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All about the 40-second shift

From TSN's Travis Yost:

Mike Babcock has pulled very few punches about the current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the work it’s going to take to repair the damage that’s been caused under the old regime.

He consistently points out that the Leafs skaters are flush with bad habits. In Babcock’s eyes, these are the priorities for the club in the early going. If Babcock can’t iron out the issues embedded in both the players and the organization, he knows he’s going to have a difficult team turning the ship around.

A big focus early on for Babcock has been player shift length. Babcock’s been adamant about bringing the average shift length for both forwards and defencemen in Toronto way down, and this is consistent with how he’s historically coached. In Detroit, Babcock was almost militant about shift length. It’s worth recalling this quote from an old ESPN the Magazine article, with then assistant coach Paul MacLean talking about how seriously the team takes every passing second:

Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean is never without his stopwatch, clicking it each time the Wings make a line change. "We use our own time," says Babcock, eschewing the arena stat sheet. For playoffs, he wants short shifts -- 40 seconds, tops -- making sure stars like LW Henrik Zetterberg stay fresh enough to sustain the tempo his two-way game demands. Quick, smart line changes are so crucial that the Wings devoted an entire practice to them during an unexpected layover in St. Louis last season. Bonus benefit: Quick changes prevent positioning breakdowns that result in odd-man rushes.

The 40-second shift has seemingly been passed down from coaching generation to coaching generation, but it’s not a number pulled out of thin air. Player performance starts to go off of the rails once you breach that threshold. (Anything beyond 60 seconds can be utterly disastrous.) I don’t know how coaches first arrived at that number, but by my estimation, it’s a pretty reasonable benchmark:


Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: detroit+red+wings, mike+babcock, toronto+maple+leafs


nEgativezEro's avatar

Interesting article, but it’s also worth noting that the teams he’s calling out with the shortest shifts are:

1) Toronto: Awful.
2) Vancouver: Currently doing well this season, but historically not that great.
3) Calgary: Lucky, and improved this season, but statistically poor in the analytics numbers he’s referring to in the article.

As he points out, naturally better players will sustain better Corsi over longer shifts, and bad players will get hammered even worse as shifts drag on. I think the overall, league-wide data is a little misleading when thinking about shift length.

Posted by nEgativezEro on 10/15/15 at 11:51 AM ET

dougie's avatar

I don’t know how one could describe Detroit’s line changes last season as quick and crisp.

My memory isn’t what it once was, but it seemed like we were taking “too many men” penalties with alarming regularity.

Posted by dougie on 10/15/15 at 11:58 AM ET

awould's avatar

My memory isn’t what it once was, but it seemed like we were taking “too many men” penalties with alarming regularity.

Please don’t inject historical evidence into the Babcock-savior meme they’re cultivating in Toronto.

Posted by awould on 10/15/15 at 12:59 PM ET


My memory isn’t what it once was, but it seemed like we were taking “too many men” penalties with alarming regularity.

Yeah, because everyone was in a hurry to get off the ice and keep their shifts short, duh!

Posted by Garth on 10/15/15 at 04:12 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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