Cam Charron

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Editor’s Note: This post originally ran May 10th. Trade rumours have breathed new relevancy into it.


The major story that’s dominated popular thought in Toronto through the shortened season is the coaching of Randy Carlyle. Carlyle’s tight defensive systems, so to speak, are the cause of the success of James Reimer’s season, and Carlyle’s hard-ass style of not letting anybody off the hook for poor play turned the Leafs into a workhorse, junkyard dog type of team that made the playoffs for the first time in blah blah blah you know the story.

But the other thing that’s been talked about on nearly every Maple Leafs broadcast is the matchup game. I’ve noticed this watching Leafs games this year, that Carlyle is a coach for which the matchups are noticeable visually. In most situations, I’ll have to check after the game to see who is playing on who. Nearly every time a top offensive player is on the ice against the Leafs, Dion Phaneuf is on the ice, and for the second half of the year he was with Carl Gunnarsson in those situations.

The best indication of this is Phaneuf’s time against John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Hockey Analysis lists Phaneuf as playing 41:24 and 41:04 against those players respectively this season. Why is that important? Because the Leafs only played three games against the New York Islanders this season. That’s about 14 minutes at 5-on-5 per contest against one of the league’s top lines.

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2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five

Hey, have you heard about Corey Crawford’s glove hand?

I hear it stinks. Repulsive. Benefits the Bruins shooters.

Come to think of it, Crawford himself is an atrocious goaltender. Probably the worst to play in a Stanley Cup Final since Roberto Luongo. Did you watch Game 4? Bruce Garrioch did. Obviously he showed off to Steve Yzerman and the Team Canada brass that he doesn’t have what it takes to play under pressure, and it all starts with that glove hand.

NBC got the memo, of course. Check out the graphic they put together during Game 5. Zdeno Chara’s goal in the fifth game of the series? Yet ANOTHER glove side goal. Can’t put anything past NBC, who flashed the graphic, and will presumably update it for Game 6. That’s NINE glove side goals allowed in this series. Can you believe it?

Actually… Read the rest of this entry »


Back in the summer of 2011, it was pretty difficult to find anybody that would suggest Jonathan Toews was anything but a clutch performer. He was a year removed from a Conn Smythe Trophy and had scored a late shorthanded goal to send Game 7 of the first round series to overtime. Chicago was an 8-seed.

Also in the summer of 2011, there were people who were thrilled that their pre-season prediction had come true. The Miami Heat weren’t a championship team. LeBron James isn’t clutch, you can’t assemble groups of superstars and have them win blah blah blah blah. We’re approaching July in 2013, hockey is still going on for some reason, Jonathan Toews has one goal in his last zillion games and LeChoke and the Heat have repeat as NBA champions.

It’s unreasonable to think that there aren’t players that step their games up in key situations. It is unreasonable to think that we have any way of measuring the difference. There’s such a marginal gap between the quality of players and teams at the highest level of sport that you’d need literally hundreds of games to be able to tell a good player from a not as good player. We have six seasons worth of play-by-play data for individual players and there’s still a lot we don’t know about shooting talent, how players age, and how to effectively measure defence. Read the rest of this entry »

jagr post reaction

This is probably the first time that Jaromir Jagr has made it to 20 games without a goal. Without going through and sorting through 19 seasons—17 of which are 25-goal seasons—of a career that produced 681 goals and appeared in the top 10 goal scorers eight times, I’m quite sure Jagr has never gone 20 goal-less in a row.

What is amazing to me is that Jagr never won a Rocket Richard Trophy. In 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2006 he finished second, and he’s first among all active players in goals (six ahead of Teemu Selanne, though Jagr also has 78 playoff goals and Selanne has only 42). Amazingly, he did all this despite losing two-and-a-half seasons to a lockout and had three seasons with Avangard of the KHL.

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Only the toughest matchups for PK Subban. (Getty)

Only the toughest matchups for PK Subban. (Getty)

I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for Dave Nonis and the Toronto Maple Leafs. If I were to wager a guess, Nonis lasts for a few years at the helm of one of the NHL’s flagship organizations, gets another couple of playoff appearances, perhaps a coaching change or two, and ultimately doesn’t win the Stanley Cup.

That’s not to say that I think Nonis is inherently flawed or that the Maple Leafs are cursed, but it’s just unlikely for any team to win the Stanley Cup. You need a great team and great luck, or everything else falls apart.

So far, the Nonis era has unfolded in Toronto rather unspectacularly. If you can say anything about the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s that they’re a hockey team, built as one might expect any standard hockey team to be built. The first line has skilled players. The second line has slightly less skilled players. The third line is players the coach doesn’t like. There are fighters on the fourth line.

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There was a column written by Ed Willes in the Vancouver Province before the Conference Finals that I didn’t get a point to talk about. He wrote about why the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings represent pure evil, and that fans ought to be hoping for a Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins final because “the Blackhawks play the game with flair and style”

“The NHL, after all, is nothing if it’s not a copycat league, and if it’s proven you can win with speed and skill, the game will move that way.”

Every year, the key ingredient for winning changes. When Anaheim won in 2007, I remember reading about the importance of size and fighting. When Detroit won in 2008, it was development, system and puck possession. Pittsburgh was about youth, Chicago about depth, and the Bruins won and the argument came back to being about skill.

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I see this a lot. Or variations of it:

@dzuunmod No fear at all.Hockey isn’t baseball. Too much of what goes on cannot be statistically quantified. It’s stop start stop start.

— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) May 17, 2013

The lesson here isn’t that baseball can be perfectly quantified, with raw data input into large machines that pump out baseball-playing robots that perform effectively and consistently. And hockey is different because you don’t get clear batter-pitcher matchups. In the baseball world, the latest fad is to blame sabermetrics for interfering with players’ approaches at the plate. There are tonnes of people unconvinced that modern baseball statistics and analytics can tell you more about the game than traditional stats or your eyes alone. Clint Eastwood even starred in movies made about that.

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