With last night’s loss against Nashville, Randy Carlyle’s stint behind Toronto’s bench has spanned more than a season’s worth of games. Recently, there has been much discussion surrounding this team’s identity. Clearly, the current Maple Leafs are one of the best quick-attack squads in the league. They have a collection of highly skilled players, good special teams, and the support of some fantastic goaltending. Yet naysayers are prevalent in the Toronto hockey scene. Their criticism has often focused on the supposedly debilitating shot differential that has characterized this iteration of the Leafs. This is a team that has seen success under Carlyle in spite of the shot differential statistics. Ironically, it wasn’t so long ago that this franchise bucked this category of questionably predictive statistics from the other side of the spectrum.
One only needs to go as far back as the 2009-2010 season – Phil Kessel’s first in Toronto – to bear witness to a Leafs team with a radically different gameplan than that of Carlyle. Love or hate it, the current coaching staff emphasizes quality scoring chances. They are fine with yielding perimeter shots against, while discouraging low-percentage attempts when on the attack themselves. Conversely, the Jason Blake Maple Leafs could not have been more different:
|2009-2010 rank||2013-2014 rank|
|S/G||5 (32.6 )||28 (26.5)|
|SA/G||13 (29.8)||28 (35.5)|
|G/G||26 (2.56)||10 (2.82)|
|GA/G||29 (3.21)||10 (2.36)|
|PP%||30 (14.0%)||3 (23.6%)|
|PK%||30 (74.6%)||16 (82.4%)|
The difference between these two teams from a statistical standpoint are vast. With respect to shot differential, the 2009-2010 Leafs did everything right. Their Fenwick close score was near the top of the league as one would expect with the shot-based stat. By all accounts, Lee Stempniak et al. should have rode these numbers to surefire success, right? Wrong. Despite buying into the “get it on net” mantra with admirable aplomb (heck – pretty sure Jason Blake invented that saying), Toronto stunk their way to 29th in the NHL that year while scoring 2.56 goals/game (26th in the league).
The differences – while not a mystery when accounting for the increased quality of personnel – accentuate the inherent faults of placing too much emphasis on shot differential. Unfortunately, the increased volume of rubber hitting the opposition tender in his chest did not appeal to the sympathy of the regression gods as they refused to bestow more goals upon the desperate Leafs of 2009-2010.
What does this all mean? Not much, really. It is just hockey after all. Anyone with a modicum of familiarity with NHL players could look at the rosters for both of these teams and identify the stronger club. Yet, this very fact reinforces what Dave Nonis and co. have been saying – there is certainly room for analytics in hockey, but a well-trained eye and astute judge of talent still remains the precursor to success.
All told, the comparison between the Ron Wilson Leafs and the newer outfit under Randy Carlyle is an exercise in irony and reflective gratitude. For while the current team has a few significant flaws, this retrospective glance serves as a good reminder: it could be much, much worse.
Friday morning links:
–The Leafs are not afraid of advanced statistics. Nonis: “the biggest thing we use is going to watch a player play”.
–Phaneuf and the Leafs still working on a deal. They’ll get there. At this point it’s just a matter of the familiar negotiating song and dance.
–Grabo comes home. Knowing him, he’ll be fired up and ready to stick it to the Leafs.
–The Leafs goalies are good. Yes, yes they are.
just one of those days outside, you just want to stay in, start up the fireplace, and watch leafs hockey. One of lifes simple pleasures
But if we scratch Fraser then we are down to a laughable 2 goons
Carlyle seems a bit surprised Bozak is still not availble . Fully expected him to be playing by this time
Had the pleasure of watching Connor Brown last night for the 2nd time this year. He has more points than McDavid and his left winger Dane Fox and when you watch him play you can see that he is leader of that line. Fox is a good player but clearly the beneficiary of two better players.
While McDavid is the center and Brown the right winger, Brown has the best playmaking skills of the three.There is no doubt McDavid is a special player and I know he isn’t even in his draft year but he just doesn’t seem as dominant as Tavares was at the same age and Tavares was 9 months younger in his second year.
Obviously Brown’s size has been an issue but he is not shorter than his two linemates and just needs to beef up a little.Make no mistake though, he is very strong on the puck.He doesn’t mind going into the corners and behind the net with the puck and it’s very hard to physically dominate him.His straight ahead speed might be a little suspect but he is incredibly evasive.He skates bent over much like Gretzky and he has an excellent ability to see players around him and often when he crosses the blueline he’ll pull up or slow down and wait for the opening to pass.I haven’t seen enough of his shot but think of him as a Versteeg but with more skill and no attitude.His ability to stick handle, hang on to the puck and pass is very reminiscent of Corey Perry in his draft + 2 year and while 3 inches or so shorter,he has the same sort of skinny neck and frame but he’s not afraid to stick his nose into trouble.
Unlikely to be a top 3 player, it will be interesting to see if he can develop into a 2nd line player.Our bottom 6 going forward looks like it’s going to have some size so I don’t know if the Leafs would see him in that role but apart from his size he seems to have enough skill and grittiness to play that type of game.
Anyways, the thing I come away with is that I always think of Brown as a real long shot and he probably is, but I like his odds a lot better now.If you could put Brown’s skills package into Tyler Biggs body you’d have one special player.
@Loric76 That was before he was a former leaf,doesnt count. Now he'll go 10 points in 3 games or something.
@Loric76 Wow it takes a big mature man/player to say that ,he knows its for the good of the team yea Leafs
@Jay_Berg rookie....keeping the kid humble and hungry
@Pent_House Happy 25th.
@Pent_House happy b-day bud...
@Pent_House God......25 . Seems like so long ago . Congrats
@Pent_House Cheers bud. Enjoy the day. The next big ones get further and further away after 25 lol.
@Burtonboy Bozak managed to fuck up an injury?
@Zep2 We got a little dusting down here this morning as well
@Burtonboy Rielly is playing near a 40 pt clip and Randy Sits him and puts in Fraser and 2 Face Punchers. We must be playing the 74 ' Flyers
@Burtonboy Why not dress 7 D?
@Knights2Leafs I too saw the Knights/Otters game last night. I could see both the good and the bad in Brown. I thought when the teams were 4 on 4 McDavid and Brown demonstrated great offensive ability as they had the space to work their skill sets. However, when you come to London you have to face Hunter style hockey - strong forecheck, physical play and lots of cycling. To me it is a good test as to whether you can prosper in the NHL. I thought that aside from a couple of PP and a couple of fast breaks their line was completely dominated by the Knights. They could not establish any sustained offensive zone time, were continuously knocked off the puck and in the end the leagues best scoring line was held pointless. I agree Brown is a work in progress but is definitely going to need to work on his strength as i do not see he has the blinding speed (Kessel) to outskate checkers.
@LeafFan15 There is a difference between playing hurt and playing injured. Physical game that comes with a long, demanding season. I'm sure most players play hurt at one time or another, during the course of the season.
@Loric76 Bozak made Kessel a mixtape of various renditions of "All I Want for Christmas"
@Pent_House Yeah it needs to get cold and stay that way till spring. These warm spells just ruin everything. Probably all the high rises.
Good for 1 million? He'd be good if he was making 3 million. One of the most versatile players on our roster. IMO he should be more of a priority than Kulemin to resign.
@Loric76 Lol I Googled it too. I thought the translation was wrong.
@Burtonboy Does Bozak need his bud to join him before he commits to the rest of the season?
@Loric76 'You wanna know how I got these scars?' Best bad guy of all time.