The Toronto Maple Leafs have played six games, and they have lost six times.

Joe O’Connor of the National Post claims that Darcy Tucker showed last night precisely what the Leafs were missing (and, among other things, hints that they need more truculence). Jeff Blair suggests in the Globe & Mail that the team’s performance is primarily Ron Wilson‘s problem, and rather intelligently suggests that too much truculence rather than too little might be part of the problem:

They have lots of guys who can fight – but that’s kind of a non-starter when the other team is kicking your butt playing within the rules, no? Colton Orr and Jay Rosehill don’t make statements in games like Tuesday night; they only add to the embarrassment.

Meanwhile, Maple Leafs Hotstove wonders what the Leafs can do, and Pension Plan Puppets is running stories with titles like “You Can’t Win ‘Em All, Sometimes You Can’t Win Any“. Suffice to say, given the team’s 0-5-1 record, the fanbase is not happy.

Still, before the bleeding can be stopped, it isn’t a bad idea to find out where the bleeding is coming from.

By The Numbers

Here’s what I suggested about Brian Burke‘s off-season at the start of the season:

At the end of the day, though, is it really a great idea to encourage a team which had the worst penalty-kill in the league last season to go all out physically?

So far, the penalty-kill has improved. Where last year the Maple Leafs ranked 30th in the league in penalty-killing efficiency, to date they rank 29th. That, combined with the fourth-most PIM in the NHL (107) has the Leafs dead last in the league in powerplay goals against, with ten. Still, it’s hardly just the penalty kill (and Vesa Toskala‘s .652 SV% on it) that’s undermining the Leafs.

The Maple Leafs have scored eight goals at even-strength, while allowing 16. Some of that is attributable to the goaltenders (at even-strength, number three goaltender Joey MacDonald leads the way with a .905 SV%, with Gustavsson being bad and Toskala being worse) and some to cold hands for the forwards (the Leaf’s 7.1 SH% is among the worst marks in the league).

Still, looking at those numbers it’s hard not to be dismayed at how bad the percentages really are. The goalies who have played against Toronto this year have a combined save percentage of .929. To put that in perspective, the only goaltender who has managed to better that number since the lockout was last year’s Vezina Trophy-winner Tim Thomas. Surely the Leafs’ forwards aren’t that inept. Similarly, there’s simply no way that the Leafs’ goaltenders keep putting up a .841 SV%. Again, for perspective, the worst goaltender since the lockout was Andrew Raycroft, who in 2005-06 managed a pathetic .879 SV%. There’s just no way those trends continue. The forwards are better than that, and they’ll score more than that. The goaltenders can’t possbily be that bad, and even if they were the Leafs could dig up an ECHL goaltender and out-do those numbers.

The Bottom Line

None of this is to say there aren’t problems that need to be dealt with, but right now a lot of the panic is being caused by a team so unlucky that it’s like they’re playing the best goaltender since the lockout every night and icing a guy worse than the worst goaltender since the lockout every single night. It won’t continue.

Update

Matt Fenwick of Battle of Alberta was kind enough to point out to me that I didn’t do a very good job of explaining how much these percentages are murdering the Leafs. Let me explain now. If we replace the Leafs’ miserable 7.1 SH% and ,841 SV% with the numbers from the worst team in the last 14 years – the expansion Atlanta Thrashers, who I referenced in the comments – we see the following changes:

  • Goals For: Improves from 13 to 15
  • Goals Against: Improves from 26 to 20
  • Goal Differential: Improves from 13 to five

In other words, simply by changing the percentages to those of the worst team in recent memory, the Leafs improve their goal differential by 62%. That’s almost two-thirds of the way to being an even team right there. In other words, there’s simply no chance that they aren’t a far better team than they’ve shown to date.

