The disappointing thing about a short season if you’re the kind of fan who enjoys the pain of others is that a hot chunk of a season doesn’t really have time to melt away. The exciting thing about a short season if you’re the kind of fan who enjoys the pain of others is that some bad teams have looked good and some good teams have looked bad (and, sigh, some bad teams have looked bad) and there’s the possibility of CRAZY DOINGS over the course of the summer.
Which brings me to the Toronto Maple Leafs. As James Mirtle reports:
- Leafs coach Randy Carlyle had a shot at the media about his team’s horrible shot differential on Thursday morning, joking that “we outshoot a team last night and lose so… what are you guys going to write now?” (We’ll leave that one without comment for now…)
Funny thing about that. Entering this season, Carlyle was 134-91-33 (a .583 points percentage) in games in which his team outshot the opposition and 133-98-27 (.568) in games in which they got outshot. That’s smaller than most teams – if I recall correctly, a team that outshoots the opposition has about a .050 edge in points percentage over the long haul. This year, teams that outshoot have a points percentage of 0.576 while teams that are outshot have a points percentage of 0.535. It’s a small but persistent edge. It would likely be bigger if score effects were take into account – I’ll leave that for someone else to address. The Leafs are 5-7-0 when outshooting the opposition and 20-9-5 when getting outshot. I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out whether that’s a trend to bet on next year.
The Leafs didn’t just outshoot Tampa – their edge in possession meant that they didn’t throw an awful lot of hits. The National Post’s Michael Traikos reports that Carlyle wasn’t happy about this: “When this hockey club is on its game,” said Carlyle, “it’s over 50.”
I kind of wrote what I think is the definitive thing that I’ve seen about hitting and out-hitting earlier this year. The conclusion was simple: teams win more games when they get outhit.
I hope that the Leafs brief playoff appearance is worth it. If the organization thinks that it has a recipe for success based on out-hitting and getting out-shot, this summer and next season could be awful lot of fun for those of us surrounded by their fans.
* * *
While there’s a lot of things that seem to be unrelentingly the same in Edmonton (“If it’s the end of the season, it’s time to talk about draft position and tanking”), some things are much, much different than they once were. A decade ago, a young star Oiler forward chased bonuses in his ELC and it was a subject of some discussion. This was particularly true because the EIG was cash-strapped, the bonuses were large and the player in question, Mike Comrie, was playing with a partially healed broken hand. As Bruce McCurdy tells us:
His production numbers went way south, as he managed just 20 goals and 51 points, both barely enough to trigger performance bonuses that totalled $3.5 million. His unbecoming -18 convinced some of shoddy defence, his career high 90 PiM included some bad penalties that hurt the team, and some accused Mike of cherry-picking for personal targets ahead of the team. Another contract dispute loomed on the horizon, and Comrie wore the black hat in the eyes of many, including some with a platform in the local media.
A decade later, as the Oilers play out the string, nobody seems to have mentioned that Taylor Hall is in line for some pretty serious bonuses. A few years back, Dan Tolensky posted Evgeni Malkin’s ELC, which set out his bonus structure. Presumably, it’s pretty standard for first overall draft picks and Hall has the exact same structure.
There are two sets of bonuses. The first are pretty standard and relatively easy to achieve. They max out at $850,000 and are for things like scoring at least twenty goals. Those numbers will be pro-rated this year and I’d assume that Hall will max those out. The really big money lies in achieving one of the second set of bonuses. In Malkin’s case, he was to receive $2MM for achieving the following:
*Finishing top five in Hart Trophy voting or Selke Trophy voting;
*Winning the Conn Smythe;
*Being named a First or Second Team All-Star at the end of the season;
*Finishing among the top ten forwards in goals, assists, points or points per game, amongst those who played at least 42 games.
Hall’s not going to finish top five in Hart or Selke voting. He seems unlikely to win the Conn Smythe. I think he’s unlikely to make either the First or Second All-Star team. Those teams are voted by the PHWA – Hall may have $2MM on the line in a vote conducted in an utterly opaque fashion by a voter group that is not publicly identified and, in the NHL’s lesser markets, includes all sorts of people who may not know very much about hockey.
If Hall wants to avoid placing a potential $2MM bonus in the hands of a group of people who wonder about things like “Why isn’t Ben Eager in the top six?”, he’d best get himself into the top ten forwards in goals, assists points or points per game. He doesn’t really have a shot at finishing top ten in goals – he currently has 15 and might need to score 7 in the Oilers final two games to get there.
Hall currently has 30 assists, good for 15th amongst NHL forwards. He’s two assists out of tenth, although it might take four assists in the last two games for him to get there. Personally, I’m hoping that he gets a breakaway on an empty net at some point tomorrow or Saturday, if only so we can see him desperately looking around for someone to give the puck too. He’s 17th in points – two points out but, again, he’s got a lot of guys to leapfrog in order to get into the top ten. If these were his only two routes to the bonus, his kneeing suspension on Cal Clutterbuck will probably find a spot in the history books as the most expensive kneeing suspension in history.
There’s one other route though: pts/gm. I would assume that it will take 21 games for a player to qualify, which is important, because it bumps Joffrey Lupul off of the list. Hall is sitting twelfth. Before play tonight, the group immediately ahead of Hall looked like this:
6. Alex Ovechkin – 1.15
7. Ryan Getzlaf – 1.09
8. Eric Staal – 1.09
9. Chris Kunitz – 1.09
10. Thomas Vanek – 1.08
11. Phil Kessel – 1.07
12. Taylor Hall – 1.05
As of this writing, Phil Kessel has scored a pair of goals in Florida. This is probably Hall’s most realistic route to the bonus, so it’ll be fun to watch the last two games, pay attention to how much Krueger pays him and whether Hall’s cheating for offence or not. He’s got a $36MM deal in his pocket but $2MM is $2MM – that’s a lot to play for in the last two games.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org