Special Teams

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 30: Jonas Gustavsson #50 the Toronto Maple Leafs guards his net as Dion Phaneuf #3 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battles for position against Nikita Filatov #21 of the Ottawa Senators during an NHL game at Scotiabank Place on October 30, 2011 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

The Leafs special teams are just horrendous but I wanted to see what sort of impact they have on the team. On average a team gets 290 PP opportunities and scores on 18% of them. How do the Leafs compare to that? How do the Leafs compare to the best units in the league? Let's roll over the jump for non-advanced numbers.

The Power Play

PPs PPG %
Vancouver 296 72 24.3
Average 291 52 17.8
Toronto 326 52 16

What's interesting is that because the Leafs were third in the NHL in power play opportunities they actually managed to score an average amount of power play goals despite their relative inefficiency. The difference between them and Vancouver was 20 goals, or about a goal every four games. If the Leafs converted at 24.3% they'd have scored 79 goals on the power play.

The Penalty Kill

PKs PPG %
Los Angeles 276 40 85.5
Average 291 52 82.2
Toronto 275 62 77

This isn't as encouraging. The good news is the Leafs do a good job staying out of the box despite their claims of truculence. They took 16 fewer penalties than league average last year. The bad news is that they gave up 10 more goals than league average and a full 22 more than the league's best PK. 

Adding It Up

We can add up the contributions of Toronto's special teams versus the average and the best to see how much they would change things for the Leafs:

Best Average
PP -20 0
PK -22 -10
Total -42 -10

The Leafs finished last season with 218GF and 251GA. Here's how their totals would look with an average PP/PK and the best PP/PK:

Best Average
GF 238 218
GA 229 241

The Leafs have a positive goal differential with the best special teams in the league which is probably to be expected. What does the pythagorean expectation say about these improvements though?

The pythagorean expectation with a 1.12 coefficient had the Leafs at 79pts last year, below their actual 85pt record. We'll swap that 1.12 for 1.20 to make the math make sense here. If we had the best special teams in the league we'd expect the Leafs to finish with 103pts which would make them a division winner. 

If the Leafs had average special teams we'd expect them to finish with 89pts. Since the PP is already average in terms of goals scored we can say the Leafs woeful PK cost them two wins last year. For a bubble team that's a big deal.

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