Comments (40)

  1. It’s more than unlucky. Just look at Homosarek last night after the leafs scored one what does he do, he gets a penalty and the Avs score on the ensuing pp. Leafs suck this year get over it. Burke put it in the fans heads that this team will compete and raised your expectations on a shitty team. What really would piss me off is that the Leafs gave the Bruins their first rounder and if the Leafs keep this up the Bruins will get Taylor Hall. Burke is overrated.

  2. You’re right Burke is overrated. All you leaf fans think that because Burke won a stanley cup in Anahiem, he’s gonna bring one back to Toronto. You all think that if he can put together a championship team in Anahiem, He can do it in Toronto. Well guess what, he walked into Anahiem after that team was already built by their previous gm. He did nothing there but add two free agents. Thats it. Keep believing you foolish leaf fans lol.

  3. i tortally forgot about that, they don’t even have their 1st rounder this year or next. Unless the leafs shape up the bruins are going to be scary

  4. Burke and Wilson started to believe there own hype andin Toronto the hype always seems to bring the team down. Also whya would any GM want to work with burke to make things happen when he is such a loudmouth. It happened at the draft and it will continue to happen as “BIG BLUE” turns up the suck!! Turns out US college brainwashing atmosphere doesn’t work with a bunch of pro canadian and euopean hockey players.
    Wilson and Burke have made the leafs into more of a joke than ever before and that is actually very impressive considering the history. Long time leafs fan and this is the first time I am openly laughing at them,

  5. I think most disturbing in this streak is…
    1. not one player has smashed a stick in frustration when a shitty goal goes in
    2. nobody seems upset when talking to media about sucking day in and day out.
    3. Fights do no inspire the group yet Wilson keeps sending out the thugs for “staged fights” he hates so much. its ridiculous.
    4. Wilson thinks Stajan will respond to same treatment as Joe Thornton even though Thornton is how do you say this, talented, and stajan is to be fair not talented.

  6. First off, I’m a fan of neither the Leafs nor Brian Burke.

    But seriously, skeptics: do you think those percentages can continue? Again, for comparison’s sake, the expansion Thrashers (the worst team NHL.com has records for with a 14-57-11 record) had the following percentages:

    8.0 SH%, .877 SV%

    There’s simply no chance that this team is substantially worse (as their percentages currently would indicate) than the expansion Thrashers. No chance at all.

  7. As for Burke not building the Ducks, of the top five scorers the team had under Brian Murray, how many do you think were still with the team three seasons later when they won the Stanley Cup?

    Zero.

  8. Nice post Jonathan. It’ll be nice to see the averages start to trend up because even those it’s expected it’s getting hard to believe it’s going to happen.

    p.s. Real classy slur for Komisarek Habbytaunt.

  9. PPP:

    I know what you mean. Just remember that the NHL record for consecutive minutes of shutout hockey (a little over five games) belongs to Brian Boucher, who was with Phoenix at the time.

    Weird things can happen over brief stretches.

  10. Hey Jonathon, Chemmy from PPP here. Thanks for the link but most of my work is sarcastic, re: “Sometimes you can’t win any”.

    Good point about the shooting and save percentages especially in regards to the Thrashers. I think I might need to put up a post with optimistic facts like those so that I don’t end up hanging myself.

  11. Sure the stats will trend up. But with shoddy goaltending, a suspect defence and forwards that don’t score, how far up can the Leafs go? Homosarek has been awful taking bad penalties. Beauchemin and Schenn look lost and awkward together. Jason Blake is finished and Tyler Bozak is on another team a third line player. When Kessel does come back he won’t be in shape for maybe 4 or 5 games and when he is 100 percent who’s gonna feed him the puck?

  12. these may be the worst leafs in long time burke and wilson big talkers who tell everybody there big plan and get worked over time after time burke has already gave two young defence to st louis and columbus for zero, wayne primeau is a joke,komisarik looks alot like mccabe,same money,beauchamin might as well be kubina, grabovski is a puck hog bum,kulemin is even ready for the marlies,whos evaluating this pool of talent? Give big contracts before guys even play couldnt learn from ferguson mistakes, burke is worse than ferguson,2 first rounders ans we will be last your a big talkin moron burke

  13. Of course these Leafs will get better.
    They’re not going to go 82 without a win.
    How much better is the question.

