Some of you may recall I introduced the concept of "Special Teams +/-" last year - the idea being to look at the total goal differential for the team while on the powerplay and the penalty kill as opposed to focusing on the ‘efficiency' (% success) of each.

I like this metric for a couple of reasons. First, it helps differentiate between teams that take more or draw more penalties. A team that has an 80% penalty kill and takes 4 penalties per game will be less negatively impacted by their penalty kill than a team with an 80% penalty kill that takes 5 penalties per game. The same would hold true for effective powerplays and teams that draw more penalties.

I also like it as it gives credit for shorthanded goals scored and penalizes you for shorthanded goals against. If you give up a shorthanded goal then go on to score a goal yourself, that's not a successful powerplay to me. In terms of the ‘efficiency' ranking, however, it's treated as one.

Special teams have obviously been a huge issue for the Leafs the last 5+ years especially when you look at their % success rates, and especially the penalty kill. Looking at their "+/-" in 2011/12 however the Leafs actually weren't as bad as you may assume. Their -7 ST +/- rating ranking them 22nd overall. The Leafs were helped by a fairly effective powerplay (9th on a % basis, +43 goal differential), and by their relative team discipline (perhaps one of the most positive impacts of the Ron Wilson era). The Leafs took the 5th fewest penalties in the league last year, being shorthanded 2.95 times per game. This definitely helped mitigate their miserable 77% penalty kill efficiency, 28th in the league. While they were much better than last place Tampa Bay with a -28 ST +/-, they were also well off first place PIT with a +25 rating. That's a 32-goal swing for the math-impaired.