An Interview with Greg Cronin

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MLHS’ Alec Brownscombe chatted with assistant coach of the Leafs Greg Cronin over the phone this afternoon. Topics covered include the penalty kill, the team’s possession play and possession statistics, the Bruins series, and more. Enjoy.


Alec Brownscombe: Tell us about your role change last season.

Greg Cronin: I was hired by Ron Wilson and Scott and I came in together. Scott was doing the powerplay, and I was doing the penalty kill. When Randy had come in, and I don’t know how many games were left, but after Ron was let go he just kept things status quo. By that time the penalty killing had gotten better, in terms of the execution of what we were trying to do, and the percentage of the PK was improving over the last 40 games or whatever it was. I can’t simplify and say it was just one thing, maybe it was a collaboration of things, but there was some momentum built into the penalty kill. I think Scott and I share a lot of the same philosophies on the kill. We worked the World Championships together and some of the ideas and some of the tactics that we employed in the WC were fairly consistent with what we did with the Maple Leafs. There was a certain level of transparency of what we were doing as a staff. When Randy came in, I think he identified some of the same things as well. He kind of encouraged me with the penalty kill and to pursue the same tactics we were doing before.

Over the summer, we actually had some very intense discussions about not just the special teams but with the team in general. Randy had come in with a fresh view of what he was inheriting from this group. He was just trying to do an inventory of what the personnel represented as people number one and players number two. Obviously we didn’t end that season very well. It was kind of a whimper by the end of the year. I think Burkie described it as a train wreck. Those type of descriptions were fairly appropriate. Randy and the staff sat together last year multiple times to try and map out a plan to maximize the group of players. So, as coaches, what could we do to breathe some life and believability into what we were going to do with our plan, our culture, our agenda and all the other things that go along with coaching. During those discussions, we made some decisions that would best utilize the talents of the staff both individually and collectively. We just mapped out a plan that would allow us to mesh well and hopefully that would translate into a clear, transparent plan for our players.

When things aren’t working well, you sit down and hash it out. Scott and I, like I said, we had a history of working together. We aren’t  coaches building walls between ourselves and the other coaches.. I mean you would be silly to do that, right? So even with Ron, we would constantly talk as a staff how to improve our powerplay, penalty kill, five on five, cycling, all those aspects of coaching.

Alec Brownscombe: And what were some of the tactical changes undertaken on the PK? How much of the success is attributable to a key personnel addition like McClement and stability in net?

Greg Cronin: Tactically, we felt as a staff that we had to attack was the half wall. Usually the guy on the powerplay who has the puck on the half wall is the most talented guy on the ice. We felt we had to put pressure on him, that we couldn’t be passive. That was a staff decision, between Rob Zettler, Ron Wilson and me and Scott, we felt that was one area we needed to push down on and be more aggressive. The other area that we decided we had to try to close the gap on is blocking shots. That meant getting out aggressively into shot lanes. At the beginning of the year we weren’t as aggressive in those two areas. Those two things were kind of the pivot points that started the penalty killing on a path to improvement. Randy believed in those two pivot points as well.

This is gonna bridge into a conversation about personnel.. Certain people, certain personalities don’t want to pressure the puck.  They don’t want to get out and close the gap. What happens is when you actually close the gap and attack the shot lane, you’re putting yourself at risk. You can’t get made to look silly. There’s going to be a level of measure that is employed when you are going out to front the shot. What we’re trying to do, and this was a common thread throughout our discussion in the summer, is we are trying to get our guys to just be less cautious and less measured, and to get at people quicker. Going back to the people we are talking about on the powerplay, with the shooters at the top and the half wall guy on the side… I don’t know what triggered that behaviour from our players.. it might have been a few more saves from the goalies to be honest with you. It might have been better goaltending, it could’ve just been the shooter missing the net a few times, I don’t know. Like anything, once you get a little success you start to build confidence. So we started to get more success out of that more aggressive approach.

When Randy came in, he basically reinforced that. We as a staff were crystal clear what we were going to do with our penalty killing and how we were going to approach the season with our kill. Jay McClement was in the other Conference, Randy knew what he was but Scott and I hadn’t seen him that often. I saw him when I was coaching in the minors and he was on Worcester, but I didn’t remember much about him. We did know that there were some new personalities in our penalty killing that would help. We saw Mark Fraser, a shot blocking machine in the AHL, and we knew that he was going to be with us and that he could provide that talent for us – because it is a talent, blocking shots is a talent. There’s a lot of hard work and courage involved but there’s also a talent to getting in the lanes.

AB: Your staff spoke a lot about zone time and puck possession this season. By some quantifiable measures the Leafs weren’t  good possession team last season. Their shot differentials were among the worst in the NHL. The “advanced stats” indicate they were regularly outpossessed. Is there something to the Leafs systems that allow them to be among the leagues worst in shot differentials, which are typically stats that are reserved for the weaker teams in the league, yet be able to counter attack and generate a high levels of offense from comparatively fewer chances and in less zone time?

Greg Cronin:: That’s a great question. Believe it or not, shots is something that I think can be a misleading stat. I think people gravitate toward shots because it is all over the building. People react, “Oh, they’re getting outshot 10-2.” I’ve seen this at all levels of hockey. I really find it fascinating that that stat is so galvanizing to an audience. “Somebody is getting out played badly because they’re getting outshot.10-2.” It’s true that the players will look at it; psychologically, it does reflect that you might be getting beat. I’m into boxing, I like boxing and mixed martial arts, and there’s always punching totals as a quantifiable measure of who is winning a fight. There’s a significant degree of truth to that in terms of activity and aggressiveness, but ultimately it comes down to the quality of the punch. We use the expression “death by a thousand papercuts.” After a while you do wear people down, and there is a territorial and psychological advantage that kind of is connected to shot totals. I get that whole thing. But I want to shift this around on you. Just look at us offensively. We prided ourselves on quality possessions with the puck. I was just at a coaches convention we had in New York City for the draft and there was a presentation by a coach in the NHL, a head coach, who showed his belief that he wanted his players to play by putting as many pucks to the net as possible. There is no right answer to this, but he wanted his team to put pucks at the net to encourage rebound opportunities, to threaten the defense, to get the defense out of their comfort zone. I understand all that. I’m not saying what he does is wrong and what we do is right, but one of the things we believe in as a staff is quality possession. You need quality possessions.

