Assistant Coach Dean Chynoweth (Main Responsibility: Penalty Kill)
For assistant coach Dean Chynoweth, the Leafs brought him over from Carolina during the 2021 offseason following his successful years in managing the Hurricanes’ defense.
With Carolina being well-known for their stifling defensive acumen, bringing in the head honcho behind all of it makes total sense for the offensively-minded yet somewhat defensively-challenged Leafs to help make them a more well-balanced team.
With the hiring of Van Ryn this past summer, Chynoweth remains associated with the Leafs defense, but with his focus now shifted mainly towards the team’s penalty kill duties. In recent years, there have been the departure of many key special team players such as Alex Kerfoot, Pierre Engvall, Sam Lafferty, Ilya Mikheyev, and Justin Holl, leaving quite a few holes to fill.
Therefore, it was up to Chynoweth to revamp their penalty kill system with the infusion of new players on the roster, to go along with the penalty kill veterans Mitch Marner, David Kampf, T.J. Brodie and Mark Giordano.
However, now more than halfway through the 2023-24 season, the Leafs penalty kill has been among the worst in the NHL, currently ranked sixth-last in the league with a success rate hovering around just 76%.
More significantly, it had really weighed down the Leafs in recent games as in their past eight games, opponents have scored seven power play goals in just 19 chances for a 37% success rate (meaning only a 63% PK for the Leafs, prior to Wednesday’s game). Sometimes, it became so prominent that it made the difference in the game as seen from their match against the Vancouver Canucks last Saturday.
After making a huge comeback from down 3-0 in the game, the Leafs would ultimately succumb to the Canucks as they gave up two power play goals in short order in the third period to lose 6-4 in the hard-fought game. (All stats from moneypuck.com and NHL.com)
If the proper adjustments aren’t made soon, it can severely affect the play of the Leafs going forward, as they won’t be able to play aggressively if they keep fearing a penalty will end up hurting them all the time. As a result, it will be up to Chynoweth to right the ship soon before it’s too late. Otherwise, his job could quickly be in jeopardy if the Leafs continue to flounder with a man short.