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Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell / USA TODAY Sports

Stop Paying Attention to Results

During the second intermission of Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, the CBC panel began talking about Cody McLeod and his decision to seek retribution on Jared Boll for his hit on Harry Zolnierczyk. In the process, McLeod received an additional 2-minute instigator penalty. The Ducks scored on the ensuing powerplay, which led to this awesome GIF of Jared Boll.

Nick Kypreos talked about it being a poor decision by McLeod – his main argument being centred around Anaheim scoring on the powerplay. He then compared it to Chris Neil’s roughing penalty against Tanner Glass – a penalty in which Kypreos praised – which negated a Senators powerplay and gave the Rangers one of their own. Where did the situations differ? The Rangers didn’t score on the powerplay they received.

The main crux of Kypreos’s argument that Chris Neil’s decision was good and McLeod’s was bad was based entirely on the result of each decision. But that’s not a good way of evaluating decisions that are made. At the time the decision is made, the outcome is unknowable – the Rangers could have just as easily scored on their powerplay, just as Rinne could have saved Corey Perry’s bad angle shot that went in.

These decisions need to be based on the effects on probability they have on their teams – in both cases, Neil and McLeod were putting their team at a disadvantage, essentially having a negative effect on their team no matter how you look at it. Taking a penalty is never a good idea, other than in very specific instances. For example, it makes sense to hook a talented scorer on a breakaway – if your team has an average penalty kill, the likelihood of getting through the kill without giving up a goal is higher than the 50/50 odds that player scores on the breakaway. It doesn’t matter if the other team scores on the powerplay or not – that point is moot – because the decision you made to hook that player was in the best interest of your team when you made the decision. If you were to make that decision 100 more times, your team would likely come out on the positive end of it more often than not.

The constant focus on results by media and analysts is not unique to them – we’ve seen this issue all the way up to management groups of NHL teams – we saw it with the Leafs when they “re-tooled” the team after the infamous #ItWasFourOne game against Boston. The result of ten minutes of hockey – something that likely would not be repeated 99 times out of 100 – was focused on with such detail that it affected Dave Nonis and co’s thought process, removing any sense of logic and putting all the focus on emotion. We see it with coaches when they change the lineup because they lost, completely ignoring if how the team played would likely lead to positive results if repeated.

It’s understandable why so much emphasis is put on results – they’re tangible and final. However, over time, process is what leads to sustainable results. It’s what led to myself, Jeffler, and a few others suggesting that the Leafs could actually be a playoff team this season even after a 30th place finish last year. It’s what leads to a group of people praising players like Viktor Arvidsson long before the mainstream media Tweets about discovering him.

This is not an article slighting current Leafs management – Babcock and co have been very clear in not letting a playoff berth this year affect how they move forward. It’s a clear change from past regimes in how this management group evaluates their situation and how they make decisions.

Whether it’s about something as small as taking a penalty or as big as making a franchise-altering trade, decisions need to be looked at for the likelihood of positive or negative impact they might have, instead of the result. The Process won’t always lead to good results 100% of the time, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t Trust it. It’ll all work out in the end (probably).