This is kind of a good analogy. You could go into a zone and take three shots from five feet off the goal line and five feet from the boards that hit the goalie. There is no shot taken within the dots – the proverbial home plate – not one shot was taken from there. It wasn’t a real fluid possession. The team that shot the puck three times in 30 seconds, lost possession of the puck on the third shot, and now we are attacking their end – we were a transitional team. The other team cannot change and is now trying to chase us down. Those guys that were on the ice, the 2 defencemen and the 3 forwards, are now backchecking against us. We are in a position where, if we have energy and we want to keep possession we can keep it, or if we want to dump the puck and change, we can change and bring fresh legs into that transition. Hopefully that translates into a longer quality of possession for us.

Let’s look at the team that shot the puck three times. They shot the puck three times but not one shot was a real threat. Our goalie wasn’t worried, I wasn’t worried from the bench, and maybe you weren’t worried in the top corner of the balcony. We go down the ice, and in the last 15 seconds of that shift we do a curl up… we use the back of the net, we throw the puck right to the middle of the slot and we pummel a puck onto the net from 10 feet. Whistle blows. We get a quality scoring chance in one shot, more than they did in three shots. Which would you rather have?

Let me make it real simple and cut to the facts. We want to encourage our guys to have quality puck time in the offensive zone. If there’s a chance to take the puck to the net with a quality shot, then take the shot. But if we are going to throw it to the net and risk losing possession, we discourage that. Some people might find that strange. We would rather be able to change up our entire lineup of forwards in a 40 second shift, one after the other one after the other, and maintain possession in the other team’s zone and play against tired legs. You may say, “what the hell are you guys talking about?” If we are getting fresh legs on the attack all the time, and we are going to sacrifice taking three shots that might turn the puck over, we are going to do that every time rather than take three shots from poor areas that risk losing a quality possession. We aren’t telling our guys we have to have ten shots a period or 2 shots on a 40 second shift. We are telling them to make sure we value the puck and that we do not give it away unless we are a position to generate multiple scoring chances. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that if you take a shot inside the dots, the rebound is probably going to come out inside the dots. There’s a good chance it’s going to come out into a very productive area. We try to get our guys to understand that. If you get in between the dots, take a shot. Anywhere near the dots, anywhere near home plate, we are 100% behind that. The difference is, we don’t really encourage that as much from poor angle shots along the walls. We just don’t. If you look at that strategy over an 80-game schedule, even a 48-game schedule, that adds up. Those shot differential that you are seeing, that you are quantifying over a full season, they’re significant. We’re not telling our guys to shoot the puck from the boards from a poor angle. The only time we would change the strategy is if we’re down a goal – we’re not idiots – if we’re down a goal, we will try to encourage some shots, because of course we are going to change the tactic. But in an ideal world, we value possession over multiple poor angle shots.

AB: You don’t think the Leafs got outpossessed last season, and that shot differentials are not a good indicator of possession?

Greg Cronin:: Right. I unequivocally do not believe that.

AB: To be clear, you don’t believe the Leafs were outpossessed last season?

Nope.

AB: Interesting. Do you as a staff track odd man rushes? Seemed there were some games in the Bruins series where the Leafs had several more odd man rushes but were getting handily outshot.

Greg Cronin:: Yep.

Here’s my point. We have an expression called the ground game. It’s like in football. Teams that run the football well usually win games. That time of possession is important in football. There was a time where we saw some run and gun stuff and the aerial assaults, but it seems that it always goes back to the barometer or measure in football of who possesses the ball most of the time. It doesn’t hold its value every time, but it’s a fairly standard protocol that whoever has the ball most usually wins. If you’re getting 4 yards a carry it’s pretty good; you’re putting yourself in a third down and short yardage situations. We try and get our guys to understand that, albeit it’s football, that stat is something that we want to value.

Greg Cronin:: I want to ask you an innocent question. I know because, as a staff, we track this stuff. Who do you think had the puck the most against the Bruins?

AB: The Leafs got better and better and adjusted as the series wore on, but I’d guess the Bruins based on the first 4 or so games?

Greg Cronin:: The Bruins dominated the first game. They had the puck a lot and we didn’t, we gave it away too much, we were too easy to play against. But as the series went on, we started to control the games because we had the puck more. Just to go back into this discussion – going back to shots vs. possession – what happens when you have the puck a lot? What is the other team doing? They have to defend. They are on their heels, they’re changing up because they’re tired. Usually when you’re changing up and you’re tired, you’re defending. It is an interesting part of hockey that I’m sure a lot of teams visited; it’s like the old expression, “what gets emphasized gets done.” These are things that we prioritize. We want the puck. I am not saying we have the right answer. I didn’t stopwatch the Chicago-Bruins series, but I know one thing; Chicago has the puck a lot. But they have talented players, too, and their players, their identities as hockey players, whether its Kane or Toews or Hossa, those guys keep the puck a lot.

AB: Having been on the bench (obviously), how did you see the final 11 minutes in Game 7?  What was the team doing so well as the series wore on, and how/why did it get away from that? Did you think the team sat back too early? In both games 4 and 7 the Leafs were able to build leads but couldn’t hold on. It appeared that once the team shifted from a 2-1-2 into a 1-2-2 they couldn’t hold off Boston.

