When Burke signed Cronin, he said that there were many GM's that called him and questioned HOW they were able to sign him because he was that sought after.
It took the players some time to get used to his PK system last year, and it was BRUTAL up until December because they were still adjusting to it. However, since January 1st of last year, the PK has been stellar and it really is refreshing to see. I used to just bury my head when we had a PK, but since last year this team has done great in that department.
As I stated in the OP, it took getting used to his 'system'. After January 1st of 2012, the Leafs PK has been lights out. The PK started being good, long before this season started.
That's nice. But not true.
The way they kill penalties now is much different than last season.
For one, they are much more aggressive than they ever were before.
Secondly, Carlyle uses almost all his defenders and 6 forwards on the PK (McClement, Kulemin, Bozak, Komarov, JVR, and Steckel if he's playing). He tries to shift them as soon as possible, if you notice to keep his PKers fresh.
Wilson tried to keep his PK forwards to about 4 individuals. For instance, he was reluctant to use Bozak on the PK even though he's a strong PKer with his speed and faceoff ability. But since he also played on the PP, they wanted to limit his playing time a bit (and stick to a more true top-6, bottom-6).
So there have been technical adjustments along with personnel changes which have improved the PK.
I believe Cronin is pk coach and Gordon is pp coach.
From Jonas Seigel's Leafs Report: "Likely looking for a fresh, new perspective, Randy Carlyle reassigned controls of the penalty kill from one assistant coach in Greg Cronin to the more experienced Scott Gordon."
The goalies have been playing much better too.. which has a substantial impact. I realize the collapsing system is designed to limit chances to the perimeter, but it's not flawless and the goalies have certainly been there to bail out defensive lapses over the first half of the season. This wasn't the case last year.
Penalty killing is less about talent and more about work ethic. Doesn't matter what kind of system you use, it can't be effective if the personnel aren't buying into it and working hard to get it right. Across the board, the coaching staff deserves credit for gaining the trust of their players and having them buy into their system.
I know this thread was created to credit the staff but I can't talk about the PK and not talk about McClement. He is such a smart player with the way he reads plays on the ice. Worth every penny.