Recently the Maple Leafs played the Penguins in ‘Steel town’ for game one of their home-and-home match-up, losing 5-4 in a game-deciding shootout. For anyone who failed to watch the whole game, Tyler Bozak “scored” the icebreaker for the Leafs about 2 minutes into the first period, only to be waved off. As the replay was shown on TV, everyone agreed that the referee had blown the call and the goal should have been reviewed; something that is non-existent in today’s NHL rulebook.
Coaches should have the right to review a possible goal, or any ‘phantom’ call for that matter, as it is very important to any hockey game. Even at the beginning of the season, the points add up in the end and one blown call can be detrimental to a potential win and ultimately their playoff chances. In this specific scenario the Leafs might have gotten the extra point in the end, not to mention holding the Penguins off from getting a point whatsoever. However, the referee had mistakenly make a bad call and has now left the Buds with a little added pressure on their young shoulders worrying about making up that blown point in another game elsewhere.
I know it’s still February, but the points add up, and as we’ve seen in the past, the differential in points between the 8th and 9th place team is often by 1 or 2 points. These blown calls don’t only happen with the Leafs; they happen night in and night out league wide. The NHL should allow the coach to challenge a “bad” or “good” call made by the referee so teams are always awarded the right call, and possibly the 2 points. The element of strategy is another factor which would be implemented to this rule change, ultimately holding the coaches responsible for their fate if they fail to make a challenge. Between the excitement of challenged plays and the decreased percentage of blown calls, it is hard to disagree that it is time for the NHL to seriously take this into consideration.
Here’s the clip of the goal - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRfHfPuXvqM
For the second straight season, Leafs nation is enthused by a hot start to the season. Eerily similar to last season’s pace, the Leafs find themselves in exactly the same position after six games: four wins, a loss and an overtime/shootout loss. It was around the sixth game last season that the Leafs season began to fall apart, eventually leading to the Leafs missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season.
Today I wanted to take a look at what exactly a strong start brings to a hockey club. I did some simple research; teams that won the Stanley Cup and their record after ten games (with record for October as well). Near the end we also look at the eighth place team each year in the East.
Although statistics aren’t the be all – end all for predicting outcomes, they can be useful for finding trends. Let’s dive into this one.
The Carolina Hurricanes (2005-2006)
The Hurricanes had a decent start to the 2005-2006 season, notching 14 points in their first ten games. It’s important to note that the ‘Canes started a nine game (at game seven) winning streak going all the way into November. The team earned at least a point in 80% of their first ten games played, with a win rate of 60%.
Their official record after 10 games: 6 – 2 - 2 (14 points).
Their official record for the month of October (11GP): 7 – 2 – 2 (16 points).
- – -
The Anaheim Ducks (2006-2007)
The Ducks started the 2006-2007 season with an absolute bang, racking up 17 points after ten games. The team earned at least a point in 100% of their first ten games, with a win rate of 70%.
Their official record after 10 games: 7 – 0 – 3 (17 points).
Their official record for the month of October (12 GP): 9 – 0 -2 (21 points).
- – -
The Detroit Red Wings (2007-2008)
The Wings had the second best start to a season out of all post-lockout champions, netting 15 points in their first ten games. The Wings would eventually start a nine game winning streak lasting into November. The team earned at least a point in 80% of their first ten games, with a win rate of 70%.
Their official record after 10 games: 7 – 2- 1 (15 points).
Their official record for the month of October (13 GP): 10 – 2 – 1 (21 points).
- – -
The Pittsburgh Penguins (2008-2009)
The Pens had the “worst” start of all eventual champions, ending up with only 12 points after ten games. It’s important to note the team was out of a playoff spot when they fired Michel Terrien and hired Dan Bylsma to be the new head coach. The team earned at least a point in 70% of their first ten games, with a win rate of 50%
Their official record after 10 games: 5 – 3 – 2 (12 points).
Their official record for the month of October (11 GP): 5 – 4 – 2 (12 points).
- – -
The Chicago Blackhawks (2009-2010)
The Blackhawks had another “weak” start out of post-lockout champions, notching 13 points in their first ten games. The team earned at least a point in 70% of their first ten games played, with a win rate of 60%.
The official record after 10 games: 6 – 3 – 1 (13 points).
Their official record for the month of October (12 GP): 8 – 4 -1 (17 points).
- – -
The Boston Bruins (2010-2011)
The Bruins had a decent start en route to their eventual Stanley Cup victory, ending up with 14 points after ten games. The team earned at least a point in 70% of their games in the first ten, with a win rate of 70%.
