Leafs Defence Doesn’t Suck

Note: I have produced a followup article to this one that corrects some small mistakes I made with respect to counting some PP goals as even strength goals, factors in shot type, and better deals with some biases that are present in the NHL statistics. Feel free to read the article below but be sure to also read the followup article which I would consider a much more reliable evaluation of defence and goaltending in the NHL.

I don’t know how many gazillion times I have heard people say that the Leafs defence sucks big time and is the reason for the Leafs failures and every time I hear that I cringe because it is so not true. And then I argue that the real problem is not the Leafs defence but the Leafs goaltending. I often quote statistics like how the Leafs give up relatively few shots against and the counter argument against that is that the Leafs may not give up a lot of shots, but they give up high quality shots. Although I have always suspected that is not the case it is a real difficult argument to argue against because there is no easy way to evaluate shot quality. But being the stubborn guy that I am I am going to give it my best shot.

In the NHL’s play by play reports they keep track of the distance of each shot that is taken and I think this might be the easiest and only reliable stat to use as a proxy for shot quality. The idea is that the closer in a shot is to the goal, the more difficult the shot is. So, what I did was track all shots against that every team gave up this past season and grouped them according to the distance the shot was taken from the goal. The groupings I used were 0-5, 6-10, 11-15-, 16-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50, 51-60, and 60+ feet. I also kept track of how many goals were scored from each distance grouping so I could determine shooting percentage for each distance group as well. Only even strength shots were considered as well. Here is what I found on a league-wide basis.

Distance Shots Goals Shooting %
0-5 201 53 26.4
6-10 3522 797 22.6
11-15 6854 1603 23.4
16-20 5471 1017 18.6
21-30 9080 1160 12.8
31-40 9133 651 7.1
41-50 8859 410 4.6
51-60 7412 325 4.4
61+ 3314 87 2.6
Total 53846 6103 11.3

As one might expect the closer the shot the higher the chance that the puck goes in the net with shots from inside of 20 feet or so being the best shots to take. I realize that there will still be some variances in difficulty of shot within these groupings (i.e. a one timer on a cross ice pass being more difficult than a straight shot from off the side of the net) but by factoring out shot distance we should be doing a pretty decent job of accounting for a significant portion of what makes a shot difficult.

The next thing I did was to look at how each team does in terms of giving up shots from the various distance groupings with a particular interest in seeing how the Leafs stacked up to the rest of the league. Warning: These results may be frightening to those who want so desperately to believe that the Leafs defence sucks. View with caution.

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As you can see from the above chart is that the Leafs do an excellent job at limiting the number of shots from close-mid range, particularly in the 11-15 foot range as they give up the 4th fewest shots from that distance. From the other high shooting percentage distances (0-5, 6-10 and 16-20) the Leafs are middle of the pack or slightly below.

The next thing I did was to take a look at the shooting percentage against for each team from each distance grouping. The results can be seen in the following chart.

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As you can see, the Leafs goaltenders have one of the highest overall shooting percentages against which is consistent with the fact they have one of the worst save percentages in the league. But what is interesting is that Leaf goalies (mostly Raycroft) are the worst at saving shots from 11-15 feet as well as 41-50 feet and are among the worst from 16-20 feet, and 21-30 feet. All I have to say is thank goodness the Leafs defence were good at limiting the number of shots from the 11-15 foot range or else last season would have been much worse for the Leafs.

Chris Boersma over at Hockey Numbers has done some interesting work looking at goalies save percentages based on shot location and he found that Raycroft really sucks at stopping puck shot high and to the glove side. This is interesting because probably the best place to shoot a puck high is in that 10-20 foot range because you are far enough out that you can get it up and over the goalie but close enough to not give the goalie a lot of reaction time. Clearly these kinds of shots are killing Andrew Raycroft and the Leafs.

So finally, I wanted to summarize all this data in terms of a single, easy to understand number so we can compare teams and how difficult of shots they give up. To do this I took the number of shots each team gave up in each distance grouping and multiplied it by the league-wide shooting percentage for that group and then summed up the numbers for all groups. The result is one number which represents how may goals a team would give up if they had a perfectly average goalie with a perfectly average save % from shots taken at each distance grouping. Here are the results:

Team Expected ES
Goals Against
Dallas 165.52
Detroit 172.03
San Jose 184.91
Vancouver 188.65
Minnesota 189.13
Anaheim 190.83
Calgary 192.36
Toronto 193.47
Columbus 196.11
New Jersey 199.28
Florida 200.68
Tampa Bay 202.01
Chicago 202.04
Colorado 202.13
Edmonton 203.03
Los Angeles 203.96
Buffalo 204.50
Carolina 207.78
NY Rangers 208.88
Phoenix 210.28
Pittsburgh 210.48
Washington 211.93
Philadelphia 212.58
Nashville 216.16
Montreal 217.32
St. Louis 220.47
NY Islanders 221.55
Ottawa 223.25
Atlanta 225.13
Boston 226.57

What is interesting with that table is that for the most part the teams perceived as the good defensive teams (Dallas, Detroit, Vancouver, Minnesota, Anaheim, Calgary, New Jersey) are closer to the top of the list and look, surprise, right there with them is Toronto. Sorry Leaf defence bashers, looks like you have even less of an argument now.

