Tyler Kennedy: Example Why NHL Coaches Drive Me Mad

Tyler Kennedy
Kennedy isn’t afraid to unleash his shot (Icon SMI)

Tyler Kennedy is a highly skilled hockey player who works his butt off each and every shift. Is he perfect? No. Is he an All-Star? No, he’s certainly not Sidney Crosby nor Joe Thornton. However, the generously listed 5’11” (doubt he’s a shade over 5’10”) Kennedy is a terrific bottom six player to have on your team.

But Coaches Hate Him?

For some excruciatingly annoying reason, neither Sharks head coach Todd McLellan nor former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma seem to understand the true value Kennedy brings to the table. Both coaches sat Kennedy as a healthy scratch during the playoffs despite the winger having a knack for clutch playoff goal scoring. [By the way, if you like this post you can subscribe to our free newsletter to receive others like it]

Sure enough, Kennedy will never challenge for a Selke trophy as the league’s best defensive forward. The Ontario native makes a number of glaring turnovers when he isn’t playing at his best. However, NHL coaches dead set on relying primarily on what their eyes “tell them” are completely missing Kennedy’s value. And I’m not even going to use analytics in this piece.

2009 Stanley Cup Run

Bylsma should have known exactly what he had in Kennedy, as he coached him on the 2009 Stanley Cup winning Penguins. That season Kennedy finished with nine points in all 24 of Pittsburgh’s playoff games. He was an incredibly useful winger for quite awhile next to Jordan Staal and at times, the aforementioned Crosby. Kennedy has scored double digit point totals every year of his career.

Despite tons of playoff success leading up to and during the 2013 playoffs, Bylsma scratched him in five of Pittsburgh’s 14 playoff games. Why you ask? Perhaps because he was too small to play against the big bad Bruins who swept the the Penguins right out of the playoffs. Kennedy’s scoring might have helped as he had two goals and five points with a plus-6 rating in the nine games he did play. Kennedy only played in two of the four games versus Boston. He had an even rating and three shots on net in 12 minutes of ice time in Game 1 but didn’t play again until Game 4.

Kennedy Over Brown Is a Slam Dunk

Now clearly last season Kennedy struggled, he had the worst season of his career. Just 17 points in 67 games and a minus-10 rating in his first year out west. But 17 points and a minus-10 is a whole heck of a lot better than minus-10 and just five points in 48 games. That was Mike Brown’s stat line last year, and the fourth line fighter played in six of seven playoff games vs “the big bad Kings” while Kennedy sat the entire series in the press box.

There is no doubt that Brown got under the Kings’ skin early on in that series, but during the Kings comeback the Sharks couldn’t buy a goal. They only needed one bounce here or there and they win that series. Contrary to popular belief, Games 6 and 7 were actually close battles for the vast majority of the contests. Who would have been more likely to score that one big goal the Sharks needed? Brown and his one career playoff goal in 19 games or Kennedy and his 12 career playoff goals in 76 games? You tell me.

.42 vs .09

(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

For his career, Kennedy is a .42 points per game player, while Brown is a . 09 points per game player. Brown never plays above a fourth line role, Kennedy often plays with better players on higher lines because he has actual puck skills. It is no accident that he is nearly a half a point per game player over his NHL career. It is one thing if Brown were this defensive whiz but he is nowhere even close to that. Plus it is nearly impossible in the age of possession stats for forwards to not do anything offensively and come out on the plus-side during a hockey season. Maybe they can come close to an even rating, but you never see forwards finish an 82 game season plus-10 with only five points. You just don’t see that. Right now there are 27 forwards in the NHL with just three points on the season. In other words, they aren’t scoring a whole lot. The highest plus/minus rating is a plus-3, from three of those players. Twenty of the 27 are in the minus. We are about a quarter to a third of the way through the NHL season. These players on pace between just nine and 12 points each are collectively minus-101. The point is if you are not chipping in offensively, you are going to have a difficult time being a positive player at even strength.

Brown brings the Sharks essentially no offense. He has not once even scored double digit points in a season whereas Kennedy on the other hand has scored double digit goals in five of six full seasons. At his worst last year, Kennedy was equally as bad as Brown overall looking at plus/minus but he out-scored him three times over. When Kennedy makes a bad play he has the skill to make up for it at the other end, Brown doesn’t.

