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All The Goals Are Gone: Everyone Freak Out!

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The Toronto Maple Leafs have improved their play under Horachek, but the puck isn't going in - so it sure doesn't feel like improvement.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Since their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Leafs have had 291 shots on goal (in all situations). They have scored on 9 of them. 3.09%.** So naturally, the big question is: "why?" There are a couple things we can consider over this stretch:

  • Horachek is coaching the Leafs in a way that has had them shooting 3.09%**
  • This roster isn't talented enough to shoot above 3.09%**
  • This team is incredibly unlucky over this (relatively) small period of games
I think we can dismiss option number one out of hand, largely because as Burtch pointed out on Twitter, overall scoring chances have increased under Horachek. That answer leaves a little to be desired, and I'd be open to any nuance (especially video analysis), but I think if you're going to allege Horachek's changes have driven the Leafs as to drought (as a whole), there's a pretty tough burden to meet.

We can also kick option number two out the door, because the roster has shot above 3.09%** before and because worse rosters have shot above that marker (looking at you, Sabres). That's not to suggest this roster is flawless, or that it's even an offensive powerhouse in disguise, but that talent alone probably isn't the reason the Leafs have scored 9 goals on 290 shots.**

So given that...it's hard to freak out too much. Dispassionately frustrated? Absolutely. Freaking out? Meh. Not even with the deluge of "FEWEST GOALS IN JANUARY SINCE 1708" and "LONGEST LOSING STREAK SINCE 1955-1989 SEASONS." I guess you could get into some more nebulous, vague terms like "compete" and "hustle," but without any sort of way to define and test those against 10-game sets, we don't even know if the Leafs' have changed (beyond our arguing the subjective).

Condemning the Leafs' offense on the basis of a shooting percentage slump is the same as proclaiming that the "True" Leafs were those that carried an elevated shooting percentage for the month of October. The Leafs still sit middle-of-the-pack in terms of overall goal scoring on the season, even despite this drought. The Leafs' core probably needs to get torn down, but a fall in shooting percentage - without an identified cause - just isn't "an indictment."

The only other thing that I'm inclined to point to is the injuries. It's been widely acknowledged that Phil Kessel has been playing with an injury. Lupul acknowledged he wasn't 100%, and I'd expect that as a top-6 scorer, his recovery period may have been shortened. Phaneuf - still a strong, point-producing defenseman - has been missing from the last few games. I'm not sure it's game-breaking, and I doubt it explains all of the Leafs' recent goal scoring problems, but something so widely discussed a few weeks ago seems like it's been forgotten about during this most recent freak out.

Mostly here, I feel badly for Horachek. He's getting a second chance at being a head coach, and for the second time, he's improved the possession statistics for a poor team only to have the victory eaten out by abysmal shooting and goaltending performances over the same period. And he knows it. So hopefully the Leafs will post their next multi-goal game soon, and hopefully people will start asking tougher questions about why the Leafs haven't scored over 10 games (and accepting tougher answers).

** Eagle-eyed reader Rob (@rsd08) noted that I forgot to count a couple goals - because counting is hard - and the total is actually 12 goals, for a total of 4.12% if you're including the Blue Jackets game, or, 7 goals on 259 shots (2.70%) post-Columbus.