Edit: I added the following a few hours the original post

Maybe the most interesting thing we can do with the above information is see how much goaltending actually affected a teams goals against. To do this I compared the above expected even strength goals against with each teams actual even strength goals against. By subtracting expected from actual I can come up with ‘Goalie Goals’ which is an indicitation of how many goals the teams goalies can be blamed for. These numbers are astounding.

Team Exp. Goals Actual Goals Goalie Goals
Los Angeles 203.96 250 46.04
Toronto 193.47 235 41.53
Philadelphia 212.58 254 41.42
Phoenix 210.28 245 34.72
Washington 211.93 245 33.07
Edmonton 203.03 222 18.97
Carolina 207.78 225 17.22
Tampa Bay 202.01 218 15.99
Chicago 202.04 218 15.96
Columbus 196.11 211 14.89
Florida 200.68 215 14.32
Montreal 217.32 229 11.68
Colorado 202.13 210 7.87
Boston 226.57 230 3.43
Dallas 165.52 167 1.48
Pittsburgh 210.48 209 -1.48
St. Louis 220.47 218 -2.47
Calgary 192.36 186 -6.36
Buffalo 204.50 197 -7.50
San Jose 184.91 175 -9.91
Detroit 172.03 158 -14.03
Atlanta 225.13 205 -20.13
Anaheim 190.83 170 -20.83
Vancouver 188.65 166 -22.65
NY Islanders 221.55 196 -25.55
Nashville 216.16 181 -35.16
Ottawa 223.25 186 -37.25
New Jersey 199.28 162 -37.28
Minnesota 189.13 151 -38.13
NY Rangers 208.88 169 -39.88

It is no surprise to who is at the top of the list as most of us knew Los Angeles, Toronto, Philadelphia, Phoenix, etc. had weak goaltending and the bottom teams are no surprise either as all those teams are known to have good goalies. What is a surprise is the magnitude of the goals that can be blamed on the goalies and the number of goals that goalies saved for their teams. As bad as the Kings goalies were, seeing them be the blame for as many as 46 even strength goals is quite amazing. Similarly, seeing that Lundqvist saved his team nearly 40 goals on his own is quite amazing. If anyone wants to argue that goaltending isn’t the most important position in hockey they just need to look at these statistics.

This article has 50 Comments

  1. Wow. This is some incredible analysis. I don’t follow the Leafs but your work provides insight into the defense and goaltending of every team in the league. Very well done!

  2. Haven’t read it yet, but I think our defence is actually quite strong…. our goaltending is absolutely atrocious however.
    Our D is fine.
    An excellent if expensive top 3, Gill is decent. White/Colaiacovo are decent now with a strong future. Still some half way appealing prospects on the horizon as well, most noteably Stralman. Defence isn’t a concern.

    2M for a mediocre backup playing 70+ games whilst Boston has Rask in the pipeline… 🙁
    Not JFJ’s best moment.

    Even harsher given Legace was signed pretty cheaply as an UFA last off season.
    I can’t say I have much faith in a Raycroft rebound next season… maybe we can dream of a miracle in which whomever Toronto signs as backup steals the starters job. Im leaning Towards Garon as the cheapest option that may be able to do it.
    Giguere/Backstrom will be too expensive with Raycroft here, and Wellwood a likely expensive resigning next season.

    Another two years of sub-par performance for his salary though.

  3. If the Leafs signed Giguere (which I doubt they will) I would try to trade Raycroft and barring that would dump him in the AHL. I think someone would take him though because his salary isn’t outrageous.

    And I don’t really have a problem with the Rask for Raycroft deal. It was a gamble for sure but a reasonable one because Raycroft did have a stellar rookie year and they also had Pogge in the system. Plus Rask had to sign before this years draft and I don’t know what conversations JFJ had regarding his signability. Maybe JFJ was unsure he could be signed. I don’t think he has signed with Boston yet.