Greg Cronin:: We never really made any changes from the bench saying, “Okay, we’re going to do a 1-2-2 now because we’re protecting the lead.” That was something that we did not want to do. We wanted to keep applying pressure. It’s funny, if you were a fly on the glass of the bench, you would’ve heard the coaches motivating the players to attack them. That was the consistent message. Do you remember, in that game we were up 4-1 and they scored with 11 minutes left to to go, and they scored on a pass that was blindly sent to the front of the net? The guy knew Horton was there, but he kind of just throws it and the puck goes through about three people, including right past Reimer’s stick,  and past one of our defencemen’s skates. Then, Kulemin doesn’t stop.. if he stops a half a second earlier it probably hits him in the skate. Anyway, it goes in the net. I’m sure you were doing the same thing I was doing on the bench right before the goal, I’m going, “holy crap it’s 4-1.” You don’t really get it from TV but you can see it from ice level… the Bruins were basically in shock. Their crowd started to leave. They were leaving the building. As a coach, and I’ve coached 1000s of games and I’ve been in games where we’ve come back and won and we’ve lost games by losing leads, I never, even when they made it 4-2, I never felt threatened by them. I’m going to take you back to Game 5, in Boston. That game JvR scored a goal late when he stopped in front and scored to make it a two-goal lead with about three and a half minutes a game. We controlled that whole game, but with about 10 minutes to go they came on, and they came wave after wave of quality possessions. Multiple shots, and we were dealing with the two headed monster as they were shooting the puck and keeping the puck in our zone. The last eight minutes of that game felt like 80 minutes. I’m thinking, “they’re going to score a goal and tie this game up.” I thought it was a matter of time. It had that kind of feel to it. But we held on. I remember, they hit a post, one puck hit Dion’s stick, Jagr had a point blank shot; there was more offensive threats in the last three minutes of that game than there were in the last 11 minutes after Horton scored the goal.

AB: So if the message was to stay aggressive, how do you explain what happened? It seemed the team just sagged, the walls started to close in, and they just seemed stunned.

Greg Cronin:: I’m going to dispute that with you a little bit. You’re right, they were coming through us a lot easier in the final 8 minutes. After they scored the goal to make it 4-2 they had a couple of good shifts where the crowd got energized, but then things settled down. Now I’m going to go back to Matt Frattin’s breakaway. It’s not like it’s game 5, it’s game 7, we’ve been through this thing for 6 games. We’re up 4-2. Fratts gets a breakway, doesn’t score. Do you know what happened the next shift? Kessel chipped it out, we got the puck in their zone, it was basically what we preach to our team late in games – get it deep, get fresh legs.

If you watch the game over again, watch the last three minutes. Did you know that Grabovski had the puck in Boston’s zone, behind the net, and they had no goalie in the net? It was 4-2, and there was just around 2 minutes to go in the game. I was not in any shape or form worried about being under assault like we were in Game 5. It just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t happening up until that point. We had the puck in their zone, and Grabovski turned the puck over [editor’s note: Grabovski pursued the puck behind the net with the net empty, but did not ever have possession of the puck to turn over]. They came up the ice, Krejci passed it up to Lucic, and Lucic skated by our bench. There was about a minute and 45 seconds to go and he dumped the puck in. I didn’t feel that the Bruins had established any consistent threat. They had some rushes where they came into the zone and dumped it in and had a couple of shots from the boards, but there wasn’t any sustained pressure that when you’re a coach you think, “oh boy we’re in trouble.” Until Lucic scored the goal. Then, that answers your question. With a minute and 20 seconds to go, at that point it’s 4-3 and from the bench you could feel the energy and the crowd come down like darts.

I still didn’t think we were going to lose the game. I don’t know why, I just didn’t we were going to lose the game. But the next shift, they get it right back into our zone. Going back to your question, “did you guys freeze?” I don’t know. I don’t know. I know we had the guys from the penalty kill, which Scott Gordon did an awesome job with this year, and our penalty killing was one of the best in the league and every guy on the ice was a penalty killer. We were the second-best penalty killing team in the league and all those guys were on the ice.

I read somewhere that it was a once in a generation thing. It happened, and I know we’re all suffering still for it. The suffering got worse as the Bruins won round after round and it seemed like they were effortlessly winning games. We had them right where we wanted them. I think were were looking at a group of players who gad never been in that situation before in their careers. Did the pressure get to them? I don’t think they’d be human if didn’t. I don’t give a crap what your background is, that’s an experience that you’ve never gone through before. Did they react poorly? No, I don’t think they reacted poorly, they didn’t react as maturely as if they had seen it before. Simple as that.

AB: What do you take away from a loss like that?

Greg Cronin:: I think that we as a team have to stay humble. I really believe that. We can’t get seduced by way we played the series in light of the fact that the Bruins continued to march forward to the Stanley Cup Finals. I think you’ve got to be humble about what you went through. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow. It’s got to be something that is a fundamental part of our mentality going into training camp.

AB: What do you see as the biggest area in need of improvement from last year?

Greg Cronin:: We had to be top 10 in goals for, right? So obviously, it’s funny that we are bouncing stats around like time of possession and shots when we were one of the top ten teams in league in producing goals. I guess I would segregate that and say I wonder where we were in the league in terms of even strength goals because our powerplay wasn’t even [that good]. Our even strength goals produced must’ve been pretty high, which is a pretty good reflection that our quality of shots or quality of possession strategy was fairly successful. But I do think we need to continue to build on that part of it. As a coaching staff we think that is an important part of our identity. I think we slid a bit defensively and I think one of the areas we have to do a better job of defensively is what you talked about; being able to regain the puck quickly and get out of the zone. We had some moments where we had some long periods in our own zone.

AB: Do you use any performance metrics that aren’t publicly available? Have you heard of Corsi?

