My season-long project to chart Toronto Maple Leaf scoring chances mercifully finished on Saturday; you can take a look at my methodology in my first post at MLHS.
The key moment of the season was the firing of Randy Carlyle, and you can see that while the team’s record went south after the coaching change, that wasn’t reflected in their chance numbers.
|Coach (14-15 Only)||ES||ES Close|
There was no difference between the two coaches in ES Close chances, even as the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ record plummeted. The Maple Leafs were better at ES overall under Horachek, but that may be down to score effects, as they spent substantially more time behind in the second half.
This graph shows the cumulative (red) and 5-game rolling (blue) averages for chances. These are ES overall numbers; the ES Close numbers are similar, but with a more random noise.
The events that precipitated Randy Carlyle’s firing are clear. After a strong start, the Maple Leafs‘ chance numbers cratered towards the end of November, and while the team was still winning games, the same questions about the sustainability of results that have circled the team for the last few seasons were beginning to rear their heads. The low point of the Maple Leafs season was in fact a win, when Detroit absolutely dominated a game in mid-December, only for James Reimer to stand on his head and somehow give the team a win in a shoot-out.
The Maple Leafs then won three straight, but the cracks soon began to show, losing their next three by a combined score of 15-5. While Toronto was still in a playoff position when Carlyle was fired, they had won only one regulation game in their last nine after they were walloped in Winnipeg. Toronto’s chance numbers responded well to the change. However, this didn’t translate into goals, as whatever magic the top line had found to score a ton despite being badly out-chanced disappeared. The Maple Leafs actually showed some life towards the end of February, but by then the team was being disassembled by trade, and they slumped to the finish line, though there were a few good showings down the stretch.
These are ES chance numbers; you can see that Horachek and Carlyle were broadly similar in the first two periods, and it’s only the third period where Toronto improved under Horachek. As mentioned above, this is likely down to score effects as much as any form of improvement in play.
Toronto’s terrible first periods seemed to be a constant refrain down the stretch, but the numbers show they weren’t a whole lot better under Carlyle.
|+3 or >||65||95||40.6%||9||14||39.1%||56||81||40.9%|
|-3 or <||131||142||48.0%||91||83||52.3%||40||59||40.4%|
Another sign of the Maple Leafs’ struggles was their inability to chase leads as well as they allowed opponents to. Both Horachek and Carlyle’s teams allowed opponents around 60% of chances at ES when the Maple Leafs were ahead, but couldn’t come near that themselves while chasing. One key factor in the Maple Leafs’ terrible stretch can be seen in the chance numbers when trailing by one. While Carlyle teams were generally able to at least limit the damage once behind, during Horachek’s time with the team, things tended to balloon further, as the Maple Leafs were even worse once behind by a goal (likely the product of a disheartened team). You can also see just how much time Toronto spent behind in Horachek’s era, relative to Carlyle’s time, and how rare big leads were, compared to the early season.
I’ll have some more posts over the next little while, looking closer at individual players.