Everything Else

We can’t give you his name, as he’s shrouded in secrecy. He used to run PensionPlanPuppets, but now he just sits in a dark room plotting his revenge. You can follow him @MLSE, if you dare. 

We’ll start with simple stuff: Just what the hell is going on with this team? 
They’re doing better than last year somehow (better goal differential and more points through the same number of points) but most fans aren’t happy with how they’ve done it. Last year’s team was a swashbuckling team of kids that played with no fear. This year’s team is now a chip and chase team that is more focused on stopping the other team than in trying to force the game on their terms.
Is Mike Babcock, in fact, not a genius?
Babcock is an incredible coach. He does, however, have a few blind spots that we knew from his time in Detroit. Mainly, it’s that he favours (don’t you dare “fix” my Canadian spelling) veterans over youth and he has a clear idea of how he wants different aspect of his team to be built (muckers on the fourth line, defencemen with cement-filled skates that can absorb shots on the PK). Randy Carlyle was a little similar in that regard but obviously with a lot less ability (his own and the team’s). It does look like Babcock is starting to come around. Travis Dermott finally got a shot, Matt Martin may finally be a scratch, and Leo Komarov will be on the fourth line instead of dragging down Marleau and Kadri. Of course, that’s just for road games because Babcock doesn’t have last change. And it’s that need to control every aspect of the game that I think is his biggest issue.
What are the Leafs going to do at the deadline? We have to believe a d-man is on the list, no?
It’s been on the list for the last 12 years! If they could add a top pairing defenceman that pushes everyone down one spot on the depth chart (and gets Polak in the press box for good) then the defence suddenly becomes a pretty good group. If you can give Rielly better support and then have Gardiner/Zaitsev/Hainsey facing second tier competition and Carrick/Dermott eating up the rest then you have good skaters and puck movers on every line which is what this team needs to get back to being a fast, skilled team.
Name Kadri was a 30-goal scorer with 61 points and impressive metrics last year. All have dropped. What’s going on here?
Same thing that sewered the year before last: luck. You can split his season in two and you’ll see that the second half has seen him produce more shots but his shooting percentage plummet. His line has been struggling in terms of carrying the play compared to his career. Part of that is that I don’t think Komarov can face the toughs anymore and I’m not sold on Marleau being able to either (despite being a good addition). If Babcock trusted the Matthews line more at home then I think you’d see Kadri’s struggles turn around really quickly. Plus, in the last two games he’s made amazing passes to Marleau for goals that have been miraculously saved. It’s been that kind of stretch for him.
Is it time for Leafs fans to crack each other’s skull open and feast on the goo inside? Or is this kind of just a midseason lull and they’ll give Tampa everything they can handle in the playoffs?
It will always be skull cracking time with Leafs fans but that has nothing to do with how the team is doing so much as the feeling you get from talking to them. I think that the Leafs could possibly be having some come to Jesus moments that will bear fruit in the long term and they’re lucky enough to be in a division that is a total mess so there’s no pressure other than knowing they’ll face one of the two top teams in the NHL in the first round. I think that best case scenario, barring any big trades, is like last year: a gallant effort, some excitement, and a 5/6 game series loss to Tampa or Boston. After last year we’d all hoped for more but I don’t see much that gives me hope for more unless Babcock really starts changing how he dresses the team and Lou and Co. can get them a bit more help. But no big deal, these teams of young (looks at LA) studs (looks at Pittsburgh) always (looks at Chicago) eventually come good, right? (Looks at Edmonton, barfs)

 

Game #48 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

With the Hawks having collected only two of the last eight points on offer, everyone is calling for Battle Stations. It’s understandable. Patience is hard to find when you’re watching the amount of teams wedge themselves between the Hawks and the last playoff spots. It’s doubly hard when you know how hard it is to climb up the standings, especially with so many teams centering themselves in the muck.

Most eyes are focused on what was the Hawks top line, though that may have changed with a simply bonkers rearranging at practice today (we’ll get to that tomorrow). Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews, and Richard Panik all have their goal-droughts or dry streaks, whatever you want to call them. We’ve gone over Saad’s “struggles” recently, so it’s time to look at Captain Marvel a little deeper.

And here’s the thing… Jonathan Toews is having a pretty good season.

I know how that sounds. Seven goals and 18 points over 27 games isn’t what you pictured. It projects out to 21 goals and 54 points, which is a touch short of what Toews has usually put up. Toews’s usual numbers are in the high-20s for goals and mid-60s for points, aside from last year. We almost have to throw out the season-in-a-can of 2013, as it’s the only season where Toews was a point-per-game and was projecting to have a 35-40 goals season over 82. It’s kind of an aberration.

If we flip up the hood, things are more encouraging than you think. Toews’s overall possession share is the highest it’s been since the last Cup season. And in relative to the team it’s the best since 2014. His xGF% is the best it’s been in four seasons, and relative to his team it’s the best in five seasons. Toews is averaging more attempts at even-strength than he has since that 2013 season. His individual expected goals is higher than the past four seasons, and in line with everything that came before his binging of 2012 and 2013.

Essentially, we’re in the same spot we were with Marian Hossa before last season. If you’ll recall, Hossa had seen his shooting percentage decrease for four straight years before last year, and we all thought that’s what we had to expect. And then last year he spasmed a 15% season and 26 goals in 73 games. It can come from nowhere.

Toews has a career-low shooting percentage at evens of 7.8%. That’s down from 8.3 last year, 8.5 the year before that, and 14.2 the year before that which is where Toews lived for most of his career. Now, this is where we could speculate he doesn’t quite have the fastball he used to, or his release isn’t quite what it was. Or maybe he’s not as accurate as he once was, but we can’t really measure that. By all the things we can measure, he’s actually getting better chances than he has in a couple years. Basically, everything is where it should be.

Toews hasn’t benefitted from the power play being a clusterfuck. He’s got one on the man-advantage this year, and he usually racks up six or seven per season. Would everyone feel a little better if Toews had 10 goals overall now and projecting for closer to 30? That would happen if he were getting his normal PP goals. Meanwhile, Toews has been doing this against some of the toughest competition he’s seen in his career.

I know this won’t make anyone feel better. Toews, Saad, and Panik aren’t scoring enough. And the explanation, “They’re just getting shitty luck,” isn’t satisfactory because you can’t really do anything about that until it simply corrects itself. And sometimes it doesn’t. But Toews is in the right end of the ice. He’s in the right spots to score. He’s getting the right number of chances. They’re just not going in.

It’s not much solace, but it’s all we’ve got. And playing him with Ryan Hartman and John Hayeden isn’t going to do much.