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LaxMetrics Week 12: Calgary’s Underrated Duo

Tyler Pace and Jesse King are the pair of teammates that no one is talking about enough.

The Roughnecks might be 4-5, but don’t let that fool you. They boast the most dynamic duo of forwards that somehow seem to fly under the radar on an annual basis.

When you think of “top duos” in the NLL, who comes to mind first? Probably Buffalo’s Dhane Smith and Josh Byrne or Rochester’s Ryan Smith and Connor Fields. Maybe you think of San Diego’s Austin Staats and Wesley Berg or Toronto’s Tom Schreiber and Mark Matthews. Chances are, Pace and King weren’t the first pair to come to mind. Looking at the stats peels back the curtain a little bit to expose just how dynamic Pace and King have been over the first half of this season.

In terms of Most Outstanding Player Score – a holistic metric that equally weights five of the most important LaxMetrics.com categories measuring production efficiency, and off-ball productivity – Pace and King rank 13th and fourth among all forwards in the NLL. The only other set of teammates in the top 15 are Albany’s Marshall Powless and Ethan Walker.

Even with just a surface-level analysis, we can see that Calgary’s duo sits in rarified air.

When we think of top forward duos, generally our first thought jumps to the two players’ scoring. The best forward tandems are naturally the ones that combine for the most goals. Pace and King, however, are a different kind of dynamic duo. The pair has combined for only 31 goals in nine games, which is far from spectacular. New York’s Jeff Teat has scored 33 goals all by himself. There has been nothing special about the scoring output offered up by Pace and King. Where Tyler Pace and Jesse King separate themselves is as passers.

 

 

Total First Order Chances per game is a stat that communicates how many high-quality scoring chances a player is responsible for creating on a game-by-game basis. Jesse King ranks third in the NLL with 8.8 chances per game, while Tyler Pace sits just behind him in fourth, creating 8.3 chances per game. Collectively, King and Pace are responsible for an average of 17.1 chances per game. The only duo that can claim a higher per-game average of chance creation is Smith and Byrne – both widely considered MVP-tier players.

But part of why we likely aren’t talking more about Calgary’s dynamic duo more is the fact that their teammates have consistently let them down. First Order Conversion Rate is a stat that tells us how often the chances created by a passer are converted into goals. The league average conversion rate is roughly 27%. Over the course of a full season, we expect most conversion rates to finish at or near the league average.

Pace and King have both been well below the league average over the season’s first half. Pace has seen just 16% of his chances converted into goals, while King has watched 24.1% of his turn into tallies on the scoreboard. What this means is that we can expect to see both players’ assist numbers climb as the season wears on and their conversion rates settle near the league average. Regression to the mean is particularly likely in Pace’s case, given just how far below the league average his conversion rate currently is.

More important than increased individual assist numbers is the impact that a higher conversion rate is likely to have on Calgary’s overall performance. The Roughnecks as a team have converted just 21.9% of their chances into goals, meaning that the roster as a collective is likely to see its production improve during the season’s second half. In fact, the only team with a lower conversion rate than the Roughnecks is Panther City (20.9%). If we were going to pick any two teams most likely to see increases in their scoring outputs during the second half of the campaign, Panther City and Calgary would be the obvious choices.

Back to Pace and King.

The duo continues to fly under the radar because of the way the Roughnecks as a team have underachieved to this point. Yes, they are coming off a big win over Halifax on Sunday, but most fans would likely agree that Calgary’s 4-5 start has been a disappointment. The good news, however, is that better times are likely ahead for the Roughnecks. Look no further than their most recent win for evidence.

Tyler Pace and Jesse King combined to create 16 of their team’s 23 chances against the Thunderbirds. Of those 16 chances, four were converted into goals, giving the pair a 25% conversion rate for the game. While that number is better than either has enjoyed in the season overall, it is still relatively low in the context of the entire league. There is still more room for regressing to the mean and rising toward the league average of 27%. But just as important as the Roughnecks’ climbing conversion rate is improved scoring from Pace and King. On Sunday, Calgary’s top two forwards combined for six of the team’s 17 goals. Between the 16 chances that they created, and their six goals combined, Pace and King had a hand in 22 of Calgary’s 23 chances.

If that isn’t a dynamic duo, what is?

One key item to keep in mind as you consider the dynamism of Pace and King is that this piece isn’t attempting to argue that they make up the best duo in the NLL. Rather, the point is to shed light on a phenomenon that isn’t receiving a lot of attention in the media. The mission behind LAXMetrics is to provide additional data points to better understand the National Lacrosse League, not necessarily to argue in favor of any individual players or teams.

In this case, the purpose is to direct attention to the incredible seasons that Tyler Pace and Jesse King are enjoying and to illustrate the ways in which their performances may be the driving force behind a Roughnecks’ resurgence during the season’s second half.

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