Two Goal Games

Against those aforementioned big bad Bruins on Thursday, Kennedy scored two goals to give him five points on the season in 12 games. That is just as many points as Brown had last year in a fourth of the amount of games. His first goal was pure luck off his skate but his second came on a brilliant deflection, moments after setting up James Sheppard with a pretty pass. Kennedy redirected a Matt Irwin point shot, for his third goal of the season. That hand-eye coordination redirecting shots is something Kennedy practices on a regular basis whether during practice or morning skates. It was Kennedy’s seventh two goal game of his career. Brown has zero.

No forward that plays frequently in the bottom six is going to be anywhere close to mistake free hockey on a regular basis. There is a reason stars are stars and depth guys are depth guys. However, the notion that the Sharks needed to match Los Angeles’ size and physical play with Brown in the lineup is a straight dinosaur philosophy. In today’s game you need fourth line players capable of contributing offensive shifts on a regular basis. When on his game, Kennedy can do just that, and more often than not he is on his game. He is a career plus-24, while Brown is a career minus-31. When you combine the clearly visible offensive skills with the puck, and his career rating, it is clear that Kennedy is a quality hockey player that can outplays his competition on a regular basis. He should never be a healthy scratch in favor of an ECHL level player.

52 thoughts on “Tyler Kennedy: Example Why NHL Coaches Drive Me Mad”

  1. Yes, I did read the article, SharksFan. I read your drivel, too. Before you go about trying to lend a hand, perhaps you should tend to your own yard. It is comments like yours, that I’m thankful you’re a “fan” and not the GM.
    Apples and Oranges are Kennedy and Brown. They both have very different roles and skills. Not only that, Kennedy makes $1.15M more than Brown.
    Now run along and tend to your yard.

  2. I was crushed when the Pens let him go; TK was easily one of my favorite players in Pittsburgh and is a class act around the league.

    • Yet for some reason, tons of penguins fans, including a popular pens blog (16k followers) hate him and ripped me for this piece. Pens blog called this the stupidest thing on the internet or something like that. Anyone who doesn’t understand the skill set TK has to get through the neutral zone and create possession, doesn’t have a firm grasp of how the game works. For a bottom six player, he is as skilled as they come, just small and not a great finisher, but he drives the play to the ozone.

      • Yeah, I agree with you 100%. TK was instrumental in Pens 2009 Cup run. He does the small things, drives the net, throws the puck to the net… a lot of things that the Pens could use right now! I wouldn’t worry about the Pens blog; not the best body of work I’ve ever read…

        • It was not the getting rid of TK for his playing, it was his 2 million a year contract they signed him to. If he was paid like a 3-4th liner, he might still be around.

  3. TK was one member of the team that was the best 3rd line while in Pittsburgh. I, for one was sorry they broke that line up, but they traded all three and have not gotten an excellent 3rd line yet.

    • cooke-staal-TK right? Sure playing with Staal is nice, but its not like TK didn’t contribute to that line more than the run of the mill 4th liner would.

  4. a point should be made that as a guy with some skills in the 3rd/4th takes pressure off the top 2 lines.yes,he takes silly shots but you can’t disregard a 4th line with him in the lineup as though it was just filling space which in the strategy of things makes the opponents have to consider when matching lines,it’s not just a bum swap or breather with him out there,that can’t be overlooked

  5. After reading the article and then all the comments, this question comes to mind…Why is the author arguing with those who are in disagreement with his opinion and buddying up with those who agree? Despite a few stats here and there, it’s a subjective article and not everyone will agree. I can almost see him huffing and puffing when someone posts an opposing opinion. If an article doesn’t speak for itself, maybe it’s time to go back to journalism school.

  6. This is why everybody thinks you’re articles are a joke. Did you see how he was playing last year? He had a terrible year constantly turning the puck over and making stupid decisions like trying to deke at the blue line when he should be dumping the puck in for a line change. He deserved to be benched last year as he was a consistently hurting the team which brings me to my next point.

    You cannot compare Brown and Kennedy as they have different roles on the team. Brown is an enforcer and an energy guy whos job it is to be tough on the forecheck, get some hits and impact the game physically. Kennedy is there to be a bottom six scorer/playmaker who can occasionally play in the top 6. They have two completely different roles that are both important to having a successful team and if they aren’t doing their roles they will be benched for someone who can.