    It’s a horrible feeling to know, ahead of time, that you don’t have your own 1st round pick. As an Oilers fan, we experienced that a couple years ago. Thankfully, the Oilers turned it on in the 2nd half and prevented those Penner picks from being lottery picks.

  14. Habbytaunt:

    Well, I’m fairly sure there won’t be a parade this year. The PK and their penchant for penalties are two big problems (as I said a few weeks ago, is it really a good idea to build a goonish team when you have the worst PK in the league?) but looking at their talent the defence simply can’t be that bad.

    Their forwards corps is in transition right now and I think we see that.

    As for their goaltending, even if Gustavsson doesn’t work out (and we don’t know that he won’t) a 2nd round pick and a call to Garth Snow will fix that.

  15. Mraig Cactavish :

    Yeah, that was a nasty year. Especially since if their had been an appetite for one more rebuilding season that team would probably be better positioned now.

  16. Jonathan, you make a very good point in arguing the Leafs numbers can not continue to be this bad. Its called ‘regression towards the mean’. Right now their numbers are the worst of any team in recent memory. According to the regression towards the mean phenomonon, their numbers will improve in order to bring them closer to mean, or average teams. That being said, Ive used this logic to back them on my last 2 pro line tickets which obviously has not worked out in my favour.

    Also, you cant ignore the fact that just watching a game they look like a farm team. Against Pittsburgh theres no way you could deny the disparity in talent, they didnt even look like they were in the same league.

    And to Jonathan, your stats about the Trashers raise a good argument, but lets not forget they were boasting a line of Savard, Heatley, and Kovalchuk back in the day. Maybe, just maybe, the Leafs are worse than Atlanta since the lockout and will sink to new unprecedented lows.

  17. Johnathan, and the Leafs will surrender another draft pick because of their deficiencies. Same old, same old.

  18. Wilson’s gotta go his system isn’t working.Where’s Toronto’s power forwards?they have none.Where’s Toronto’s offence?they have none.where’s Toronto’s defence?they should be better then they are.where’s Toronto’s goaltending? average but looks worse then it is because of defence.playoffs?no way.1st pick overall?,possible(for Boston),hope?,almost gone,free agents in 2010.Wake me next year.

  19. Thrillhouse:

    Not the Thrashers I’m talking about. These were the pre-Heatley, pre-Kovalchuk, pre-Savard Thrashers. Heck, these are the pre-Audette Thrashers.

    Their top line was Andrew Brunette, Ray Ferraro and Nelson Emerson. Their highest scoring defenceman was Yannick Tremblay. Norm Maracle was their starting goaltender.

  20. or maybe the leafs are just that much worse than the worst team in recent memory. (here’s hoping)

  21. I knew the Leafs were over hyped but even I didn’t think they’d honestly this bad. Jon is right, even though I depise the leafs and knew they were not as good as the media and there idiot GM were saying. But there’s no way the Leafs are this bad. There defense is getting paid much more but they look no better and just as lost as the last couple of years. It appears even Schenn is catching those bad habbits. Toskala isn’t that bad of a goalie I think that has more to do with the coaching then anything else. Unfortunately no one will want him until he can prove he still has it else where which I’m sure he does.

    All in all the leafs are on a sinking ship and unless they do pull and Oilers and turn it on in the second half. Bruins management will look like the smartest men in hockey when they end up with a top 5 pick if not the first overall pick. After they finish in first place in there division and 1-3 in the East standings. That brings a question to mind has a team ever won or made it to the finals and gotten the first overall pick through some trade?

  22. Devon:

    I’m not sure; maybe the Sam Pollock Habs? I know they made a habit of trading middle of the road players for draft picks.

