With young defensemen such as Brayden McNabb, the hard, calculable stats may not be worth as much as the more intangible direction from the coaching staff. As has been noted, the Kings are still looking for consistent, hard minutes in his own defensive end.
“Need consistency out of your third pair. Same as the fourth line,” Darryl Sutter said. “Move guys around, minutes go up, minutes go down, situations go up, situations go down. Brady’s a good young player. We’re still searching for the consistency night in and night out.”
That consistency has been coming along now that he’s been skating alongside Luke Schenn rather than Drew Doughty, never mind that McNabb put up quality primary and secondary numbers alongside Doughty, among the favorites to win the Norris Trophy.
Alongside Doughty – where 923 of McNabb’s 1,126 even strength minutes have fallen – the Kings have averaged 1.95 five-on-five goals per 60 minutes and have yielded 1.36. Alongside Schenn, the Kings have averaged 3.61 and yielded 2.06 over 116 minutes.
“It’s different. I think Luke’s more physical and Drew’s more of a skater, so you kind of have got to read off that and be able to make plays just knowing their tendencies,” McNabb said. “They’re both great players, and we’ve been pretty good so far.”
As for the metrics, there are really no warning flags anywhere, other than perhaps the three even strength goals allowed in a scant 27:55 when he’s been situated alongside Jamie McBain.
Still, it’s pretty clear that despite the passable picture provided by the possession stats he’s generated alongside Doughty – situations in which the Kings have operated with a 59.7% Corsi-for rating – he’s still a player looking to grow the consistency in his game, and in these late-year situations, that comfort and regularity appears to be facilitated more steadily when he’s been alongside Schenn in a pairing in which he’s not regularly facing the opposition’s top forwards. This isn’t shocking when evaluating the play of a 25-year-old who is playing his second full NHL season.
“I think we’re starting to get used to each other and getting to know each other’s tendencies and what guys like to do, so we’re reading off each other pretty well right now, and for us, we just want to be a solid pair and give good, hard minutes,” McNabb said.
It won’t come as any solace to McNabb, whose minutes have dropped from an average of 21:12 on January 4 to 18:56 entering tonight’s game, but the front office, while acknowledging the occasional growing pains and calls for consistency in his game, still understands the high upside and ceiling associated with the 25-year-old defender.
Brayden McNabb, on his focus:
You’re always trying to improve. For me, it’s always about taking care of your own end, being a solid defender and everything will kind of take care of itself. So take care of your own end and go from there.
McNabb, on how challenges evolve with different defensive partners:
I mean, it’s part of the game. Everyone does it. No matter where you are, you’ve got to be able to adapt with new line mates and have good chemistry. It’s just a part of the game, and I think everyone here’s probably used to it.
McNabb, on Drew Doughty’s impact:
If you ask anyone in this room, there’s no question he’s the best by far. It’s just his defensive play. When he’s out there, he’s kind of more of an offensive guy when people look at him, but he rarely gives up opportunities, and whenever he has the puck, he’s making the right play. Just from watching him and being around him the last couple years, it’s pretty impressive, and I’ve learned a lot from him.