I don't look at Twitter beyond the media and stats accounts necessary to put this site on the air, so I don't very often see Tweet threads. I shall laboriously embed this one, because it's well worth reading. Laborious, because Twitter is somehow broken and automatic tweet embeds don't work in articles now.

Okay, I'm tired already, so I'm going to paste the text is so you can read it more easily, and I'm going to add some capitalization to that end. Do follow the link in the first Tweet if you think the replies will be elucidating.

It seems like every few years people need to be reminded that the whole point of looking at data, things like shot shares and expected goals, is that it doesn’t line up 1 to 1 with results. If it did, there’d be no point in looking at it.

The corsi wars were fought largely on the basis that traditional analysis was almost entirely post hoc justification. You won, therefore what you did was right. You lost, therefore you must have done something wrong. Crazy thing to believe in a game with so much randomness.

It was fundamentally uncurious. The idea that teams could be obscenely lucky or unlucky just didn’t really factor into much discussion. But now that stats are reasonably accessible. I think you see that lack of curiosity manifesting itself, to some degree, among “stats people". Also there are way more models, many of which present data in ways that are confusing (at least to me) and that you often have to pay for to get a better idea of how the sausage gets made. (Totally reasonable, you should get paid for work; but also means less public scrutiny).

I also see a lot of that same lack of curiosity from the same critics, armed with better talking points, saying x model or y stat must not matter because it couldn’t predict Florida making the cup final or whatever else, so you end up with these circular arguments where lazy people on either side of the stats dividing line say shit like “this team had better underlyings, they deserved to win, they just got bad luck/goalie’d” vs “those stats are fake because they lost” and it’s all very boring tbh.

A list of the best teams in the league over the last 4 years will look very similar to a list of teams with the best underlyings. I guess what I’m saying is that for idiots like me, the point of looking at this stuff is to see who should keep banging their head against the wall.

Is it stupid that *this* was the year that Florida made the final? kind of, but the same people who use that as a cudgel against trying to actually learn about how hockey works would have also said that the canes had no chance this year because of injuries and they won 2 rounds. So much of this is about ambition. Florida didn’t plan on winning a cup this way, because teams with bad process like that never get good. They built a team that won a presidents trophy and then made the final in their oopsie year.

Trying to retcon a lesson from whoever wins the cup is probably the stupidest way to build a team but if there’s a lesson here it’s that it pays to be good for a long time because you never know when your number will come up. this thread was longer than I wanted it to be. my bad

I made some salient points bold. There is a line of reasoning about Kyle Dubas specifically, which should be expanded to include all of the Maple Leafs decision makers of the past and present. It goes like this:

Kyle Dubas built a team that was competitive and if they keep trying (banging their head against the wall) eventually they'll get the bounces and they'll win. He didn't build a team to go for it and win the Cup.

Okay. How do you know? Because they lost x times in a row. Ergo...

In Brad Treliving's press conference he used the phrase "Keep knocking on the door, keep knocking, keep knocking, and eventually you'll break through." So, while he said that they are open to all things, he also said that it's "easy to throw a body on the tarmac and get a headline, but have you made the team better? It's about getting better."

Which means that anyone hoping to "break up the core", a concept Treliving also has little time for, or see a big name traded as emotional closure or proof that the Leafs are going for it, instead of playing it the Dubas way and waiting for their luck to change, is outta luck. New boss pretty much same as the old boss. Not that this should surprise because Brendan Shanahan hasn't profoundly changed his views.

But what does "going for it" vs "waiting for the bounces" actually mean? Is this, like the reductive and meaningless "Just run it back" mean trade Mitch Marner and magically win? Dump William Nylander off for someone old enough to have played with his father and now you're good?  Because I've never really been clear about the idea that the Leafs are somehow not fully trying to get the best team they can get. Are we sure that "going for it" isn't as post hoc defined as everything else?