Greg Cronin:: No. We don’t. We just do a basic thing which is the generation of scoring chances; we know who is generating scoring chances for and who is responsible for a breakdown defensively.

AB: Do you consider Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr pure enforcers, or would you attribute other hockey value to them?

Greg Cronin:: I think they’re different players. I think Orr has proven he’s more than just an enforcer. He was used a little on the third line this season, he is one of the more reliable guys at chipping pucks out, knowing the conditions of the game, chipping pucks out and chipping pucks in, changing smartly, and he’s very responsible on the back check. Randy has a lot of faith in him. Frazer McLaren hasn’t developed into that type of a role yet. He’s got some sneaky athleticism that hasn’t come out yet; he hasn’t learned how to protect the puck as well as he can, but he’s getting better at it. He wants to be more than just an enforcer. I think that his goal should be to develop the same type of role and identity that Orr has now. It’s just a bonus that both are fairly good athletes; they can grow, they can make us a better hockey team, not just as far as fighting goes.

  • MLHS_Luke

    Awesome stuff Alec!

  • rustynail

    great scoup Alec

  • Jordan29

    Great job alec, I liked who you didnt shy away from questioning him on anything and not always agreeing with him. I think you got the best out of a coach in an interview anyone in history did. This was intense to read lol fuck what a good job!

  • Biltmore

    Funny the stuff he says about possession and using it to your advantage (like line changes) is stuff we tell my kid’s peewee team. 
    One question I had (I’m sure he wouldn’t have answered), would Frattin still be on this team if he’d scored on that breakaway late in game 7?

    • Jordan29

      Biltmore I can almost bet the higher ups (rich guys not Nonis) soured on him bad after that miss. Poor decision to let him go, should have added something else in the team if possible, but in the end I do still like the trade

    • Xxxxxnew

      Biltmore I don’t think the Leafs tried to move him because of that. More likely LA demanded him as part of the package.

    • Dink

      Biltmore I dunno about anyone else, maybe I am a pessimist, but when Frattin missed on that breakaway I had this sense of dread that made me not want to watch the rest of the game.

      • rustynail

        @Dink Biltmore I didn’t

  • MaxwellHowe

    Nice job Alec.  Interesting that he implied a mistake by Grabovski led to the game 7 collapse.  Is that why poor Mikael was sent on his way?  Seems petty though

    • Xxxxxnew

      MaxwellHowe I remember screaming at the TV at the time, though.

  • rustynail

    https://twitter.com/charlesbroskyhttps://twitter.com/charlesbrosky/status/357640739766796288
    https://twitter.com/MapleLeafsHS Did Cronin know he was in the presence of the godfather?

  • mORRganRielly

    Amazing read.  I like how he said that the coaching staff does track details, keep it simple during a game, without delving too deeply into the advanced statistics.  I would guess that the advanced statistics, while informative, are largely used by the front office and applied via trades, signings, draft picks.  It is already clearly used used off-ice where they have video sessions and tutorials with the players as well as coaches-only reviews on previous games.  I’m actually convinced that they don’t use shots at all — there’s a clear emphasis on quality shooting and I don’t know why people out in the advanced statistics crowd are so resistant to this belief.  
    It’s also important to note how they track a ‘generation of scoring chances’ with emphasis on who was on the ice for and against.  I think this detail is important because it does explain why coaches have ‘favourites’.  Something that rtgwood and myself have discussed in the past is whether the scoring chances against are why Kostka was played so much due to his ability to ‘limit’ chances — whereas Gardiner would be nailed to the bench or in the press box.  
    Another detail to note: I think we can now confirm that the home-plate area DOES exist and it needs to become mainstream.  I think I might undertake that project this year.  I know Cam Charron already tracks it on his own, but perhaps having our own source of information post-game would be another detail to add to this list of the Game in Ten.

    • oednep

      mORRganRielly rtgwood the stats community have discussed shot quality before. http://nhlnumbers.com/2012/6/26/shot-quality-revisited-a-look-at-the-correlation-between-scoring-chances-and-shot-totals. the reason they go back to corsi is because there is a good correlation between differential and quality. Also, shot differentials are much easier to track than quality

      • mORRganRielly

        oednep mORRganRielly rtgwood The Leafs, Carlyle in particular, have mentioned the shot differential was an issue.  It bears noting that Cronin details nothing in his interview that suggests they don’t track quantity of shots — Carlyle has already confirmed they do.
        At the time it was paraphrased, it raised the question of why the Leafs were allowing so many shots — as it turns out, MLHS has repeatedly stated that the box plus one system is used to sag against teams to reduces scoring chances. I was going to make a massive post on SkinnyPPPhish’s comments on the system allowing more goals than previous editions of the Leafs, but that would be reflective on Ben Scrivens, not James Reimer, as Reimer has already posted a .868 sv% in 20 feet or less vs. his peers of roughly .841 sv%.  Scrivens, by the way, was sub-.800 sv% or something if I’m remembering my numbers correctly.  Point is, they purposely GAVE up shots from the OUTSIDE rather than allow teams to get into the home-plate area.  
        So yes, quality does exist because there’s a clear emphasis on getting quantities of shots in the home-plate area where quality shooting is KNOWN to exist.  That doesn’t even account for players who look for those opportunities and pick top shelf or low shelf.  
        Side note: I was watching more of Kessel’s goals this afternoon and I noticed that one goal against Montreal was in the home-plate area, but Kessel was looking up when he shot it low through Price’s five-hole.  He did this on purpose.  That’s a quality shot and Kessel knew exactly where he wanted to put it in that moment of time.

        • wiski

          Shift_Disturber1 mORRganRielly oednep rtgwood I was calling it the rope-a-dope defence, hopefully this year they can get the puck out quickly and lets try cycling in the other end this year 😉

        • wiski

          Shift_Disturber1 wiski mORRganRielly oednep rtgwood First you get good then you get fast. 😉

        • mORRganRielly

          Shift_Disturber1 wiski mORRganRielly oednep rtgwood Sort of.  The problem is that with the centre playing below the goal-line, it means one less breakout option.  It’s got some wrinkles to iron out.
          Good thing we have a training camp.

