Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Leafs might never score another goal again

At least, that's how you might feel if you've been buying into the "the Leafs are tougher on D and in goal, but who will score?" hype that's been floating around since Burkie made his major moves. The Leafs lack elite scoring forwards, it's true, in fact they lack true first line scoring players.

So I decided to take a look around the league last year at teams that also lacked real point producers. In this totally scientific survey utterly not conducted because of baseless speculation, I basically just checked team rosters for a lack of players who had around 75 points, and lacked more than one 30 goal scorer.

The results were pretty much what you'd expect from the bottom-feeding section of the NHL (after all, teams around us in the standings and all) and so the Islanders, Kings, and Avalanche all fall into this category.

The teams that placed above us who lacked singular point producers were: New York, Florida, Montreal, Minnesota, and Edmonton. Which is interesting as there's two playoff teams and two 9th place teams there, and if the Leafs are looking to show improvement with their roster then it would be these teams we can reasonably aspire to. Which is actually incredibly depressing, but I digress.

It's worth noting that none of the teams we might aspire to take the place of next year scored more goals than the Leafs (who were 10th in the league for GF). I then averaged their goals against over the season.

Average GA for "competitive" teams
229

Leafs GA from last season
293

Ffffffh. So the entirely unscientific argument can be made that if the Leafs can score around the same amount of goals next season and chop our goals against down by, say, 60 or so then we should reasonably be close to a playoff spot.

*****

So let's just ignore the difficulties of cutting our GA for next season down by 20%, shall we, and move onto the question of whether or not it's reasonable to expect our roster to still be in the top 10 in the league for goals for with our recent subtractions from the roster.

The notable subtractions for the Leafs (thus far) are Nik Antropov, Dominic Moore, and Pavel Kubina, who combined for a grand total of 47 goals and 107 points last year.

Now the fun part is that we can track how the Leafs did in the last 30 games of the season without Antropov and Moore, so let's do that.

After the trade deadline the Leafs put up a 15-11-4 record for a .566 winning percentage. They scored 102 goals during that stretch, 41% of their total for the season, which works to about 3.4 goals for/game. That's better than the 2.8 GF/game that they'd been scoring previously.

During that 30 game stretch Pavel Kubina put up 16 points, with 4 powerplay goals and 10 total power play points, and two game-winning goals. That's production that will be missed, but I have to believe that whomever fills the void in Kubina's absence will be able to at least chip in some points on the power play.

One worry is Jason Blake, our leading goal and point scorer from last season, as his time spent with Moore was given a lot of credit towards his resurgence in the second half. We can also track how Blake did without Moore:

30 GP
25 pts
8 goals

So we can see that without his best buddy Moore he was still able to put up a third of his total goals and almost half of his assists in the last third of the season. I think it's safe to say that whatever happens with Blake next year, his production will not drop because of a lack of Moore exposure.

*****

So is the Leafs' offense going to suffer next season? Probably, a little at least. Is it going to be a major problem? I don't think so, it's entirely possible for this group to show improvement in the standings with the group of forwards it has, so long as we can keep the puck out of our net.

But to be quite honest, people were predicting that our goals for would drop when Sundin, Tucker, and McCabe got shown the door, and it didn't happen, they were predicting that it would drop again when we got rid of Moore and Antropov and it certainly hasn't happened yet. The Leafs are lacking in truly skilled scoring forwards, but they've been able to score more than enough with simple hockey and hard work, and we have enough depth of players with some offensive skill that we can count on some goals going in eventually.

Yes we may have benefitted from a lack of pressure in the last third of the year, we also might have benefitted from getting to know Ron Wilson hockey and learning to play with our new additions. At this point I'm not willing to say anything for definite, but it doesn't look like scoring is going to be enough of a problem that we can't take a "wait and see" approach to how our offensive corps develops. One free agent signing or trade incumbent isn't going to push this offense over the top, and so we might as well leave some room open for one of our many new young forwards to hopefully surprise us come camp.

4 comments:

kidkawartha said...

Excellent work, koop. We're not even factoring in if Tlusty, Bozak and/or Stalberg crack the lineup.

floridaLEAF said...

I agree 100%. Everyone was screaming that the Leafs couldn't score goals before last season and we finished 10th in the league. As Burke says, lets see how how guys do without being run through the boards every 2 seconds. I think we will do just fine and it will be fun seeing some of the younger guys improve.

Jaredoflondon said...

will the Leafs score less?
that is a good possibility.
Will it be a drastic and huge blow to the Leafs offense?
doubtful.

Bhanwar said...

We also have to factor in a healthy Kaberle, who can score a few himself, but sets up a lot more with his passing and puckhandling.