  23. As a long time Leafs fan, I have to agree with almost everything read here. I knew Brian Burke and Ron Wilson were big mistakes. Toronto is just a place to make some big bucks and leave. I thas been like this since post lockout. The Leafs need to do the following:

    1. Fire Brian Burke
    2. Fire Ron Wilson
    3. Remove Richard Peddie
    4. Send Toskala & Blake to the minors who are eating there contracts
    5. Bring up your juniors get them the experience, they have more to prove then the wasteless talent my team has

  24. Jordo49:

    You’ll be singing a different song in ten games. As for Burke (whose personal style I find grating and obnoxious) he’s a very good GM and one of the few to have a cup ring since the lockout.

    He knows what he’s doing, and I say that as a guy who has never cheered for the Leafs a day in his life.

  25. Johnathan, what do you base your prediction that the Leafs will be so much better 10 games from now? Is it because they are so bad now and they only have one way to go, up. The Leafs probably will get better but now by much. PK is bad, too many penalties, not as tough as some people say they are and suspect goaltending even with the Monster how much can he change the teams fortunes with no experience at the NHL level. I’d say this year is a write-off and next year will be a better year.

  26. Habbytaunt:

    I think they’ll be in the running for the playoffs. Probably just south of the cutoff line, but in the running. The PK will remain a glaring problem, and one exacerbated by Burke’s emphasis on truculence.

    That said, Gustavsson/MacDonald and Toskala don’t really have to do much: just being slightly below average would be good enough. Last year, MacDonald posted a .901 SV% in 49 GP with the Islanders; here, that would translate into 10 fewer goals against.

    10 fewer goals against represents 77% of the -13 goal differential the Leafs have right now. That’s huge.

  27. I hope your right Mr. Willis, its so hard to believe though. No one knows how hard it is to be a Leafs fan right now then Leafs nation.

  28. Nice post. Nailed it. I kinda knew my Avs were getting incredibly lucky so far this year, I just didn’t want to admit it. So thanks for taking away what little thunder us Avs’ fans have.

    Anyway, I was looking at last year’s stats, and Boston has a ridiculously good shooting percentage (10.86%, 2nd best in the league), along with an equally ridiculously save % (.925, 1st in the league)

    They also won almost 75% of the games they were outshot in. Next best is SJ with 72%, then a huge dropoff to Anaheim at 62.5%. League average is about 48%.

    I know that Tim Thomas was great last year, but how much of Boston’s success can be attributed to luck? Tim Thomas has a career save % of .918, including last year’s .933. If he perfoms at his career level, Boston gives up 25 more goals. Their goals against per game increases from 2.32 (lg. best) to 2.62 (still a decent 8th best). Manny Fernandez also does very well for a backup, posting a .910 save percentage (that’s better than Kiprusoff, Carey Price, Huet, Gigure, Theodore, and tied with Nabokov)

    If their shooting percentage drops to a league average 9.43%, they only score 2.86 goals per game, good for a very mediocre 17th overall.

    You heard it all here first folks. Boston will be a very average team this year.

    As for all you Hab fans who say Toronto can’t score, I’d invite you to look at some fucking stats for once in your life. Last year Toronto was 10th in league scoring (2.98 g/g), with a very average 9.4% shooting percentage. The year before, they were 11th, scoring 2.78 g/g. They did that scoring on 8.97% on their shots, good enough for 20th that year in shooting percentage. As Jonathon said, PK and goaltending is the problem.

    (Also, if you look at the 07-08 stats, Montreal looked a lot like the 08-09 Bruins. 2nd best shooting percentage, 2nd is g/g, but only 13th in shots, although the goaltending wasn’t as ridiculously good)

    Anyway, I’m sure glad I found this blog. Keep nailing it Jonathan.

  29. Nelson:

    Thanks!