  4. David, even though u got all theses stats, the Toronto D is horrible. Other than Kaberale, the team D-men are way overpaid. Kubina- $ 5M a Season? Thats 12% of the salary cap invested in a terrible Defenceman. McCabe is okay, but only ofensively. He’s like the opposite of a Chris Kelly. Chris Kelly is a forward, but is a perfect defencive player, and will never score 20 goals in a season, unless on a top line. But Toronto’s problems are:
    1. D is horrible (defensively ofcourse, which is the most important)
    2. Since Cujo and Belfour, they havent had a solid #1 goalie
    3. Not enough young talent. Trade Sundin, Sign O’neil for sum vertern leadership, and play wellwood, steen, and stajan more and get young stars for sundin.

    But in my eyes, toronto has to go through a dark period b4 they get their team back together. BUt the problem is the teachers just keep making them stay in medoicaracy. Hey, what kind of trade is Bell and a 2nd for yanic P. Like come on? Rebuild! Don’t trade young guns for geezers (with all respect to Yanic.)

  5. David, even though u got all theses stats, the Toronto D is horrible.

    Prove it. I am tired of hearing this crap from stupid Leaf fans (and media) who just blatantly refuse to accept reality and ignoring every single stat that shows otherwise. Just because you are capable of writing ‘D is horrible’ doesn’t make it so. I have put hours into processing stats that clearly shows that the Leafs defence is more than competent. It is now up to you and the rest of the naysayers to put some actual thought into it to try and show otherwise.

  6. The fourth-year pro could be counted on to carry a big share of the workload between the pipes and looks ready for the challenge…the Bruins considered Raycroft the best goaltending prospect in the AHL, a kid with the potential to leap into stardom in the manner of the Stars’ Marty Turco or the Ducks’ Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Raycroft has played in only 21 NHL games, but has performed with a calm demeanor and sound butterfly style.” (The Sporting News Hockey Yearbook 2003-04, p. 27)

    Winner, Calder Memorial Trophy, 2003-04.

    I’m not disagreeing, but I’ve been wondering what happened to Raycroft, he was a pretty good goalie from 2000 to 2004.

    Now he appears to be garbage.
    A. He’s always been bad, but had a couple lucky years
    B. Something changed
    C. He’s always been good, but he recently had a couple unlucky years.

    If it’s B, then what changed?
    Maybe it’s his knee?

  7. I agree. Everybody tries to stick up for Raycroft just because he’s young and he had a good rookie season, but the truth is, he’s a terrible goalie. That being said, he is still young and may be able to rebound next year, although I am not overly optimistic. The defence may be overpaid, but they are still a solid core. There is no way the leafs are resigning o’neill, the guy was a healthy scratch for the last games of the season for crying out loud. Leafs need wingers, they should sign Zubrus, Hartnell, or Svatos, or any combination of the 3. Nik Kulemin looks like a can’t-miss prospect over in russia, and people have compared Stralman to Lidstrom, though that might be a little premature. Anyway, good post David, keep up the good work.

  8. I’m not disagreeing, but I’ve been wondering what happened to Raycroft, he was a pretty good goalie from 2000 to 2004.

    Now he appears to be garbage.
    A. He’s always been bad, but had a couple lucky years
    B. Something changed
    C. He’s always been good, but he recently had a couple unlucky years.

    If it’s B, then what changed?
    Maybe it’s his knee?

    I have no idea what is wrong with Raycroft now. I don’t think it is his knee because his mobility still seems to be quite good as he has made some spectacular cross crease diving saves and such but gets killed on the high shot. He drops to his knees early on almost every shot now. I am not sure if he did this in his rookie year or not but maybe he has (unknowingly) changed his style after having not playing much during the 2004-05 lockout season. Maybe he can get his career back on track because he does show signs of brilliance and makes some spectacular saves every now and again, but after two horrible seasons one has to wonder if he is not the Jim Carrey of this decade.

  9. Agree Raycroft had a very poor season last year. Last game of the year was almost lost due to his poor performance. They need a backup who will challenge him for the #1 spot. Either Raycroft steps up and retains his spot, or the backup takes his role. I’m thinking a veteran goalie like Joseph or maybe someone like Kevin Weekes could be good, assuming the money was right. They need to do something there. I don’t think Aubin is enough of a team guy to either help or push Raycroft enough.

  10. yet another mind blowing statistical analysis DJ, and I am definitly with you on the Leafs Defensive core. Raycroft is unfortunatly the issue with the Leafs (closely followed by the lack of a solid 30 goal winger for Mats). the sad thing about Raycroft is that I know he is talented, you can see the raw talent when he plays. Thinking back every bad goal that he has let in has come from some sort of mental mistake, dropping to his knees to quickly, poor positioning, bad anticipation etc . It all comes down to focus I think. I am still not ready to give up on Raycroft (I am a stubborn bastard too), so hopefully he sharpens his mental game in the off season.

