Maple Leafs failing to live up to expectations, but that shouldn’t be a surprise

Last year the Toronto Maple Leafs finished with a 26-17-5 record, putting them in the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade and setting expectations high for this season. However, things aren’t going as Coach Randy Carlyle has planned.


Tyler Bozak (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The reasons are many, starting with the realization that last season’s iteration of the Leafs just weren’t that good.

Ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, the 2012-13 Leafs were outshot 750-599 in 48 games, making the Buffalo Sabres the only team worse in this regard. Camouflaging this futility were some unsustainable percentages, starting with even strength.

When the 2012-13 Leafs skated five-on-five they scored on 10.6 percent of the shots they put on net, which was not only good for best in the league but also tops for a team over the last six years. Only the high-flying 2009-10 Washington Capitals come close (10.4 percent) to that mark, so either Toronto had the best collection of individual shooting talent we’ve seen in the salary-cap era or they were just plain lucky.

And therein lies the rub: When a team doesn’t tilt the ice in its favor but still has lady luck on its side, there is usually a disappointing follow-up season. Which brings us to the present-day Leafs.

Toronto is still second worst in the league in terms of being outshot by the opposition during close games at even strength (779-590), only this time it is seeing an average number of shots light the lamp (8.2 percent).

“We’ve been begging, pleading, kicking, kissing, whatever we can do to try and find a way that we can play with some confidence,” Carlyle said after Friday’s loss to the Washington Capitals, the Leafs’ fourth straight defeat.

“Losing is not fun,” captain Dion Phaneuf said. “We are not happy losing hockey games.”

Neil Greenberg, when he isn’t watching the games, analyzes advanced statistics in the NHL and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd. Follow him on Twitter: @ngreenberg.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.



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Katie Carrera · January 10, 2014

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