    Boston’s a team I’ve been leery of for a while, and honestly I don’t know what to think. On the one hand, I expect the percentages to drop off, but on the other hand I look at guys like Savard and Thomas and wonder if it isn’t possible that they’re sustainably pushing the percentages up.

    Still, it’s hard to picture them finishing first in the East again, at least for me.

  30. Nelson, not once did I mention anything about the Leafs offense.

  31. Habbytaunt- “Sure the stats will trend up. But with shoddy goaltending, a suspect defence and forwards that don’t score, how far up can the Leafs go?”

    Your words.

    I don’t want to be mean to people, but…

    Jonathan- Savard is awesome, and I don’t know why he doesn’t get more love. The guy can pass the puck. Saying that, last year was his third in Boston and the first that their shooting percentage was even in the top 20. And he had a better year his first year there. Boston might not even make the playoffs this year, unless Thomas has another insane year.

  32. I was then referring to this year because no where did I mention past Leafs teams.

  33. I think Burke should add another gritty player that can play in the top 2 lines.

    I was thinking that we should send down Toskala and Blake to the minors.
    And I was thinking of Burke trying to make a trade with Chicago to get Bflyugglin and Sharp. Sharp is a great all-rounded player and can help us with PK. While Bflyugglin can actually screen the goalie… way better than Poni.

    Trade Poni, Trade Stempniak when Kessel comes back.

    Sign more college free agents!

  34. Nelson:

    Excellent point on Savard, and I can’t see any reason to disagree with your reasoning.

  35. Hey Jonathon,

    How do you know the Leaf’s shot differential won’t get slightly worse from here? If so, any improvement in their %’s might be counterbalanced by their shots.

    Maybe they’ve been unlucky with SH% and lucky getting a few week shots on goal and blocking a few at their own net.

    Shot totals do tell us a lot, and they are less susceptible to problems arising from small sample size, but they;re suspect to fluctuation too. We’re still dealing with small samples, the leafs shot differential might not reflect their quality of play yet.

    This is especially true since the leafs have been getting blown out, and I seem to remember teams that get blown out early, often manage a lot of shots while the other team sits on the lead. (Not sure about this, but it doesn’t affect more larger point.)

  36. Habbytaunt- Toronto’s goals per game actually went up without Mats Sundin, so I have confidence they can put the puck in the net.

    The team is basically the same as last year, with the exception of Antropov (21 goals as a Leaf) and Moore (12 goals). Now, granted, Antropov was a big part of the team, but is it really a stretch to assume that Kessel can’t put up 21 goals this year? That’s a little over half of last year’s 36. Add in contributions from Wallin and Stalberg, and you have a team that could potentially score more than last year.

    Are they going to lead the league in goals? No way. Being top 10 is probably as high as they finish. But to say they can’t score? That just sounds like a bitter Habs fan offering an opinion on his team’s bitter rivals based on what he’s seen during a terrible stretch of games.

  37. Nelson,
    I’m not a bitter Habs fan. You assume that Wallin and Stalberg will put the puck in the net. On what do you base that assumption on? As for Kessel, when he comes back. I think he’ll score between 20 to 25 goals. And the Leafs haven’t scored first yet in any games. Its easier to score goals when the other team has a two goal advantage than it is to score and keep a lead. So far the Leafs haven’t shown that. As for the Leafs being the Habs bitter rivals, I’d have to say Boston holds that title.

  38. Like I said, Kessel will replace Antropov’s production, and Wallin/Stalberg will replace Moore’s 12 whole goals. That’s just 6 goals for each of those guys. That’s hardly a big stretch.

    The Leafs have the worst shooting percentage in the whole league. Like this post says, they’re just getting unlucky.

    Anyway, I’ve just given myself a reminder to come back to this post on January 15th and gloat about being right. You’re welcome to join me then.

  39. c’mon boys, i know u can do it. Do it for yourselves and the fans. their are other teams off to bad starts. go white and blue………

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