  11. U need PROVE? are you dumb. Just look at their defence. Their not good AT ALL. Kaberale is the only one that can play D. If you need proof, turn on the tv and watch. I like Kaberale, but all the rest are overpaid. kubina- WAY OVER PAID. Only worth, max 1.5-2. He isnt good at defence at all. Mccabe- horrible on playing the man, and PENATLIES!. Trust me, ive seen enough games. Hopefully they’ll turn it around. Not likely… blow it up, before it blows up.

  12. AJ, you really are clueless aren’t you. I watch most Leaf games, most Senators games, and a lot of other games for other teams too. I know what the Leaf defense can do from both an observational and analystical point of view. Clearly you don’t because you pretty much spew the same rhetoric and nonsense that the media and other fans do.

    1. Kaberle is a very good puck handling defenseman, but he is just OK defensively. He has pretty good mobility but is soft and loses battles in the corners and in front of the net. His main benefit is that if he gets the puck it almost certainly is leaving the zone. But to think he is a premier or even very good defenseman when it comes to defensive ability clearly tells me that you don’t know what you are talking about. No one complains about Kaberle because people percieve him to be good value for the money, which he is, but just because he is a good value doesn’t mean we should overrate his abilities.

    2. McCabe is the opposite of Kaberle in the defensive zone. He is physical and wins many of the battles but is not quite as mobile and makes some mental mistakes usually because of being overly agressive. McCabe is a better defenseman than Andrei Markov who just got the same contract as McCabe and Jovanovski got substantially more than McCabe but has many of the same qualities and deficiencies as McCabe. I don’t think McCabe’s salary is hugely out of whack.

    3. Kubina is a pretty solid all-round defenseman. He doesn’t do anything great, but does everything well. He is big and strong like McCabe but doesn’t make mistakes of agression like him and is smarter in his own zone a bit more like Kaberle. He can contribute a bit offensively, but not to the extent of either McCabe or Kaberle. Overall he is a very solid defenseman. He struggled early in the season with injuries and trying to find his role on the team and getting used to his teammates but as the year went on he improved, particularly when he started playing with Kubina who he had played with previously in the Olympics for the Czech Republic. He was also a huge part of Tampa’s Stanley Cup win. One could argue that he is over paid but Aucoin got $4 million per season in Chicago and Adam Foote got $4.5 million per season in Columbus the season prior and I think Kubina brings as much to the game as either of them do so I don’t think Kubina’s salary is that out of whack.

    Again, if you would take a bit of time to quit spewing the nonsense and crap that guys like Steve Simmons do and took some time to objectively look at the Leafs defense and objectively compare them to other teams you will see that the Leafs defense stacks up quite favourably to the majority of the teams.

    So let me finish by asking you this. If the Leafs defense are not “good AT ALL” then please tell me how they do so well at keeping shots against and shot quality down so well, particularly when they play in a division with the top 2 offensive teams in the NHL?

  13. He has pretty good mobility but is soft and loses battles in the corners and in front of the net. His main benefit is that if he gets the puck it almost certainly is leaving the zone.
    What more could you want for a defenseman? I guess the question to ask is can he get the puck so he can get it out.

    In terms of goals against rates McCabe and Kaberle are very similar.

    I suggest you consider the “value” of all those penalties McCabe takes. There’s a difference of about 100 minutes between them (~50 penalties or about 9 goals.)

    I don’t know these players to make a comment on whose better defensively, but it certainly isn’t “obvious”.

  14. The leafs D doesnt suck, but theyre not great either. if i had to rank them, i would put them in the 10-15 range, out of 30. like u said they have a pretty good top 3. but i think the REAL reason everyone says they suck, is because of salary. kubina and mccabe are grossly overpaid. kaberle could easily get 6 million if he was a free agent this season. but everyone sees those 3 and figures for that much money they could get better D, and theyre right. mccabe is good offensively, defensively, he leaves much to be desired. kubina only got 5 mil cuz he won a cup. but hes definately not worth it.

    as for goaltending. raycroft sucks. the leafs will never win anything substantial with him in nets. chances of him rebounding are slim. he was plain pitiful last season. and to think JFJ traded the best goalie NOT in the NHL, the top rated goalie prospect, rask for him… wow. and on top of that you have pogge struggling in the AHL. personally i think pogge is overrated. he had the benefit of playing on a very strong team in junior. obviously i could be wrong. stil im happy the leafs traded rask, when i watched him at the world juniors, i knew he would be an awesome goalie. and as a habs fan im happy the leafs traded their best prospect for garbage.

    and the leafs best chance, like u said is to sign a backup who can emerge a #1. its gotta be from europe though. only way u can get a CHEAP goalie. JFJ put the team in cap trouble and its starting to hurt.

    also, raycroft cannot be traded. its very unlikely. i mean he had a bad season. which team will take a chance?? i mean its certainly possible, bob gainey traded theodore and his 5.5 mil contract for aebisher, so anythings possible, but those trades dont happen to often. all raycroft has under his belt is one good rookie season. not too many GM’s willing to take a chance on that.

