Friday Mashup: A Tale of Two Teams

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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 rank2013-2014 rank
S/G5 (32.6 )28 (26.5)
SA/G13 (29.8)28 (35.5)
G/G26 (2.56)10 (2.82)
GA/G29 (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:

Last night’s Game in 10.

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.

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Nikhil has been writing for MLHS since the site launched in 2008. He misses talking about Mats Sundin and is currently entrenched in enemy territory (Boston) pursuing a doctoral degree. Contact Nikhil here: [email protected]
  • Kouba

    I have almost experienced an heart attack when I saw the title picture.

  • peterbleafs

    Its nostalgic to see Wilsons picture.  I wish we had a shot of him drifting away into the sunset though.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wO_MYX_Oto0

  • Loric76

    Nice little article.  I was thinking along similar lines last night…it was just a few seasons ago that the Leafs regularly outshot their opponents, and would still lose the game.  Critics would complain that the team had no finish and were just a collection of useless plugs, which then would be regularly countered with “of course they outshot the opponent, they were losing for most of the game and were trying to catch up”.
    Fast forward to this season, and now we’re finishing our plays, we’re scoring our goals, and we’re winning our games (mostly).  And what are people critiquing?  The shot count.  FML.

  • GeorgeCastanza

    Loric76 morning

  • Cameron19

    Loric76 Part of it is just managing expectations better. Many fans and media personalities seem to be of the opinion that good teams regularly outplay their opposition in an obvious and dominant fashion.  Well, maybe the top two or three teams in the league are capable of that, but all the other good teams look like us – struggling to find consistency. That shouldn’t constantly read as an indictment of effort levels – that’s just the reality of playing in a league full of professionals and a ton of parity.  I feel like some times our fans forget that BOTH teams are trying to win the game.

  • Cameron19

    CanuckUKinToronto I doubt any coach in the NHL has seen that.

  • Burtonboy

    Loric76 Once we rectify that Loric they will only find something else. Burke was absolutly right . Toronto fans like the media would rather vilify the team for its mistakes then say anything positive

  • Knights2Leafs

    I joked yesterday that RC should play Kadri with McLaren and Orr on the 4th line as our destroyer line.  Lo and behold in the 3rd period there was Kadri playing with Mason and Orr.  I thought the JVR – Kadri – Kessel line looked good and had some great chances off the rush in the first period.  Anyone know if RC was pissed at Kadri?

  • wendelsway1

    Cameron19 Loric76 Good Morning Guys……very true, Cameron.  It’s a long season that looks like a rollercoaster ride for most teams. Some seem to think we should be winning every game…..not gonna happen.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Knights2Leafs Not sure, but I’m consistently surprised by RC’s refusal to throw out the top offensive players in situations when the Leafs need a goal or two.  Maybe he was pissed at Kadri.

  • Burtonboy

    Knights2Leafs Don’t think so. Just normal course of events when the team struggles . He mixes lines lines like crazy

  • MaxwellHowe

    wendelsway1 Cameron19 Loric76 Nashville is a hot team right now, and it is obvios why.  They are disciplined and clearly follow the coach’s lead.  No doubt, Trotz told the, after the 1st, that they could not allow the Leafs to run around the neutral zone and, voila. 
    Maybe a few bounces in the Leafs favor, and a standout game from Bernier, and the Leafs win.  But Bernier had an average gaem, and the Leafs didn’t play with urgency until it was too late.

  • Burtonboy

    Carlyle said last night the team looked tired . Said maybe they were going too hard in practice and took full resposibility for that . I thought it funny watching practise yesterday when he was dam near bag skating them at the end . I remember thinking at the time “is this normal for game day”?

  • Cameron19

    MaxwellHowe wendelsway1 Cameron19 Loric76 Also hit several posts and crossbars. One more of those goes in and the 2-0 lead might be more debilitating for them.  And yea, the 4-1 goal was a back-breaker.  I bet the Leafs could have summoned a 3rd goal if not for that.

  • Cameron19

    Knights2Leafs I think he usually promotes Orr to encourage more hitting, not to punish others. Probably just trying to re-establish some “jam”.

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Knights2Leafs It actually works sometimes too.

