Ron Wilson’s ultimate failure in Toronto revolved around special teams, which is why the hiring of Randy Carlyle will almost certainly pay big dividends down the road.
A quick look at the numbers tells you with a new, detail-oriented coach, the Toronto Maple Leafs should easily be a playoff team next year.
Consider, Wilson’s Leafs were essentially the league’s worst penalty-killing team all four years he ran the club — clearly a coaching issue.
Over six years in Anaheim, Carlyle’s PK units were usually middle of the pack (16th). The difference between his teams’ kill-off percentages amounts to between 15 and 20 goals allowed a year.
With the man-advantage, Wilson’s Leafs didn’t have a team perform in the top half of the league until this year (9th). Meanwhile, Carlyle’s team was top five in the league in four of his six full years with the Ducks, providing his squad with a powerplay efficiency that would amount to 15 to 20 more goals scored on average annually.
Granted, Carlyle had more star power in Anaheim to work with, but the bottom line is that, all told, the difference between the two systems could be a 30- to 40-goal swing on special teams alone — more than enough to push any team into a post-season berth in the Eastern Conference.
Now for more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if the Calgary Flames wished their playoff ticket order forms didn’t reach season-ticket holders on trade deadline day while the club was in the midst of a week-long tailspin. Then again, it matters not.
AROUND THE HORN
Sunday’s shootout loss against the Dallas Stars marked the Flames’ seventh shootout loss of the season versus three wins. Simply put, that’s what happens when your team isn’t as skilled as those it’s chasing for a playoff spot … Those in Vancouver scratching their heads over the Cody Hodgson deal need to know a few things. Hodgson was a high-maintenance player, who was seen as a potential distraction in a room singularly focused on one thing — the Stanley Cup. He was a wasted asset behind Hart and Selke-winning centres, so they maximized his value on the market by landing some young, skilled toughness and a playmaking defenceman that will come in handy in the playoffs. The Canucks culture is one where players have sacrificed money and icetime to do what’s best for the team. In that vein, the Canucks did the right thing for the team and the player by trading him … A story that isn’t getting enough ink these days is the miraculous run by the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, who won their 40th straight game Saturday night. On hand to see the win was Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson — not because the Vees are obliterating the Junior A record book, but because his 18-year-old son, Grant, is a forward on the squad that is now 52-3-2. Amazingly, one win in the team’s final three games will break the league’s record for most wins. The club has seven 30-goal scorers and averages 5.5 goals a game, while allowing 2.2 a night.
Irony isn’t the word but this is something: The 1977/78 Leafs squad coached by Roger Neilson included defencemen Ron Wilson and Randy Carlyle. What’s more, also on the team was Bruce Boudreau, who replaced Carlyle in Anaheim earlier this year. Lanny McDonald scored 47 for the Buds that year … Washington Capitals fans can take solace in the fact the last time the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup, they sat 12th at the trade deadline and had fired their coach earlier in the year. The difference being the team Caps aren’t getting better, the new coach is not well-liked, and no one expects him to return next season … Sorry Olli, but it’s time to use a new shootout move … Overshadowed in the local sporting landscape, the Calgary Canucks pulled off a first-round upset and will host the top-ranked Brooks Bandits Friday and Saturday. Guarantee yourself some playoff hockey by checking them out at Max Bell Centre.
On Twitter: @ericfrancis