  15. also, please dont compare mccabe to markov defensively. 2 totally different players. markov doesnt use his body to smash opponents, but instead uses his head, great positioning, and great stickwork. much like lidstrom does, though not as effective obviously. mccabe is a tough guy. will go into the boards to pummel someone. but isnt as reliable as a markov. i would also say that kaberle is by far the best D the leafs have. mccabe doesnt stand close to him in any aspect of hockey aside from a shot and the physical play. kaberle is a better skater, defender, passer and thinker. not to mention he gets less penalties.

    now after all that mccabe isnt a BAD defencemen. many teams would love him. but his defence isnt all that great. his offence is a huge asset though. i would compare him to souray. same amount of defensive blunders, with souray having the better shot and mccabe passing it better. are any of them worth 5.75? no way.

    its sad but many teams are overpaying for defencemen. and thus, setting the market value for these guys. i think JFJ’s offer to mccabe was pretty bad. it raised the price. much like jose theodores 5.5 mil contract after his MVP season raised the bar for goalies.

  16. Pogge struggled making the jump from junior to the AHL but he is only 20. As for Rask being the best goalie not in the NHL…I’d be shocked to see too many all-world goalies allowing 4 goals on 11 shots against Belarus as Rask did this past World Juniors. Maybe he benefitted a little from a strong Finnish team.

    Steve Simmons and Damien Cox seem to write the talking points for the blind Leaf fan and the anti-Leaf brigade. Thankfully there has been an increase in the use of objective stats in blogs to disprove these mouth breathers.

  17. sure that makes sense. but u could just as easily say that pogge benefited from a strong junior team.

    and as for simmons and cox. finally as a non leaf fan i get less leafs shoved down my throat. already the cbc will be airing less leaf games, which is long overdue. hopefully neale and cole will retire soon. those 2 idiots are too senile to call games. they are clueless, call wrong plays, have no idea how to pronounce names.

    anyway who really cares. all that matters is that carey price is ripping up the AHL at 19 years old. hahaha

  18. A question for you David:

    In your expected goals chart can you think of a reason why the top spots are all dominated by Western Conference teams? The Leafs are the highest-ranked team in the East, and the only Western teams near the bottom are St Louis and Nashville. Do you think it’s because the West tends towards more physical so the shot opportunities have to be generated from greater distances, or is there something else that might come into play?

  19. Just to clarify, that is an expected goals against chart, and the reason why the western conference dominates is because they are a more defensive minded conference and generally have better defensemen where as the east probably has more offensive forwards and play a more offense-oriented game. But you are right in the sense that physical play, particularly by defensemen standing up to opposition forwards, is a big part of defensive hockey.

  20. Thanks for compiling all that data, it’s certainly a very interesting read. I think a lot of Leafs fans are aware that goaltending is our biggest issue right now. I don’t have a problem with our defence, I think we have a good core. In fact in my opinion the Leafs have the most depth in the defence department. While the stats show that the Leafs D are indeed quite capable of limiting the number of shots and the quality of shots, I bet they have to do even a better job as Raycroft doesn’t give us a very good chance of winning most nights, if he doesn’t improve.

    I also think it’s hilarious that someone can look at the stats and just simply states “these numbers don’t mean anything, you have to be stupid if you don’t think Leafs defence sucks.” I wonder if it’s because they don’t care, or they just don’t understand what David just did here…. really, is it that hard to understand?

  21. You have given leafs fans everywhere proof to show to their annoying friends that the leafs d does not suck. Plus, AJ is an idiot.

  22. AJ says:
    June 2nd, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    U need PROVE? are you dumb.

    All the proof I need about AJ’s intelligence can be summed up in those two sentences.

    If you can’t spell a simple word like “proof”, and forget to capitalize words or use proper punctuation, no one is going to take what you say seriously.

  23. LOL. typo, my bad. Big Deal. Alright. As a sens fan, maybe I was a little Bias, but I will be honest about Toronto’s D. Bryan McCabe is a very solid ofensive defenceman. However, he is terrible at stutting down players. Thomas Kaberale is great at everything, but nothing is perfected. He makes very good passes, can score, and is solid defencesively. pavel Kubina, as far as i Know, is terrible (as compared to his $ 5,000,000) a year. That is WAY to much. Hall Gill has never been a solid defenseman, and I have never liked him at all. I like Carlo C. If injuries weren’t in his way, I think he could develop into a good player. Anyways, toronto’s defence is not as bad as other teams HOWEVER, simply speaking of defensive abilities, the D is very weak. bring in Timmo from Nashiville. Or even Teppo N. from buffalo. You don’t need pronger or lindstorms to go far in the playoffs. (Carolina 06, Ottawa 07)

  24. Wow.

    That’s some pretty powerful statistical analysis.