Their official record after 10 games: 7 -3 – 0 (14 points).
Their official record for the month of October (8 GP): 6 -2 – 0 (12 points).
- – -
The Toronto Maple Leafs (2010-2011)
The Leafs had their best post-lockout start to a season in 2010-2011, but shortly after the wheels fell off and the club never made it to the playoffs. The Leafs would eventually start an eight game losing streak lasting into mid November (November 16 to be exact). The Leafs earned at least a point in 60% of their first ten games played, with a win rate of 50%.
Their official record after 10 games: 5 – 4 – 1 (11 points).
Their official record for the month of October (10 GP): 5 – 4 – 1 (11 points).
- – -
Cup Champion vs. Early Season Success Trends
What can be taken from all these statistics you just perused through? Let’s make a list.
- The team accumulates at least 12 points in it’s first ten games.
- The team has a win rate of 50% or higher and must also earn a point in 70% of their games.
- No post-lockout Stanley cup champion has had less than 99 points.
- No post-lockout Stanley cup champion has finished lower than second in their division; fourth in their conference.
Now keep in mind that anything can happen. A team could squeak in the playoffs in eighth place and potentially win the cup. They could very well defy all the odds, and start the season poorly and still win the cup. However, for arguments sake let’s just assume the trends to hold true, considering there are no anomalies in the statistics post-lockout.
- – -
Trends vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (2010-2011)
- Accumulate at least 12 points after first ten games? FAIL (11 points after 10 GP)
- Win rate of 50% or higher? PASS (50%) AND earn points in at least 70% of team’s first ten games? FAIL (60%)
The Leafs failed both of the trends and consequently missed the playoffs and did not win the Stanley Cup.
- – -
Theoretically: Toronto Maple Leafs (2011-2012) and the Stanley Cup
The Leafs are once again off to a hot start, going 4 – 1 – 1 in their first six games. They currently have 9 points. To be considered for all three trends the Leafs would need to:
- Accumulate at least 3 points in their next 4 games. They could squeak by with a 1 – 2 – 1 record.
- Achieve win rate of at least 50% and obtain at least a point in 70% for their first ten games. They’re currently at 50% (over projected 10). Two more wins or a win + overtime loss would do it.
I’m not saying achieving any of these trends guarantees the Leafs the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup. I’m not saying following these trends even assures the Leafs a playoff spot. I’m just saying, typically (statistically, by the trends, however you want to call it) the eventual Stanley Cup champion will follow these trends. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to do the same this season.
- – -
Afterthoughts: Eighth Place Teams
Some may just be satisfied to see the Leafs reach the playoffs for the first time in six years. I know I’d be, it’s all about the baby steps. Let’s quickly take a look at the eighth place team in the Eastern conference each year of the lockout and see how the trends are affected.
Tampa Bay Lightning (2005-2006) : 10 GP | 5 – 3 – 2 | 12 points | 50% win rate; 70% point earning rate for first 10 games.
New York Islanders (2006-2007) : 10 GP | 4 – 4 – 2 | 10 points | 40% win rate; 60% point earning rate for first 10 games.
Boston Bruins (2007-2008) : 10 GP | 6 – 4 – 0 | 12 points | 60% win rate; 60% point earning rate for first 10 games.
Montreal Canadiens (2008-2009) : 10 GP | 8 – 1 – 1 | 17 points | 80% win rate; 90% point earning rate for first 10 games.
Montreal Canadiens (2009-2010) : 10 GP | 5 – 5 – 0 | 10 points | 50% win rate; 50% point earning rate for first 10 games.
New York Rangers (2010-2011) : 10 GP | 6 – 3 – 1 | 13 points | 60% win rate; 70% point earning rate for first 10 games.
- – -
Afterthoughts: Eight Place Teams vs Early Season Success Trends
Let’s yet again make an (abbreviated) consensus trends list.
- To make the eighth spot in the Eastern conference, typically the team accumulates at least 10 points in the first ten games.
- To make the eight spot in the Eastern conference, typically the team has a win rate of at least 40% and point earning rate of 50% for the first 10 games.
This time there’s quite a few anomalies. Montreal went from an 80% win rate / 90% point earning rate to a 50% win rate / 50% point earning rate in two straight seasons, yet still found themselves in eighth place both years. Teams were able to get in to the playoffs eventually with at least 10 points earned, 40% win rate / 50% point earning rate in their first ten games.
