Face Punches vs. Scoring Punch

The Toronto Maple Leafs practiced today, with new lines. Lupul-Bozak-Kessel is back together, Jake Gardiner may actually play, and a bit more shuffling went down too. But here’s something that bugs me.

Colton Orr appears to be in tomorrow’s lineup, skating on line three. Matt Frattin isn’t. This, at least in my eyes, is a terrible idea.

My initial evidence for this being bad goes to last season, when both of them were on the Toronto Marlies for their Calder Cup Finals run.

Lets talk about Frattin:

  • Frattin played in 13 games during that run, missing the Finals sweep by Norfolk due to an injury suffered while crashing the net to score his 10th goal of the playoffs, which lead the team and AHL.
  • He also finished second on the Marlies in points, sixth in the AHL. All of this in his first ever pro playoff run.
  • To go with this (anecdotal evidence because the AHL doesn’t track anything other than the most basic of stats), Frattin was no stranger to throwing hits and playing physical hockey over the course of the playoffs. High intensity late season hockey, exactly what you want out of a guy beyond April. He’ll be the first to tell you those are the type of games he lives for.
  • Frattin’s potential usage would involve giving the third line an extra offensively capable player to develop a scoring chance with, one with a heavy, accurate shot that can capitalize from more positions than most if a scoring chance arises. Away from the puck, he’s got a bit of defensive capability and can finish checks.

Now, lets talk about Orr:

  • Orr was healthy and available for all 17 games of last year’s playoff run. He played in 8 of them, being scratched for the other 9. That number may be more lopsided if Frattin didn’t get hurt, seeing as Orr played all four games in the finals.
  • The Marlies were involved in just four fights the entire playoffs, two of them in the same game. The fighters? Colton Orr (Round 2, Game 4), Will Acton (Round 3, Game 2), Korbinian Holzer (Round 3, Game 2), and Mark Fraser (Round 4, Game 1). Clearly, fights weren’t incredibly necessary.
  • Orr’s fight came with two seconds left in a 3-1 game that the Marlies were winning.
  • He also took two minor penalties, was a -2, and took 8 shots over the course of the playoffs, scoring zero points.

So, what we see from a successful playoff team from just a year ago, is that Frattin is a viable option for offense and physical presence, while Colton Orr isn’t worth playing for half the games, and when he does, he contributes nothing offensively and barely fights.

After all, we’re talking about the playoffs; where fight frequency drops by over a third, and the fights that do happen go from “goon vs. goon agreed to at the draw” to “you just made my teammate bleed, you must pay”. So why do you need a staged fight based enforcer?

It would be one thing if the Leafs had nobody to step in for reactionary scraps. But guys like Mark Fraser, and if desperate, Dion Phaneuf, can do just that. Half this team has dropped the gloves when need be, so while it isn’t in their hopes, they can stand up for themselves in a time of need.

It would be one thing if Orr in any way intimidated the Bruins. But he doesn’t – they see no need to fight him. It doesn’t prove a point for them, and lets be honest, their fighters are all much more talented than he is, and recognize that the best favour they can do their team is not go to the box with him for five minutes. Will Orr’s presence stop Milan Lucic? No way. They could make for a good scrap, but Lucic isn’t dumb enough to swing back and leave his team without his hockey playing ability for five minutes while the Leafs put on an actual player.

The same goes for Shawn Thornton, Adam McQuaid, Gregory Campbell, Zdeno Chara, Nathan Horton, or the other tougher Bruins players. Intimidating the Boston Bruins by wanting to punch them in the face will not work. If you want to use physicality, hitting is more effective, and Frattin does that. But really, the only way to intimidate them is to take offensive control, and make Tuukka Rask feel the pressure. An enforcer doesn’t do that. A sharpshooter does. Matt Frattin fits that description much more than Colton Orr.

While toughness helped the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011, it wasn’t toughness by goonery, rather toughness coming from already talented players. Which they had a lot of. Realistically, the biggest factor was having multiple lines capable of scoring goals, so they could capitalize on teams once they had to put out a weaker defensive pairing.

If there’s any “beat Boston at their own game” strategies to use, it’s that one. But as long as the Leafs are playing enforcers on their third line instead of trying to score, Randy Carlyle will remain confused as to why Zdeno Chara only goes out when Phil Kessel is on the ice, and why the Bruins don’t really care about who faces the bottom six.

I guess what I’m saying is; Frattin can give the Leafs another scoring option when the top six is being shut down. Orr skates around the ice getting rejected by potential fight opponents because there’s no benefit for them to face him. We have a glaring, recent case study of these two being in and out of a playoff lineup. But, at least for now, Randy Carlyle will ride the enforcers win championships mantra off into the sunset.

