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Toronto Maple Leafs News & Notes: March 31, 2014

Toronto Maple Leafs vice president of hockey operations Dave Poulin was on TSN 1050 to speak about the team’s struggles today. Poulin was asked about the hockey analytics crowd and how they’ve criticized the Leafs’ style of play and front office decisions over the past couple of years. This was his response:

Our shot differential, if you look at the last eight games, I believe we’ve outshot teams four of the last eight and our shot differential was better. So [analytics] doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Tyler Dellow illustrated the problem with Poulin’s response perfectly in a short piece on his blog. Teams that are trailing are instinctively going to be pushing harder for goals, so it stands to reason they will generate more shots and give up less than when they are tied or trailing. The Leafs have spent the vast majority of their 5-on-5 time trailing over these past eight games, so their shot differential is obviously going to be better.

The fact that Poulin doesn’t understand something as simple as score effects or is just too hardheaded to admit his team is horrifically bad possession-wise speaks volumes about this management team. Everyone must go.

Former Leafs head coach Ron Wilson spoke with ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun and offered his own two cents on Randy Carlyle and the media situation in Toronto:

“In Toronto, everything is always out of perspective; they’re either winning games and they’re planning the parade route,” Wilson said on Monday from his home near Hilton Head, S.C., “or you lose a couple of games and everything gets over-exaggerated.”

I agree with Wilson that criticizing a coach after losing a couple of games doesn’t make much sense, but when it’s an eight-game slide, the criticism is entirely warranted. Carlyle simply hasn’t been able to get his team to play good enough every night. Some of that is obviously on the players, but when the same problems keep recurring, that speaks to the coach’s inability to change things.

Nicholas Emptage of Puck Prediction took a look at a huge dataset of statistics and tried to figure out how certain stats vary depending on a team’s opponent. He found that one of the least variable stats is shots-against, meaning that a team that gives up a lot of shots against one game is likely to give up a lot the next game. It’s actually quite a bit more predictive than shots-for.

I’ve heard Dave Poulin say twice in radio interviews that the Leafs’ lousy shots-against is “a self-fulfilling prophecy” because teams know to make a concerted effort to rack up their shot totals when they face the Leafs. According to Emptage’s work, that might be true.

Have you ever wondered why hockey players hit the ice before the puck on a slapshot, or what the flex rating on your stick means? Smarter Every Day answers those questions in their latest YouTube video.

The 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs are only a couple weeks away, which also means some awesome overtime goals are only a couple of weeks away. Get psyched with a video of every single overtime goal of the 2013 playoffs. The video is by NessMencesal of YouTube and the words are from Sean Gentille of the Sporting News.

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Tags: Dave Poulin Randy Carlyle Ron Wilson Toronto Maple Leafs

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