Sharks vs. Kings: Winning Takes Care of Everything

Pavelski kind of looks like me when I try to skate, except better. - Ezra Shaw

Sharks have been one of the most consistently successful teams this past decade, making the playoffs every year through shrewd draft picks and trades. The Kings have not, but they won the Stanley Cup last year, so they can kind of throw all those rebuilding years out the window and declare themselves winners.

Tonight marks the third of four games the Sharks face the defending champion Los Angeles Kings. The last time the two played, it was a home-and-home that saw the teams trade regulation wins in front of home crowds. This time it is a little different; the Sharks will be on a second half of a back-to-back, while the Kings will have been chilling in the Bay Area for a bit.

Expect that to dominate the narrative whenever the Sharks look slow or the Kings have possession for any extended period of time.

A couple of days ago, I was browsing through Twitter when I came upon this conversation:

Here is the whole conversation, because I cannot figure out how to embed it.

Over the years, with the Brad Pitt movie and the rise of sabermetrics, the meaning of "Moneyball" has been distorted. People have taken to equate "Moneyball" with "advanced statistics"; they think (in baseball terms) Moneyball is WAR and UZR and xFIP. But that’s not the case at all. Billy Beane and crew instead focused on players who had high OBP, a stat that is on the back of baseball cards and is found in the traditional stat line. It was not some revolutionary new statistic that the A’s focused on, but rather a statistic that others were undervaluing.

The same can be said for hockey. While Fenwick and Corsi and PDO are the hot topics for hockey stat-heads, the Kings relied on a different market inefficiency to create a championship roster: maligned star players.

Their roster was set up perfectly for this exploitation. The salary was closer to the floor than the cap as a result of years of losing and having a bunch of guys on ELCs and RFA deals. The Kings had a well-stocked system that was on the verge of graduating players to the NHL. There were also a few key pieces that a championship team can be built around.

From that point, the Kings could trade for players who have worn out their welcome in their previous cities. Dry Island veterans, come on down! Overpaid from an offer sheet and have had that stigma ever since? Welcome in! Teams had shied away from these otherwise great players because of their reputations or salaries, and the Kings took advantage of that.

Through that market inefficiency - judging a player’s worth not only on his on-ice play but also his contract and reputation - the Kings were able to construct a loaded roster without losing pieces that were actively contributing to them winning.*

*No, I did not forget about Jack Johnson.

As Derek pointed out in that same Twitter thread, Doug Wilson has done the same thing as former Sharks GM Dean Lombardi, and he did it first. Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, and Dany Heatley (although less so in Heatley’s case) were all maligned players in their respective cities, and those teams needed a shake-up. Wilson managed to get them for much cheaper than he would otherwise; as Randy and Drew discussed on the broadcast yesterday, it’s not often that a GM can trade for a top line center or a top puck-moving defenseman, and Wilson managed to get both for far less than they were worth.

It has yet to work for Doug Wilson so far, but a lot of luck goes into a championship as well. And like Billy Beane said in Moneyball, it is his job to construct a team to get to the playoffs. After that, it’s a crapshoot. Although, maybe that’s why the A’s have not won the World Series during his tenure while the Giants have two, I don’t know.

The Sharks look to continue their strong play from last night, where they absolutely dominated the Coyotes until the third period when they were sitting on a comfortable three goal lead. Normally on a back-to-back it’d be Greiss between the pipes, but with the strong play of Niemi and McLellan’s tendency to forget about his backup, look for Niemi to get another start.

A regulation win will see the Sharks overtake the Kings for fourth place and home ice advantage. Depending on the result of the Edmonton-Minnesota game, a regulation loss could see the Sharks fall down to sixth. While playoffs are very likely for the Sharks, only five points currently separate fifth place from ninth place. With only six games remaining in the regular season, anything can happen.

Well, except for the Vegas-bound Colorado Avalanche making the playoffs. They’re out.

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24-14-4, 52 points 22-13-7, 51 points
4th in Western Conference
5th in Western Conference

7:30 PM PST | HP Pavilion | San Jose, California

TV: NBCSN, CSNCA-HD, KCOP-13 | Radio: 98.5 KFOX, SJSharks.com


Projected Sharks Lineup

T.J. Galiardi - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Martin Havlat
Raffi Torres - Joe Pavelski - Tommy Wingels
Andrew Desjardins - Scott Gomez - Adam Burish

Brad Stuart - Dan Boyle
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Jason Demers

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Projected Kings Lineup

Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dwight King - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Brad Richardson - Jordan Nolan

Robyn Regehr - Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi - Slava Voynov
Jake Muzzin - Keaton Ellerby

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

Prediction: Sharks win 4-1, goals by Couture, Burns, Demers, and Galiardi. More realistically, they lose 5-1 because I'm writing the recap and the hockey gods hate me like that.

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