Monday, December 04, 2006

Mediocre D

I was all set to post a snappy entry on the Leafs decreasing window for in-game success: they can't mount a comeback and they can't protect a lead, unfortunately the stats got in the way.

Leafs have the 5th best winning percentage when leading after the first period and the tenth best winning percentage when leading after the second period.

Although the way the Blue and White have been playing the last few weeks, it's the leading after the third period that we members of Leafs Nation should be concerned about.


I posted earlier (ranted?) about the Leafs having the most expensive defence in the NHL. Well, the Leafs D are not the most expensive, but it is close.

Based on the data collected from NHL Team Salaries, the Leafs D are the second highest paid group in the league. The Leafs have allocated $18.708M in salary to their 7 D-men (McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina, Gill, Belak, Bell, White).

For that $18M the Leafs have given up 88 goals against, 26th overall in the NHL.

The LA Kings have the most expensive group of D-men in the league. They've spent $19.944M on their top 7: Blake, Norstrom, Tverdovsky, Miller, Sopel, Visnovsky, and Weaver.

The Kings, and that most expensive Defence in the league, are 29th in goals against giving up 97 goals in 29 games. They only have to get a little worse to catch the last place Flyers.

Best bang for the buck? The San Jose Sharks - fourth best goals against, fourth cheapest D.

(FWIW, a rough calculation of what an NHL team allocates on a complete set of D is $12.603 Million. Please note - this is a rough calculation: three teams have just six D listed; five teams have eight D and the balance - 22 teams - list 7 Dmen; totals didnt include injuries to Leopold, Berrard or Mark Stuart.)


  1. Anonymous1:03 am

    It's unfair, in my opinion, to blame/focus on the D solely for the Leafs' woeful goals-against rating. It's is true that none of these guys are going to win the Norris for their defensive play, but that's not the sole, or even the main reason, the Leafs have given up 88 goals this season. Too often the D is left out to dry by the forwards not back-checking or failing to clear the puck by the opposing D at the blue line. This has been a systemic problem with the Leafs for the past 3-4 seasons.

    A perfect example occurred on Saturday night against the Habs on their first goal. Antropov takes out Bell just inside the blue line, and the lone forward in the neutral zone decides to change just as the Habs were grabbing the puck and pushing forward. The remaining forwards didn't back-check quick enough and Montreal had an easy 3 on 1. There's not much the lone D can do in a situation like that.

    Defence is a team concept and requires 20 players committed to reducing offensive chances against. New Jersey isn't a great defensive team because their D are exceptionally better than any other team's D. They're a great defensive team because they play a system, as a group, and their forwards are as committed to playing within that system as their defencemen. The Leaf forwards are too used to playing without that level of commitment since it was never enforced by Quinn and Maurice has failed so far to instill it into them to any great degree.

    And while the Leafs as a team are struggling defensively this season, it should be noted that our D as a group has the second most points next to Anaheim. Considering Maurice's system seems to be predicated on strong offensive pressure, one has to agree that the D has lived up to all reasonable offensive expectations. If the forwards played defence as well as the defencemen provide offence, our team would be in much better shape.

  2. Hey there - I totally didn't see this post when I wrote my own about it. It seems like a lot of people are finally noticing the Leafs D is the problem, not scoring many games are you going to win if you have to score 5 a game to hold a lead?

    Anyway, from, I noticed that no team has let in more 3rd period goals than Toronto, and Toronto's scoring declines by period - 21st in the league in 3rd period scoring. Also, they have one of the worst records in the league when trailing after the first (no wins) and second (1 win).

    So the Leafs can't hold a lead in the third, and can't score in this frame, either.

    Pretty scary stuff. (all stats I compiled were before Saturday night's game)

  3. I wonder why the Leafs trend downwards as the game progresses - scoring less and giving up more goals. Is it physical conditioning; a mental issue; coaching; a combination of all three?

    It would be absolutely fascinating to be a fly on the wall of a staff meeting with JFJ. Their off-season strategy of building from the back-end out clearly isn't working. I would love to know what they think the options for this club are and, more importantly, what their different strategies are for moving forward...

  4. In my post, like you say, I suggest a combination of things. It’s a team game, so it can never be pinned on a solitary factor. Toronto can’t score or hold a lead when it counts, AND it’s in the third.

    Toronto’s scoring lines are on the young side, so perhaps it’s a lack of experience and overall skill, as Sundin is the only elite forward on the team, no matter what Tucker’s supporters say about him. I would hesitate to identify conditioning, because “bag skates” are something Maurice is notorious for inflicting, and team conditioning was identified as an action item for Maurice to focus on. I tend to think it’s the youth and overall inexperience, because Toronto seems to fold the tent at the first sign of adversity – there looks like a lack of confidence overall.

    My belief is that the defense is totally imbalanced. I commented (ranted) about this at length in another post of yours – I thoroughly wish Pronger had been acquired, and build the D around him instead of McCabe and Kaberle. He’s putting together a Norris season in Anaheim, and it’s no accident they are kicking ass right now. Instead, Ferguson got another offensive-minded 1A-type defenseman, when the defense had no problem scoring last year; the trouble was keeping them OUT. Kubina is used to top-pairing minutes and first-unit powerplay duty, so it was inevitable he’d be underutilized in Toronto, so why pay 5 million for him? If you’re going to get a D-man who won’t score, at least get a shutdown defenseman like McKee or Mitchell to balance off your top-2 guys.

    As it is, Toronto’s defense is offensively-minded first. Gill is the only stay-at-home type they have in their top-6, and he’s not dominant enough to be considered a shutdown man. White is an adventure on defense right now, and it’s absolutely not what the team needs. We need simple, no-risk play from a tough, intimidating player who blocks shots, gives Raycroft looks, and who doesn’t make bad passes or dumb pinches. I like White, but the offense he brings is a frill right now.

    I wish SO MUCH McCabe had been traded at the deadline last year for picks and prospects, and that Ferguson pulled the trigger on Pronger. Oh, man. A true number 1 guy to build around. Then add Corvo as a poor man’s McCabe, and McKee, who publicly stated the Leafs were his #1 choice. Cola, White. I haven’t checked the salary charts, but I think that’s much less than the current team, and more balanced – plus McKee and Pronger are proven playoff warriors….bah.