        • rustynail

          mORRganRielly Shift_Disturber1 wiski oednep rtgwood actually the center breaking from deep is a great break out option

        • rustynail

          Shift_Disturber1 mORRganRielly wiski oednep rtgwood an actual training camp might help that

        • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

          rustynail mORRganRielly Shift_Disturber1 wiski oednep rtgwood Keeping the gaps short(er) between players allows the D better passing angles and more options in general. Having the center down low does this.

        • rustynail

          DeclanK rustynail mORRganRielly Shift_Disturber1 wiski oednep rtgwood also allows him to break with speed

    • taylor_wright

      mORRganRielly rtgwood Tracking our own scoring chances from the home-plate area would be pretty cool, but can’t we just use Super Shot search (though there are some missing entries)?
       I definitely want to track zone entries and exits this year, we need to be collecting as much data as possible.

      • mORRganRielly

        taylor_wright mORRganRielly rtgwood Problem is that the shots coordinates aren’t always plotted.  They are available with distances, but without the coordinates, a five foot shot could have come from five feet away on the side of the net — not a known home-plate area.

        • taylor_wright

          mORRganRielly taylor_wright rtgwood True say, it’s definitely worth keeping track of.

        • mORRganRielly

          taylor_wright mORRganRielly rtgwood Maybe we can turn it into a group project.  We can bring in Cam Charron or someone who doesn’t mind tutoring us on how to best track them.

        • taylor_wright

          mORRganRielly taylor_wright rtgwood Sounds good to me!

    • wendelsfist

      mORRganRielly rtgwood some of them look at shot quality.  this seems to confirm most of what you are saying
      http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2013/6/19/4400954/leafs-shot-differential-by-distance

      • mORRganRielly

        wendelsfist mORRganRielly rtgwood Yup, seen it.  JeffGM is a good poster on that site.  One of few.

        • Jimmy Keating

          mORRganRielly wendelsfist rtgwood Sadly, they nearly didn’t post that article, which caused some frustration.

  • Jimmy Keating

    http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2013/7/17/4530214/the-best-and-the-worst-leafs-of-all-time-links-rumors-july-17-2013#173778681
    JeffGM has a good, balanced view on CORSI oversimplifying and not taking into account quality of shots.

    • mORRganRielly

      Jimmy Keating I like JeffGM.  He produces great stuff.  He’s got much more nuanced and moderate views on the weight of numbers.  Like Johnson, he seems to share similar beliefs in quality shooting.

  • wiski

    Good stuff Alec, I feel we are going in the right direction.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Well done Alec! …….cougar life smiles approvingly lol! Seriously though, great question and answer period, very in depth answers by Cronin….not like that cookie cutter crap we get out the mainstream!

  • Jordan29

    Holy shit, I just watched the 20 goals from Kessel video 12-13 and man hes fucking good. 90% of his goals were either late in the 3rd or to tie or go ahead goals. So fucking clutch. Also, not to start the debate again because I really dont, but Bozak was in on almost every play Kessel scored making a nice play. JVR was too just only half as frequent.
    JVR-Bozak-Kessel will be ridiculous next year when you factor in how much attention Lupul-Kadri-Clarkson will be getting as well

    • lukethenuke

      Jordan29 LOL If there was a better cenre, Kessel would have probably a shit more goals to have seen than 20 and he wouldve been in them too… just saying

      • Jordan29

        lukethenuke Jordan29 Probably, I would never argue that. I just think there are so many other parts to our lineup that the team would benefit more with an upgrade then upgrading Bozak

        • lukethenuke

          Jordan29 lukethenuke I truly believe Bozak is dragging Kessel down in terms of production quite significantly. SO much so that you may not realize now but when Kadri emerges or someone via trade you and all bozie lovers will realize how shit he actually is… at least in top line

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          lukethenuke Jordan29 but for now, its all we got and he keeps kessel happy

        • Jordan29

          lukethenuke Jordan29 Hes been a PPG player, I dont really think Kessel is more then that unless we are talking obvious Crosby or Malkin playing along side him. Our top 6 is perfect IMO. Two legitimate top 6 scoring lines that are all relatively cheap when you think their average pay is about 4.56 mil if Kadri is in there at 3 mil which he should be. Thats probably the cheapest top 6 in the top part of the league easy

        • lukethenuke

          Jordan29 lukethenuke Perfect… ugh I hate you feel that way

        • lukethenuke

          Jordan29 lukethenuke Maybe youre not for kessel reaching full potentiel and happy he is being held back because Bozak levels the playing field for other team or something LOL

        • MaxwellHowe

          Dangle_My_Berries lukethenuke Jordan29 I’ m going out on a limb.  Probably by myself.  I’ve never been a fan of Bozak, but once in a while he does something that makes you believe he may have another gear.  So I am going to predict that this year is a breakout year for him.  He has a chip on his shoulder after hearing much fan criticism and he has real competition if he wants to stay in the top 6.

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          MaxwellHowe Dangle_My_Berries lukethenuke Jordan29 that could very well happen, a couple names on this roster could be gearing up for better offensive seasons, Kuli`s another one

        • rustynail

          MaxwellHowe Dangle_My_Berries lukethenuke Jordan29 I keep thinking back to when he first came to the Leafs and a couple of those sweet goals and hoping that comes back.

    • Biltmore

      Jordan29 
      Kessel hits 52 goals next season and Toronto wins the Cup. :) If I can dream, might as well dream big.

      • wiski

        Biltmore Jordan29 Bozie with 80 points for the haters 😉

  • taylor_wright

    This was a fantastic interview Alec, the content was incredible.