    Is there a way I can contact your boss as I would like to apply for your job because if you are my only competition then I should have no problem getting hired.

    • Have you ever played before? This isn’t football where on guy on offense is a fat dude that blocks and another is a fast guy going out as a receiver. To say players playing the same position and often on the same line for a hockey team have completely different “roles” is absurd,. Every hockey player’s role is the same sans the goalies and that is to possess the puck in the offensive zone as much as possible and put it in the opposing net as much as possible. Different styles from player to player yes, but the roles are the same.

      • This answer is why numerous people don’t believe you even watch hockey and yes I have played. You are right that they play the same position but they are looked upon to do different things for the team. Like I said before Brown is not looked upon to score. While it is nice when he chips in a goal every once and a while, that is not his main purpose. His main purpose is to be a physical force as everybody who has played knows that being hit multiple times over a game really wears on you sometimes causing you to make decision you normally wouldn’t make such as trying to make a low percentage play in order to avoid getting hit again.

        Kennedy is looked at to provide depth scoring and play making. He is not looked upon to physically affect the game as he doesn’t have the size. That’s like saying John Scott and Kennedy have the same role as they both have play on the fourth line which is absurd.

        I’ll use a different example which with Vlasic and Burns. Burns is looked at to provide offense from the back usually by bringing the puck up the ice and making plays in the offensive zone. Vlasic is not looked at to provide offense but he is looked to shut down the opponents top lines. They both play defense and have played on the same line for a little this year but yet they have vastly different roles. Vlasic is more focused on his own end and is looked to shut down the opponents best players while Burns is more focused on the offensive end and provide offence and scoring chances.

        Saying every hockey player role is the same is idiotic and shows your lack of actual hockey knowledge. While players play on the same line they are asked to do different things for the team; some are asked to score goals, some are asked to shut certain players down, and some are asked to give their teammates some energy with by using their body. Why do you think Gretzky had Dave Semenko and Marty McSorley as teammates? It sure wasn’t to score goals I’ll tell you that much.

        • Physical play in 7 minutes of ice time when you can’t possess the puck and are chasing it the whole night simply isn’t valuable. Raffi Torres is a physical spark but that is only a portion of his game, he provides offense by possessing the puck. Tommy Wingels and Andrew Desjardins are other guys who can be physical but actually can make a tape-to-tape pass. Desjardins is a much more useful player than Brown, and even Desi playing over Tierney is a questionable move because Desi is limited in what he can do.

          There is too much talent in the league now to have guys in your lineup who can’t do anything offensively. Nobody even thought John Scott was going to be signed by anyone this offseason. Yet the Sharks did, and were rightfully ridiculed for doing so.

      • It won’t let me reply to your other comment so I’ll just reply to this one. Being physical has a big impact on the game as like I stated before it wears down the opposition leading to mistakes. Just the other night against Philly the fourth line had a great shift and while they did not score, it gave the sharks a boost and Vlasic scored shortly after. You can impact a game by other ways besides scoring goals and that is an example of it.

        Play styles affect the role you have on a team and Brown, Desi, and Raffi all have the same/similar physical play style. Raffi and Desi have more offensive talent so it would make more sense to play them ahead of Brown you are right, but you need a mix of physicality and skill in your bottom 6. If you are lacking physicality in your bottom 6 then a more skilled player such as Kennedy could be scratch for a player such as Brown because you need that extra size. Forechecking is very important for the 3rd and 4th lines because these players are not as skilled as the top lines to always bring the puck so these line mainly dump and chase. Size and strength help with fore checking and puck retrieval and if you are going up against the Kings who are a bigger team, Browns size might be more useful than Kenndys skill.

        They are not playing Tierney because they want him to develop his skills and the limited minuets of the third line aren’t sufficient enough for him to do that. He’ll get much more ice time in Worcester where he can develop. There’s no point in rushing his into the lineup and wasting his potential for something that could make very little difference. This is basic stuff you should know this.

        Also you didn’t even address any of the issues I brought up in my last post so I’m assuming you didn’t have anything else to say because I was right :).

  7. Kennedy is awesome. Didn’t you see that goal he scored last night against the Bruins? Who has that kind of skill to back kick a puck perfectly up in the top corner over Rask’s shoulder without even looking? :)

  8. Kennedy turns the puck over and is not great inside his team’s end. His production does not balance his inconsistency. Kennedy looks good right now (last night) because he’s well rested and playing against other team’s 4th-liners; plus, Boston is struggling. He was never consistent in PA regardless of a couple of big playoff goals. The bigger picture over-shadows his few bright moments.
    Even a blind squirrel can find an acorn every once in a while.