Considering the Leafs current record of 4 – 1 – 1, their 9 points and 40% win rate / 50% point earning rate (both percentages projected over 10 games), they would only need one more point to be “trending” towards at least an eighth place finish. (Technically, they’re still “in the hunt” for the cup as well, according to the trends covered above for cup champions).
The 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs would have been trending towards a playoff spot. They had 11 points, a 50% win rate and 60% point earning rate. As we know, however, the team did not make the playoffs. This proves that having a “trendy” start to the season doesn’t statistically guarantee you anything, but rather offers an interesting look at how playoff teams generally start.
- – -
The following article was a long-winded attempt at possibly uncovering the patterns behind starting a season well. I looked at post-lockout champions and documented their first ten games, attempting to see if there was a consensus number behind them; trends if you will. I also, for arguments sake, took a look at the eighth place team each year in the Eastern conference, although to a less in-depth approach as the champions. What I have found is some statistical evidence to lend credence to the fact that a good start can go a long way towards success.
Am I suggesting that these statistics are set in stone for determining who wins the cup, or even who makes the playoffs? Most definitely not. We all know that on paper the outcome may be one way, when in fact in reality it turns out completely different.
Looking at past trends is a fun, thoughtful (and tedious) way to look at how teams start the season and how much success they eventually have. Seasons are not won in the first ten games; in fact you’re much more likely to lose a season.
As the stats/trends/patterns show, a good start to a season will most often lead to success. The team in question just needs to keep it up over the course of the season, and not succumb to other variables such as injures, suspensions, etc.
Like all long journeys, it all begins with the first few steps.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past little bit, or you just didn’t know, every year the Leafs participate in a rookies only tournament, usually held somewhere in Ontario. Over the past few years the teams in the tournament have varied, but the excitement and entertainment is always a constant.
This year the Leafs will be hosting the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators in a tournament spanning four days (Saturday September 10 – Tuesday September 13). The Leafs play a total of three games during the tournament:
- Saturday September 10 vs Chicago Blackhawks 7 PM EST
- Sunday September 11 vs Pittsburgh Penguins 7 PM EST
- Tuesday September 13 vs Ottawa Senators 7 PM EST
We here at LeafsWire enjoy partaking every year in at least one game, so we thought we’d like other people to experience the tournament as well. Therefore, we’re going to be GIVING AWAY A PAIR OF TICKETS TO ANY ONE GAME OF YOUR CHOICE.
On Friday August 26, 2011 we’re going to randomly choose one person who either tweeted us / left a comment on this post. To be eligible for the draw you must perform the following (ridiculously easy) steps:
1. Follow us on Twitter! You can do that here.
3. Leave us a comment on this post or tweet us with the following message:
“Hey @LeafsWire I want to see the Leafs play the (insert team here) on (insert date here). I’m excited to see (insert player name here) play! ”
EXAMPLE: Hey @LeafsWire I want to see the Leafs play the Penguins on Sunday Sept. 11. I’m most excited to see Mitch Heard play! #leafs #nhl
4. Wait patiently until 6 PM EST on Friday August 26, 2011 at which point we will randomly determine the winner.
5. We will contact the winner and work out the details of where we can ship your tickets.
That’s it. It’s not much to do, should take everyone about 5 minute each to enter. I strongly recommend taking in a rookie tournament game every year if you are able, it’s a good chance to see our prospects play.
Good luck to everyone, and thanks for being a fan!
Toronto Maple Leafs Rookie Tournament Roster
Player Height Weight Position
Tyler Brenner 6’2 200 Forward
David Broll 6’1 225 Forward
Sam Carrick 6’0 188 Forward
Jerry D’Amigo 5’11 213 Forward
Jamie Devane 6’5 220 Forward
Matt Frattin 6’0 200 Forward
Mitchell Heard 6’2 180 Forward
Josh Leivo 6’2 180 Forward
Greg McKegg 6’0 195 Forward
Kyle Neuber 6’2 215 Forward
Josh Nicholls 6’2 186 Forward
Sondre Olden 6’4 176 Forward
Brad Ross 6’0 175 Forward
Kenny Ryan 6’0 210 Forward
Jesse Blacker 6’1 190 Defence
Dave Cowan 6’4 205 Defence
Jake Gardiner 6’2 193 Defence
Stuart Percy 6’1 186 Defence
Mike Schmidt 6’4 215 Defence
Matt Stanisz 6’1 200 Defence
Danny Urban 5’10 170 Defence
Mark Owuya 6’2 198 Goaltender
Garret Sparks 6’2 204 Goaltender