The Los Angeles Kings had a disappointing season. It was the team’s goal to make the playoffs, and while they pushed at times, they finished sixth in the Honda West Division. They didn’t score nearly enough to be a playoff team, and their defensive play wasn’t able to make up for their subpar offense.
The Kings’ scoring struggles were to be expected given their play over the past couple of seasons, but their down season defensively was unexpected. Despite being one of the league’s worst teams in the 2019-20 season, LA put up solid numbers when it came to their play in their own zone.
The Kings finished the 2019-20 season 13th in the league for their expected goals against per 60 rate (xGA/60) of 2.36 at 5-on-5. They outplayed this number, posting an 11th-best goals against per 60 rate (GA/60) of 2.43. In 2020-21, though, they dropped almost to the bottom of the league in the same categories; they recorded an xGA/60 of 2.6 (29th) and a GA/60 of 2.64 (23rd).
Given that the leader of the Kings’ defensive core, Drew Doughty, had a better season in 2020-21 than he did in 2019-20, it is interesting that the team as a whole regressed. While the backward step the team took defensively comes down to a less experienced lineup featuring Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, and Kale Clague, another explanation for this is the difference in play we saw from Matt Roy.
Roy emerged as a star for the team in 2019-20, but he experienced some setbacks this season, impacting his play. However, Kings fans shouldn’t fret, as, more likely than not, he will return to his old form next season.
Roy Was a Top Defenseman for the Kings in 2019-20
Not only was Roy a top defenseman for the Kings in 2019-20, but one could argue that he was the best player for the team that season. Offensive production wasn’t outstanding — he recorded four goals and 14 assists in 70 games — but that’s not what he is known for.
Roy’s role on the Kings in 2019-20 was to be a dependable defenseman on a not-so-dependable team, and he was exactly that. He showed great possession metrics, posting a 56.06 Corsi for percentage (CF%), second on the team. He also put up the team’s best expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 56.08 percent.
Roy’s outstanding play in 2019-20 showed a contribution more than that of any other player on the team; he posted a team-best wins above replacement (WAR) of 2.2. His regularized adjusted plus/minus (RAPM) chart shows that in 2019-20, he was an all-around great player who could play in every situation.
Kings players, coaches, and fans appeciated the stellar play of Roy, as he went on to win several awards that season; he won the Mark Bavis Memorial Award for Best Newcomer, the Outstanding Player Award, Defensive Player Award, and Unsung Hero Award.
Roy Struggled This Season
Unfortunately, after an incredible season, Roy took a step back in 2020-21. His offensive production was even worse this season than last, as he put up just two goals and eight assists in 44 games. His advanced analytics, which was a key part of his success in 2019-20, dropped as well.
Roy recorded a poor CF% of 46.09, 19th on the Kings, and a similarly deficient xGF% of 43.86, 18th on the team. These numbers impacted his overall contributions to the team; his WAR dropped significantly to 0.3 on the season, 10th on LA. The difference in his play from the 2019-20 season to the recently concluded season shows in his RAPM chart.
Comparing Roy’s RAPM charts over the past two seasons demonstrates how different of a player he was this season compared to 2019-20. However, he had to battle through several hurdles this season, nominating him for the 2021 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy; the award is given to the player who showcases perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game.
Roy Had to Overcome Numerous Obstacles Throughout the 2020-21 Season
Roy suffered a serious injury on Jan. 28 when Kevin Fiala checked him from behind, warranting a three-game suspension. He returned on Feb. 16 but missed time once again in early April when he went on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol. He got back into the lineup in the latter half of the month, finishing the season.
The time Roy missed brought his games played total down to 44 on the season, not allowing him to be of as much use as he was in the 2019-20 season. Missing time didn’t only bring down his games played, but any player having to take an absence, especially due to injury, typically takes a toll on production. When a player is not able to get into the routine that comes with playing a full season, it is hard for them to be an effective player.
Kings Fans Should Not Be Concerned
Not only was it hard for Roy to be the player we saw in 2019-20 while missing 12 games, but it is also important to recognize that he played more time with inexperienced players this season. In 2019-20, he played mostly with 28-year-old Ben Hutton, 28-year-old Joakim Ryan, and 27-year-old Kurtis MacDermid (466, 211, and 166 minutes, respectively).
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In the 2020-21 season, Roy played mostly with 20-year-old Tobias Bjornfot and 22-year-old Mikey Anderson (393 and 118 minutes, respectively). While the players Roy paired with this season might project to be better than those he played with in 2019-20, younger players aren’t as dependable as older, more experienced skaters. For a player like Roy, whose role it is to be a reliable player, playing with a younger guy might make him appear less so.
Knowing Roy, Kings fans can be confident that he will come back strong in the 2021-22 season. The stability that he will hopefully provide on the blue line will be crucial when it comes to making the playoffs next season.
Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey
Zackary Weiner is a high school student from New York City who covers the Los Angeles Kings here at The Hockey Writers. He is a lifelong hockey fan and player, and his previous experience includes writing articles about the NHL for various online publications. His articles cover a wide variety of topics that concern the Kings and he takes into account a range of viewpoints, making his articles a perfect read for anyone who wants to stay up to date on the team. Zackary is more than happy to get into a conversation with fellow Kings fans, so feel free to leave a comment below any of his articles like this one to let him know your opinion and what you want to see next. You can also listen to him talk about the team on Fantasy Hockey Life, The Hockey Writers Live, and Blackhawks Banter.