    Couture, Nemo, Kennedy, Tennyson for Erik Karlsson.

    • RickyTick, did you read the article? Did you get the point? I will help you with the short summary sentence. TK is better than Brown.

  9. I’ve been watching the Penguins religiously for over a dozen years. Some of my happiest moments as a Penguins fan included Tyler Kennedy. For instance – when Tyler Kennedy was scratched, i was very happy. When Tyler Kennedy was sent out west to the Sharks – i was ecstatic.

    I couldn’t stand having that guy on our team. He hustled, yes. But so do many other AHL/NHL brink players trying to make the team, and stay in the NHL. He has no hockey sense whatsoever. Dan Bylsma was a horrible coach, but one thing he did right was scratch Tyler Kennedy. They guy was garbage.

    9 points in 24 playoff games is your argument? Look at how the Pens score – in bunches. Of course he’s going to accumulate points, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Watch his highlights, for the occasional through-traffic zinger, most of his goals were tap ins.

    Can not stand Tyler Kennedy. Horrible signing by the Sharks.

  10. the author must not watch too many sharks games when kennedy is actually in the lineup. he’s constantly gliding out there, stays on the ice long after his shift is over, refuses to play defense, has poor passing skills that lead him to hold onto the puck for too long, soft along the boards, etc. etc. etc. any player could put up strong numbers playing alongside some of his more famous teammates, but he hasn’t proved himself worthy of that role. should he be in the lineup over brown, absolutely. but he needs to prove he’s worthy of more than 4th line minutes, 1 two goal game every few years does not do that

    • soft? TK is strong in the down low cycle game because he uses his skating and puck skills to stop, start reverse while maintaining puck control, he understands where the space is available in the offensive zone.

    • So what you are saying is Brown is better hockey player. OK, whatever makes you happy and back to your work!

  11. Last night Sheppard was very strong and Kennedy was good beside him. If they form a tandem effective on the third line, leaving Wingels on a top two line, maybe with Nieto on line three, that could really boost the Sharks depth.

  12. Kennedy’s puck skills are sub-par. He is undersized, and he isn’t good positionally in either end of the rink. He is a good skater, strong on the forecheck, and can be an energetic winger but he is far from a top 6 winger and a marginal 3rd liner.

    • a bit glass half empty but if you say marginal third liner, then he shouldnt be scratched for a 4th line fighter with zero puck skills to speak of and is only in the league to fight

  13. TK’s problem in Pittsburgh was because he got away from the game that made him successful in the 09 run. After he scored 20 goals the one year where everyone was hurt and he ended up moving way up the lineup, he suddenly thought he could be an NHL sniper, which isn’t what he’s successful at. He got away from the speed, grinding, and wearing people down and became almost a perimeter player.

    He also never seemed to mesh with Brandon Sutter, scoring 6-5-11 in 46 games during the lockout year. That’s not acceptable for a guy who is supposed to be around the .4-.5 PPG pace.

  14. “Nice article, but picking out Mike Brown, or John Scott, to compare with any legitimate hockey talent isn’t exactly a hard argument to make.”

    Tell that to Todd McLellan who started Brown over Kennedy for just about the entire 2014 series against the Kings. Kennedy may not be that great, but he’s right—how do you go into Game 6 and Game 7 and still start Brown over Kennedy when it was clear that your squad couldn’t buy a goal? That decision is indefensible. This article is not really pro-Kennedy as much as it is anti-Todd McLellan, which it should be. He’s a joke of a head coach who consistently gets outcoached in the playoffs.

  15. From watching Kennedy for a few years in Pittsburgh, a few observations came to mind. While his PPG always seemed positive, there seemed to be a variety of holes that may account for his dislike with coaches. I’m not aware as much as how he plays in SJ, but in Pgh

    1.) Despite his PPG, he took an infuriating number of shots where passes or patience would have made sense instead. I know the adage of “no shot is a bad shot” could come into play, but his manner of shooting may have been an argument otherwise. Flying up on the wing taking uncontested mid-range low percentage shots that were absorbed by the goaltender when team offensive face-off percentage was not great.

