Wednesday 14 December 2011

Wilson's Leafs by the Defense

From Frank Gunn at AP via

As a follow up to my previous post comparing the relationship between PK% and goals against, I will look at how this concept applies to the Leafs under Wilson.

Here are the Leafs defensive results (and ranks out of the 30 NHL teams) under Ron Wilson:

5x5 GA/GP
Total GA/GP
2.27 (30th)
3.49 (30th)
0.95 (27th-29th T)
74.7% (30th)
1.99 (25th)
3.21 (29th)
0.89 (30th)
74.6% (30th)
1.93 (20th)
2.99 (24th)
0.75 (25th-26th T)
77.4%  (28th)
1.77 (17th)
3.13 (23rd)
1.00 (30th)
74.1% (30th)

But tables are boring so lets have a look at this data in some pretty charts, because everyone loves charts.  First off we will look at what the Leafs actual results were:

So what does this show us?  The Leafs 5x5 GA has been slowly but consistently improving from year to year (from Wilson's first season here to this year its dropped half a goal per game).  The total GA have seen steady decline until this year when it popped back up a bit, which nicely coincides with our PK GA (improvement through his first 3 years and a bump back up this year).  The one thing that has been consistently bad with no improvement nor (thankfully) decline is the PK%.  The reason that we saw a decreased PK GA over the previous 3 seasons was the team playing a more disciplined game and taking less penalties (from his first year to this year the Leafs have been shorthanded 3.75, 3.51, 3.35, and 3.87 times per game respectively).  To be honest though, I don't think that this is the best way to rate the team's performance.  Every year the teams change and I think the best way to rate the team is relative to its peers.  So lets see how the Leafs have done defensively compared to the rest of the teams in the NHL (note for the ranks that were ties I just put the data point in the middle (ie a tie of 25th and 26th put them at 25.5)):

Now the patterns are much more apparent.  The Leafs' defensive play at 5x5 has consistently and meaningfully improved every year under Wilson; moving from 30th up to 17th in the NHL this year.  Similarly, total GA has improved steadily (though not quite as drastically) from 30th to 23rd.  The difference here is likely due to the PK.  Looking at the PK, we have been consistently terrible, with last year being our only year that we weren't worst in the league at killing them (we were an incredible 3rd worst).  The only redeeming quality (which isn't much) is that, besides this year, we have played a somewhat disciplined hockey and limited our times on the PK letting us sneak a little out of 30th last year and 3 years ago.

So after looking at all of this data (and my previous post) I have come to the following conclusion: the Leafs under Wilson have improved defensively pretty in a pretty damn meaningful way.  Unfortunately, this improvement has been overshadowed and hidden by consistently terrible penalty killing (and this year undisciplined hockey).  I appreciate that our previous specialty teams coach (Keith Acton) was fired over the summer and really hope the new guys (Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon) can straighten this PK out, because otherwise, our increasingly quality defensive play may be irrelevant.



  1. The 'Leafs Defensive Rank Under Wilson' chart would be easier to read if you reversed the Y axis. Another good article though.

  2. So what you're saying is, we need to take NO penalties? Ha, always like your insight BCapp.