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Hockey Analysis: Why Our D is Not That Bad

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Old
03-07-2012, 09:20 AM
  #1
Drew75
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Hockey Analysis: Why Our D is Not That Bad

I understand that there are many types of fans on these boards, from the casual observer, the guy who thinks the entire story is told in the stats, to those who have played and studied the game all their lives. I am in this last group. I grew up wit a passion for the game, and if it wasn’t for being small … and lacking any kind of real talent, I could have been great! What I lacked in talent, I made up for in heart, and in studying every aspect of the game.

Watching the Leafs – I feel I can safely say our Defense is NOT bad – but in the right system actually has the ability to be one of the better corps in NHL. I know some of you will say I’m crazy, but let me explain.

Firstly – those who have played and know hockey, can attest to the fact that Defense is a 6 man job on the ice. For most of this year, the biggest problem with the Leafs is that the defenders have been left on their own – hung out to dry by the forwards.

In most cases, when the puck enters our zone, our forwards have a strong tendency to cheat along the boards, creeping up waiting for a long stretch pass to break them out for an offensive chance. It’s a bad habit that has formed, and that’s going to take some time to eliminate from their game. For example – defenseman X gets the puck in the corner, is being pressured by the opposition fore checkers, and his wingers are all the way up at the Blue Line cheating on the pass. The Centre is in front of our own net – so he can’t throw the puck there. An opposing winger is covering his defense partner, so that’s out – and there are at least 2 other opposing players in between him and his outlet pass to the winger. He has no options. He can try the pass, but it’ll likely get intercepted. He can try the chip off the boards, but it’ll likely lead to a turn over in the neutral zone. So he tries to skate it – but the odds are low as he has to get past 2 opposition skaters first.

When the forwards don’t provide puck support in the defensive zone the result is a guy like Schenn or Phanuef gets the puck, has no options from his forwards, and gives it away while trying to force a play that isn’t there. Everyone is quick to claim that D sucks, but some of the best D in the league would have high give-away stats in the run-and-gun cheating system Wilson had implemented.

From listening to RC, it appears he wants to correct that – and that excites me. I think it won’t be realistically until next year after training camp that we really start to see the results of it, but when we do – I honestly believe you’ll see a big difference in our Defense corp. The constant turnovers generated by the failed system also wreak havoc on a young Defensemen’s confidence, which creates a whole other set of problems.

Next year, we’ll see improved defensive play from our entire D Corp, and you’ll see what a huge difference that will make in the win column!

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03-07-2012, 09:24 AM
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So in summation our forwards suck?

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03-07-2012, 09:26 AM
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Drew75
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So in summation our forwards suck?
No... the system they played created the issues - NOT the defensmen

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03-07-2012, 09:28 AM
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I think that you saw some good signs of what your talking about in the first period. Dmen weren't trying to bang it up the boards. Forwards were hanging back and taking shorter passes.

I think though after a period they started falling back to old habits. It was almost as if the first goal kind of ignited old thoughts of run-n-gun and as RC put it; the defensive system started "deteriorating"

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03-07-2012, 09:32 AM
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Agreed OP, been saying this for a while..

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03-07-2012, 09:33 AM
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The Leafs D might be okay but they are incredibly over rated.

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03-07-2012, 09:35 AM
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You might be correct. And this quickly becomes a situation that it is not the coach (strategy), not the GM (roster selection), not the goaltending, not the defenders and not the forwards. I've seen people make the argument for and against each of these.

At any rate, Komisarek, does not look like an effective dman in Wilson or Carlyle system.
Schenn as well, but with his age I give him a by.
Liles/franson are not really a good in his own zone but great on PP.

The three that I like are Phaneuf, Gunnar and Gardiner.
As for the other 4 (maybe minus Schenn), I'm fine unloading some of them and bringing in more responsible defenceman even at the cost of some offence.

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03-07-2012, 09:36 AM
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No, our D really sucks.

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03-07-2012, 09:40 AM
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First of all, great post and thread. Very few people make meaningful threads about team performance here.

I agree with you 100%. The way our forwards are adapted to right now, it's like crossing our blue line and entering our zone is a strict no-no for them. Grabo is leader on our team in +/-, and the reason for that is that he puts defense ahead of offense. You'll always find him back in our zone to retrieve the puck.

