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The Puck Stops Here

Toronto’s High Team Corsi

The Toronto Maple Leafs had a poor season last year.  They finished with a 30-52 record (with 14 regulation tie points).  This put them in second last in the NHL.  However there are signs that they will be a better team than that record shows.  One very encouraging one is their third best team Corsi rating.  In five on five situations they directed the puck at their opponent"s goal significantly more than their opponents directed it at the Leafs goal.  The only teams in the NHL that had a higher edge in their favor were the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings.  The Toronto Maple Leafs did well in terms of puck possession.

These numbers can be looked at a bit skeptically because Toronto was frequently behind in their games and thus pressed hard offensively to catch up, while their opponents went into a defensive shell.  In short, game situations gave them a better chance to possess the puck.  That said it still shows that Toronto was a pretty good team in 5 on 5 situations.  No other bottom feeding teams showed nearly as good team Corsi ratings.

The main problems in Toronto last year are things that are not measured with Corsi ratings.  The first of which is goaltending.  Vesa Toskala was awful.  He put up a .874 saves percentage with the Toronto Maple Leafs.  This made him the worst goaltender in the league (who had any significant amount of ice time).  Replacement level goaltending had a saves percentage around .908 and Toskala let in nearly 40% more goals than that.  Poor goaltending significantly hurt Toronto’s chances. 

In the upcoming season, Jean-Sebastien Giguere will take Toskala’s spot.  Giguere is a few years removed from being one of the top goalies in the NHL, but at age 33 it is not unreasonable to expect he might get back to that level given a chance to play regularly.  After all, he put up a .916 saves percentage last year after he joined the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Goaltending, which had been a significant Toronto problem, is now improved by a large margin.

Special teams were another Toronto problem.  In fact, midway through the season it looked like they might have the worst penalty kill ever.  While Toronto finished with a league worst 74.6% penalty kill success rate that was a significant improvement from the 68.9% they were sporting in January.  The single reason that can be given as a significant reason for the improvement was the addition of Dion Phaneuf.  Phaneuf played over three minutes a game with the Leafs on the penalty kill after they acquired him (and this led the team in this time period).  Phaneuf was Toronto’s top defenceman on the penalty kill who spent any significant amount of time there.  Toronto’s penalty kill should be improved from last year.  It showed improvement by the end of last season and it is hard to remain as bad as it was in the early part of the year under any circumstances.

Toronto was also the worst team in the league on the power play.  They put up a 14.0% success rate.  The main reason to expect improvement there is a full season from Phil Kessel, who led the team in power play goals (with 8) while missing the beginning of the year due to injury.  There are few power play stars here and some of the top power play players from 2009/10 in Matt Stajan and Lee Stempniak are gone.  Nevertheless, a small improvement from worst overall on the power play to one of the worst in the league is reasonable.

The question must be asked if Toronto’s changed in personal will cost them in the puck possession department.  After all, in the top 20 individual counting number Corsi ratings, there were three players who played with the Leafs last year.  Two are gone (Ian White to Calgary and Alexei Ponikarovsky to free agency).  The remaining player in Tomas Kaberle is often mentioned in trade rumors.  It is hard to speculate on a Kaberle trade unless it is actually made, but the loss of White will be more than made up by Dion Phaneuf.  Toronto has kept their next best puck possession players in Francois Beauchemin, Phil Kessel and Mikhail Grabovski, so I do not think it is correct that roster changes will remove whatever strength the leafs had last year.  I think that they are improved as a team by adding Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Dion Phaneuf.

How good will Toronto be next season?  They will not be a 29th place team.  They are quite a bit better than that.  I think they are in the race to qualify for a playoff spot.  They will likely fall short in that race, but not by a big margin.  They are a better team than many people realize.  They are a contender to be the most improved team in the NHL next year, which makes Ron Wilson a candidate for coach of the year, even if his coaching performance is no better next year than it was this year and nobody considered him for the award this year.

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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