  • mORRganRielly

    -Keon- It goes back to quality of possession that he was talking about.

  • Walter_White

    Wow. VERY solid interview, Alec. 
    I thought it was very interesting to hear Cronin say that from his perspective the Leafs were not out-possessed last season…plus his emphasis on “quality possessions”. Sounds like an affirmation of what many MLHSers suspected was the strategy behind the bench.

    • ACMESalesRep

      Walter_White I would love to see a team-by-team breakdown of shot locations. My guess is that there’s no actual difference between those teams that preach “quality possessions” and those that just try to put the puck on net.

  • CallumConnorKnight

    Great interview!! Very impressive.. Questions were bang on.. This is why I love this site, and why it’s my homepage.

  • MLHS_Luke

    Though it was an awesome interview, I still get nauseous when reliving ‘Game 7′.

    Too soon man….too soon.

  • Burtonboy

    What a fascinating look at what goes on behind the bench and having an NHL coach actually break it all down from his perspective. You rarely see interviews like this anywhere. Great job Alec and thanks for asking the proper questions to get those responses from Cronin

    • rustynail

      Burtonboy rarely as in never

      • wiski

        rustynail Burtonboy The annual

        • Burtonboy

          wiski rustynail Burtonboy That’s why I said rarely . Only at MLHS BRO

        • wiski

          Burtonboy wiski rustynail I hope there is more 😉

        • Burtonboy

          wiski Burtonboy rustynail Supposed to be

        • JMAC17

          wiski rustynail Burtonboy No annual this year :(

  • JMAC17

    Alec – I know we will never get the off the record stuff out of you, but can you hint at anything?  Give us something new to talk about?! lol
    Did any of it change your opinion on the off season moves?

  • pete

    No offense to Greg Cronin but if he thinks 1) being outshot isn’t important 2) the leafs didn’t get outpossessed this year and 3) the team wasn’t sitting back, shellshocked during that last 10 minutes…… they’re screwed.

    • Jordan29

      @pete I wouldnt argue when they took this team from 26th to 8th in a year. I do see your point

      • pete

        Jordan29 i’m not crediting coaching with that. They finally get above average goaltending for the first time in seven years, and as Cronin says, their shooters were lights out at even strength. That’s luck. Counting on both to happen again is a fool’s errand. I wish them well but we’ll see

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          @pete Jordan29 most teams in the league get pretty consistent goal-tending so having our goalie problems fixed isnt something left up to chance. You either have it, or you dont…

        • leafsinsix

          @pete Jordan29 reimer was not above average, team style had more to do with gaa, and reimer was just as bad with his glove, puckhandling and rebound control as he was the year before, only now the team was more defensively aware than under wilson’s system.

    • ACMESalesRep

      Shift_Disturber1 After 48 games, the 2011-2012 Leafs had a 24-19-5 record. The 2012-2013 Leafs had a 26-17-5 record. A two-game improvement over a 48-game schedule can certainly be explained by luck.

      • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

        Shift_Disturber1 ACMESalesRep The 2011-2012 team didn’t have their “slide” at that point—the thing that happens to all teams over the course of a season. 
        The 2012-2013 Leafs did have that slide. The had their “slump” (2, in fact) and over 55 games, that’s enough of a sample size to say the team is offensively talented.

    • moimoi

      @pete Yeah, a change in system had nothing to do with improved goaltending. Sigh…

  • mcloki

    Wow. What a brilliant interview. I’m awestruck. Well done Alec. Wonderfully in depth. Loved the game 7 insights. I hope you get to do more.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Awesome interview.
    I must say it was refreshing to finally have a proactive approach to killing penalties other than to simply not take penalties.  Wilson stuck his head in the ground where the PK was concerned.  Cronin (and Carlyle) actually addresses the issues and counter acts them.

  • Burtonboy

    And up pops the dark side on twitter lol

    • rustynail

      Burtonboy took a lot longer than expected though. Heat must be getting to them

      • Burtonboy

        rustynail Burtonboy LOL

        • wiski

          Burtonboy rustynail Looks like they’re stuck after this onehttps://twitter.com/mlsehttps://twitter.com/mlse/status/357666458957914113
          But obviously the best part is: ” I think Orr has proven he’s more than just an enforcer.” You can’t write comedy like that.

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          wiski Burtonboy rustynail to Orr`s credit he did get around the ice better then in the past, and he was instrumental in putting a bunch more kilometres on Chara`s odometer

        • rustynail

          Dangle_My_Berries wiski Burtonboy rustynail He actually was defensively responsible too

  • tcw

    definitely sat back the last 10 min of game 7. At times they were running a 0-3-2 system. Nobody within 10 feet of the Bruins puck carrier after past the centre ice line. Just got too cautious. Will learn from this for sure.

  • wiski

    https://twitter.com/mORRganRiellyhttps://twitter.com/mORRganRielly/status/357668996532809731
    And so begins the tears. And on the third day, https://twitter.com/MapleLeafsHS said, “Let there be tears.” And many tears were had. Retweeted by https://twitter.com/LeafsNews

  • moimoi

    Awesome job, Alec! It sounded like Greg was very open with you, which is pretty cool.
    I can’t wait to hear the PPP guys talk about how they obviously know more than Greg Cronin cause they watch CORSI values.

    • Burtonboy

      moimoi The’re all on twitter now trying to tear Cronin apart

    • moimoi

      Shift_Disturber1 moimoi I don’t do twitter. I believe everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I think most people should refrain from voicing it. So twitter is a no-go for me.

      • moimoi

        Shift_Disturber1 moimoi Haha, yeah I see it’s value. It’s definitely not all horrible. That’s why I like when people post things on here. Saves me the trouble. :)

  • rustynail

    https://twitter.com/MapleLeafsHHhttps://twitter.com/MapleLeafsHH/status/357671893651832832
    Surprise, surprise…the PPP crew ripping to shreds the Cronin interview. Just another opportunity to elevate themselves I guess.

