Is it Voynov or Doughty? At the halfway point of this shortened season, the answer should be crystal clear. From an objective assessment of performance so far, as well as a careful look at Darryl Sutter’s coaching decisions, the name of the Kings #1 Defenseman is clear. It’s Voynov. Doughty is becoming the new Scuderi.
I’ve got stats, but don’t take my word for it, listen to Coach Sutter himself after the Calgary game March 9th: On whether this has been the best play he (Darryl Sutter) has seen from Slava Voynov: “I think in the playoffs last year he was quite a bit better. You’re…again just going and looking at stats… It’s about what you’ve got to do to win games.”
Ummm, okay. Hmmm. So I guess he does not just come out and say it. Pity, too, Sutter is usually so open and explanatory, but here he seems vague…
Of course, he can’t just come out and rate players after every game, and Sutter usually rejects the premise of every question, anyway. In this case, he chooses to compare this year’s Voynov to last year’s Voynov, but in so doing he acknowledges stats. He’s saying that stats aren’t everything, and there are other things players need to do that don’t show up on the stat sheet. Okay, I buy that. But how does Sutter give guys chances to do those things necessary to win games?
Sutter does it by giving and taking away ice time, and by changing player’s ice times in specific situations. And that’s where we can tell, in facts, and yes in stats, just who Darryl Sutter thinks is his best defenseman.
Comparing Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty is easy; they have the same amount of games played and they take on the same roles. This would be unlike comparing forwards that have very different roles of, perhaps, checking or scoring. So, the numbers have meaning and the comparison is valid. Don’t be thrown by the chart, I’ll pick out the highlights for us.
The chart lets us look at Doughty compared to Voynov for the season, for the last 10 games and for the last 5 games.
For the season, Voynov is plus 11, team second-best, and just 1 game ago, before Calgary he was team best. Voynov’s plus/minus did not fall, it improved, he was simply overtaken by Justin Williams. Doughty, however, is now minus 2 and third-worst, but two games ago he was team-worst despite having improved from minus 10 to minus 5.
The plus/minus differential is still a significant 13. That includes Doughty getting the benefit from the Kings 2 empty-net goals, both of which have come within the last ten games, a span where Doughty has played at plus 9. It could be said that Doughty’s recent, rapid improvement in plus-minus is an indication that the current distribution of ice time suits him. When we define that Ice Time, you will be surprised.
Doughty was clearly expected to be the Number 1; Sutter started the season giving Doughty more Time On Ice, more Power Play time, and even more Penalty Kill time. That expectation has not been met, however. Coach Sutter is clearly aware of it, and clearly making adjustments because of it. When we look at trends over the last 10 and last 5 games, Voynov’s Ice Times in all situations have increased while Doughty’s have decreased. Voynov more; Doughty less.
The recent trend of so few Power Plays brought both players total Power Play time down, but Voynov has steadily been getting an increased share, leaving Doughty less. They’re both getting less time in total, but Voynov has raised his share of the available Power Play time.
So, on the Power Play, the meaningful number is the difference in times Sutter gives each one. Where Doughty averages 3:20 on the PP for the season, Voynov averages 1:17 less. But, over the last 10 games Voynov surpasses Doughty to a 3 second advantage. Then over the last 5 games Voynov broadens his advantage to getting 15 seconds more Ice Time on the Power Play.
In Total Time On Ice, Doughty goes from 26:16 down to about 25:06 and holding, while Voynov goes from 22:10 up to 22:49 over 10 games, and then up to 23:00 for the last 5 games. Doughty has trended down and held; Voynov is trending upward, albeit only slightly.
The PK is more dramatic: over the last 5 games Voynov again surpasses Doughty. Over the full season Doughty spends an average of 2:28 Killing Penalties, and Voynov’s season average is 1:05 less. But, the trend here is the same as above; in the last ten games Voynov chops the deficit in PK ice time to 39 seconds, and then over the last 5 games Voynov gains the advantage and gets 27 seconds more per game in PK Time On Ice.
When a guy is not scoring goals (Doughty) he’d better be decent as a shut-down guy, and Sutter has indeed used Doughty in that role all year. It is true that Doughty sees tougher competition, but not by very much.
Consider this: if Voynov were such a weakness, wouldn’t the opposing coach want his best guys out there against Voynov instead of Doughty? Wouldn’t that bring Voynov’s quality of competition up? The Kings have played 12 of their 23 games on the road. With opposing coaches having the last change, if Doughty were so great defensively wouldn’t those coaches avoid him?
For the season, Doughty has 10 points and no goals while Voynov has 12 assists and 4 goals, including 2 game-winning goals. Doughty has 16 minutes in penalties, Voynov has 10. Doughty gets one shot on goal every 11:20 seconds of ice time, Voynov gets a shot once every 12:50 seconds. With more points on fewer shots, Voynov is way more effective offensively if measured by goals and assists.
If Voynov is not fully the Kings #1 defenseman in Sutter’s mind, he is close. Over the last 5 games, Sutter has been adjusting to give Voynov more responsibility in more situations, while Doughty’s time has remained static or decreased. Voynov pairs with Scuderi, Doughty’s old spot. Muzzin pairs with Doughty, and I would offer Muzzin has taken Doughty’s expected role in that pair.
It could be said that taking away PK time from Doughty is being done to let Doughty save energy for his other roles of checking and Power Play time, but his share of the Power Play time is going down, plus all the numbers since those changes again favor Voynov.
Since Voynov started getting more time on the Penalty Kill the Kings went 4 games giving up zero goals, until the Dallas game when they gave up 2, but against Dallas Voynov was not on the ice for either PP goal against. Voynov’s good, but he can’t Kill Penalties from the bench.
In the past 10 games, Doughty has zero goals and 6 assists, while Voynov has 2 goals and 8 assists. In the past 5 games, Doughty has just 2 assists, while Voynov has a goal and 6 assists.
As a matter of fact, in the Kings last 10 games they are 8-2, the same window since Voynov began being featured over Doughty on special teams. Voynov responded by being directly involved in the game-winning goal in 4 of those last 8 wins, with assists in the Calgary, Nashville and Colorado games, and by scoring the game-winning goal himself against our chief rival the Anaheim Ducks. Hey Coach, is that what you mean by “…it’s about what you’ve got to do to win games?“
Voynov is better at scoring, gets more time on the Power Play and more time on the Penalty Kill, plus he has a massive plus-minus differential of 13. The difference in total points is significant, and as with all the stats in this comparison, Voynov shows as equal or better, and rising.
The Prosecution now rests, and I never even mentioned the difference in salaries. I resisted, but it was really tough not to say anything about it all. Whew!