Alex Killorn is a good penalty killer
Contrary to popular perception, Killer is a beast on the kill.
A common refrain from fans on Twitter is frustration with Alex Killorn. He’s become one of the favorite punching bags of the Tampa Bay Lightning fan base over the years, especially since their former punching bag, Matt Carle and Andrej Sustr, are gone. He’s a streaky scorer, so there is often a refrain of “He disappears!” Or “He’s so overpaid!” Or “He falls down out of nowhere!” and “He can’t skate!” Ok, I have to admit, I do laugh when he falls down without any help.
Big picture, Killorn has been one of the most consistent scorers for the Lightning in his NHL career. I get the feeling that some fans think players either need to be making next to nothing or putting up 60+ points (or both) to be worth their contracts. We’re lucky to have a few of these players on the team, but the reality of the NHL is that you need some mid-range players that will consistently contribute to your team and yet make a decent amount of money.
I often challenge fans that think Killorn is way overpaid to find an unrestricted free agent signing that produces more at his cap hit or produces the same for less. Rarely do I get an answer. That’s because in reality, his cap hit is commensurate with a player that consistently scores around the half-point per game mark.
The one point on his contract that I will concede, and I have since the contract was signed, is that I think seven years is a year or two too long. We may see some decline from him in that last year or two. But at 29 years old, Killorn is still a productive player that has at least a few more good years in him. He’s also been a remarkably healthy player for the Lightning. He played 38 of the team’s 48 games as a rookie during the 2012-13 lockout shortened season. Since then, he has only missed 13 games.
Now for the PK
One area that I feel he is not given near enough credit for is his penalty kill contributions, especially over the past two seasons where he has 1:27 and 1:47 per game of short-handed time on ice. He was not used much on the kill in 2013-14 after averaging 1:08 in 2012-13. He averaged 0:51 in 2014-15 and 0:28 in 2015-16. This season, he is up to 2:09 per game.
Killorn’s numbers on the PK for the Lightning have been good, but I wanted to put it more into context with the rest of the NHL over his career. For this exercise, I have pulled stats for all forwards with at least 400 minutes of TOI short handed since the 2012-13 season from Corsica.hockey. I have not included the 2018-19 season in this data.
Killorn has just over 400 minutes of TOI in this period and joins a group of 145 NHLers to qualify for this list. This gives us a more than ample sample size to compare him to.
We’ll also look at some of the names of players that are more recognizable as “superior penalty killers” around the league and former Lightning players that were highly thought of on the penalty kill.
Corsi Against per 60 minutes
Corsi Against measures the number of shot attempts taken against while a player is on the ice per 60 minutes of ice time. Corsi includes goals, shots on goal, shots blocked, and shots missed. A lower number shows that when the player is on the ice, his team allows fewer shots, which is obviously a good thing. Using a rate stat instead of raw numbers also allows us to equitably compare between players with differing ice times.
Data Set Average: 98.32
Killorn Rank: 21st
Other players: Brad Marchand (6th), Claude Giroux (19th), Kyle Brodziak (20th), Patrice Bergeron (22nd), Tommy Wingels (30th), Vincent Trochek (70th), Valtteri Filppula (78th), Ryan Callahan (123rd), Brian Boyle (131st)
Fenwick Against per 60 minutes
This stat is similar to Corsi Against per 60 minutes, but Fenwick does not include blocked shots. This measures how well teams get shots off towards the net and past any defenders. This counts goals, shots on goal, and missed shots.
Data Set Average: 73.44
Killorn Rank: 27th
Other Players: Marchand (6th), Bergeron (14th), Giroux (16th), Wingels (18th), Brodziak (20th), Filppula (112th), Trochek (125th), Boyle (131st)
Shots Against per 60 minutes
Continuing in the same direction, this stat measures goals and shots on goals only.
Data Set Average: 52.29
Killorn Rank: 44th
Other Players: Marchand (5th), Bergeron (12th), Wingels (21st), Giroux (22nd), Brodziak (26th), Filppula (116th), Callahan (130th), Boyle (133rd), Trochek (137th)
Goals Against per 60 minutes
Now we get to what’s truly important about a penalty kill, and that is preventing goals from being scored. This stat measures how many goals per 60 minutes of time on ice are allowed when the player is on the ice.
