During my interview with Scott Gordon, the Leafs assistant coach said something that caught my attention when he noted: “This year our top six is [made up of] guys who have had pretty good track records of scoring goals.”
The injury to Joffrey Lupul for the majority of the shortened season really put the lineup out of whack. As Grabovski played a shutdown role, the Leafs second scoring line was basically MacArthur-Kadri-Frattin for quite some time until Lupul returned and the line turned into Lupul-Kadri-Kulemin, a unit which no doubt did some serious damage.
This summer the Leafs threw big money at David Clarkson to round out the top six forwards while adding some jam to the group, and it’s pretty safe to say the Leafs top six wingers will be Kessel, JVR, Lupul and Clarkson to start the season.
I thought it was interesting of the Leafs to allocate so much cap space to the wings and for Gordon to then bring up their track record with us at MLHS. With that, I wanted to see how the Leafs stacked up against teams across the league. Here are the results based on the 2011-12 and 2013 seasons (max GP/player within these parameters is 130):
Top Six Wingers
Total Cap Hit
|Tampa Bay||St. Louis||42/134/125||110||310||384||0.81||$15,500,000|
Note: Not every team has a clear cut group of top six wingers. If I wasn’t sure about who to fill out the group with, the general rule of thumb I went by was taking the next highest scoring winger on the team; to me, that best indicates the fire power a team has. For example, with Pittsburgh I’m betting Beau Bennett eventually claims the final top six winger spot, but going into camp that spot is up for grabs between a bunch of players such as Bennett, Matt D’Agostini and Jussi Jokinen (yes, I realize he played mainly center in Pittsburgh, but he can do both). I wrote in Jokinen since he was the highest scorer. Even for the teams where I’m fairly confident about the composition of their top six wingers — like Yakupov in Edmonton over Hemsky — I stuck with the guy who has more points to better represent the scoring prowess of teams across the league.
- First thought: If the Bolland line is the excellent shutdown unit the Leafs seem to think it can be, the Leafs should win enough games. They have good goaltending and can clearly score, so they should be in good shape if they have those two things and an excellent shutdown line to complement them. That seems to be the plan.
- The Leafs’ 0.80 PPG ranks them second to only Tampa Bay’s 0.81 in scoring by top 6 wingers. Their $20,150,000 allocated to their top 6 wingers is sixth most league wide. Their 167 goals stand second to only Pittsburgh.
- Would be nice if Lupul could stay healthy. He’s missed 48 of the last 130 games.
- Kessel is unbelievable. If you didn’t catch this stat, he is tied with Martin St. Louis for the most points by a winger over the last two years.
- You can see why the Ducks want Teemu Selanne back.
- New Jersey probably surprised quite a few people with their ranking. Their top six is old, but they still know how to score. The Devils have a strong one-two punch down the middle with Zajac and Henrique, plus they have Schneider now. I believe they will be better than people think.
- Winnipeg’s problem is goaltending, but most people have known this for a while.
- For one reason or another, I thought Ottawa would be higher. Ryan is a big name, MacArthur is a decent scorer and Michalek has been good when healthy, but who the final top six winger will be is unknown. Michalek hasn’t been able to stay healthy either which has hurt them.
- Not that it’s all the current GM’s fault, but Columbus sure spends a lot of money on subpar(?) production from their top six wingers.
- Even though the top three teams on this chart are elite, I don’t necessarily believe there is a strong correlation between having a high scoring group of wingers and winning. That said, it’s nice to see those teams rank well because the Leafs are clearly putting their eggs in this basket.