    While not necessarily a perfect indicator of goalie strength and D strength, in the absence of someone pointing out to me a vital flaw in this analysis over the course of 82 games, I am persuaded – and powerfully at that.

  25. Chris B, sure you can now say to your leaf basher friends that the leafs D doesnt suck, and u could give them proof. all that would do is shift the conversation. instead of the leafs D sucking really really bad, they will focus their attention on raycroft and JFJ. and im sorry but theres not enough stats that david to pull out to make those 2 look good. raycroft is just plain bad, and so far leaf fans only hope is that he has a rebound year, which is never a good thing to hope for. without goaltending your screwed. especially in the NE division, lots of good teams. lots of offense in the east as well. then u have JFJ. the longer he stays on board the more he will setback the leafs. trading a 2nd rounder and bell for perrault. come on. the leafs were not in need of a 3rd or 4th line center. they needed scoring wingers to play with sundin. anyway as a montreal fan i can only hope JFJ gets a nice contract extension.

  26. David,

    I’ve disagreed with a lot of your analyses on this site, but this is some excellent work. I really hope someday statisical work for hockey will do at least half of what sabermetrics has done for baseball.

  27. Great post David,

    This is almost verbatim what I’ve been trying to tell people the last few months. I’ve known about Raycroft’s VERY weak glove since about December, and it was around then that I knew we were missing the playoffs with him in net.

    What distressed me the most with Raycroft is that he actually sounds pleased with his play from last year, despite being last in almost every goaltending stat in the league.

    I’m bookmarking this site for future reference, now when I can’t find the words to describe what I mean to those idiots who think the leaf defense sucks, and we need to bring back Domi, I can just send them to this site 🙂

  28. What distressed me the most with Raycroft is that he actually sounds pleased with his play from last year, despite being last in almost every goaltending stat in the league.

    What distresses me more is that Maurice seems pleased with his play and wants him to play 65-70 games again next season.

  29. Yeah that worries me too. It actually surprises me, because Maurice is actually a good coach, and I’ve been impressed with his coaching so far. We went from a team that let up more shots than we got to a team that generally outshoots the other team.

    All I can think of is that he acts like he’s pleased with Raycroft just because he knows that he doesn’t have anyone else of a higher quality than Raycroft to play, and he doesn’t want to hurt his goalie’s confidence? I’m probably just apologizing for Paul here, but I hope we can sign a goalie who might be a sleeper on some other team, or even in the Euro leagues who can play 30-40 games this year and just force Raycroft to improve if he wants a spot on the team.

  30. I think your theory is right Trevor. Maurice can hardly come out and say that Raycroft would make a great back up playing 20-30 games but he needs a top of the line goalie.

  31. David, I applaud you. Thank you for taking the time to do this. The Leafs defence does not suck. Nobody who understands hockey and watched the Leafs could actually think that. Are they overpaid? At 2005 prices, maybe? But, the salary cap is not 39 million anymore and at 2008 prices, yes. JFJ got really lucky (or hey maybe he was smart for a moment) with Kaberles contract. I have no idea how they got him to sign a deal like that. I was much more concerned about Kaberle then McCabe. Case in point, when Kaberle went out, McCabe was almost invisible in the offensive zone. Last season when we McCabe went out, we didn’t have anyone else. Kubina is almost as good (if not s good) as McCabe with what he brings that McCabe doesn’t. Better passer, less mistakes, better positioning, not as good but great point shot. Don’t get me wrong, I like McCabe. I would have traded him and steen for Pronger last year (not Kaberle at all) but other then that, I’d take him over most. Hopefully, The Leafs play better this year because they have a little more experiance with eachother. Their offence was pretty good and without injuries (or atleast so many so often), there absolutely in the playoffs. After 18 – 22 games or so they were in 4th spot (2nd in points) in the Eastern Conference. If Raycroft continues to play poorly and they can’t get another quality goalie, they just have to play eighties Oiler style. Fuhr was an average goalie during their glory years. They compensated for this by not really concentrating on defence as much as offence. The trap was created for that team specifically. While I’m not saying the Leafs could ever be the eighties Oilers (atleast with this team I don’t think)and Raycroft is not even as good as Fuhr was, that style of play would take the other teams offence away because they’d have to compensate for the continuous attack. Play a 3 – 1 – 1 charge on all rushes. Hit people. The Leafs are a pretty big team minus a few like Wellwood,Tucker (who plays above his size by far),Steen etc… The Leafs have as much of a chance of making the Final as any team. Any number of factors could happen and even Washington could make it and they only have one player that can’t be matched liked any ordinary player. Edmonton made it with only two big players in Smyth and Pronger and Smyth is a star but not a superstar. I’d still take Sundin over Smyth in a heartbeat. Probably Pronger as well but that’s only because I’m a major Homer. So in closing (and after a number of tangents) will the Leafs D be what stops them from winning the cup, not a chance. They could win it all or miss the playoffs because of things that may or may not have anything to do with JFJ. I just hope they play hard, stay healthy, and hopefully let me see my team hoist the cup. Go Leafs Go