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      rustynail More like continue to make asses of themselves.

      • Burtonboy

        ingy56 rustynail I would love to be a fly on the wall if one of those fancy stat guys went one one with Cronin. I have a good idea who winds up leaving that meeting with their tail between their legs

        • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

          Burtonboy ingy56 rustynail Their Mom would have to bail them out of trouble, think Sequins.

      • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

        ingy56 rustynail 
        I never realized there was such jealousy with PPP over MLHS.  Kinda funny actually.

    • Double Down

      rustynail 
      I like that Cronin didn’t give bullet answers.  Corsi is a useless stat, unlike puck possession, shooting %, save %, stats that actually relate to how you’re playing the game.  BUt people sometimes can’t see the trees for the forest.  I teach math, by the way.

  • rustynail

    https://twitter.com/hockeyanalysishttps://twitter.com/hockeyanalysis/status/357672435086143489
    Reading the Cronin article. Re: PK. Leafs gave up 100.8 shot attempts/60 in 2011-12 but only 86.1 last year. Is that from tactics such as getting in shooting lanes or attacking the half wall? Hard to say but they did reduce shot attempts against.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Thanks for the kind words, guys.

    • rustynail

      Alec Brownscombe great work Alec

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Shift_Disturber1 proofs in the pudding, cant argue with the results, Leafs made it to the play-offs

  • cyf8

    Great job Alec!

  • rustynail

    Shift_Disturber1 naw the funny thing is they honestly think its up to the pros to convince them

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      rustynail Shift_Disturber1 That’s the truth right there.

    • rustynail

      ingy56 rustynail Shift_Disturber1https://twitter.com/JaredOfLondonhttps://twitter.com/JaredOfLondon/status/357679396913545217
      Maybe if the Leafs provided us the metrics used we could evaluate ourselves?

  • rustynail

    https://twitter.com/CSFRyanEakin3https://twitter.com/CSFRyanEakin3/status/357673784976740352
    https://twitter.com/mlse https://twitter.com/mORRganRielly I find it funny when basement dwelling bloggers think they are smarter than Ivy League educated executives

  • WendelGilmour

    Good job, Alec. Well done.

  • Favell66

    Thanks for the nice job on the interview , Alec, very informative.

  • mORRganRielly

    Poor @CSFRyanEakin3 — he’s getting hammered on Twitter from a bunch of babies.

    • rustynail

      mORRganRielly  consider the source and he should be proud

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Shift_Disturber1 it really comes down to youth, being a young team that’s learning, all this possession talk really boils down to youthful inexperience and players that havent rounded their game out yet. We addressed some of that in the off season with our Bolland and Clarkson pick-ups, both will help drive possession stats and hopefully shut these guys up a bit. The group is growing into men and it`ll soon reflect in the statistics as well

    • Dangle_My_Berries

      Shift_Disturber1 Dangle_My_Berries and next season Carlyle actually gets a training camp to implement those new systems and get the guys further familiar

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    TheCanucksnaphook they still think the teachers own the team….that’s the first problem

  • Alec Brownscombe

    -Keon- Cronin buzz phrase, and the lens through which he measures possession, is “quality possessions.”

    • Alec Brownscombe

      -Keon- Alec Brownscombe Just clarifying

  • Xxxxxnew

    Those types of sites bore me. Echo chamber, misplaced animosity.

  • Double Down

    Out possessed, outshot (and as most sites show they gave up an ton of quality shots), and had a hard time maintaining possession in the O zone.

    I wonder to the day why the caching staff sat on their heels as the game slipped away.  This interview makes it obvious, the coaches were overconfident and thought the game was over.

    • Alec Brownscombe

      Double Down Not a fair statement. As he said, the message was consistent – stay aggressive. The players buckled. I don’t think Cronin announced to the bench, “GET READY FOR NEW YORK BOYS.” He was just being honest about how he thought the Leafs had that game in the bag. And you’ve chosen to chastise him for it. Shame.

      • Double Down

        Alec Brownscombe Double Down Why not call a time out then?  I would have.

        • Alec Brownscombe

          Double Down Alec Brownscombe The Bruins took a timeout at 4-3 I believe. Carlyle and his staff had a chance to talk to their team then. I’d imagine they would’ve  called a timeout if Boston didn’t.

        • Cloud09

          Double Down Alec Brownscombe Would have to watch the game again but I’m pretty sure they burned their timeout earlier in the game.

        • Alec Brownscombe

          Cloud09 Double Down Alec Brownscombe Could be. Either way, the staff had a chance to talk to the team.

        • Xxxxxnew

          Carlyle said as much.

        • jcg_4

          Cloud09 Double Down Alec Brownscombe I’m going from memory, a dangerous thing it seems, but I’m pretty sure they had to use there time out in the 2nd period on an icing play .

      • Alec Brownscombe

        -Keon- Alec Brownscombe Double Down He admitted he’s human and started to look ahead. Give the guy a break.

      • Alec Brownscombe

        -Keon- Alec Brownscombe Double Down That’s at least a big point of contention. This stuff here is just silly.

    • Komas Taberle

      Double Down You can take as many shots form outside the circles as you like. You aint scoring, and as your trying these impossible shots you are geting smoked.

    • mcloki

      Your statement disrespects the opposition. Boston is a team to respect.

  • Komas Taberle

    Alec that was one hell of an interview, well done!

  • Cloud09

    TheCanucksnaphook There a bunch of lawyers and paper pushers, I’ll take the blue collared MLHS any day.

  • Waiting4LSC

    Alec: great interview. Hope you get many more. Didn’t agree with the possession position, but found the interview very interesting. Found myself wanting more, particularly views on this years squad, and on the development of key players.nwould have loved for you to feel out the Dion position. Major props to you good sir!

