Thursday, May 21, 2009

2008-09 Leafs Special Teams, and Drawing/Receiving Penalties

To the left is a table with Special Teams stats for NHL teams in 2008-09, including Net Goals For per 60 minutes of total game time ([ PP Goals For + SHGF ] / Total Minutes * 60), Net Goals Against per 60 min ([ PPGA + SHGA ] / Min *60), and Net Goal Differential at Special Teams per 60 (NGF/60 - NGA/60). Click to view the table at full size, that way you can actually read the data.

San Jose led the league in ND/60 at +0.44 followed by the Minnesota Wild at +0.40, and these two teams also ranked 2nd and 4th, respectively, at Opportunity Differential per 60 (OD/60). Not only were the Sharks and the Wild very effective at special teams but they got PP opportunities at a much greater rate than the opposition. On the flip side, Columbus and Tampa Bay finished 29th and 30th at ND/60. The two teams were very deficient at opposite ends of the spectrum, Columbus at scoring (0.59 NGF/60, worst in the NHL) and Tampa Bay at keeping the puck out of their net (1.17 NGA/60, 2nd last in the league and just a whisker ahead of the Thrashers). At OD/60, the Jackets ranked 25th (-0.3) and the Lightning 28th (-0.7). Anaheim and Philly tied for the worst OD/60 at -0.9. The Ducks had an awesome PP with a 21.0 % net efficiency percentage (which accounts for PP goals for and SH goals against) but had a mediocre PK, were one of the most penalized teams and were also among the teams given the least advantages per 60 minutes; the Flyers were strong on either side of the coin and had the 5th best net differential in the league.

As for the Maple Leafs, they were mediocre with the man advantage again, as their NGF/60 ranked 19th in each of the past two seasons, although they actually dropped from 9th to 11th in the Eastern Conference. They did improve their efficiency on the PP, as they went from 18th (14.9 PPNE %) in the NHL to 15th (16.7 %), and from 11th to 7th in the East despite losing a couple of their big PP guns in Sundin and McCabe. A lot of the credit would go to the additions of Grabovski, Kulemin, and Hagman plus the dramatic improvement in Blake's PP performance (he went from scoring 2.93 pts per 60 min of 5-on-4 play in '08 to 5.36 pts/60 in 09). Antropov and Poni scored at higher rates as well.

However, the Leafs continued to play horridly while short-handed, as the PK units' 76.6 % net efficiency was the worst in the NHL by nearly 2 %. This was also a -2.5 % decrease from the previous years' number. This past season, the Leafs NGA/60 was 5th from last in the league and their .825 save percentage against PP shots was dead last as well. The average save percentage on the PK in the NHL was .868 for 2008-09.

Yet, despite having the worst penalty-kill in the league, Toronto decreased their NGA/60 over the previous year's 1.05. Overall, they had the 24th ranked special teams Net Differential per 60 min, allowing -0.20 more goals against than they scored on special teams per regulation game. This is an improvement over their 2007-08 differential of -0.27, largely due to the decrease in the number of PP opportunities surrendered.

This table (click to view) shows data for Penalties Drawn/Taken strictly at Full-Strength for Leafs' players in 2008-09 on the left side, and 2007-08 on the right side (minimum 20 games, or about 1/4 of the season). These stats are courtesy of Behindthenet (which, I believe, leaves out coincidental penalties). Players who played 20+ games in both seasons and at least 50 % their games with the Leafs are in the top half, and the bottom half shows those who played 20+ in just one of the two seasons. Those in red italics were traded, those in blue were traded to the Leafs (or in Moore's case, claimed off waivers) during the season... their stats are from both teams. Steen is not included in either year, as he played 20 games for the Leafs in 2008-09 and then played 61 more games with St. Louis (and BtN doesn't have splits for traded players, so I left him off since he was a Blue for the vast majority of games played, unlike the other players who split time with multiple teams). He actually had the 2nd best penalties drawn/taken differential on the 2007-08 Leafs, tied with Tucker at +10, but Steen drew only 10 penalties this season compared to the 21 he drew for the Leafs the previous year and finished with a differential of -2 in '09.

The table shows that the newcomers had a much better penalties drawn/taken differential than those who departed over the off-season (or late during the 2007-08 season in two cases). The subtraction of Hal Gill (-15), Bryan McCabe (-17), Mark Bell (-11), and Andrew Wozniewski (-21), and the additions of Hagman (+18, with only 1 penalty at 5-on-5), John Mitchell (+13) and Lee Stempniak (+12) had a huge effect on this team's ability to "outdraw" the opposition. BTW, among all defensemen in the NHL who played at least a quarter of the season, Wozniewski had the 3rd highest rate of penalties received.

Interestingly, if you just take a look at the Leafs defencemen from that table, you'll find that this year's group posted a -27 differential, while the 2007-08 D had a whopping -93 differential! The returnees (Kabs, Kubina, White, and Stralman) collectively improved by +28; the group of new backend personnel were better than the departed by +38. Not only did the '09 group take less infractions (92 in '09, 131 in '08) but they drew more, too (65 in '09, 38 in '08). I'll bet Ron Wilson had something to do with it, after all look at how disciplined his old team in San Jose were and are. Prior to his arrival, they were regularly one of the most penalized teams in the league. The Sharks of '02 gave up 381 PPOs to the opposition, 3rd most in the NHL. After Wilson arrived on the scene to coach them for the remaining 3/4 the 2002-03 season, the Sharks improved that number to 17th overall in a year where the refs were mandated to crack down on obstruction. Then in 2003-04 they ranked 24th in Times Short-Handed, and ever since the lockout they've consistenly been in the top five for least PP advantages held by the opposition and earn a good chunk of their goal differential at Special Teams.

So it looks like the Leafs got that discipline thing down over the past year, now they really need to fix that darned penalty kill.


furcifer said...

What I got from this is that Wozniewski sucked more than I previously thought

PPP said...

Great post. The improved discipline has been noted by everyone I've spoken to but it's nice to see the numbers to back that thought up.

eyebleaf said...

My brain just exploded.

I have no idea who Slava Duris is, but his helmet is EPIC.

furcifer said...

Speaking of bad helmets:

Chemmy said...


Slava24 said...

Vitezslav "Slava" Duris was a Czechoslovakian defenceman who played for the Leafs in two seasons, 1980-81 and 1982-83 (his entire 1981-82 season spent with the Cincinnati Tigers of the CHL). Scored 23 pts in 89 career NHL games with a +/- of +16 (which looks pretty good on those early 80's TML teams), and amazingly/inexplicably posted a +13 in 1980-81.

I noticed this guy when I was looking at the Leafs of the early 1980's and that plus/minus jumped out at me. In comparison, Borje Salming's plus/minus was at even that year. I asked about Slava Duris at tmlfans years ago and someone linked me to a site that had a little bio on him, including a headshot of this guy with an oversized helmet over a 'fro, which I thought was hilarious. I've gone by the "Slava Duris" pseudynom ever since. But I don't really know much else about the guy, I didn't even exist when he played.