In case you missed it over the past season, it’s become clear that Randy Carlyle seems to think fighting gives the Leafs some kind of competitive advantage. While I admit to some enjoyment from the occasional sideshow, it seemed ridiculous to link the success of the team to bad hockey players dropping their gloves to punch other bad hockey players. Since that seemed pretty stupid I decided to track it to see what kind of impact fights have for the Leafs.
The most basic thing I decided to compare was what the winning percentage for games with fights compared to games without fights. Games with fights saw the Leafs go 15-14 and when the Leafs didn’t punch anyone they managed a record of 11-8. So a .517 winning percentage compared to a .578. Not a monumental difference, but that’s not really something that we’d necessarily expect to see, but score one for the fights don’t win games crowd.
Punchin’ for Goals
The piece that always interests me that punching somehow makes teams score. This may be an idea born from the EA NHL series, but it seems people have bought in. Oddly enough, what we see is that within five minutes of fights the Leafs have scored 10 goals, and gave up 4.
Wow, that seems like an impressive win for pro-fighting, but wait. The Leafs scored 23.26% that they had someone in the box with a fighting major, which again sounds pretty impressive until you consider the fact that there is a 25.17% chance that the Leafs score during any five minute interval in a game based on the number of goals they scored this season. Their production actually declined.
When you look at how they fair over the rest of the period, and the rest of the game after the fighting major you can actually see the Leafs were outscored after their fights. So I guess that idea is pretty stupid.
Fighting out of necessity
While I confess that I enjoy the occasional scrap, I have long since divorced myself that staged fights have any place in the game. The idea that two players who have been going back and forth with each other have suddenly had enough and want to punch each other makes some sense, but whatever, have at it if you want.
The Leafs don’t really seem to have too many meaningful fights. There seems to be a belief that the Leafs just drop the gloves as soon as they can find a partner. People who believe that have a lot of evidence on their side as ¾ of the Leafs fights occurred in the first period, often at times when the team was in need of coming back from a goal or trying to build on the early success of one. Instead we’re treated to brief interruption that does nothing more than allow us time to grab another beer.
Is there anything to learn from this?
Not really. You should already know that fighting doesn’t mean much from a hockey perspective. Arguably it doesn’t hinder the success of a team either, although it seems foolish to dress 16 capable hockey players when you have the opportunity to dress 18.
I’m not counting on the philosophy changing over the course of the Carlyle era, but I hold out some hope that there isn’t some possible opportunity for an upgrade in hockey skill or at the very least a decrease in cap hit. One can dream.