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy It sounds like there is probably a flu going around the room as well. This is why I don’t like when people start bashing the “effort” of the team.  Rarely is effort ever going to be the problem, in my opinion.  It can be a bit of a lazy analysis, but it’s easy to get people agreeing with you, because most are only too quick to remember that these are spoiled millionaire athletes – and lack of effort fits right into that rhetoric.

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    mornin leafers !!

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    my new grandson !!

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Burtonboy Yep. I get excited and unreasonable during games but once that emotion dies down I can usually go back and see things a lot differently. I watch a lot of games and I tell you what. While Leafs have things to work on and have bad games so does every other team in the NHL . How many has Van lost in a row now ?

  • Mind Bomb

    unclejakescards  Congrats Bro :)))))))

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning Folks

  • Burtonboy

    unclejakescards Super Uncle J Congrats man

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    Mind Bomb im sooo kickin ur asssss !!

  • Mind Bomb

    unclejakescards Mind Bomb  Bah 5 goalie wins already, Lady luck is on your side this time Bro :)

  • Burtonboy

    Mind Bomb Bonjers MB

  • Mind Bomb

    Yaknowwhat Mind Bomb  Monring Yak Love the avatar

  • Mind Bomb

    Burtonboy Mind Bomb  Morning BB

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    Burtonboy unclejakescards thx guys , been a rough 4 weeks , he was born 8 weeks premature , my daughter wasnt doin well at all . but all good now , finally …..

  • wendelsway1

    unclejakescards Absolutely gorgeous…….Congratulations!  :)

  • Mind Bomb

    wendelsway1 unclejakescards  I love the satisfied smile on him, Its like he is saying thank you for all the leaf gear :)

  • Burtonboy

    unclejakescards Burtonboy Well that’s good to hear man . Glad everything worked out well.

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    wendelsway1 unclejakescards thx miss mcgill !! ive missed this place , been so crazy here last few weeks ………

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    Burtonboy unclejakescards thank you , little shit i still only 5 pounds , but doin great now … all is good

  • wendelsway1

    unclejakescards wendelsway1 Sounds like it…..happy to hear all is well with both your daughter and baby……who looks stunning in Leafs gear, by the way.  :)

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    wendelsway1 unclejakescards i know, thats the only pic the lady sent me this morn . im dying to see the rest …..haha

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy Cameron19 Exactly.  I think MLHS doesn’t help that mentality. Coming on here and reading the comments, I had an expectation of what I would see, but my PVR viewing was not the same story.  People feed off each other in this environment, and pretty soon, a bad 5 minutes of play turns into ‘no effort’ this and ‘pathetic’ that. Like jeez guys, remember, the other team is trying to win too – they’re going to take over the game for stretches, lol.

  • MaxwellHowe

    unclejakescards Great Stuff! 2031 first round draft choice of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Congrats!

  • Burtonboy

    Bleepin’ Grabovski returning to the ACC Saturday
    http://www.torontosun.com/2013/11/22/bleepin-grabovski-returning-to-the-acc-saturday

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    anyways , i thought leafs actually played well last night , just nashville slowed it down a bit and got to playin there game . their a better team then given credit for ….

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy Oh Christ, forgot about that angle.  Prepare for a hat trick against us, lol.

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Burtonboy Got a feeling we will see a different Leafs team on Satuday

  • Burtonboy

    unclejakescards I won’t say they played well in the 2nd and the 3rd for the most part because they didn’t . But puck luck was definetly not on our side last night for sure

  • Cameron19

    Burtonboy unclejakescards They picked it up halfway through the 3rd though. They had the play for half the game – Nashville just made better use of their half.

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    Burtonboy unclejakescards what we hit ? 3 bars and a post ? anyone of those had went in and coulda been different outcome .

  • Burtonboy

    unclejakescards Burtonboy That’s what I said ….. no puck luck.

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    Cameron19 Burtonboy unclejakescards true , they sure did . preds are a decent team . they make you pay for any mistakes

  • Burtonboy

    Cameron19 Burtonboy unclejakescards Nashville is a really tough team when they play like that .

  • http://www.unclejakescards.ca/ unclejakescards

    anyone else not like the leafs tv feed last night ?? wtf was with the meat carvin at intermission ??? where were the replays ??? it was sad !!

  • Burtonboy

    unclejakescards Complete garbage . Innovative my ass.