The Leafs and Bruins face off in Game 2 tomorrow night, in Boston, at 7PM.

  • How about giving Orr credit for what he does just one time. The guy gives it his all and does what he should. Stop making him sound like a plug when he contributes things that stats can’t measure. There is a reason that every top scorer in every league doesn’t make the NHL. It’s not just about stats. It’s about much more than that.

  • You are right they aren’t kids. They are paid athletes and it sure is nice to see one put the effort in for the money he is getting paid unlike many other players.

    I know he doesn’t score many goals, he has hands of lead and his skating is sub par. I say this so you know I’m not gonna make him seem like a super star.

    What he does do is his job. He throws hits, he gets in faces and gets in scrums because that is his job. He doesn’t need to intimidate every player in the league. He intimidates some and shows the ones who aren’t intimidated that he won’t back down.

    I’m most certain that every leaf sees value in having him in the line up. I understand why Carlyle keeps him in the line up. I hope that you can at least understand it. You don’t have to agree with it but I hope you at least understand his purpose and can give Orr credit where credit is due.

  • jasken

    Interesting let compare AHL stats that really have no meaning in NHL hockey whatsoever.

    Now lets look at play-off experience Orr 4 years of being in playoffs no accounting for experience in playoffs considering he would know what it takes in the playoffs to get the job done. I am not saying play Orr over Frattin but I would rather have Orr in the game for his knowledge, leadership, experience and the ability to step in if need be. There seems to be a belief that Orr has no skill and he really is not much help. Well I wonder did people even watch that last game was it the 4th line having problems getting off the ice for a line change? Was it the enforcers who were responsible for goals? To fix this you say sit the only ones who seem to be effective at all and maintaining the system and apply pressure. For younger inexperienced more talented players who will more then lucky end up doing the same thing as the Kadri line this is hockey knowledge for you. Fill the line-up with no leadership, and no playoff experience and expect to win? That wont happen you play the younger players and older experienced players to get some mix in playoff experience so they will be ready for next time and if you manage to get a few wins and able to play them more. If you scrape out a series win you repeat the same process in the next series. Yes you go wanting to win but not disappointed that it didn’t happen the players are to inexperienced and really weren’t ready to go deep into playoffs anyways.

  • jasken

    If there was going to be fight in the playoffs, it should have happened in the Ottawa game last night. McLean even put Kassian in, what did he do? No fights, and took a dumb penalty in the third when they needed some offence to get back in the game. I’m no pacifist but the Bruins have more skill than the Leafs do. The leafs have more skill available in Fratten, Gardner, and Jumbo Joe. We can’t beat Boston at their game, we have to play to our strengths, like speed, short passes (to a teammate)and shots on goal. Simple, Randy doesn’t have the skill he had in 07 to compensate for for a goon taking the odd dumb penalty.

  • jasken

    The Leafs should be playing guys who can get the puck out of their own end while maintaining possession. No one is going to fight Orr or McLaren, and they didn’t seem able to dissuade the Bruins from trying to kill Grabovski, or dish out punishment in return.

    Glad to see Gardiner back in.

  • jasken

    I think they should take MClaren out and put in Frattin. As far as Orr goes they should 100% leave him in. AHL stats mean nothing, this is the NHL, whole new league. So let’s look at some stats from Wednesday nights NHL playoff game. After JVR, Orr was 2ND in shots on the team, albeit tied for second, he had more scoring opportunities that game than Kessel, MacArthur, Kulemin, Bozak, and Kadri. He was 3rd on the team in hits, and the only forward who had more than him was Kulemin. I would much rather leave a guy like Orr in, who proved last game he’s willing to put in the effort to do what a bottom 6 forward has to do, than a guy who did well in last years AHL playoffs. That being said McLaren had a bad game, so I think they should yank him from the line and put Frattin in for the extra scoring ability.

  • jasken

    Why the hell should they leave Mclaren and/or Orr in the lineup. Here’s some data for you for anyone who thinks either of those goons belong on the team.

    Courtesy of Behind the net, Mclaren has faced the worst quality of competition on the team this season with Relative Corsi QoC of -2.141. He also has the greatest percentage of Ozone starts at 55.4%. Orr is no better. His Relative Corsi QoC is -1.794, and has the second highest Ozone percentage at 50.3%. They play the most sheltered minutes on the team and have awful Rel Corsi numbers (-14.1 for Mclaren and -10.8 for Orr).

    O, and Orr takes 2.6 more penalties per 60 minutes then he draws, and Mclaren takes .9 more penalties per 60 minutes then he draws.

    Other than those stats their Great!!!!!