This is detrimental to the game of hockey in so many ways. - Abelimages
What effect is the Toronto Maple Leafs' hitting and fighting having on the team's success? Well, a closer look reveals that it's negligible at best, detrimental at worst.
Part 1 in this series looked at shot location between Carlyle and Wilson's Leafs to put to bed the myth that Randy Carlyle has implemented a "tight defensive system" on the Leafs. (Spoiler alert: He hasn't yet.)
Part 2 in this series looked dispelling the myth that Carlyle's Leafs this season have performed better than Wilson's Leafs last season. (Spoiler alert: They haven't really.)
In part 3 I'm going to look at another point frequently brought up by the talking (meat) heads of sports journalism; the myth that Randy Carlyle has made the Maple Leafs a tougher team that can intimidate their opposition and that this increased toughness is a part of the new found success (that really isn't new found success as I've shown in Part 2).
Like hitting? Yeah, that's been looked at here and here and here and here and there's no evidence yet showing any correlation between hitting and scoring or points or, most importantly, winning. Leo Komarov may hit everything that moves, yet as his stat line shows, that doesn't lead to scoring which is how hockey games are won. The Leafs in the last three years under Ron Wilson were 16th, 7th, and 4th in hits. Total playoff appearances: 0.
First off, go read 1967ers amazing piece "On Fighting" which makes the case that tough guys today and more frequently just specialized fighters on skates rather than actual tough nosed hockey players. He makes it pretty apparent that specialists like Orr and McLaren are not what fighters once were or should be, and without saying it, makes the case that they have no place in hockey today. Nobody liked watching McLaren's brutal KO last night because this isn't Friday Night Fights on HBO.
Randy Carlyle loves him some face punchers. While coaching Anaheim, his go to fisticuffer was George Parros who Carlyle suited up for nearly every Ducks game, had over 20 fights a year, and only recorded 27 points over his last 5 season. Ya know, an Ivy League educated meathead who's not terribly good at hockey. Now on the Leafs, Carlyle's go to man is Colton Orr and if you listen to many in the MSM (like Sportsnet's leading lights Nick Kypreos or Mike Brophy) or portions of the Leafs fanbase, one of the main reasons for the Leafs' early season success. Or is he? The Leafs the last three years under Wilson were 10th, 10th, and 16th in fighting majors. Total playoff appearances: 0.
Thanks to hockeyfights.com, which keeps a fight log of every player in the NHL, I was able to make this spreadsheet which tracks the Leafs record in games which Colton Orr fought and compared that against the Leafs record when he doesn't fight, or isn't in the lineup at all over the past 4 seasons:
|2009-2013||Pts%||82 Game Pace|
|Overall||0.498||81.7 ~ 82 pts|
|With Orr Dressed||0.477||78.2 ~ 78 pts|
|With Orr Fighting||0.450||73.8 ~ 74 pts|
|Without Orr||0.525||86.1 ~ 86 pts|
So what does this tell us? Quite simply that the Leafs are marginally a better hockey team when not carrying around an anchor of a player like Colton Orr and that an Orr fight on its own is pretty meaningless. In fact, it may even be a bit detrimental. But it generally looks like it's a wash which is what you'd expect. (Though I didn't track when these fight happened in game time so maybe Orr just gets pissed when the Leafs lose and has a temper tantrum like a someone with a child-like mind such as his, ya know a child, might.)
Oh and to dispel any thoughts about a fight's outcome having an effect on the game state, here's the Leafs record in games when Orr fights in relation to how Orr fared in those fights according to hockeyfights.com voters:
|When Orr Fights||Pts%||82 Game Pace|
|Overall||0.450||73.8 ~ 74 pts|
|Wins The Fight||0.476||78.1 ~ 78 pts|
|Loses The Fight||0.375||61.5 ~ 62 pts|
|Ties The Fight||0.500||82.0 ~ 82 pts|
Weird, I thought that there were no ties in hockey. The obivous voting bias involved aside, the Leafs apparently do best when Orr's fights end in a draw but not as well as when he doesn't even fight in the first place.