The Toronto Maple Leafs were known as a franchise that was dismissive of advanced statistics. What a difference one summer can make.
New team president Brendan Shanahan shook up the Leafs’ front office by bringing aboard 28-year-old Kyle Dubas to serve as an assistant general manager. Known as a strong proponent for advanced statistics, Dubas proved to be just the start of Toronto’s new movement.
These moves are punctuated by Shanahan’s recent statement that “we have people in our organization who have maybe been afraid of certain words and certain information.”
It will be interesting to see how that old guard meshes with Dubas’ new department, but it doesn’t have to be a battle. Dubas doesn’t see analytics as a replacement for traditional scouting, he merely believes it’s a tool to help in the evaluation process. At the same time, if everyone’s on board, this could lead to a shift in how the Maple Leafs’ operate.
Toronto was consistently out shot last season and while they initially managed to win in spite of that, the Leafs eventually fell from grace. That descent wasn’t surprising in the advance statistics community, which had largely pegged the Leafs as a team that was over performing. Although there are those that would argue that shot totals are an overrated statistic, it is something that the Maple Leafs appear to want to address.
That desire to change isn’t surprising either. Throwing everything else aside, the Toronto Maple Leafs allowed 3.07 goals per game last season and there can’t be anyone within the organization, regardless of their opinions on advance statistics, that finds that acceptable. For that matter, everyone can agree that the win column matters and there’s no question that’s one statistic the Leafs have been sorely deficient in for years.
Clearly improvements need to be made and if the Maple Leafs’ tactics thus far had led to results, then the hiring of Dubas and the founding of an analytics department might not have attracted as much attention. As it is, the Leafs seem to be a prime candidate for change and while the impact and influence of analytics on the team remains to be seen, their recent hires suggest that they are willing to embrace these relatively new ideas.