Why Following the Toronto Maple Leafs' Model Will Not Work For The Winnipeg Jets

USA TODAY Sports

Leafs this, Leafs that. Blah blah blah. The Winnipeg Media loves you Randy Carlyle, but the public felating is based on non-fact.

In the aftermath of the season many Jets fans and media alike have mentioned the progress of the Toronto Maple Leafs as something the Winnipeg Jets can strive towards. The premise is loose and lazy to begin with, but I believe the idea is that the Jets will take a similar step forward when they start graduating their young talent. Mark Scheifele can be Winnipeg’s Nazem Kadri. Jacob Trouba can be the Jets' Jake Gardiner and so on. Something silly like that anyways. It is a fun storyline I suppose, but it doesn’t really reflect the reality of the situation.

Yes, the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs are both young teams. Yes, the Jets are set to start graduating some of their young talent. Yes, the Jets may be poised for a step forward, but that is where the similarities end. These two teams are built very differently and play very different games. The biggest flaw in this storyline is the fact that the Maple Leafs' "big steps" were largely built around two things that the team has zero control over.

How did the Leafs get better?

Well, it wasn’t because their pylons punched people in the face and gave the team confidence. If you actually believe that, please stop reading and go away. I hate you so much. I hate you and you are dumb.

The numbers suggest this year’s version of the Leafs was remarkably similar to last year’s squad. The team was significantly better on special teams. This is something that the Jets could and should look to replicate. The good news is that the Jets actually had above average special teams units over the 2nd half of the season. Solid special teams play can do wonders for a middling squad. If the Jets can push their late season numbers across the full length of next season it will amount to some more wins, but special teams wasn’t the whole story for Toronto. The Leafs also benefitted from the development of James Reimer and a shit-tonne of puck luck.

Save Percentage

Having your netminder stop more pucks is a sure-fire way to win more games, but it is also very hard for a team to control. For the Leafs, James Reimer had a breakout season. He finished the season with a .924 save percentage ,which left him ranked within the league’s top 10. Some have suggested that this was related to Randy Carlyle’s new system pushing shots to the outside.

The facts disagree. The reality is that the Leafs allowed 1.5 more shots against per game this year compared to last. According to this awesome piece by our buddies at Pension Plan Puppets, they actually allowed these shots from closer to the net (which is a more dangerous scoring area).

Is it possible that the Jets can replicate this? Anything is possible, but it isn’t really something coaching can control. I mean, sure… Coach Noel could intentionally ice bad hockey players (he does some of this already) on his 4th line. The team could allow more shots against and allow more shots from the dangerous areas, but that comes with no guarantees of improved goalie play.

Of course, Ondrej Pavelec could take a step forward and finally post some above average numbers, but the clock on him being young is running out and there are plenty of goalies -many younger than Pavelec - who are already differentiating themselves. History suggests we usually know what a goalie will be by now, but there are exceptions to that rule and everybody here hopes Pavelec can be one.

Can the Jets dramatically improve their save percentage? Yes, but that is something that will happen on its own. Pavelec has to play better. Noel can’t do much here, apart from changing how he handles back-to-back games. Regardless of how it happens there is no denying the impact a breakout goalie season would have. If Pavelec stopped 92.4% of the shots he faced (same as Reimer) the Jets would have allowed 24 fewer goals this season. That would surely amount to wins.

The unfortunate reality may be that Reimer is just flat out better than Pavelec though. Even if you think the two goalies are on par or that Pavelec is better (you shouldn’t), very few teams can bank on their goaltender posting a .924 sv% year in and year out. Even Reimer will likely regress a little bit next season.

Summary

The Jets may improve their team save percentage, but odds are against Ondrej Pavelec matching what James Reimer did this year. It is possible that he can break out in a big way, but banking on a career year from a goalie isn’t a long term recipe for success.

Shooting Percentage

This is another area where the Leafs made a ton of headway, but once again this can’t be controlled easily. When people talk about the Maple Leafs riding wild shooting percentages and puck luck, this is what they are talking about. The Toronto Maple Leafs led the league in shooting percentage this year, and they led by a wide margin.

