Manor Analytics Perspective: How do the 2024 Kings Compare to the Cup-Winning Kings?

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It’s been nearly a decade since the Kings won their last Stanley Cup, and a lot has changed since then. Over the 10 years following their 2014 triumph, LA’s hockey club has had five different head coaches, made the playoffs four times, and haven’t made it out of the first round once.

There’s no question that today’s club is much different team than their Cup-winning groups. Those teams were classic Darryl Sutter teams: hard-hitting and low scoring. They often won not because of how many goals they scored, but how many goals they prevented.

Yet, how do the current Kings compare to the Cup teams from a numbers standpoint?

Below, we’ll break down the similarities and differences in analytics between the 2023-24 Kings vs. the 2011-12 and 2013-14 Kings.

All numbers from NaturalStatTrick as of March 19.

Similarities​


One constant from the championship teams until now has been the team’s Goals for Percentage (GF%). GF% is a very simple measure, it is the ratio of ‘goals for’ to the sum of ‘goals for and goals against.’ A GF% of under 50% means a team is allowing more goals than they are scoring, whereby 50% indicates an equal amount allowed as scored, and above 50% indicates a team is scoring more goals than then are allowing.

GF% = GF / (GF + GA)

In 2012, the Kings GF% in all situations in the regular season was 52.5%, thus they were scoring slightly more goals than they were allowing. This is expected of a team that wins the Stanley Cup, but also remember that they were an eight seed – therefore, not necessarily a team expected to win the Cup.

There were several other teams with higher goals for percentages that season – such as Vancouver at 54.5% and Boston at nearly 57%; with both sitting in the top four for GF% that season. Having a GF% closer to 50% isn’t always a bad thing, it simply means that a team is winning their games by smaller margins.

This season, the Kings GF% if 54%. Again, not an elite number, but it is again above 50%, so they are scoring more goals than they’re allowing. Ironically, Vancouver and Boston are once again both in the top four in GF% this season, with 59% and 57%, respectfully.

GF% does not tell a complete story, as the Kings were able to win the Cup in 2012 despite being ranked 16th of 30 in GF% that season (they are currently 12th of 32). What it does suggest is that they are winning games by similar margins as they did in 2012, where they had to win most games on the road because they were the lower seeded team. Of course, most would like to win 5-1 instead of 2-1; but in the end, a win is a win, and winning consistently eventually brings championships.

Given the similarities in terms of GF% this year as in 2012, maybe the Kings have what it takes to help history repeat itself. Perhaps LA could beat Vancouver on the road again in the first round despite having a significantly lower regular season GF%.

Differences​


Now, let’s take a look at a newer, more advanced stat – Expected Goals Against. For those unfamiliar with how expected goals models work, check out this article for a short explanation.

Over the course of their full 82-game regular seasons in 2011-12 and 2013-14, the Kings allowed 199 and 198 Expected Goals Against (xGA) in all situations. On average, they allowed 2.38 and 2.39 xGA per 60 minutes.

Through 67 games this season, they’ve allowed 195 xGA, giving them an average of 2.87 xGA per 60 (i.e. per game). This is a nearly 20% increase in xGA/60 since 2014.

Now, scoring in general has increased in the NHL in the past decade, so it would be unfair to look at these numbers in a vacuum. During the 2014 season, NHL teams averaged and xGA/60 rate of 2.23, and in the current season, it’s 2.57 xGA/60. That results in a 15.25% increase.

Combining the data, the league’s average xGA/60 has increased 15% since 2014, yet the Kings xGA/60 has increased 20%. This 5% difference may not seem like a lot, but it is significant.

This difference suggests the Kings were once a much more defensively minded team (with a player like shutdown defenseman Rob Scuderi on the top pairing) than they are now. This isn’t to say that the change is for better or worse, but it is a large difference between the two teams when breaking down different numbers.

What Does All This Mean?​


The Kings were able to win in 2012 despite being ranked in the bottom half of the league in GF%. They were able to do this because they were a hard hitting, defensive team. They were a lower scoring team winning games by small margins, nothing like the high scoring teams seen in today’s NHL.

Their GF% today is very similar to that of 2012, while their xGA/60 has increased at a faster pace than the league, suggesting they are allowing more goals relative to the league today than they were in earlier championship seasons. Thus, they are still winning games by small margins, just allowing more goals in doing so.

Successful low-scoring teams are not as common as they once were, as the trend has been for higher scoring teams to be more successful in recent years. For example, the Colorado Avalanche had a regular season GF% of 57% when they won their championship in 2022, averaging 3.7 goals per 60. For reference, the Kings are currently averaging around 3.0 goals per 60.

That isn’t to say it’s impossible for teams to win on defense anymore, it’s just much less common that it was a decade ago. Scoring goals has become even more important to winning Stanley Cup championships — which is why it isn’t a big surprise when looking back at how LA’s management has spent the bulk of their cap money over the past few summers.

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