The Maple Leafs offseason has had a central theme of analytics and ‘Moneypuck’ due to their off-ice hirings and firings, but they have also followed this mantra with their on-ice additions. One of, if not the, main original concepts of ‘Moneyball’ is finding undervalued players due to perceived flaws and maximizing your spend on quality contributors.
This clip from the movie sums it up nicely:
As discussed earlier in the summer, the Leafs brought in a collection of players with strong underlying numbers on relatively harmless contracts.
Shanahan’s “island of misfit toys,” in this case, refers to the signings of David Booth, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik, and Stephane Robidas. They all have flaws that have been highlighted time and again, but they are solid contributors who the Leafs are, quite frankly, underpaying.
Cap Hit and 2013-2014 production: One year, $1.1M. 66GP- 9G-10A-19PTS.
Cap hit comparables: Maxim Lapierre, Dale Weise, Joe Vitale, Ryan Reaves, BJ Crombeen, Brad Richardson, Cody McLeod.
Perceived Flaws: Booth’s biggest issues stem from a horrible concussion via a blindside hit from Mike Richards in 2009. Since then, Booth has not come too close to the 31 goals and 60 points he put up in 2008-09. Mason Raymond had a similar label on him last summer as he struggled to return from a fractured vertebra suffered in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Beyond Booth’s injury history and drop in production, he has also come to be known as an interesting character, to put it kindly. John Tortorella called him a “weird dude,” and he has done some bizarre things on social media such as his hunting “controversy” and a curious wedding picture.
Contributions: One of the knocks and radio-talk show comments you will probably hear all year regarding Dave Booth is that he’s “not the Florida Panthers” Dave Booth anymore. That will probably be true, but the Leafs are not paying Booth to be that guy. When Vancouver was paying him $4.25M a year and subsequently bought him out, they were paying him for that production, but the Leafs here and now? No. Booth had the worst shooting percentage of his pro career year last season, and he may be tenured at 29 (turning 30 this calendar year) but he is not old and broken. Brad Richardson is the only cap hit comparable listed that produced more goals and points than Booth, but otherwise we’re looking at a scrappy group of fourth liners; even Richardson, who had a decent year, has never shown the ability to produce the way Booth has. A simple 10 goal- 10 assist season would be bang for the buck with Booth, but he is capable of so much more. Booth went into the summer healthy for the first time in a long time, is on a prove-it deal coming off his worse full-season shooting percentage, and is one of the Leafs only effective board players with skill.
Cap Hit and 2013-2014 production: 1 year, $1.5M. 48GP- 10G- 18A- 28PTS.
Cap hit comparables: Eric Fehr, Ben Smith, Trevor Lewis, Gregory Campbell, Cody McCormick, Marty Havlat, Nate Thompson.
Perceived Flaws: Santorelli has a few issues that stick out like a sore thumb. He has yet to be able to consistently produce year-to-year and he has been unable to stick with a team for an extended period of time. Besides his scoring outburst in half a season with Vancouver, the only other time he’s contributed at a legitimate rate was his one 20 goal season in Florida in 2010-2011, which was followed by a weak year that saw him get traded. When players struggle to consistently produce and hop around from team-to-team (this is fifth team in five years) it usually sets off alarm bells. Add in that he was originally a 6th round pick and that he’s on the smaller side, and that’s an uphill battle.
Contributions: Other than Eric Fehr, Santorelli out produced all his salary comparables points-wise and he only played 49 games while most of that list played relatively full seasons (save for Havlat and McCormick). If we prorate his numbers over an 82 game season, he would have been in the top 10 forwards scoring wise in free agency. Santorelli is also strong at the dot, winning 51.3% of his draws last season, and 60.8% the year before. However, he is able to play both the wing and center, and he was a penalty killing regular for the Canucks, playing 1:43/game shorthanded. He’s not overly big at 6’0, 190, but he’s fast and goes to the dirty areas. John Tortorella absolutely loved him. Santorelli has played 257 career games and put up 87 career points, which averages out to about 28 points per season. A healthy Santorelli playing to his average is worth $1.5M easily, but more than that, he brings a lot of other positives to the table such as skill and speed at the center position, penalty killing, faceoff prowess, and some scoring upside.
Cap Hit and 2013-2014 production: 1 year, $1.3M, 76GP- 6G- 24A- 30PTS.
Cap hit comparables: Derek MacKenzie, Dan Paille, Mark Letestu, Erik Condra, Drew Miller, Vernon Fiddler, Mike Brown, Marcel Goc.
Perceived Flaws: Winnik has a few notable flaws that many Western Conference hockey fans can tell you about. Despite being 6’2, and nearly 210 pounds, he does not use his size consistently. Furthermore, he also struggles to put the puck in the net with just 49 career goals in 490 games. That means he is strictly a grinder and can’t really be relied upon to move up into the top six when injury hits. Beyond those two main sticking points, some also believe that Winnik has had a tendency of overvaluing himself, which could be why he moves around so frequently. Call it the Dominic Moore syndrome, if you will.
