GDB 70.0: Sharing the pain

TankFans

There isn’t much love between Leafs fans and Oilers fans, however, both groups share one common bond: both have endured a decade of despair. The Oilers and Leafs have only made the playoffs once in the past ten years. The Oilers made it in 2006, but haven’t been close since, while the Leafs missed the dance for the first seven years, made it in 2013 only to suffer a painful game seven loss to the Bruins, and are now starting another streak of two seasons without the postseason.

No fan base in Canada has suffered more than those who cheer for the Leafs and Oilers since the beginning of the 2005/2006 season, and only fans in Florida can relate to your struggles.

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All three cities have experienced the playoffs only once in the past decade, and they’ve all seen significantly more losses than wins.

Here are the bottom five teams in total points during the past decade:

            TEAM        W        L     OT      PTS

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26th: Toronto        344 – 333 – 97       785

27th: Florida         326 – 328  – 118    770

28th: NYI               336 – 346 –  93     765

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29th: CBJ              335 – 351 – 86      756

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30th: Edm             302 – 378 – 93       697

The Islanders will be in the post season for the third time this year, while even the lowly Blue Jackets have made it twice, 2009 and 2014.

Florida has played in front of half empty buildings often during their run of futility, but Leafs and Oilers’ fans continue to support their team by paying big dollars to watch their teams lose. You can make the argument no fans in the country are as loyal, or as vocal, as Oilers and Leafs fans.

The Leafs have acquired most of their best players via trade: Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul, Jonathan Bernier, James Van Riemsdyk, while the Oilers have drafted theirs: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin and Nail Yakupov.

Neither organization has seen much success.

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NEW COACHES…

Coaching

Edmonton fired Dallas Eakins after 31 games due to a 7-19-5 record. Craig MacTavish stepped in for five games and went 0-3-2, before handing the reigns to Todd Nelson. Nelson is 11-17-5 in 33 games, an improvement over MacEakins, but the team still isn’t close to being a playoff contender, and as I stated for the past five years, constantly hoping a new coach will fix things is the wrong approach.

A coach can make a positive impact, no doubt — Nelson’s approach on the PP has been obvious, and he’s bean able to get more out of Nail Yakupov and others — but a coach doesn’t win or lose battles. He doesn’t make split second decisions all over the ice. The players do, and if you don’t have enough players committed to winning in the dirty areas of the ice, you likely won’t win.

The Leafs also changed coaches mid-season, but it had the opposite impact that Nelson has had on the Oilers.

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Randy Carlyle’s Leafs were in a playoff spot 40 games into the season, 21-16-3, but management felt the coach’s system and style wasn’t conducive to winning so he was fired on January 6th.

Peter Horachek was named interim head coach, but since he took over the Leafs have plummeted down the standings. They Leafs are 6-21-3 since Carlyle was fired.

Carlyle:
Record: 21-16-3
Outscored opponents: 127 -121 (3.17 GF/game and 3.03 GA/game)
Outshot by opponents: 1373-1196 (34.3 SA/game and 29.9 SF/game)
PP: 29 on 144 (20.1%) 
PK: 24 of 135 (82.2%)  

Horachek:
Record 6-21-3
Outscored 56-98 (3.26 GA/game and 1.86 GF/game)
Outshot: 940-849 (31.3 SA/game and 28.3 SA/game)
PP:  13 on 101 (12.8%) 
PK:  18 on 89 (79.7%)

The Leafs have been brutal since Carlyle left. Their PP and PK are worse, they are barely scoring,  but their SF/SA ratio has improved. Their effort without Carlyle has been extremely low many nights, and that has to be a concern for management.

It seems clear that Carlyle’s disciplinarian approach kept the team in line, but since his departure they’ve slid down the eastern conference standings. The Leafs best players look like they have mailed it in too often, while many of the Oilers players have played more inspired with their new coach.

The negative for Edmonton is that despite the better effort, they still aren’t winning often enough. Nelson stated he feels his team had made strides, but they need to play more consistent for longer stretches if they want to win. 

QUICK HITS…

LeafsVsOilers

  • The Oilers PP has been on fire lately. They are 23 of 92 (25%) since Nelson took over, and are on a ridiculous run in their last five games, 9 of 21 (42.8%). I asked Eberle what has been the difference on the PP.

    “I don’t think there has been many tweaks. I think part of it has been familiarity, because you gain momentum when you play with the same guys all the time. We have had to change some guys out, due to injuries, but Todd has kept both units together for the most part.