Here are the rankings for 5on5 shooting percentage:

RK

TEAM

SH%

1

TOR

11

2

T.B

10.3

3

PIT

10

4

DAL

9.5

5

CHI

9.4

6

ANA

9.4

7

MTL

9.1

8

WSH

8.9

9

CBJ

8.9

10

WPG

8.7

11

NYI

8.4

12

VAN

8.4

13


AVERAGE


8.3


14

EDM

8.3

15

PHI

8.3

16

BUF

8.3

17

CGY

8.3

18

STL

8

19

L.A

8

20

NSH

7.9

21

MIN

7.9

22

BOS

7.9

23

CAR

7.9

24

PHX

7.8

25

NYR

7.6

26

COL

7.3

27

DET

7.1

28

N.J

6.7

29

S.J

6.6

30

OTT

6.6

31

FLA

6.5


Notes:

While it is possible that the Leafs have amassed the best group of snipers in the league, that is unlikely. The Leafs themselves are very likely to regress next year. Even if the Maple Leafs have found a new way to play hockey that allows them to shoot at a ridiculous percentage, the Jets have very little control over their own shooting percentage. Well, unless they add Crosby, Malkin or Stamkos in the offseason. Even then, there are no guarantees and 11% is highly unlikely.

To put some real numbers behind all this mumbo jumbo:

  • The Jets had the 10th highest ES shoot percentage in the league at 8.7%.
  • If the Leafs scored on 8.7% of their shots, they would have scored 23 less goals.
  • 23 less goals would put the Leafs at 122 goals for on the season.
  • 122 goals would drop their goals for ranking from 5th in the East to 12th
  • Their goal diff would have been -11 instead of +12.
  • If you drop their ES sh% down to league average, that would be a difference of 27 goals.

Summary

The Jets actually shot at a reasonably high percentage this season. They should not be expected to top this year’s number. Counting on them to shoot at a ridiculously high percentage is borderline insanity. Is it possible that the Jets could ride a wave of insane puck luck next season? Sure. Anything is possible, but the odds of a team getting Leafy puck luck over a full 82 games are very low.

What Does it All Mean?

It means that the Jets following in the Leafs footsteps to success is highly unlikely. Despite what some in the MSM will tell you – while stroking their Randy Carlye-induced hard-ons - the Leafs themselves shouldn’t be expected to repeat these percentages (especially their shooting percentage). The Jets may take a step forward, but they won’t be doing it how the Leafs did it.

Improving the team’s special teams unit would have a huge impact on the Jets' record and it is something that coaching can fix. Reducing shots against would help the Jets too, but the numbers of shots against were hardly the Jets' downfall.

The fact of the matter is that it is very difficult to make the playoffs when your team has a .908 SV% at even strength. The Jets have ranked 24th in this category both this year and last. For the Jets to take the next step they need to add players who can up their puck possession game or they need Ondrej Pavelec to take a huge step forward. It is really that simple.

Moving Forward

The Jets do have a handful of really nice puck possession pieces.

Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom are both quality possession defensemen capable of outshooting and outscoring the opposition’s best players. Zach Bogosian is a defensive workhorse that is really coming into his own offensively.

Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler may not scare anyone, but they can go toe-to-toe with just about any line in the league and they win the matchup more often than not.

Evander Kane is capable of driving puck possession all by himself, but he needs support. If Kevin Cheveldayoff can find him a centre or a winger that can help him keep the puck in the offensive zone, the team will be in a much better place.

The Jets could also use a backup goalie capable of pushing Pavelec and take a share of the workload.

Add to the mix youngsters like Alexander Burmistrov, Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Zach Redmond and Paul Postma, who all have the potential to help push this group forward, and the future is bright. In the short term we need a #2RW and a backup goalie. Get on the phone, Chevy.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Arctic Ice Hockey

You must be a member of Arctic Ice Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arctic Ice Hockey. You should read them.

Join Arctic Ice Hockey

You must be a member of Arctic Ice Hockey to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Arctic Ice Hockey. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9355_tracker