The plan today was to write a forecasting piece on James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier, and what people expect going into next season. To join in, simply reply to this tweet. It’s part forecast, part experiment. I want to get the impression of how much hockey fans value something like regression to the mean.
But then the Maple Leafs signed Daniel Winnik and screwed up my whole day. Thanks, Kyle.
Not to worry though. I noted in Jeffler’s piece commenting on the signing that he brought up Winnik’s penalty differential, which was very positive at 17 drawn, 10 taken last season. While people comment on Winnik’s penalty killing ability, what may be as valuable is that Winnik is a player with a strong penalty drawing ability.
Toronto has been recent-historically awful in penalty killing, save that miraculous 2013 season. A year ago, the team was 24th in goals allowed per 60 minutes of time at 4-on-5. It didn’t help matters that Toronto took 16 more penalties than they had powerplay opportunities. While 16 doesn’t seem like that high of a number, assuming a powerplay success rate of 20%, the Leafs conceded about three extra goals based on penalties taken alone, which cost them a point in the standings.
Now, I think a lot has been made about how Toronto’s taking a different focus in the bottom of the order this year. There’s no speciality third line centre. There’s no long-term contract given to some lunk of a former 20-goal scorer with heart n grit. There is simply a ragamuffin group of castoffs from the bottom of the free agency pile, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. While Vancouver chased David Booth out of town as fast as they could, Booth is a much more valuable hockey player than Colt Knorr or even Carter Ashton and should fit in marvellously on a third or fourth line.
Here’s the other thing: check out the forwards that have left the Leafs this past year, and their penalty differentials, via ExtraSkater:
While the Leafs got rid of a couple of penalty-drawing machines like Mason Raymond and Jerry D’Amigo, the losses of Dave Bolland and Jay McClement should help out the team. (I like McClement as a player, but Randy Carlyle didn’t seem to. Randy Carlyle’s deployment of McClement probably cost Jay about a million bucks. If you happen to be McClement’s agent and reading this, I will gladly testify if you choose to file suit against Carlyle)
Who is coming in? WELL!! Here are their numbers for penalties drawn and taken in the most recent season:
Okay, let’s get even more excited. I didn’t even count Knorr (12 drawn, 22 taken, -10) or Frazer McLaren (12 drawn, 16 taken, -4) in the OUT pile, even though any reasonable coaching staff would drastically cut their minutes by about 100%. Better still, while I didn’t count Petri Kontiola or Leo Komarov in the “IN” pile because Komarov didn’t even have a 2013-14 NHL season, Komarov had a +6 differential in the shortened 2013 campaign, tied for second among forwards (tied with Tyler Bozak) on the team.
The reason why we haven’t undersold the newbies on the Leafs is that these are all good things! Turning a -16 penalty differential into a +16 penalty differential is basically worth a free win. Yay team! Yay sports!