Contributions: It is true that Daniel Winnik does not physically pound on D-men with his imposing frame, but that does not mean he does not use his size consistently to his advantage. Having gone over Winnik’s tape the last few weeks, he excels at using his reach to close off passing lanes quickly in the defensively zone and to cycle in the offensive zone. He has a history of strong possession numbers against quality competition, but that does not include quality scoring numbers. Winnik’s career shooting percentage is 5.89%; being 29 with nearly 500 career games played, it’s safe to say that is what he is offensively at this point. However, that does not mean he doesn’t contribute offensively. Last season he had 30 points, the year before that he played at a 32 point pace, and the year before that he had 23. He’s a legitimate contributor who is also an NHL penalty killer in a 6’2 body and he can skate. Winnik is a legitimate third liner who has played all three forward positions and is good on the penalty kill, but he’s making fourth line money.
Cap Hit and 2013-2014 production: 3 years, $9M total, 38GP- 5G- 5A- 10PTS.
Cap hit comparables: Robyn Regehr, Marc Methot, Barret Jackman, Bryce Salvador, Andrew Ference, Jan Hejda.
Perceived Flaws: Robidas is a good player and most people are aware of that, but his flaws come down to two pretty basic things: He’s 37 and he just broke his leg twice in one season. It is fair to wonder whether his body will hold up over the 82 game grind to give the Leafs a large chunk of quality games played, and he is signed for three years, taking him to 40. At $3M, he is making too much money to just hope for the best. He needs to stay healthy and play well.
Contributions: Going into free agency, Robidas reminded me of one free agent years ago: Willie Mitchell. After the 2009-10 season, Mitchell hit free agency after a serious concussion caused him to miss the final 46 games of his season with Vancouver. Nobody wanted to give him any sort of term, but the Kings finally stepped up and did with a two year deal, and he went on to win two Cups in four years in LA playing a pivotal role. It is not exactly a secret that the Leafs brought down Robidas’ short term cap hit by adding term to his contract, but — at least for the upcoming season — a healthy Robidas playing over 20 minutes a night is worth more than $3M/year. There is a reason his flaws are generally limited to recent developments; he has done a lot of things very well for a long period of time. He’s not a superstar, but Robidas has consistently played in a shutdown role on the top pairing, been able to contribute enough offensively to help justify his minutes and role, and he’s a mean piece of business. Robidas has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per year for the last eight seasons running. Until this past season, he has played at least 72 games since the lockout (he played all 48 in the shortened year). Even at 37, Robidas was not showing signs of dropping out of the top 4, his minutes were still solid, and his play was still strong. You simply don’t find established top 4 D-men for $3M anymore (and most of his peers in his salary range are fringe top 4’s at best), but, like Mitchell, he can either stay healthy and make it worth it or get injured and come up empty.
The Leafs also made a few other moves with upside – Petri Kontiola is a wildcard with almost no risk and all reward. In a similar boat is Matt Frattin. Peter Holland is coming up after ripping up the AHL playoffs and along with the history of strong AHL numbers in general to suggest he’s going to be at least a reasonable NHL contributor.
As rookie and training camps are starting to come into focus, hockey talk is finally beginning to pick back up. Whether in conversation on or offline I have heard a lot of fans tell me the team hasn’t done much and will probably stink again, but I’m not sold on that by any means. I haven’t analyzed the East enough yet to predict them to make the playoffs confidently, but they have added a lot of value for minimal money, and they have retained most of the positives on the roster. They still figure to have top 10 goaltending, they have a top 10 scorer, they have some scoring depth, and now some actual depth, period. The defense will hope Robidas can stay healthy while Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly take a step in their developments. Randy Carlyle’s biggest challenge will be figuring out how everyone fits together and how to get the best out of this group from top to bottom.
@seantierney85 Thanks Sean, glad you liked it.
With players like Robidas and Booth signing on with the Leafs - if they have terrible camps - can they still be cut ? Meaning are their contracts contingent on making the team this fall?
I know Booth is a one year deal but he comes off weird..I wonder how he will be as a leader or influence on the younger ones?
I still think Nylander is going to the Marlies.
Good read. Thanks.
I have to say, I'm not yet convinced this team is better than last year. In my view, the 2nd line without a better player than Raymond is worse. The 3rd is also worse in my opinion with Kulemin and Bolland gone and replaced with a combination of Santorelli, Booth, Komarov, Kontiola and Frattin. The 4th is almost certainly better unless Randy has more say than any of believe to be the case.
You can say the 3rd will be better because Bolland was injured the whole 13-14 season, but that assumes this year's team will be relatively more healthy. Hopefully, but who knows?
The D will be better if Robidas is back to form. Also, Gardiner and Rielly should continue to improve. Otherwise, Polak is a downgrade on Gunnnarson. Too bad they waited till end July to embrace analytics!
So a worse 2nd line, maybe a slight improvement on the 3rd if people stay healthy, but on paper less talent to start the year, a better 4th line and a slightly better top two D pairings. Pretty much a wash.
