'Tis The Season For Giving... Or Is It?

When I last wrote an update of my work on Zone Hit Ratio to measure the pressure our defense is under, I finished the article by noting that giveaways are probably hurting this team more than any dependance the Leafs might have on their defense to recover pucks. A Plea From A Cat Named Felix mused that it would be interesting to see just where on the ice we made the most giveaways; the defensive, neutral, or offensive zone. Being of a curious nature about such things, I took to www.nhl.com for answers. 

Giveaways are already tallied for each team and can also be sorted by individual players, and, no surprise, the Leafs lead the league in this regard - narrowly beating the Oilers, of course. But the numbers turned out to be more interesting than I initially suspected. Read on after the jump for more.

I'll be blunt. 285 giveaways in 25 games is too much, no matter how you slice it. But the Leafs have made - drum roll please - 206 giveaways in the defensive zone, 25 giveaways in the neutral zone, and 54 giveaways in the offensive zone. Naturally, giving the puck away so often in our own end is a big reason why it winds up in the back of our net all the time, but I think the root cause of this is much deeper, and some serious breakdowns of X's and O's is going to be required to explain why we are giving the puck away. The only note I'll make on this for now is that our goalies are responsible for a rather large number of them - perhaps some better communication with the skaters is necessary. 

Ah yes, and for for whatever it's worth, I broke down our giveaways by period. The Leafs have given the puck away 104 times in the first period, 80 times in the second, 101 times in the third, and once in OT (although curiously, Luke Schenn's giveaway in the offensive zone in the last game against Tampa was not counted by the NHL). Obviously, the Leafs feel the least generous in the second period, and it's anyone's guess as to why.

But the numbers became all the more intriguing to me when I noticed a real discrepancy between the number of giveaways in the Leafs' home games and away games. In fact, the Leafs average number of giveaways at home is 13.73, while on the road it is only 7.79 - almost half. This number seems backwards when you take into account the fact that the Leafs' record on the road is actually worse than at home.

What's even more eyebrow-raising about this situation is that the Leafs have given the puck away exactly 206 times at home, but that's also exactly the number of times opposition teams have turned the puck over to the Leafs while at the ACC. It appears that when Toronto's Giveaway counter is used, everyone gives the puck away a lot.

On the road, it's a stranger story, with the Leafs giving the puck away 79 times for an average of 7.9 per game. Their opposition? They give the puck away even more, 98 times to be exact, for an average of 9.8. Shouldn't the team with the highest number of giveaways actually be giving the puck away more often than its opposition?

Now, I am by no means a conspiracy theorist. I'm the first to admit that this is not conclusive evidence that counting giveaways, or any other stat for that matter, at the ACC is crooked. What I do think, however, is that the Leafs may be subjected to some undue criticism when it comes to giveaways. Greg Millen last night was going crazy about the neutral zone turnovers the Leafs had made against the Oilers, and although it's true that the Leafs are credited with three in the third period, I have to wonder how often this actually happens to other (better) teams on a regular basis.

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