On the contrary, Lupul, Kessel will float around in neutral zone hoping for D-man to handle the bouncy puck, settle it down, absorb the forecheck at the same time, make sure puck isn't turned over, and not just that, the pass is accurate enough to land on the stick of our already speeding forward without being intercepted.

Above mentioned is a LOT to ask from limited offensive abilities defensemen like Schenn, Komisarek and even Phaneuf (esp. the breakout pass).

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03-07-2012, 09:43 AM
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Watch last nights game again. So many missed assignments (especially from Gardiner and Schenn) it was embarrassing.

Gardiner is a rookie so there's an obvious learning curve.

Schenn is beyond excuses at this point. His positioning is terrible, the speed of his decisions are a step below NHL standards, and his foot speed seems to be getting worse with each passing year. Since he added the extra weight after his rookie year he's never been the same. Maybe he needs to tone down to 220 and/or spend the off season learning defence again because it simply isn't working out.

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03-07-2012, 09:47 AM
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Quote:
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Watch last nights game again. So many missed assignments (especially from Gardiner and Schenn) it was embarrassing.

Gardiner is a rookie so there's an obvious learning curve.

Schenn is beyond excuses at this point. His positioning is terrible, the speed of his decisions are a step below NHL standards, and his foot speed seems to be getting worse with each passing year. Since he added the extra weight after his rookie year he's never been the same. Maybe he needs to tone down to 220 and/or spend the off season learning defence again because it simply isn't working out.
It did kind of look like Gardiner was really lost and kind of scrambling. This is probably quite a shock to his game as he excels at the other side of the game more.

I just hope Schenn catches on quick! I'm not sure what is up with him. This shoudl be right up his ally!

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03-07-2012, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leafsman View Post
It did kind of look like Gardiner was really lost and kind of scrambling. This is probably quite a shock to his game as he excels at the other side of the game more.

I just hope Schenn catches on quick! I'm not sure what is up with him. This shoudl be right up his ally!
Schenn has been awful for a long time. At some point the finger gets pointed at Schenn.

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03-07-2012, 09:52 AM
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You guys can agree or disagree - but it my strong belief based on what I've seen that guys like Schenn and Phaneuf will excel next year with improved puck support from the forwards.

Schenn won't have to reach out of his skill zone, and can work on simplifying his game to where he is much more effective - simple positioning, short outlet passes, and laying the body.

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03-07-2012, 10:04 AM
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I agree that the two biggest issues with our goals against are bad puck support from the forwards and soft goaltending.

Each slide we've had (defensively) this year seems to have followed a track meet game where the team scored some pretty goals. They spend the next 4 or 5 games continuing that trend, and the separation between the forwards and defense is notable.

IMHO when you're seeing d-men getting beat one on one, a lot of the time the real question is 'where is the back pressure?'

Notice in the other end, how rarely our forwards get to engage a defenseman with time and space one on one. Even with some of the fastest forwards in the league, we're facing odd numbers in the other team's zone.

We need to do that as well.

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03-07-2012, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Penalty Kill Icing View Post
Above mentioned is a LOT to ask from limited offensive abilities defensemen like Schenn, Komisarek and even Phaneuf (esp. the breakout pass).
Nailed it.

Schenn and Komisarek are basically limited to chipping it off the boards or moving it to their partner. Schenn may improve in that area but at the moment he's not there yet.

Phaneuf is an odd ball. He can handle offensive and defensive duties but can't transition from one to the other within a game. When he first came to toronto he was on the left side and seemed to approach each game with a defensive first mentality. Heading into the next season Wilson moved him over to the right side to become our top offensive D (no doubt to justify his annual price tag).

Let's really break down his offensive game. His point shot is extremely inaccurate, his playmaking ability is decent at best and he's not fast enough to play the role of a rushing defenceman on the breakout. With Gardiner and Liles on the team why on gods green earth are we forcing him into an offensive role with all of the above mentioned deficiencies in his game?

Move Dion into a defensive defencemans role on the left side while maintaining his 25+ minutes a game. Pair him up with another defensive D as a shut down pair or be used alongside Gardiner or Liles who are a lot more skilled at moving the puck up ice. Take him off the top power play (PP2 is fine) and use him extensively on the PK. I wouldn't be opposed to using him in front of the net on the PP when the situation calls for it.

