For the first time this season, we saw Todd McLellan juggle the LA Kings forward lines against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night. The result wasn’t good with the Kings falling 4-2 on home ice, but perhaps we saw the foundation laid for a new-look lineup.
Here, I will use some 5-on-5 statistics to try and piece together a lineup that I think could get a couple of players, namely Kevin Fiala and PL Dubois, going a bit more than they have been.
When I look at Fiala and Dubois’ numbers this season, there are pretty drastic decreases in some of their 5-on-5 shot statistics. Fiala’s shot attempts/60 are way down from last season. He was attempting 15.2 shot attempts/60 in 2022-23, so far this season it’s down to 12.9. The same can be said for his shot assists. In 2022-23 it was 15.9, this season it’s down to 13.6. Fiala has seen an overall decrease in shot contributions/60 of 4.6 from last season.
Dubois has seen a similar decrease. Last season he attempted 15.1 shots/60. In 2023-24, that’s down to 11.6. Despite the two being tied for the team lead in 5-on-5 shot assists, something had to give and it makes sense to split them up right now.
*Stats via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted
Before we get to what I would try for lines, let’s look at how the two new lines performed against Philadelphia.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing||TOI||CF%||xGF%|
|Trevor Moore||Phillip Danault||Kevin Fiala||9:57||68.2||46.8|
|Arthur Kaliyev||PL Dubois||Alex Laferriere||10:52||58.3||38.4|
Both lines really controlled the shot-share, but both struggled with the shot quality. Dubois’ line finished second to Kopitar’s in xGF, however, they allowed the highest xGA. That shouldn’t be much of a surprise given that trio with Dubois flanked by a pair of young players.
I’m all for playing the young guys, but I don’t necessarily like the look of Arthur Kaliyev and Alex Laferriere on the same line.
From a shot contribution standpoint, Arthur Kaliyev was firing. He and Fiala tied for the lead in contributions with eight a piece. Fiala also led in shot assists – something we saw a lot from him last season.
So far this season, the two leaders in 5-on-5 shot assists on the LA Kings are Kevin Fiala and PL Dubois. The two are first and fourth in slot passes as well. As I try to come up with what my lineup would look like, I’m going to try and pair players who are distributors with shooters, while also taking into account their style of play.
Quinton Byfield – Anze Kopitar – Adrian Kempe
I see no reason to split up this line. According to MoneyPuck, among forward lines who have played at least 60 minutes together, this trio ranks eighth in the NHL in xGF/60 and ninth in CF%. They’ve been a line that consistently controls play pretty much since Byfield was moved to that line midway through last season. This one ain’t broke, I’m not trying to fix it.
Kevin Fiala – Phillip Danault – Alex Laferriere
It may be sacrilegious to split up Danault and Trevor Moore but hear me out. First off, Fiala and Danault together work. Dating back to last season, the two have played over 176 minutes together at 5-on-5. They have a 55.8% CF and 54.1% xGF together. So unlike trying something new with Fiala and Dubois, this we’ve seen before, and it’s had success. And, of course, McLellan put these two together last game and I would argue Fiala was as involved as he’s been all season.
The other part of this line is Alex Laferriere. Because he’s a rookie, he’s not going to catch too much heat, but it’s fair to say his play has not quite been the same in the last handful of games as opposed to how his season started. That said, I’m willing to give him another look with two skilled playmakers. After all, Laferriere is still fourth on the team in shot attempts/60 and this line would put him next to the top shot assist player on the team (Fiala) and Danault is an established play driver at 5-on-5 (he was second on the team in shot assists/60 last season).
Trevor Moore – PL Dubois – Arthur Kaliyev
I think PL Dubois wants the puck and wants to dictate the play. You can see it when he’s skating with the puck through the neutral zone and when he enters the offensive zone. He’s generally entering through the middle of the ice and he’s looking to make a play with the puck. I think where things may have fallen short with Fiala is if Dubois had given the puck to Fiala there wasn’t a shot coming. The second-year King would serpentine in the zone and look to make another play. It just wasn’t clicking.
Enter Trevor Moore and Arthur Kaliyev.
Moore is a very fast north-south type player who loves to make plays off the rush. If Dubois can command the middle of the ice and make his dish to a streaking Moore, we’re much more likely to see a shot attempt from Moore than we were with Fiala. Moore is second only to Adrian Kempe on the LA Kings in shot attempts/60.
Kaliyev is a well-established shooter as well. Currently, he ranks fifth on the Kings in shot attempts/60 and can bring a different option for Dubois. I mentioned Dubois liking to enter the offensive zone with possession through the middle of the ice. In this scenario, on his left, he’ll have a streaking Trevor Moore, and on his right will be a ready-to-fire Arthur Kaliyev. I think both are intriguing options.
Lastly, Moore and Dubois are third and fourth respectively on the LA Kings in slot passes. Kaliyev doesn’t have to be a great skater to find his way to the slot. He’ll have two players that can find him.
Carl Grundstrom – Blake Lizotte – Trevor Lewis
I’m going to be honest, I was really close to moving Carl Grundstrom up with Moore and Dubois and having Kaliyev reunite with Blake Lizotte. If I did that, it would give Dubois the top two players in Goals/60 at 5-on-5 as his wingers. But like the first line, I opted for the, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.
Back to Kaliyev and Lizotte for a second. Remember, the two have played extensively together, over 617 5-on-5 minutes over the past couple of seasons. As linemates, they have a 58.3% CF% and 53.1% xGF%. If there’s another tweak to be made somewhere, this is a duo that has had success in the past.
But again, I did opt to keep the fourth line the same. They own a 56.5% shot share and 55.1% expected goal share, I’m not going to mess with that.
The LA Kings are off for three full days before they play again and a lot can happen in three days (just ask Jay Woodcroft). Will Todd McLellan stick with what he used against Philadelphia and allow them more practice time? Is this an opportunity for the organization to evaluate whether Laferriere should stay in the NHL or be sent to Ontario to work on his game? Those are questions we’ll learn the answers to in the coming days. But if the personnel remains the same, I wouldn’t mind giving something like this a look.
Lastly, line adjustments happen all the time. For the Kings to go this long without having to make some sort of tweak, especially with three new forwards to incorporate into their lineup, is a bit of a surprise in itself. There’s no need to take anything away from this other than a coach trying to see what may click.