I'm trying to understand what the problems are with the Leafs, and why they're not at least a 500 hockey team in the NHL standings. So to do this I’ve pulled up these stats from nhl.com and have been looking for the clubs short comings. Basically I’ve been wondering if they Leafs need more help offensively, defensively or both to get to the 500 mark in the NHL league standings.
Power Play: 16.9% 17th in the NHL (Tampa is best with 24.6%, and Florida is worst with 9.3%)
Penalty Kill: 76.5% 29th in the NHL (Pittsburgh tops the chart at 88.2%, Edmonton is on the floor with 71.2%)
Minors : 107 2nd in the NHL (Florida in top spot has taken 102 and Pittsburgh is worst with 168 penalties taken)
Majors: Leafs are 20th in the league, just means they fight more than the average team.
From these data it looks like the Leafs should be doing fairly well so far in the season. The penalty kill has been weak again, however the damage is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the Leafs are 2nd in the league with the fewest minors taken. The power play has been operating right around the middle of pack in the NHL. Special teams are not the problem, so why are the Leafs still feeding off the bottom?
Real Time Stats
Blocked Shots: 517 6th in the league (Atlanta leads the NHL with 584, the Devils only got in front of 343)
Hits: 787 10th in the league (Rangers lead the NHL with 1010, TB has the lowest with 541,)
Missed Shots: 426 6th in the NHL (Calgary is a leading the league with 456, Edmonton is best with 309)
Give aways: 389 2nd in the NHL (Edmonton wins with 411, the Blue Jackets have the lowest giveaways with 146)
Take aways: 234 16th in the NHL (Chicago is best in the NHL with 372, and Boston is the worst with 163)
Faceoff percentage: 48.8% 23rd in the NHL (Vancouver leads with 57.4%, and Carolina has a league worst 42.2%)
There are really only three categories in the real time stats to suggest the Leafs shouldn't be a 500 hockey team. If anything these numbers look pretty good, except that is for the, faceoff %, give aways, and missed shots. Give aways indicate defensive short comings and weakness on the puck for the Leafs. Missed shots have a 50% chance of ending up on the stick of the opposition and getting cleared from the offensive zone. A lost faceoff has a 100% chance of ending up on the stick of the opposition. Faceoff %, missed shots and give aways are a triple dose of turnover problems for the blue and white.
Goals and Shots
Goals against 5on5: 66 25th [Boston (Tim Thomas) is best at 44 and Tampa is the worst at 74]
Goals for 5on5: 46 27th (Colorado has scored the most with 84 and the Devils are the worst at 35)
Shots / game: 29 23rd (The Sharks have the most shots with 34.1, and the Wild have the least with 25.2)
Shots against / game: 28 4th (Tampa is first with 26.8 and Edmonton is worst with 34.8)
Goals for: 73 28th (Colorado is #1 with 119 and the Devils are last with 56)
Goals against: 100 22nd (Boston is the league leader with 65 and Tampa has allowed the most with 107)
*Note these stats are not normalized for number of games played.
The goals and shots stats above are pretty glum. The Leafs are in the bottom 3rd of the league in all of the above categories, except shots against per game. They can't score and can't keep the opposition from scoring; they don't give up alot of shots but they don't hit the net with many of their shots. The "shots per game" stat shows the Leafs are 23rd best in the NHL at hitting the net. However the "goals for" stat shows the puck goes in at a clip that ranks them 28th. So either the Leafs are taking shots that would not be classified as scoring chances or they just can't finish. It's the same for the "shots against per game" which is actually pretty good (4th in the NHL), however the goals against stat is not that good (22nd in the NHL). The goaltending has been good this season, which leads me to believe the shots the Leafs do give up are excellent scoring chances. It looks like the team really is not very good offensively or defensively. I fear the cup hath runneth dry. Which is worse though, the Leafs offense or the Leafs defense?
"Under the Helmet of Slava Duris" has been documenting the Leafs scoring chances for the year at http://sd24leafsblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/2010-11-scoring-chances-game-by-game.html
The magic number for scoring chances is 15. Teams have a good chance at winning when they get 15 or more scoring chances per game and hold the opposition to less than 15 scoring chances against per game. From these data it looks like the Leafs have done a reasonable job offensively and have generated 15 or more scoring chances in 17 of 33 games. So to answer the question from the above paragraph "either the Leafs are taking shots that would not be classified as scoring chances or they just can't finish", it looks like the latter is the correct answer. The Leafs just can't finish. However defensively is where the Leafs are really lacking and in only 8 of 33 games have they held the opposition to fewer than 15 scoring chances per game. On the defensive side of the coin, they are giving up way too many quality scoring chances. Defense is the Toronto Mapleleafs biggest problem, which is ironic considering how much money they’ve spent on the blue line.
None of this is new to anyone who's been following the club this season. All it does for me is make me want to buy an ergonomic keyboard. It shows that the Leafs are generating scoring chances, which they are not converting on. It shows that the leafs are turning the puck over at an alarming rate, and are giving up way to many scoring chances against per game. Bottom line is the Leafs need more help defensively than they need help offensively, but they do need to improve in both areas. With the Christmas break just around the corner this is an excellent time for the team to gather round and start working on correcting the above mentioned problems. I would like to take this opportunity to suggest that Ron Wilson bring in some specialists to help get the team over the hump. Maybe they could bring in Ron Jeremy to show them how to finish. The turnover problem could be corrected with a nice visit with Ontario Minister of Finance Douglas Duncan and he could give them his take on labor turnover. Finally correcting the scoring chances against problem could be dealt with by doping Mike Brown's power aid with a cocktail of methamphetamine, PCP, Aspartame, and Jolt cola and then leaving him out on the ice all game long... uggh it's never fun trying to be funny.