Steve Lansky
November 07 2010 10:31AM

On this here very new website, my viewpoint has recently come under attack. I had written down some literary gold as per usual and this came back from the comments section: “Well you see, if the Leafs special teams score more the Leafs will win more.”

After taking a moment to consider the source, rather than dismiss my colleague’s rantings as those of an inebriated lunatic, I thought, “Hmmmm, maybe there is some validity to that. Or, maybe there isn’t.” There was only one way to find out.


What I was looking for was to see if there was, indeed, a direct correlation between a team’s PP% and their success in the regular season. Every hockey fan thinks there is. We have been told there is over and over. And the playoffs are a different animal, so we’ve left them out of this particular comparison.

Now, we know the Leafs PP stunk last year. 30th out of 30 teams. And, of course, they missed the playoffs. This year, they’re not much better, ranking 21st going into Saturday’s game v. Buffalo.

Here are the parameters – and this far from scientific. I went back to 2005-06 – the year following the lockout. I looked at the five seasons from 2005-2010. I asked a simple question: “Do teams with the best power plays always make the playoffs?” We think they do, but is that actually the case?

In only one of the five seasons I looked at did every one of the top five PP squads make the postseason. That was in 2008-09. In 2005-06, the Maple Leafs had the second-best PP in the NHL and did not qualify for the postseason. That pretty much flies in the face of what we’re always told.

Conversely, we have also been told that teams with horrific power plays do not make the playoffs. Wrongo. In 2008-09, the Blue Jackets and Rangers had the 30th and 29th-best PPs. They both made the postseason. Last season, the Phoenix Coyotes had the 28th best PP in the NHL. And you know the kind of year they had. They made the playoffs and their head coach, Dave Tippett, won the Jack Adams Award.

In today’s NHL, the difference between a great PP, and a poor one is about 20 overall team goals per season. A good PP will score 65 times over the course of a season. A poor PP, scores just 45 times. What difference does it make whether or not you get those 20 extra goals on the PP or at even strength?

Get this: it makes no difference but for some reason, rabid fans think it does.


Here’s the bottom-line breakdown:

2005-06 – Of the teams with the 16 best power plays in the NHL, 12 made the playoffs

2006-07 – 11 made the playoffs

2007-08 – 10 made the playoffs

2008-09 – 10 made the playoffs

2009-10 – 10 made the playoffs

As you can see, quite clearly, a good NHL PP is absolutely no guarantee of success. It’s that simple. If it was a guarantee, every year, the teams with the 16 best PPs would all made the playoffs. They do not. Over those five years, the Leafs ranked 2nd, 16th, 15th, 16th and 30th. And they didn’t make the playoffs even one measely time in case some of us have forgotten. 

Therefore, my esteemed colleague, you may want to do a little research before you simply spout off the rhetoric you’ve heard since you were in your crib – you know, last week.

Steve Lansky's first exposure to the game was at storied Maple Leaf Gardens, running downstairs at the end of every period just to watch the great Dave Keon walk off the ice to the room. A decade later, while he was still in high school, Oilers' head coach Glen Sather asked Lansky, "Hey, how'd you like to be our team statistician?" In 1983, at the age of 22, Lansky became the youngest producer in the history of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, giving him a front-row seat to the Edmonton Oilers' dynasty. Lansky also helped launch Rogers Sportsnet's fledgling hockey coverage when the network made its début in 1998. You can follow him at bigmouthsports.com and at twitter.com/bigmouthsports
#1 1967
November 08 2010, 09:20PM
Trash it!

I think you are making valid points but I still think that a good PP is key to being a successful team. Success is defined more than simply making the playoffs. Elite teams have elite rankings in all facets of the game.


#3 Pension Plan Puppets
November 09 2010, 10:31AM
Trash it!
Steve Lansky wrote:

I agree about the definition of success but, for the purpose of my unscientific analysis here, I stated that I defined it as simply making the playoffs.

Bottom line is that you show me a team with simply a good power play and I'll show you a team with a good power play. Nothing else.

Right. You did a great job of setting up a strawman.

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