I love Letters to the Editor

From the Toronto Star:

"Re:Monster win for Leafs, Sports, Oct. 27

A more appropriate heading for Damien Cox's story would have been: "Colossal joke." It has been 42 years since the Leafs won a Stanley Cup. Currently, they are the worst team in the NHL and a lowly win against a have-not team can hardly be described as "monster." This hemorrhage at the ACC isn't hockey. It is a disgrace to the legacy of the Maple Leafs prior to 1968. The media in Toronto are as much to blame as the con artists who run the Maple Leafs. For once, call it for what it is, a "fleecing of your wallet," because it is the same old, same old hockey and excuses we have seen over the last 42 years. The Toronto Maple Leaf ownership and management team is a monster disgrace to the very spirit of the game of hockey."

First of all, are the Toronto Maple Leafs "the worst team in the NHL"? I looked over the Stanley Cup futures at a few different betting sites, and the Leafs are anywhere from 21st to 27th. Nobody thinks they're worse than the Islanders. I know that's small comfort, but the betting lines haven't moved much since the end of September. The letter-writer's mistake was irrational optimism before the season started.

It's also funny to hear Anaheim described as a "have-not" team. They've got perhaps the best top six offensive forwards in the league, one of the best defensemen in the league in Scott Niedermayer, and Jonas Hiller, a goaltender who's made the best teams in the league look pretty bad. Their penalty-kill sucks (which really hurts), but otherwise, they're a good team. They're certainly better than the Leafs.

And is the Maple Leafs management team a "monster disgrace to the very spirit of the game of hockey?" Let's say the Leafs are as bad as the worst team we've seen in the last two seasons. In other words, their true talent level is as low as Colorado or the Islander last year, or Tampa the year before. Their projected PDO number at 5-on-5 - save percentage + shooting percentage - would be .975. So far they've been at .928. That's four standard deviations below the mean - their performance literally had a 1-in-10000 chance of happening to the worst team we've seen in the last two years. There are other things that could have made their projection a bit lower over the first ten games - injuries, tougher opponents - but realistically, no modern NHL team is really this bad. How you can blame that on Brian Burke is beyond me.

I feel like I shouldn't even need to say this, but here goes: it's not 1966 anymore. There are more than six teams in the league, and some teams are going to go more than 30 years without winning the Stanley Cup. And it takes time - five to seven years - to build a winning team. Brian Burke has only been the Leafs GM for a year. If the Leafs miss the playoffs for the next three seasons, then he probably deserves to be turfed. But there was not one single person out there who predicted on October 1st that the Leafs would play this badly. The Leafs' players have multi-year track records of varying levels of success - why do three truly horrible weeks mean more than all those seasons?

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