There's a lot more in that thread that I agree with – the "deserve to win" junk. This business that average performance should be the expected minimum performance. That it is actually at all possible in the sport of hockey to go for it so hard you get a Cup guaranteed. You can actually have a season where you're touched by the gods (in a good way): Florida last year, Boston this year, Colorado in the Covid year, Boston again the year before... you can have all the stars align for you and you lose like 14 other playoff teams.

This superstitious silliness about the Presidents' Trophy or the conference championship trophies exists for a reason. Superstitions often exist to teach you lessons about things. And the lesson isn't that there's a curse on a chunk of metal, it's that it's really hard to win the other chunk of metal, even when you're having a season in the sun. All you can do is try.

Over and over and over. That's where the bitterness that poisons this fandom comes from. That there is no deserve, no guarantee, no righteous bestowing on the Toronto Maple Leafs of a win because "we've suffered so painfully". Here's what the randomness of fate or some Goddess, if you want it personified, has been asking of us:

You must believe in the thing you can't see – the dark matter of hockey – the random forces that are undefined and maybe forever undefinable that swamp the difference between the top team and the tenth best team or maybe even now the 15th or 16th best. You must keep going like Sisyphus, up the hill with that rock, believing you'll make it this time. You have to do this for years. You have to try everything you can think of to improve, to make it work, and you can't worry about how hard the path is this year, how easy it was last year. Try, and try again. Knock on the door, bang your head on the wall. And again. And you can't lose faith – because it turns out this is a religion after all.

You can't pick a number of years where it doesn't work and then say, "Nope, sorry, I'm throwing out everything I know about this game and going back to the good old days at post hoc high. I am done with this evidence nonsense, and I want a GM and a coach that sees that these guys aren't getting it done in the playoffs where it's "different", and they're just cliché and vague and slogan and truism and radio guy talk, and it's time this stopped!"

"Fix it! Hire a tough guy who can make tough decisions and fix it, because you can't just keep doing the same thing and expect different results. Change something. And change it again. Change and trade and change and dump this guy and get that guy and Be Like Vegas! Because that's how you win."

How do you know that's the way, though? Well, it's obvious isn't it? What the Leafs did before didn't work.  

I agree with all of that Tweet thread. And at the same time I just lampooned myself along with you. I got every stupid thing I've ever said or thought in there post-loss, and your greatest hits too. And I'm not comfortable at all at how this is now about faith.

I was very surprised at just how much I liked Noel Acciari and Luke Schenn. Not because they were physical per se, but because they were DOING SOMETHING. They were different. Different isn't necessarily better – Treliving just said that, and I know he's right.

I can't reconcile the things I know – the core players are very good to elite, the depth are better than any team should need, the goalies are fine – with the end result. I mean, I can, I have before. I have lined up, put my head down, and run at the wall. I will again next fall.

What fate is asking feels like too much. The Leafs are required to get beat by a Stanley Cup Finalist year after year. To play in a hard divison. And I'm required to listen to people define success in such a narrow way they are guaranteed to be dissatisfied over and over. Almost like that's the point of it all for them.

I feel like if we got close to Klotho, we might discover she's Loki in disguise. Or the Trickster.

Way back in the early days when all video game combat was RPS, there was a game that borked the random seed generation, and you could not win a fight in a given circumstance ever. The paper triumphed over the scissors time and time again. Humans invented Loki or the Trickster to explain how life can dish up paper triumphs so often, you question the efficacy of scissors.

It isn't really faith in the insurmountable randomness of the universe Brad Treliving needs, though. It's faith in himself – that he's picked good players, the right coach, the right staff, that he's searched every corner looking for a way to improve. That he's made the team the best he can. The same thing Dubas did year after year.

I think that's the crisis of faith that both Dubas and Shanahan had together. Or else I'm projecting like everyone else is. Maybe Brad Treliving just needs the faith in himself to add the best players he can find to those that remain and then run at the wall. As many times as it takes. No bodies on the tarmac, no ritual sacrifice. Evidence-based faith.

I get knocked down, I get up again...