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The Leafs Are A Triple-Speed Circus

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Says math!

NHRA: Midwest Nationals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As the Leafs round the quarter-turn of the season, we’ve been taking stock of the team and players from a number of angles, and we’ll continue to do that in more detail next week. This piece just points to one striking fact about this team: they play much, much faster than almost anyone in recent memory.

Credit for pointing to the Leafs’ pace this year goes to Sean Tierney, who is an excellent Twitter follow if y’all like cool charts.

Extrapolating out from this, I took a quick look at the 5v5 pace of every team in the era tracked by Corsica (back to 2007-08.) This was by combining Corsi For and Corsi Against, score and venue-adjusted.

In the early going, the 2016-17 Leafs are the second highest-event team in the past decade, falling narrowly behind the 2010-11 Carolina Hurricanes. In Carolina’s case, they were giving up more attempts than they were producing; the Leafs are narrowly positive in that regard.

Perhaps a little surprisingly, the Leafs have had more high-pace teams in the last decade than any other franchise (five of the twenty fastest teams, in a sample of 300.) Sometimes this was for good reasons (that 2009-10 team was better than people think), and sometimes it was for terrible reasons. The infamous 2013-14 “not playing in the Corsi Hockey League” Leafs had a very high pace, but that was mostly because they ranked 299th in Corsi Against for the past ten years. Thanks, Randy.

Going forward for this year’s Leafs, high pace may be the most intelligent way to play given their potent offence. If you have a high capacity to score and a good goalie, you ought to give your players more opportunities for that to play out. We’d all like to see that CA60 go down, but as is, it may be workable.

Two fun other tidbits from this data. One, that 2009-10 Capitals team that shot the lights out and then got robbed by Jaroslav Halak in the Playoffs was one of the best high-pace teams (top 10% in both pace and CF% for the decade.)

And two, guess who the most boring franchise since 2007 is?

You’re right. The New Jersey devils have had eight of the twelve-slowest paced teams of the 300. Glad we don’t have anything in common with those teams.