  • Cloud09

    Man twitter sure can rot your brain. I enjoy it for the playful banter between the advance stat crowd and traditionalist but always seem to get the best stuff right here. Good job at letting MLHS have a balanced opinion Alec Brownscombe and even better interview.

    • MLHS_Luke

      Cloud09 Alec Brownscombe It’s a bunch of immature bullshit, and I honestly think our side is more to blame than theirs.  Some of you folks are so (unjustifiably) dismissive of anything that you don’t agree with.  Then you go and blame it on the other guys being eggheads?  For shame.
      You guys have turned an awesome interview into a pissing contest that makes us look like idiots.

      • Pent_House

        MLHS_Luke Cloud09 Alec Brownscombe Sometimes arguing with people just gives them power and life, where as ignoring them makes them wither into oblivion.

        • MLHS_Luke

          Pent_House MLHS_Luke Cloud09 Alec Brownscombe It’s just embarassing; here Alec gets a legit interview, which boosts MLHS’s credibility, and people can’t have a civilized debate over it.

          The tweets I saw from PPP were fairly reasonable, and I share many of their concerns.

        • Pent_House

          MLHS_Luke Pent_House Cloud09 Alec Brownscombe I haven’t bothered with any of that. I use to give PPP a chance, and I use to check their material, but after a point I found their arrogance, tunnel vision, and absolutism unbearable. The mocking tone of their writing and the condescending was too much to stomach.

        • Cloud09

          Pent_House MLHS_Luke Cloud09 Alec Brownscombe The elitism is unbelievable at times.

        • Pent_House

          Cloud09 Pent_House MLHS_Luke Alec Brownscombe To go along with that I hated the complete dismissal of physical play. To them if it”s not quantifiable it has no value what so ever. Anything that is intangible is thrown out the door. They had analysis of goals scored within two minutes after a fight for example to dismiss fighting in hockey. Physical play is not something where you will get instant results immediately after. Just as Cronin used a boxing example, physical play is like hitting the body. It won’t get you a knockout( a la win) but after 9-10 rounds the guy will be moving slower, he’ll leave his head unguarded and he’ll be worn down. Same thing with physical play, it’s for the long-haul. Reputation over several games, psychological intimidation over a period of time, or in-game hitting wearing d-men down into the 3rd period etc.

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          Pent_House Cloud09 MLHS_Luke Alec Brownscombe physicality, grit and tenacity can very often trump skill. As Wendel mentioned in his most recent interview, win, lose or tie, we want the opposition to know that they played the Leafs, when teams look at us on the schedule, I hope they cringe..

        • Cloud09

          Dangle_My_Berries Pent_House Cloud09 MLHS_Luke Alec Brownscombe We all watched what intimidation can do to a team. The 2011-12 Leafs vs the Bruins was a shining example of that.

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          Cloud09 Dangle_My_Berries Pent_House MLHS_Luke Alec Brownscombe I want the Bruins to fear poking the Leafs

        • Aki Berg

          MLHS_Luke Pent_House Cloud09 Alec Brownscombe You are right Luke, unfortunately.

        • Xxxxxnew

          Players used to despise playing in Philly in the 70s. Bruins, Habs and Islanders all toughened up their rosters to overcome that.

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          Xxxxxnew In terms of toughness in our division I think it goes  (from toughest to soft as baby poo)
          Boston
          Toronto
          Ottawa
          Buffalo
          Tampa
          Montreal
          Florida

          the last 3 are interchangeable 
          buffalo and ottawa can be flipped for each-other as well

        • Pent_House

          Dangle_My_Berries Xxxxxnew I think with Boston losing Horton, and us adding the guys we did, I think we take over the division toughness

        • Cloud09

          Dangle_My_Berries Xxxxxnew Where does Detroit fit in?

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          Pent_House Dangle_My_Berries Xxxxxnew until we slay that dragon for good, Boston tops my list, we need something to strive towards lol

        • Pent_House

          Dangle_My_Berries Pent_House Xxxxxnew Nice, I like your motivational angle

        • Dangle_My_Berries

          Cloud09 Dangle_My_Berries Xxxxxnew totally forgot about them, they’ve never been considered a rough and tumble team in the face punching/ grind it out type of way…..I think they would be lower on the list a smidgen above Montreal. Gonna be interesting to tactic the Leafs employ against Detroit……now thats a team that drives possession

  • Leafbites

    Excellent July hockey journalism, Alec.

  • Pent_House

    Great interview. I knew they didn’t give two shits about Corsi and the like. And Cronin mentioning quality of possesion and quality of shot/chance is part of the arguments used against these advanced stats. Like I’ve said several times, advanced stats assume there is just one way to win the game, the way their stats favour, but the truth is there are several ways to win hockey games. Good work boys.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    TheCanucksnaphook 
    I could get them all stoned beforehand (I’ll break out the good stuff).

    • Cloud09

      Bon Scott was a Leaf fan I’d rather you keep the good stuff in house and give them the snicklefritz.

      • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

        Cloud09 Bon Scott was a Leaf fan 
        No worries.  Home-grown it is, then.  Of course we’d need to keep the good stuff until after the shit hits the fan.

  • Aki Berg

    TheCanucksnaphook I visit both sites and you’re the only person I see that ever flings mud. What did they do to make you so miserable.

  • lukethenuke

    -Keon- lol end of the day, Cronin is the first coach to be fired from the staff.

  • twitting_sg

    Thanks to DGB – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYCQFaQhcho&feature=youtu.be
    when does Grabbo turn the puck over? what game was GC watching?

    • Bobsyouruncle

      twitting_sg Cronin is mixed up.

    • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

      -Keon- twitting_sg 
      Part of the reason why we landed Bernier.