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03-07-2012, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Drew75 View Post
No... the system they played created the issues - NOT the defensmen
A lot of HF'ers have been saying that for awhile... stick Schenn in Dallas, nashville, New Jersey he'll thrive.

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03-07-2012, 10:12 AM
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leafsman View Post
It did kind of look like Gardiner was really lost and kind of scrambling. This is probably quite a shock to his game as he excels at the other side of the game more.

I just hope Schenn catches on quick! I'm not sure what is up with him. This shoudl be right up his ally!
I just watched the game again about an hour ago and he seemed to be a bit intimated by the Bruins. He's made errors before but last night he really looked lost out there. He'll never out muscle his opponent but he can easily learn how to defend through body positioning and stick work. Gunnar has been fantastic at this all season long.

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03-07-2012, 10:15 AM
  #18
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So in summation our forwards suck?
From a defensive standpoint many of them do.

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03-07-2012, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Eb View Post
A lot of HF'ers have been saying that for awhile... stick Schenn in Dallas, nashville, New Jersey he'll thrive.
Lebda and Finger looked half decent on their former teams. Doesn't mean they're skilled defenceman. Getting used to Carlye may take some time but he's making mistakes on plays that any NHL defenceman should have learned before reaching the pros. Especially one who was drafted solely because of his defensive IQ.

Something went seriously wrong in Schenn's development. These mistakes weren't being made in his rookie season. I checked.

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03-07-2012, 10:20 AM
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I thought the same thing from an analytical perspective seeing that we had 3 of the top 10 in defensive giveaways (Gardiner, Phaneuf, and Gunnar). I thought it was more the forwards being out of position then the defense. I think a zone defense makes way more sense then man to man for our D so I'm hopeful for a strong 2013.

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03-07-2012, 10:21 AM
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of course
it's the coaching

get the forwards to help out the D
last night 2nd period when a bruins D like chara pinched or 3 forwards in deep everyone looked lost trying to find their man

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03-07-2012, 10:26 AM
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Drew75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JackJ View Post
Lebda and Finger looked half decent on their former teams. Doesn't mean they're skilled defenceman. Getting used to Carlye may take some time but he's making mistakes on plays that any NHL defenceman should have learned before reaching the pros. Especially one who was drafted solely because of his defensive IQ.

Something went seriously wrong in Schenn's development. These mistakes weren't being made in his rookie season. I checked.
It's a learning curve of a young Defensman. Players historically have ups and downs in their game as they learn playing positional defense in the NHL until they're about 25 years old. If you look at Chris Pronger - it took him until about 25 to put it all together, and even Drew Doughty has sturggles.

It has nothing to do with how long they've played in the league, but more a physical and mental maturity that allows them to understand the finer aspects of playing at that level. The only real difference is that in Toronto - a lot fans don't have the patience to wait until a guy like Schenn hits 25 when he's been playing since 18, and that's too bad.

Next year, he'll be expected to focus on positioning, and playing a simpler game. When that happens, I have every confidence he'll excel, and be a dominant 2nd pairing beast for us.

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03-07-2012, 10:56 AM
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I understand that there are many types of fans on these boards, from the casual observer, the guy who thinks the entire story is told in the stats, to those who have played and studied the game all their lives. I am in this last group. I grew up wit a passion for the game, and if it wasn’t for being small … and lacking any kind of real talent, I could have been great! What I lacked in talent, I made up for in heart, and in studying every aspect of the game.

Watching the Leafs – I feel I can safely say our Defense is NOT bad – but in the right system actually has the ability to be one of the better corps in NHL. I know some of you will say I’m crazy, but let me explain.

Firstly – those who have played and know hockey, can attest to the fact that Defense is a 6 man job on the ice. For most of this year, the biggest problem with the Leafs is that the defenders have been left on their own – hung out to dry by the forwards.