Data Set Average: 6.64
Killorn Rank: 29th
Other Players: Bergeron (13th), Marchand (15th), Brodziak (68th), Wingels (71st), Filppula (82nd), Trochek (102nd), Callahan (108th), Boyle (113th), Giroux (119th)
Expected Goals Against per 60 minutes
Expected Goals Against is a weighted measure of how dangerous the shots-taken are. A lower number means a combination of fewer shots taken and fewer shots taken from high danger areas. In general terms, high danger shots are right around the front of the net and up through the slot. Middle danger ranges out towards the face off dot and the top of the circles. Low danger is anywhere outside of that area.
As you’ll see below, Killorn shows very, very well in this area. So while his actual goals against per 60 is higher than his expected goals against, it is not a very large difference. This generally would mean that he has been slightly unlucky. But the fact that he ranks so well in this area shows this combination of not allowing a lot of shots, while also helping to keep the opponents more to shots from the outside instead of in the medium and high danger areas of the ice.
Data Set Average: 6.71
Killorn Rank: 2nd
Other Players: Marchard (3rd), Brodziak (11th), Wingels (14th), Bergeron (16th), Giroux (28th), Filppula (66th), Trochek (82nd), Callahan (114th), Boyle (128th)
Penalties Taken per 60 minutes
I feel this is an important stat to take a look at. Often times, when a penalty kill is breaking down and the penalty killers are scrambling, they are more likely to take penalties. Taking a penalty while you’re already on the penalty kill means putting your team down by two skaters instead of just one and greatly increases the chances of the other team scoring on you. This also is an interesting talking point for Killorn since a lot of fan angst also surrounds how often Killorn takes penalties (so you might be a little surprised).
Data Set Average: 1.56
Killorn Rank: 1st
Other Players: Wingels (50th), Filppula (59th), Bergeron (85th), Giroux (98th), Trochek (106th), Marchand (119th), Callahan (125th), Boyle (135th), Brodziak (136th)
Penalties Drawn per 60 minutes
This stat goes in the opposite way of the previous stat. This measures how often the player draws a penalty on the opposing team. Sometimes this is in the form of being tripped or hooked or slashed when recovering a hook. Sometimes it’s drawing a penalty while going down the ice for a short handed chance. Either way, it’s an opportunity for your team to even up the skater strength and also have an abbreviated power play of their own when their penalty is over. In this stat, larger numbers are better.
Data Set Average: 2.34
Killorn Rank: 137th
Other Players: Boyle (9th), Wingels (18th), Marchand (39th), Giroux (45th), Bergeron (70th), Callahan (71st), Filppula (74th), Trochek (83rd), Brodziak (107th)
Corsi For per 60 minutes
These last two stats we’ll look at revolve around getting shorthanded chances. Obviously there are players in the league that have shown themselves to be very good at using their smarts and their speed to steal a puck and make a break down the ice for a chance of their own while shorthanded. Killorn is no master in this category, but does have two short handed goals and two short handed assists in his career.
Data Set Average: 13.03
Killorn Rank: 89th
Other Players: Marchand (5th), Trochek (18th), Giroux (19th), Bergeron (33rd), Wingels (63rd), Callahan (81st), Brodziak (113th), Boyle (122nd), Filppula (133rd)
Goals For per 60 minutes
As with the previous stat, we can take a look at how often a players’ team is converting on shorthanded chances to get goals.
Data Set Average: 0.81
Killorn Rank: 74th
Other Players: Marchand (2nd), Wingels (3rd), Bergeron (8th), Trocheck (25th), Callahan (55th), Boyle (77th), Brodziak (85th), Giroux (118th), Filppula (129th)
As you can see by going through these different stats, Killorn stacks up well when compared to many of his contemporaries that have good reputations around the league, and our team of choice, as penalty killers. He is above average in every defensive stat. He is elite as far as taking penalties. The only places that we can quibble with are in his creation of short handed chances and drawing penalties. While it is great to get those shorthanded opportunities to score, the ultimate goal of a penalty killer is to prevent the opponent from scoring.
And Killer is good at that.