One of the biggest changes in my views as I’ve gotten deeper into looking at hockey through a number lens is my belief in the impact of coaching. I was initially a skeptic on the value of coaching. I still am, to a degree. In many cases, I think that that which we attribute to coaching is just chance – pucks going or not going in. Are there 30 guys out there who can more or less get it right? I’m inclined to think that the answer is yes.
That being said, I believe in evidence. The more closely I’ve looked at this stuff, the more I’ve come to think that there are some coaches who, for whatever reason, see their team’s Corsi% fall when they’re there and rise when they leave. I suspect that Michel Therrien is one of these guys, as I wrote over at Sportsnet a little while back.
I’m also pretty suspicious of Randy Carlyle. I went back and took a look at how the Ducks did from 2011-13 under Carlyle and then under Boudreau. I also took a look at how the Maple Leafs did from 2011-13 under Ron Wilson and then what happened under Randy Carlyle.
I like to break 5v5 down into seven different game states, based on whether it’s within X seconds of the last faceoff, depending on the location and result of the faceoff and, if it’s not, I use a seventh state that I call open play. That’s all discussed and set out here. So, OZ-, for example, means an offensive zone faceoff loss and we’re looking at what happened in the 21 seconds after that.
I’ve already discussed the absurd increase following offensive zone faceoff losses (and the fascinating history of Boudreau teams in these situations) here. Boudreau’s team upped their Corsi% in every single facet of the game.
What’s that worth? Well, the average team this year had a Corsi% of 50% on 3535 shot attempts for and 3535 shot attempts against. So that’s 7070 overall. A team with a a 44.8% Corsi%, which Carlyle’s teams did over his last year and a bit, would have 3167 shot attempts for and 3903 against. Contrast that with a team posting a 48.7% Corsi%. They’d generate 3443 shot attempts for and allow 3627 shot attempts.
Now convert that to shots. 53.5% of shot attempts this year became shots on goal, so I’ll run things through that way. That leaves a Boudreau team getting outshot 1940-1842 at 5v5 and a Carlyle team getting outshot 2088-1694 at 5v5. Now let’s turn that into goals, assuming an 8% shooting percentage and a .920 save percentage. Our Boudreau team gets outscored 155-147 and our Carlyle team gets outscored 167-136. So a difference of 24 goals, or eight standings points. Oof.
Remember – I’m just assuming a generic team here. The Ducks have probably been a better than average goaltending and finishing team. In order to justify the Carlyle Tax though, he has to generate better shooting percentage and save percentage to make up for massive extent by which they’re getting outshot. In the years that I’m looking at, the Ducks shot 7.7% at 5v5 under Carlyle, with a .919 save percentage. They shot 8.5% under Boudreau, with a .923 save percentage. There’s a slight edge to Boudreau there – a PDO of 996 versus 1008. I’m not really inclined to believe that Boudreau is responsible for that but you certainly can’t argue that whatever Carlyle was giving up in shots paid off in goals.
Let’s look at Toronto. Can we identify a similar difference between Wilson and Carlyle?
It’s the same process in reverse. What was once a below average Corsi% became a trainwreck. And this year, which isn’t taken into account, it got worse. What was a 48.6% Corsi% in Wilson’s last two years became a 43.6% Corsi% team despite, in my view, having significantly better talent.
I won’t bother with repeating the arithmetic that I did for the Ducks but you can see yourself that, if anything, the hole was deeper this year. It’s only worth it if it pays off in terms of percentages. Did it? Well, Wilson’s Leafs posted an 8.5% S% and a .918 SV% at 5v5 when he coached between 2010-12. Carlyle’s Leafs? They posted a 9.7% S% and a .917 SV%.
As with the Boudreau/Carlyle example, I’m extremely hesitant to give the coach much in the way of credit for the percentages absent a very compelling argument. The stats guys were all screaming that the Leafs 5v5 S% (the engine behind their playoff run) would regress and, sure enough, it did substantially.
In the big picture, we’re seeing the same thing. Carlyle’s teams go in the toilet in terms of shot differential. The most important question to ask here is why. For me, I’m a believer in tactics, things that are real and tangible. My best guess is that Carlyle asks his teams to do things that are not beneficial. It’s possible that he’s just a jerk and people despise him and that’s why the numbers are bad but even if that’s the case, it’s going to show up in the play. His teams have to be doing things differently than the teams coached by Boudreau (when he replaced him) and Wilson (prior to being replaced).
Is Carlyle a bad coach? It’s possible. It’s also possible that he’s a good coach with some bad tactics who would be just fine if the Leafs identified this and worked to figure out a better angle from which to approach things. There are a lot of skills that a coach has to have, of which tactical decisions are just one. It’s possible that Carlyle’s fantastic at other things.
Either way, if the Maple Leafs are looking for a riddle for Brendan Shanahan to solve that would pay immediate dividends, figuring out why Anaheim got so much better and Toronto got so much in terms of Corsi% be a start. It’d go a very long way to making the Leafs (who I think have a lot of very good players) an actual legitimate playoff contender, as opposed to a team hoping to sneak in.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com