The Toronto Maple Leafs have played 22 games since they fired Mike Babcock and hired Sheldon Keefe.
With points in 11 of their last twelve games (failing to register a point only in a 6-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers) the Toronto Maple Leafs are on fire.
The firing of Babcock has had a profound effect on the Leafs fortunes, and while Babcock did many inexplicable things (such as play Cody Ceci on the top pairing) the turnaround cannot be solely attributed to coaching.
The Leafs played a preposterous amount of back-to-back games in the early portion of the season, and played at least half their Babcock games this season without one of Mitch Marner or John Tavares. They got absolutely nothing from their back-up goalie, and their power-play had gone dormant.
No doubt that Keefe had a massive effect, but a lot of this stuff would have self-corrected over time. Yes Babcock made bad decisions, and yes he tried to coach the team he wanted instead of the team he had, but he wasn’t entirely responsible for their early season struggles, and Keefe isn’t entirely responsible for their turnaround.
Still, turn it around he did, and today we’ll check into the NHL team stats since November 21st when the Leafs made the change.
Toronto Maple Leafs Stats Since Firing Coach
The Toronto Maple Leafs are 15-5-2 since making the change. They lead the NHL in points percentage during this time, getting points in 72.7% of their games.
Only the Penguins have done as well. Yes, it’s true the Lightning have gotten more points during this time, but they also played in three more games.
The Leafs are 9th in the NHL in Corsi-For Percentage, which is good, but their style of game affects this stat a little bit. Under Babcock, the Leafs would take too many point shots, and would generally fire the puck on net whenever possible. Under Keefe they like to hold on the puck and try for higher chance plays.
Since hiring Keefe they have the third most scoring chances in the NHL (both teams ahead of them have played at least two more games).
The Leafs have gotten 57% of the total goals, and 53% of the expected goals, in part due to the emergence of William Nylander as an elite scorer.
One caveat is that the Leafs are top five in the NHL during this time in both shooting percentage and save percentage. They have the best offense in hockey and one of the best goalies, so these numbers could remain high. They do, however, explain the difference between their goals-for percentage and their expected goals-for percentage.
Will this last? Time will tell.
The best thing about the Toronto Maple Leafs since Keefe is their special teams. On the power-play, the Leafs are averaging 12 goals per 60, which is significantly higher (1.2) than the next best team (Tampa).
Given their lineup, there’s no reason for them not to have the best power-play in the NHL. The penalty kill isn’t as good – it is 12th by goals-against/60 since November 21st.
All in all, it’s hard not to love the Toronto Maple Leafs right now. They are crushing opponents 5v5 and playing amazing on special teams. They also have several key pieces out of the lineup, and will get even better. (All stats naturalstattrick.com).
Beyond that, they can and will add to the team at the trade deadline, creating cap space by moving Cody Ceci (who has been fine as a #6, but you don’t need to pay a #6 $4.5 million, so the odds of him getting moved are roughly 100%).
I think it’s safe to say that the Toronto Maple Leafs are and will continue to be the NHL’s best team, which is something they’ve been now for a quarter of a season.