  32. Daniel:

    Oh I totally agree, I just don’t like it when they blame the defense when I blame the goalie…I mean its not just one thing that needs to be fixed, but the defense isn’t the major problem.

  33. Everyone knows Raycroft blew the goat this year in net. You can’t deny that when you see a winger come down on his off wing and take a wrister and it goes top shelf on Raycroft. Most importantly he can’t deny it as well. I think he will be working hard this off season on his overall game. I believe he will come into the next season on a mission. He knows he going to be playing a lot of hockey, so he will be ready.

    I’m hoping anyways…….

  34. David:

    “What distresses me more is that Maurice seems pleased with his play and wants him to play 65-70 games again next season.”

    the guy has no choice. i mean the leafs have no cap room (overpaid on defence) and have enough trouble finding sundin a scoring winger. u awarded aubin with a nice backup contract. but hes nothing more than a backup. raycorft has that 2 million dollar contract that u cant afford to buy out. your still paying belfour’s contract (i think thats up this year, so that saves SOME cap room), basically maurice has 2 options. support his crappy goalie and try to instill confidence in him, or call him out (ala tortorella) and risk shooting his confidence.

    pretty much JFJ and maurice are hoping that pogge comes along nicely. i guess they must be thinking 1 more year in the minors, 1 more year getting some NHL games, and hopefully by year 3 he will be a full time starter.

    whats funny is rask should be ready for NHL duty soon. he would have been quite cheap, and would have been NHL ready pretty soon.

    in any event if pogge doesnt live up to expectations, the leafs are going no where. u NEED a goalie, and unless they can sign one off the market, theyre done.


  35. The defence on the Leafs is fine.. ALthough slightly overpaid. With regards to Mccabe and Kubina.But not Crying over it. Razor has been solid for us at Times but also allowing junk goals on numourous occassions. The poblm with raycroft is that he is a fundemental goalie in resoect to the way he plays . He knows where to be at all times. Which I think Makes his reaction time slower. Also the other teams know exactly how and where to score on him , and to be a top goalie in this league this can’t happen. He has won 37 games for us this year and also blown about a dozen for us. The reasonable solution for the leafs would be to get another goaltender In the net. Either to take the #1 or to help raycroft progress and challenge for the number 1 spot. Grab ujo for 500k and see what happens I beleaf.

  36. The Leafs need to sign a capable backup. There ARE affordable goaltenders out there. Kevin Weekes and Mike Dunham come to mind, though both would be a bit hefty if we still want wingers for Sundin.

    I think generally speaking Raycroft is well aware of the fact that he has a crappy glove hand and drops into his butterfly too early on a lot of shots. The Leafs analyse video just like every other NHL team, they HAVE to be aware of it. The problem is they need to do something to get Raycroft to adjust his play or this will be another long season in Leaf land. Maybe if Maurice starts to punish him for every shot he goes down early on in the Pre-season. Like docking him $10,000 from his bloated $2 mill paycheque… or maybe a bit less since the frequency of occurrence might make that a tad pricey.

    Here’s hoping the Leafs figure this out sooner rather than later.

  37. Good to see that Daniel is so clued into reality:

    the guy has no choice. i mean the leafs have no cap room except for having somewhere between $7-14M depending on where the salary cap ends up. (overpaid on defence) and have enough trouble finding sundin a scoring winger.The Leafs were 8th in the NHL in scoring. The Habs were 16th. They might want to address that problem. u awarded aubin with a nice backup contract. It’s rewarded not awarded and at around $750K it was a good deal but hes nothing more than a backup. raycorft has that 2 million dollar contract that u cant afford to buy out.Buying out Raycroft would cost less than it will to buy out Jassen Cullimore your still paying belfour’s contract (i think thats up this year, so that saves SOME cap room), basically maurice has 2 options. support his crappy goalie and try to instill confidence in him, or call him out (ala tortorella) and risk shooting his confidence.

    pretty much JFJ and maurice are hoping that pogge comes along nicely. i guess they must be thinking 1 more year in the minors, 1 more year getting some NHL games, and hopefully by year 3 he will be a full time starter.