    “I think at the start of the year we were so worried about Corsi numbers and shots per powerplay per minute, and it got to the point we were just shooting to shoot the puck. Now we are just going out there and trying our best to score whether it is one shot in two minutes and we put the puck in the net or we get ten shots and finally get a goal. Obviously you have to shoot the puck to score, but I don’t think you want to be in a situation where you are shooting it just for the sake of shooting. You need net front traffic and make sure you battle to get the rebound back.”

    It sounds like the focus under Eakins was making sure they got a lot of shots, especially early in powerplays, or at least his delivery of the importance of shots was what the players heard. The Oilers aren’t shooting less with Nelson actually, but according to Eberle the message is different.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From TheLeafsNation

The Lerfs and Oilers have been so bad for so long, the last time the two teams faced off in a season where both teams made the playoffs, Eric Brewer led the Oilers in ice time. March 10, 2003, to be exact.

Here’s the box score from that game, if you’re curious. The Lerfs won 3-2, with goals from Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle and Alexander Mogilny.

Tonight’s game will have a marginal impact on the chance that some ping-pong balls will come up with one team over another. That’s about it. Other than that, it’s the closest thing the NHL has to relegation.

TONIGHT…

RexallPlace

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Leafs are brutal right now. They are 1-15-2 in their 18 road games since Carlyle was fired. Nelson talked about how flat his team was in Toronto last month, and I expect a much better effort from the Oilers tonight. They end their seven-game losing streak with a 5-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers score two PP goals.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lander becomes the 8th Oiler to have a multi-goal game this season joining Pouliot (3), Eberle (3), RNH (2, one hat trick), Yakupov, Hendricks, Arcobello and Hall.

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    • Rob...

      Woah… this is prophetic. Who was a better tank commander than the Desert Fox. Not a stretch to go from a desert fox to a Coyote. Coyotes are going to win the tank battle and take home McDavid.

      • Why do I have this gut feeling Bettman will rig the draft so the Coyotes win. His mentor David Stern did it to save the Knicks in 85 when they drafted Ewing.

        Option B is to admit he was wrong about a hockey team in the desert.

        • The Soup Fascist

          I think the McDavid frozen envelope (or in this case – ping pong ball) will belong to Philadelphia with the consolation prize – Eichel – going in Buffalo.

          Two ways the little general can go:

          1. McDavid goes to an American team struggling for fans (the Coyote conspiracy fits here, along with the Canes and Florida (assuming they do not make the playoffs).

          2. An established big market U.S. team where McDavid will have a lot of exposure. Ed Snider has a LOT of pull.

          What I am pretty sure of – No Canadian team will “win” the McDavid sweepstakes. Bettman cannot afford to have this guy playing North of the 49th …. or in Buffalo.

          Don’t forget that the fateful night when the NY Knicks “miraculously” won the right to draft Ewing, Bettman was Stern’s second in command. He may well have been the one to pull the envelope out of the freezer – assuming he could reach the top shelf.

  • pkam

    Hoping MacT and company don’t watch the game looking for trade material. He should probably be in some other arena scouting for the draft or potential trade/UFA players.

  • Here is the problem with Eakins, how he coached, and the use of advanced stats to coach a team, all summed up in one little line:

    “shooting it just for the sake of shooting”

    Gross. It’s like an excuse. It’s like ‘our possession stats are good so we might as well wait for percentages to go up, then we’ll be good.’ – now when I hear that I’m going to think the coach is forcing the players to play badly to make him look good ‘possession-wise’.

    • freelancer

      That one quote from Eberle sums up alot of the Oilers decisions. Play Hunt because he will shoot the puck lots. It might never go in but he’s shooting so that’s good… Bringing in Fayne because he had good possession numbers.

      I think advanced stats have a place in the game but a team shouldn’t be built around them.

      • camdog

        Some of the best powerplays in the league have a 6’2″, 210 plus forward in front of the net screening the goalie and overpowering the defenceman for the puck in a battle for the rebound. The Oilers don’t have those type of players.

        Problem I have with advanced stats is that veteran hockey players will often produce better advanced stats than younger hockey players. This was another trick that Eakins used to bump his Corsi, at times he would rather play a veteran AHL player (Acton) then take a chance on a young guy. Young players that are learning the game aren’t structured like veterans, it doesn’t mean you’ll ice a better team, but the percentages sometimes turn out to be higher for the veteran.

      • Butters

        I think they said the same thing about Pouliot and Purcell – how are their possession numbers now? What’s more important though – how many shots they get on the ice vs. the other team during the same time, or same stat with goals…oh yeah, I guess +/- is an irrelevant, but maybe it’s worth more than corsi.