Desjardins wants players to "buy into" shift length reduction - LA Kings Insider

Anze Kopitar, by one method of measurement, is a model of consistency. Dating back to his second season, all the way back in 2007-08, he has averaged 49, 50, 51, 51, 51, 49, 49, 50, 50, 50, 51 and 50 seconds per shift.

But despite that regularity, there have been recent calls for him to shed a few seconds whenever available in the name of preservation. John Stevens spoke about this several times last season, and on Saturday morning, Willie Desjardins also issued the call.

“If you look at teams’ regular season shifts, and then you look at their playoff shifts, their playoff shifts are always shorter, and that’s because the intensity of the game goes up, and I think we have to bring our playoff game right now,” Desjardins said. “I think we have to get our shifts shorter, and I think that’s something that our guys have to buy into to be successful.”

Kopitar averaged 47 seconds per shift on Thursday against Minnesota, a rate that actually spiked late when he remained on for roughly 90 seconds of a power play while the team trailed by one in the third period.

“It was interesting,” Desjardins said. “Going into the third period [Thursday], him and Carter both were sitting pretty good. They were sitting at 13 minutes last game, but then they played a lot in the third period, and two of them occurred because we had a long power play, so they had lots of time on those two power plays. But I think for both of those guys, if they’re sitting around 19-to-21 minutes, you’re probably pretty good with them. There are some night when you’ve got to go higher, but I think those are pretty good minutes.”

Ideally, Desjardins would like to see shifts come down by “about” 10 seconds, which means occasionally pulling players off the ice after a quick whistle, based on where the ensuing faceoff will take place. This sometimes helps limit the shift length of players like Adrian Kempe, who has the shortest shift lengths among team regulars with an average of 38 seconds. He averaged 41 seconds on Thursday. Nate Thompson and Tanner Pearson are averaging 40 seconds per shift; Thompson averaged 34 seconds on Thursday, Pearson 38.

At the other end of the spectrum is Drew Doughty, who’s averaging 53 seconds per shift.

“Drew’s a really good defenseman, and I think I want to make sure Drew has energy at the end of games and at the end of the season as well – it’s important. But at the same time, we have to win games now, so that’s a tough one, and that’s true for all our players. I would think if Drew’s between 22-to-25 minutes a night, I think that’s probably where he’ll end up playing. … Some nights, the way Drew plays, too, he’s smart, he can play more minutes, and you see some of the top guys around 27, 28 minutes.

Desjardins said that it’ll be beneficial if Doughty plays 25 minutes per night, but that might not happen often. The Kings are a low-scoring team that won’t pull away from a lot of teams, which means they’re going to be heavily reliant on impact players for a longer stretch of game span and might not have the freedom to roll lines and place caps on its stars.

Doughty’s averaging 26:58 thus far, a six-second raise from last season. His high is a 29-minute average in 2014-15.

“One thing that’s important is that those guys know that I count on them,” Desjardins said. “I can’t come in and all of a sudden think that they think that they’re not. They’re important for us to win, and I’ve got to use them in a lot of key situations so they know that. And it is true – you always have to win with your big players, so those guys are key. But it’s my job to give them energy so that they can play in the third period. It’s not fair to ask them to do something if I’ve played ‘em so they have no energy yet. I have to be smart at how I manage their time.”

Average shift length, 2018-19 LA Kings:
Drew Doughty – 0:53
Ilya Kovalchuk – 0:51
Anze Kopitar – 0:50
Jeff Carter – 0:47
Dustin Brown – 0:47
Dion Phaneuf – 0:46
Jaret Anderson-Dolan – 0:46
Alec Martinez – 0:46
Jake Muzzin – 0:46
Michael Amadio – 0:46
Paul LaDue – 0:45
Sheldon Rempal – 0:45
Alex Iafallo – 0:45
Tyler Toffoli – 0:45
Derek Forbort – 0:44
Oscar Fantenberg – 0:42
Trevor Lewis – 0:42
Kyle Clifford – 0:41
Sean Walker – 0:41
Tanner Pearson – 0:40
Nate Thompson – 0:40
Austin Wagner – 0:39
Adrian Kempe – 0:38
Matt Luff – 0:36

Longest average NHL shift lengths since 2011-12 (min. 41 GP):
Erik Karlsson (2015-16) – 1:04
Erik Karlsson (2014-15) – 1:01
Ryan Suter (2017-18) – 0:59
Francois Beauchemin (2011-12) – 0:59
Alex Ovechkin (2012-13) – 0:59
Ilya Kovalchuk (2011-12) – 0:59
Kris Letang (2011-12) – 0:59
Jack Johnson (2012-13) – 0:58
Nick Leddy (2016-17) – 0:58
Cam Fowler (2017-18) – 0:58
Evgeni Malkin (2011-12) – 0:58
Jack Johnson (2013-14) – 0:58

LA Times: Kings see changes in philosophy and approach under interim coach Willie Desjardins

–Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI