant.
Earlier this year, the Kings used their first-round pick on defenseman Brandt Clarke whose game has drawn comparisons to Erik Karlsson and many other offensive defensemen throughout the league. Still, he will be spending the majority of the year in the OHL. And, except for Alex Edler, no significant defensive pieces were added to the roster.
Hence, the Kings’ current defensemen need to step up their games to assist in facilitating goal-scoring chances.
Brandt Clarke: “I’m Really Fortunate to be an LA King” https://t.co/Zeg11nf83N
— x – Hockey Royalty (@Hockey_Royalty) August 25, 2021
All good teams’ offense starts from the backend. And if the Kings ultimately want to be talked about in the same breath as top teams, they have to recognize the need for defensive scoring. The goal in every season is to be considered playoff contenders, but for this to happen, the Kings’ defense needs to capitalize on offensive attack opportunities.
Other than Doughty, Sean Walker sees the most time of any Kings defenseman on the power play. Last year, Walker produced just one assist on the man-advantage. However, the addition of Alex Edler offers some hope that they can make effective inroads with the ultimate goal of being a reliable threat on the man-advantage.
Last season’s defensive lineup was impressive in both their tenacity and grit on the ice. Rookies Tobias Bjornfot and Mikey Anderson held their own against top-level competition night in and night out. Still, they also need to take more steps offensively this year if the Kings want to be a contender for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Defense wins championships, and that responsibility also includes helping to contribute to the overall production offensively.
— x – Hockey Royalty (@Hockey_Royalty) September 15, 2021
Defensive anchor Matt Roy, who earned the nickname “Steady Eddie” last year for his consistent play on the defensive side of the puck, also needs to show more offensive flair. Roy has a better-than-average shot and solid skating ability, allowing him to join the attack this year more frequently.
The Kings want to be a faster team that forechecks hard and generates more offense, starting on the backend. Even if they are not scoring, the defense needs to be the spark for offensive attacks that will ultimately drive the team’s success.
Now, nobody expects them to become the defensive corps of the Vegas Golden Knights or Colorado Avalanche overnight — who have been near the top of the league when it comes to defensive scoring over the past few seasons — but they do need to have improvements on their offensive numbers across the board.
This more aggressive mindset will free up their backline to take the chances necessary to be a team with a real shot at playoff contention.