In most cases, when the puck enters our zone, our forwards have a strong tendency to cheat along the boards, creeping up waiting for a long stretch pass to break them out for an offensive chance. It’s a bad habit that has formed, and that’s going to take some time to eliminate from their game. For example – defenseman X gets the puck in the corner, is being pressured by the opposition fore checkers, and his wingers are all the way up at the Blue Line cheating on the pass. The Centre is in front of our own net – so he can’t throw the puck there. An opposing winger is covering his defense partner, so that’s out – and there are at least 2 other opposing players in between him and his outlet pass to the winger. He has no options. He can try the pass, but it’ll likely get intercepted. He can try the chip off the boards, but it’ll likely lead to a turn over in the neutral zone. So he tries to skate it – but the odds are low as he has to get past 2 opposition skaters first.

When the forwards don’t provide puck support in the defensive zone the result is a guy like Schenn or Phanuef gets the puck, has no options from his forwards, and gives it away while trying to force a play that isn’t there. Everyone is quick to claim that D sucks, but some of the best D in the league would have high give-away stats in the run-and-gun cheating system Wilson had implemented.

From listening to RC, it appears he wants to correct that – and that excites me. I think it won’t be realistically until next year after training camp that we really start to see the results of it, but when we do – I honestly believe you’ll see a big difference in our Defense corp. The constant turnovers generated by the failed system also wreak havoc on a young Defensemen’s confidence, which creates a whole other set of problems.

Next year, we’ll see improved defensive play from our entire D Corp, and you’ll see what a huge difference that will make in the win column!
So to summarize.

1) Leafs need better gap control, with players like Kessel and other lazy forwards needing to buy into 2-way play and supporting the puck better, and their teammates particularly the defensemen.

2) Wilson's run and gun was prompting and promoting losing hockey through bad defensive awareness, however it was what the GM wanted to entertain the fans.

3) Its going to take Carlyle a while to get the stench out of this team and its breakdowns, particularly from Wilson's impact and lack of structure been ingrained for so long now. Complete reeducating will be required, which requires more patience and time.. Therefore Wilson should have been fired earlier to nullify the damage he inflicted in bad training, and so healing could begin sooner.

4) Defense wins, so if we start playing a 1-2-2 modified trap / left wing lock more conservative style, clogging up the middle of the ice and having more players back in better defensive positions, all of which will make playing defense easier for our defenders.

5) Its a results oriented business and now finally Fans should start seeing more wins arriving in the NHL standings column.. So improvement should be able to be seen through tangible statistics for better evaluation and discussion of progress, rather than intangibles of hoping things will improve and pleading for patience.

Sounds about right, but a bit of a Déjà vu moment also, as I swear I have heard and read that here previously.

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03-07-2012, 10:58 AM
  #24
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Originally Posted by Drew75 View Post
It's a learning curve of a young Defensman. Players historically have ups and downs in their game as they learn playing positional defense in the NHL until they're about 25 years old. If you look at Chris Pronger - it took him until about 25 to put it all together, and even Drew Doughty has sturggles.

It has nothing to do with how long they've played in the league, but more a physical and mental maturity that allows them to understand the finer aspects of playing at that level. The only real difference is that in Toronto - a lot fans don't have the patience to wait until a guy like Schenn hits 25 when he's been playing since 18, and that's too bad.

Next year, he'll be expected to focus on positioning, and playing a simpler game. When that happens, I have every confidence he'll excel, and be a dominant 2nd pairing beast for us.
The two you've mentioned have an entire offensive game to worry about. Schenn doesn't.

If his struggles continue well into next season under a coach who's system is tailor made for a defenceman with his skill set we may need to come to terms with Schenn not achieving that higher end potential. It's possible that he ends up becoming a Luke Richardson. Solid career, 4/5 defenceman, hard hitting, etc. At the moment he's not a reliable defenceman.

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03-07-2012, 11:00 AM
  #25
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What I don't understand is why the defense continually throw the puck up the boards where there are no wingers to chip it out. Its not like our players are incapable. Its just they are providing support in the middle of the zone and then the D shoots it up the boards and the winger can't get there in time. And it always seems like the clearence up the boards is always the perfect speed for the D standing there to take it and shoot it back in. It should either be soft enough for our forward to get there first or hard enough that the D has to actually TRY to stop it from going past him.

I think most of the time you see our wingers flying the zone before the puck is out is because they see an easy pass for the D to make to the center for the breakout and take off. Then the D either doesn't make the pass or misses. I'd find it hard to believe that professional hockey players take off out of the defensive zone without feeling confident the puck is coming with them.

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