I don't want to be the cause of any self-defenestration but the Toronto Maple Leafs upcoming schedule looks as follows:
Maple Leafs Schedule
There is a very real possibility, depending on a few factors like the goalie's ability to deliver NHL quality goaltending and the forward's ability to finish their chances, that the Leafs could return from this road trip 0-11-1. The good news is that the team's underlying numbers are so bad that they are unsustainable. After the jump I'll look at what I mean.
One of the great additions to the SBN Hockey megaverse has been Gabe Desjardins of Behind the Net. He's been looking a lot at a few things that might be able to give the Leafs' some hope that brighter days are ahead. The hope-filled post on the team's shooting percentage can be found here. Open up the post and check out the graph that he's got up and then dive into his explanation:
The first thing to notice is that past shooting percentage is not a good predictor of shooting percentage over the next 40 games. That's the solid green line. If you play 40 games and shoot 10% below average, that says basically nothing about how you'll shoot as a team over the next 40 games. Bottom line: there's a tremendous amount of luck in shooting percentage. Shots per game (the dotted green line), on the other hand, are a real team characteristic not significantly influenced by luck. If we watch a team for 40 games and they're a good shooting team, odds are very high that they'll remain one.
This is good news for the Leafs because they are, as the Vancouver Province pointed out, a team that's very good at directing shots towards the net. This year they are 6th in shots at even strength so at least half of the equation is going well and it is sustainable. The rest of the chart deals with regression to the mean but don't worry if you have no clue what that means because Gabe could explain it to a Canucks fan:
The way I like to think about it is this: let's say you had a team that was shooting 25% below league average after 10 games. And you want to bet on what their shooting percentage is going to be over the next 40 games. Your best bet - given how NHL teams have performed over the last four years - is to bet that they're going to be 80% closer to the mean (I picked that off the chart - 10 games x solid green line.) In other words, if they're 25% below right now, you would have won the most money betting over four years if you bet they'd shoot just 5% below average over the next 40 games, not 25%. In other words, you reduce their distance from the mean by 80% - from 25% to 5%.
If you were then going to make a separate bet on what their year-end shooting percentage will end up being - including the 10 games at -25% - then you use the solid blue line, which gives us 50% (10 games x solid blue line). So in this case, the best bet is that the year-end shooting percentage will be 50% closer to then mean: -12.5%.
Jonathan Willis of The Score's Hockey Or Die post also takes a look at the importance of out-shooting your opponent:
In short, yes teams can win while being outshot – shot quality game-to-game and goaltender ability certainly do factor in, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of the time the team taking more shots is going to win the game. And for all the talk of different strategies, shooter ability, goaltender ability and the like, the most important point is simply this: not once in the past twenty years have the out-shot teams posted better records than out-shooting teams.
There are some problems in the long-term though because of the points that have already been given away. James and Gabe both took a look at teams that have had historically bad starts:
Anyways, there are 28 teams that have started out the season with seven-game winless streaks since the 1967-68 expansion. Some of them weren't horrible - eight actually made the playoffs, though none were good enough to get past the second round - but most were.
Well, what can we take away from Gabe's research? Well, I'll let him sum it up:
The good news is that they've outshot their opponents - a real team skill that will continue. They've got to stay out of the box and solve the goaltending problem (duh) but they've got a .500 team waiting to happen.
There are obviously a lot of changes that need to be made. While getting shots at the net is great the Leafs need to more traffic in front of the net and make goalies' lives more difficult but at least they are getting shots. Whether the answer to the team's goaltending is improvement from Joey MacDonald or the triumphant ascension of Jonas Gustavsson the Leafs' coming offensive explosion needs to be backed with NHL calibre goaltending. But at least there is hope that the team's numbers that have been so terrible not only will improve but they have to improve.