Why Do the Toronto Maple Leafs Play Like This?

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 28: Head Coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game against the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 28, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 28: Head Coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game against the Calgary Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome on November 28, 2017 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs won another game they shouldn’t have.

Thanks to the great play of Freddie Andersen, the Toronto Maple Leafs are overcoming the injury to Auston Matthews, the decision to play hardball with William Nylander and the absolute failure of management to upgrade the blue line.

But why do they play the way they do?

Did you watch last night’s game?  For your sake, I hope you missed it.

It was – to put it politely – boring as hell.

Why Is Babcock so Beloved Again?

Anyone who has spent time learning about advanced stats in hockey knows one thing: dumping the puck off the glass or into the other team’s zone is a losing strategy.

The best teams in the NHL use controlled entries and exits to win hockey games.  The best players in the NHL are the players who rack up controlled entries and exits. Skating the puck and making short passes are how you are successful at this.

(Note, besides being as slow as a three legged turtle, Ron Hainsey’s main problem is that he can’t complete a pass and he almost never logs a controlled breakout.)

The Toronto Maple Leafs hired Kyle Dubas and so it follows that they know this, and yet they continue to let their coach implement a strategic game plan like it’s 1999.

Last night the Leafs banged the puck off the glass multiple times.  They iced the puck, and worst of all, they kept dumping it in.  Don Cherry was wrong: Dump and Chase is a bad strategy.

The only time a team should dump and chase is if they are seriously worse than the other team and have no choice.  But the Leafs – even without arguably their two best players – are a skilled, fast, talented team.  They should never, ever, dump the puck in.

It  is better to lose the puck at the blue line and have no one deep in the zone unable to get back, than it is to dump it in and lose it.  Plus, carrying the puck in for a controlled entry raises the percentage of getting a goal exponentially.

We know for a fact that teams that have the puck the most win the most games.  Giving it away by shooting it in is the exact opposite of this strategy.  Teams should never, ever do it. Let alone like 30 times in the same game like the Leafs did last night.

It wasn’t just a boring game, it was a recipe for losing, and they should have.

Next. Toronto Maple Leafs Top Ten Prospects. dark

The Golden Knights controlled 66% of the game, and had over 60% of the shots and scoring chances.  It was a beat-down that didn’t need to be.  All the Toronto Maple Leafs had to do was skate the puck out of their end (or make use of short passes) and then skate it over the other team’s blue line.

Can’t beat the trap? Well dumping it in isn’t going to do it, all it does is give the puck back.

Considering the reputation of Mike Babcock, I would expect the Leafs to play better, more progressive, smarter hockey.  What’s the deal?

stats from naturalstattrick.com