    2.)Highly limited game. Tyler Kennedy was good at two things – using speed to get up the wing and taking shots from the circle (though this latter was also a weakness – see above). Beyond that, his game seemed to be largely lacking in much range or versatility. Which brings me to the third point

    3.) Coachability? I have to wonder given the lack of suggested growth in his game how coachable he was. Not saying that he was a bad player or teammate, but have to wonder if he learned or grew from instruction.

    While he was here, I really wanted to like Kennedy, and his numbers on the page suggested I should. However, he never fully passed the eye test and watching his game was often an exercise in frustration.

    • He may shoot too often when he should pass, but he creates opportunities on a regular basis, rather than chasing defensively the whole night. No b6 player is perfect, but he is one of the better ones out there.

  16. The Ontario native makes a number of glaring turnovers when he isn’t playing at his best.

    Should have been the end of the article right there. 3rd-4th line players are generally supposed to play high energy, low risk hockey. If they start making turnovers when your subpar players are out there, then goals against happen. The worst thing the first and second liners can do is not score, the worst thing the 3rd and 4th line players can do is turn the puck over. Kennedy might have been good in the writer’s proposed role for him back in the 80s when scoring and shooting was constant, but nowadays he’s about where he should be – on the outside looking in.

    • You have to be able to chip in offensively to be an effective plus player, which TK has been most of his career, and overall for his career. He can stick handle and make guys miss in the neutral zone to lead to controlled entries instead of dump ins. He does much more to help the team win than Brown who is awful at both ends.

  17. Completely agree. One of the most frustrating things is to know that Todd McLellan is a very good coach, but does dumb things like sit Tyler Kennedy. I just don’t get it. Fully agree with this article. I’ve heard something about Brown bringing a physical element to the game. Since when did a physical element ever help the Sharks do anything in the playoffs? I just hate that garbage. I’m sure being physical is important in a physical sport like hockey, but last I checked, the true purpose of the game is to score more goals than the other team. Hitting them wins you nothing. Andrew, you live up to your namesake by being so intelligent in your analysis. Well done!

    • yup, being physical helps some guys get going, but it doesn’t mean good hockey just to be physical. Usually guys with lots of hits don’t have the puck (a la mike brown). The way hockey works is you have the puck so you can use it to score and the other team can’t. Beating the other team in the hit stat is never a good way to show who is playing better.

  18. Why is this guy even getting any coverage? As mentioned in previous comments, Kennedy shoots way too much and isn’t that accurate. Keep him on the 4th line where he belongs. If the author of this article is looking for a better case of a player that should be playing more, how about Max Talbot? There’s some clutch for you.

  19. Nice article, but picking out Mike Brown, or John Scott, to compare with any legitimate hockey talent isn’t exactly a hard argument to make.

    • Exactly. Really going out on a limb there saying he’d rather have a 3rd line finesse player on the ice over a 4th line checker. It’s comparing apples to oranges.

  20. While with Pittsburgh, Tyler Kennedy led the team, and perhaps the league, in shooting the puck into the goalie’s chest. He is very fast, and can provide serious forechecking, and has enough skill to make you think he can be a reliable 40+ point scorer. Unfortunately, his hockey sense is severely lacking. He is not a good passer at all. He doesn’t kill penalties, either. He is very limited in what he can offer, and although he plays physical sometimes, his lack of size leads to injuries.

    Basically he is a player with a professional level skill: speed, but it comes packaged with an inability to learn the nuances of the pro game.

  21. BTW. His shooting percentage was 2.8% over 67 games last year. Terrible just doesn’t describe that statistic. There should be no surprise why he isn’t cracking the line up.

  22. Perhaps Kennedy was benched because he is a puck hog. In Pittsburgh he rarely ever passed the puck in the offensive zone. He shot from anywhere. He even admitted himself that shooting a lot is apart of his game. That would be great if he had a great shot and scored a lot but he doesn’t. Most of his shots hit the goalie’s logo so much so that it was and still is a running joke in Pittsburgh anytime someone shoots right at the logo of a goalie. Hey the guy can grind, no question but his sheer volume of shots and low scoring percentages has to frustrate coaches. I understand why he is benched.

    • and yet some fans call him “mr snipe”, no bottom 6 player is perfect, but shooting the puck is much better than having no offensive ability at all in mike brown.

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