The Truth About Jamie McBain

McBain Kings NHL hockeyThe Los Angeles Kings have gone 27-11-5 with Jamie McBain in the lineup over the last two seasons. Without him? At 27-24-11, they’re barely a .500 team.

The Kings just win with McBain, right?

In much the same way, perhaps it was defenseman Randy Jones who pushed the 2010-11 Kings into the postseason. LA went 28-14-6 with him, 18-13-3 without.

And who knew how much Coach Larry Robinson was holding back youngster Pavel Rosa? The 1998-99 Kings were 16-12-1 when the playmaker skated; they were 16-33-4 when he sat.

And was Nick’s uncle Scott Bjugstad secretly responsible for the franchise’s sole division title in 1990-91? After all, though the forward only notched four goals in 31 games, Los Angeles enjoyed a 21-7-3 mark when he dressed, as opposed to 25-17-7 otherwise.

On the other hand…20-14-5 without this Mystery Player is clearly better than 19-21-5 with. So I guess the 1992-93 Kings should’ve considered scratching Wayne Gretzky in the playoffs?

My point: It’s dangerous to attribute a hockey team’s record to one skater, especially to a bit player like McBain, Jones, Rosa, or Bjugstad.

Remember that McBain has been the team’s least-used defender when he has actually played – in fact, even Matt Greene, who’s traditionally been the Kings’ number-six rearguard, has skated 15:39 ATOI (average time on ice/game) to McBain’s 13:04 over the last couple years.

Thus, even if you were to credit a single player for LA’s .686 points earned % with McBain, should it be the little-used blueliner?

The Kings don’t “just win” because McBain is in the lineup. Winning or losing isn’t magic. If it were, one might point out that McBain’s teams, which include the 2009-13 Carolina Hurricanes and the 2013-14 Buffalo Sabres, “just lose” too: None of them have made the playoffs despite being graced by his presence.

Anyway, it’s not to say that McBain doesn’t deserve any praise for the Kings’ success with him. But now we’ve hopefully moved past giving him a disproportionate amount of credit, we can more accurately assess his skills and limitations, which we’ll do in a subsequent article next week.

Sheng Peng, our newest writer, penned the above article. We’re happy to welcome him to the MayorsManor team, where he will offer readers his unique perspective, often rooted in analytics and #fancystats. For more on Peng, check out his bio here.

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Comments

  1. Sheng, such a cool guy. Always tweets back and good stat guy. Welcome

  2. Ahh perspective. McBain is fascinating to me in that in that he does all the stuff the fans love, especially those who only follow the puck, well: He’s mobile- skates well and handles the puck with some confidence, jumps in plays, passes very well, seems to regularly get his shot through, good on the 2nd power play unit. On the flip side, he poorly does things coaches and defensemen value: he struggles to pinch opponents off in the corners or neutralize them behind his net, he seldom seems to win puck battles in the corners, generally struggles under close physical pressure in his own end, isn’t strong in front of the net, his gap control isn’t great, often gets caught out of place in his own end) . With the right match ups he’s quite valuable. And he seems to be improving–or maybe its just a recency bias on my part. I keep expecting to see Sutter bench him on the road and play Forbort when he doesn’t have last change, but his confidence in McBain seems to be growing. I loved this quote: ““I think he’s played as well as he can, and I give him credit for it”

    • I would imagine a healthy Greene will probably usurp his place in the lineup. While both are one-dimensional (in different ways), the Kings will probably have more trust in Greene, especially in a playoff series.

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