Bad plays vs Bad Coaching

I'm probably the only person on this site who doesn't think that the majority of the Leafs problems lie behind the bench. I have tried to defend Carlyle in the past by suggesting that the Leafs poor possession numbers are a result of a) bad plays (poor decision making) and b) an inability to win battles. I'm not going to suggest that Carlyle's system helps possession, but I don't think it's the primary reason why we're dead last in the league in Corsi.

To help prove that I decided to watch a random game, ideally one where we were massively out-possessed and write down every single time we turned the puck over. In the interests of saving my fingers and my sanity, I decided to only count the times where we had clear possession of the puck (i.e. not in a 50/50 battle). Any play that resulted in us no longer having possession of the puck was then placed into one of three buckets: a) bad plays (player's fault) b) bad system (turning the puck over for no apparent reason) c) just hockey plays (no team can keep the puck 100% of the time and stuff happens in the game).

I have the "raw" data available in an excel file for anyone who wants to see it. I was thinking of doing fancier stuff with it (like types of plays by period etc) but I realized the whole thing was moot, so I will just share my results. One caveat before I do: I tried my best. Every play is open to interpretation and I may have missed one or two, or given credit to the wrong guy, and I know one game is one game and it's a small sample size.

  • Bad Plays: 25
  • Bad System: 8
  • Hockey: 113
To count as a bad play the player generally needed to do something dumb when they had the time to do something smart. To count as bad system the player had to be dumping the puck in or out even when better options (may) have been available. I was super generous with bad system. Any time the Leafs cleared the zone without it being a pass attempt or a need to change immediately it was labelled as "bad system". For the most part though, the Leafs do not do this (unless they need a change). They make an awful lot of hail mary passes, but they don't tend to dump it out or in. The notable exception was in the last five minutes of the game where bad plays dropped significantly but "bad system" plays picked up. However, I wouldn't necessarily call them bad system plays if I were afforded more buckets (or being less generous).
Watching the game this way (pausing and rewinding and watching every single giveaway) made certain things really stand out for me though:
  1. Jonathan Bernier played an awesome game
  2. Paul Ranger also played a good game
  3. The Kessel/JvR/Bozak line make a lot of risky plays. A lot of them don't work out, but we only seem to remember the ones that do. Bozak/JVR/Kessel were responsible for over half of the bad plays. JvR had an off night in particular.
  4. The Leafs absolutely do not win one one one battles in their own end. They are also really slow to the puck in their own end. You could argue this is system based, but I just don't see a coach deliberately allowing the other team to get a puck when it could be your puck or a 50/50 puck.
  5. It occurred to me that Dion Phaneuf's ice time being relatively high on some nights may have a lot to do with him getting caught out on long shifts. It would be interesting to know if his shift length is much greater than average, but I'm currently too lazy to check.
  6. Lupul/Kadri/Kulemin actually won some battles and looked like a decent line despite not getting rewarded for their effort.
Finally here's an example of the raw data. Formatting is a bit weird, but first column (if you see a 1 in a column that's where I slotted the play) is time, then player, then bad play, then bad system, then hockey play, then notes.
15:49 Raymond 1 Misses a short pass from Gardiner
15:34 Gleason 1 Assuming this is system, flicks the puck high - may have been trying alley-oop pass
14:57 Kessel 1 Had trouble handling a bad pass from Van Riemsdyk
14:51 Rielly 1 Weak shot on net
14:30 Kadri 1 Tries to skate it up ice, loses a battle
14:13 Phaneuf 1 Tries to pass off the boards, gets it too high and is intercepted - does not clear the zone
14:00 Gunnarson 1 Had possession, attempted short pass to Raymond, lost the subsequent battle
13:45 Phaneuf 1 Had body position and the puck, stick lifted and fell down
13:17 Kessel 1 Tries a flip pass to JvR similar to earlier Gleason one, JvR draws a penalty is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of

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