    whats funny is rask should be ready for NHL duty soon. he would have been quite cheap, and would have been NHL ready pretty soon. says who? is this still based on his amazing WJHC 2 years ago? Last year he stunk up the joint especially when he gave up 4 goals on 11 shots to BELARUS. We’ll see how good he is if he ever makes it to the NHL

    in any event if pogge doesnt live up to expectations, the leafs are going no where. u NEED a goalie, and unless they can sign one off the market, theyre done. Why are people reluctant to use proper spelling and grammar on websites? Especially when everyone else is writing as if they have been in a classroom. Anyway, if the Leafs decide to end the Raycroft experiment the Leafs won’t have any trouble signing a big-name goalie

    GO CAREY PRICE!! The AHL is very different from the NHL. We’ll see if he has the same success as Halak *laugh* next year.

  38. Bah! stupid tags. Oh well, it’s easy to differentiate. Whatever was written in English is my reply and the gibberish is the original message.

  39. The defence of the Toronto Maple Leafs is not TERRIBLE. But McCabe, Kabs, Kubina, Gill, Carlo C, and whoever u want wont win u a stanley cup, end of discussion. The leafs should try and trade kubina. 5 Million is toooooooo much.

  40. Why is it still in bold? Anyway, if you have read any of DJ’s stuff you’ll know that the Leafs’ problems weren’t in the scoring department. 5 on 5 they were 5th and Montreal was 27th.

  41. That sextet of defenders is better than Tampa’s in 2004 and Carolina’s in 2006. You’ll see a lot better performance out of Kubina next year.

  42. Some of your ‘/b’ tags were in fact ‘b’ tags so you didn’t have enough closing tags. You could also try ‘strong’ and ‘/strong’. They might work better but not sure.

  43. Wow, certainly an interesting analysis. Too bad it really proves nothing.
    Ok, so you argue that scoring chances are based solely on proximity to the net. While that is probably true to a certain extent, this list does not breakdown blown coverage, bad passing, giveaways and flat-out terrible team defence. Having watched the Leafs for a while, that has been a large part of their game and they have been bailed out year after by their goalie (i.e. Belfour and Joseph). This past season Raycroft doesn’t provide the goaltending to bail them out and surprise, surprise they miss the playoffs for a secodn straight season. Yeah, yeah, this is just my opinion, but anyone who watches the Leafs on a regular basis can see this. Stats don’t prove everything!! They aren’t the worst in the NHL, but they are not a top 10 defence in the NHL, because if they were, they would be a playoff team.

  44. I really admire all that trouble you went through, and i fully support your point. I think the reason many people get angry at the Leaf’s D is that it’s overpaid. But you really dont need to do all that work…

    The average person can’t tell anything from the shot-distance-allowed graphs, all it shows is that the leafs are about average. The first set of interesting numbers is basically ranking the teams by shots allowed, which is available to anyone with a few clicks on NHL.com. The second set of numbers is a bit more interesting though. Really fascinates me how below average Raycroft is.

  45. Pardon me but I find it a tad strange that somehow all the “top 10 D” teams would be in the playoffs… irrespective of their scoring. On DJ’s list, Columbus was right behind Toronto for expected goals against, and guess what? They too suffer from horrible goaltending. The teams ahead of them in playoff ranking that sucked it up in the D department happen to be… lets see… the Islanders? the Rangers? Ottawa, Montreal and Nashville? Nashville and Ottawa’s D are “over-rated” defensively thanks to solid goaltending, and high powered offences. Montreal, the Isles, and Rangers all have stellar keepers saving them from the fire typically in Huet, DiPietro, and Lundqvist. Toss in the fact that Nashville boasts Vokoun/Mason, and Ottawa has Emery (notice how bad they were when Gerber was between the pipes?). Really this whole post makes perfect sense and those of you who continue to insist on bashing the Leafs D are making yourselves look a tad idiotic… it’s not complicated assessment. The closer you are when you get a shot the more likely it is to be a goal. The better your goalie, the lower the shooting percentages will be in general. Bad goaltending can sabotage good Defence, and GOOD goaltending can make bad Defence look decent… it’s not that silly and you all need to realize it.

  46. I should retract the Vokoun statement, and instead say they BOASTED Vokoun/Mason. Now it’s just Mason, but he’s pretty dang good also. I’d imagine based on this examination that if Toskala and Vokoun play like they did last season then Toronto’s goals allowed will resemble Ottawa and Nashville’s from last year, and Florida’s will resemble New Jersey, San Jose, or Minnesota. That’s scary if you think about it… Suddenly Jacques Martin will be a defensive genius again, and JFJ won’t be retarded.

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