Friday, July 03, 2009

The Price of Truculence

In his recent make-over of the Leafs, Burke picked up three players who combined for 434 penalty minutes last season.

To put that total in perspective, the entire Carolina Hurricanes roster put up just 786 PiMs and the Red Wings just 810.

The Orr, Exelby, Komisarek trifecta had exactly half of the PiMs taken by the third least penalized club in the NHL the Minnesota Wild.

If the Leafs and their new players are penalized at the same rate as last season, the Leafs will easily be the most penalized team in the NHL racking up over 1400 PiMs.

That works out to an additional 4 minutes in the box each and every game or about 17 penalty minutes a night.

Now I’m not saying that it’s a given that the Leafs are going to lead the league in penalty minutes or that there’s some sort of linear progression or predictive model here. But I am saying that the Leafs are going to be spending far more time in the penalty box in 2009-2010, which may be a huge price to pay for Burke’s much vaunted truculence.

The reason smash mouth hockey worked for Burke in Anaheim was that his Ducks could roll out some of the best PK talent in the league: Pahlsson, Pronger, Beauchemin, Moen and Marchant.

It’s an entirely different story in Toronto.

Since the lockout, the Leafs penalty kill has been ranked 24th; 27th; 29th; and 30th.

If the Leafs continue to kill penalties at their average post-lockout rate of about 78%, this team will need a bigger scoreboard to keep track of the goals against.

The Leafs have about $5M in cap space remaining. They might want to put this toward some solid PK talent.

Komisarek is a good start. He led the Habs in short-handed time on ice (SHTOI) and the Habs put up the 11th best PK in the league.

Exelby? He was fourth among D-men in Atlanta in SHTOI, but Atlanta had the 29th ranked PK in the league.

If the Leafs can’t improve their PK this season, it pretty much won’t matter what other moves Burke makes.


  1. You've brought me crashing back down to reality.

  2. Um..........Jordan Stall? With Kadri and him together, we'll have about 30 short-handed goals. :)

  3. Way to bring "logic", "reason" and "facts" to the situation while all we got is KOMIKAZI!!!1

  4. daoust9:13 am

    i was wondering when someone was going to mention this. truculence could end up being not so good. let's hope for a lot of fighting majors and coincidental minors with no powerplay time.

  5. Compromise: How about this year we agree to win three fights every night and finish last?

  6. I have said it before and I will say it again. We need to be ready for this year's version of the Leafs to be worse than last year's.

    Barring a significant, game-changing trade that nets the Buds a bona fide goal scoring assassin in the top 6 forwards, this team will need excellent goaltending and consistent team defence, and even then will struggle to win games. Hopefully, Wilson can instill some sense of team discipline so that the truculence is a force to be deployed rather than a counter-productive impediment to progress, because you're right, the Leafs' PK has been nothing short of brutal the last few years.

    I should hasten to add that I don't mind struggling, provided it's part of the plan - seeing what we've got in the kids, biding our time for the right free agents *cough* Rick Nash *cough* etc...

  7. "If the Leafs and their new players are penalized at the same rate as last season, the Leafs will easily be the most penalized team in the NHL racking up over 1400 PiMs."

    Not sure where you get that figure from. According to, the Leafs (not including Cola, Steen, Antro & Moore) accumulated 1,026 PIMS last year. I'll take your figure for Komisarek, Exelby & Orr's combined PIM, which would take us to 1460. But I think you've miscalculated on two fronts.

    First, the following players (and their PIM) will not play for the Leafs next season:

    Kubina (94), May (89), Deveaux (75), Hollweg (38), Ondrus (34), Sifers (18), Harrison (10), Hamilton (4), Williams (4), Newbury (2).

    That's 368 penalty minutes attributed to players who will not play for the Leafs next year, and that's conservative since it ignores Stralman (20) and Oreskovic (21), both who could easily play solely for the Marlies.

    Second, you assume that everyone accumulates the same amount of penalties. I'd argue that a couple of players (Grabovski, Schenn & White particularly) had their totals inflated because we sorely lacked in overall toughness. Remember how many times Schenn had to take on somebody because he decked one of our players? Now Orr and Exelby are more likely to fill that role.

    I'm not saying it's not a problem, but I don't think it's a problem to the extent you're describing it. Besides, if teams are a little more tentative to pull shit like that against us (I am so sick of seeing guys deck our players from behind with no repercussions), I'm fine with giving our PK a bit more work.

  8. I'm praying for MONSTER. We're going to need him.

  9. Clark - Thanks for the comment and the work you put into it, but I think you completely missed my giant disclaimer in the fourth paragraph where I said this isn't a predictive model.

    It is interesting that it took 10 former/fringe Leaf players to combine for the same number of penalty minutes as the three acquired by Burke.

    The bottom line is the Leafs will be a more penalized team this season.

    The Leafs PK has been horrific since the lockout.

    Put those two together and unless something is done to fix the PK, the Leafs will be giving up a lot of powerplay goals in 2009-10.

  10. Anonymous1:33 pm

    You should also take into account that a lot of Orr's penalties don't result in a PK since he usually has a dancing partner who takes 5 min as well.

  11. Anonymous9:23 am

    Did you notice Berger wrote an article about this 4 days after you did? Funny.

  12. Paul Steckley12:19 am

    While all of the stats are interesting, and the thought of increased Leaf PK time is frightening, I'd rather see the Leafs be tougher and lose a few more games than play as timidly as they have so often since the lockout. When Grabovski is your most active Leaf physically (as he certainly was whenever we played the Habs) there is a serious lack of courage and heart on your team. I like Burke's moves so far and can't wait to see the, I mean, games.

  13. Hmmm, it seems unfair to anticipate that the players will play the exact same games for the Leafs and their coach as they did on other teams. Different circumstances, different teams, different accountability on the bench. What if these guys were picked up not for the PIMs they accumulated, but rather for their character, that is people who don't take other players crap. What if they don't just run amuk and rack up pointless penalty after pointless penalty. Wouldn't you have a stronger team that isn't the door mat for the other more agressive teams out there? Think possibly that is the pan? Is it possible the Wilson and Burke have thought about the consequences of just a bunch of goons going on their own merry way? I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and see what they have in store for these guys. I'm hesitant to believe a couple of guys as smart as Wilson and Burke would just bury themselves with people who can't play and just stand around and punch people all night. That doesn't seem like a very productive way to win, and these two don't strike me as guys who aren't looking to win.