Much will come down to the system. If Carlyle is able keep his systems in place, and he clearly feels failure last year was due to him compromising, then I think we can expect more of the same.
I really hope Frattin can bring it all together. In my opinion, this is the nicest Leafs goal since the lockout. Chipped out by Frattin, Kadri lifts it around Schultz and dances around him, lifted up over the stick of Schultz by Frattin, batted down, backhanded under the other Caps Dman, Kadri banckhand pass under a stick, tipped by Komarov's foot, and tucked home. I still can't believe the perfection of that play.
(don't think Komarov was given an assist there but I still think it tipped off his foot)
OF great concern and maybe relief to many fans on this site.
No, you can't cut guys with contracts. You could waive them, but almost the whole contract will count against the cap anyway. Unless someone else grabs them off waivers.
@loomx I wouldn't mind one little bit if Frattin played with Kadri again . They were magic together
Ashton will make the team if he breaks two guys fingers at camp.
Barring that I see him in a trade with Franson before season starts.
@dlb Mad Yea, I do too, but I still think the veterans will be handed their spots to start things off.
@mcloki I'll never quite understand why people want to watch a hockey game on a 4 "screen lol #oldschool
@Burtonboy Still a trade for a Dman coming, he was after Georges, he must likley has another target now
@Burtonboy Thier radio player is so old it's crashing my browser.
@Burtonboy that sucks ass!
@dlb Mad @Cameron19 Frattin is in the same boat as Ashton. I think the salaries of these guys (except for Ashton, who just took his mandatory qualifying offer - which I'm sure the team wasn't expecting), probably dictates the hierarchy. Frattin is battling Booth for a spot, Ashton is battling Winnik. Outside chance that Santorelli enters that mix, but being a center, I think Kontiola is safe.
@FrankFerrant @loomx @Burtonboy I would like to try other players in the 1st line center role instead of Bozak. Either Kadri or even Kontiola. I would like to try Holland as the second line center-he definitely should be with scoring wingers not checkers.
JVR -Kadri -Kessel
I would trade Bozak for a shut down defenseman
as he has a high value now .
I know Kadri didn't work on the first line last year but I would try again
and if it didnt work I would swap JVR for Lupil as the first alternative.
The third line would be a great checking line and our forth line
would match up well against most other teams and be able to play over 10 mins a night.
If they don't wanna risk losing Ashton on waivers, they'll have to roll with 14 forwards to start the year:
JVR, Bozak, Kessel, Lupul, Kadri, Clarkson, Komarov, Holland, Booth, Winnik, Santorelli, Kontiola, Frattin and Ashton.
Which means veterans like Orr, Bodie and McLaren will have to be exposed to waivers.
I'm not really sure if any of them would be claimed and I would really care if they were, but I still think there should be atleast one "heavyweight" on the 23 man roster.
If that means Ashton has to be put on waivers, then so be it. I don't like the idea of going into a game against the likes of the Bruins without some form of protection from their goons.
I have 120". Gotta love the projector!!
All I need is TSN, Sportsnet, CITY and CBC as those are the only channels that carry Leafs game.
I don't need to have access to every NHL game played and for the nights the Leafs are off, I'm sure Sportsnet will be showing a Nationally televised game if I have nothing else to do.
No doubt, he probably hasn't even seen the Leafs Doctors yet in regards to being cleared for contacts.
I'm sure once training camp opens up, he'll go for his physical and be cleared for contact.
Lucic and Chara are two too many goons to play against for my liking.
Orr has fought Lucic believe me, he isn't afraid of him. As for Chara, if our fourth liner is able to get their #1 defenceman off the ice for 5+ minutes, he should be all for fighting him.
I realize he might get destroyed by him, but do you really think Chara would drop the gloves with him? I mean, it's not worth it for him to miss 5+ minutes of the game.
@.JVR. @Cameron19 I don't care if he's afraid of him - the time for fighting him has long since passed. No one plays the Bruins like that anymore, and it's silly to handicap your team to try.Plus, neither of those players would drop the gloves with Orr now. We are done with that nonsense, finally. Plus, Shanahan doesn't believe fighting has any place int he game, so I really doubt you're going to see this strategy ham-fisted into another season. I think everyone needs to just get over the "we need an enforcer" stuff. Orr offers absolutely zero protection to our star players.
EDIT: I think this comes off more aggressive than I meant it, but bottom line, I think Orr is done in the NHL, and fighting altogether is on its way out.
It's not just the fighting he provides, but the physical play.
Don't think for a minute we would have taken the Bruins to 7 games a couple years ago if it wasn't for Orr constantly laying the body on Chara and wearing him down.
@.JVR. @Cameron19 We took the Bruins to Game 7, the Habs BEAT them in 7 by out-skating and out-scoring them. The Leafs would have killed the Bruins if that knucklehead Carlyle had used the speed game, as the Leafs did after Game 2. Carlyle lost us that series by playing dinosaurs like Koska over Gardiner.
If I see Orr or McL on the ice in any Leafs game I'm shutting off the TV. These guys can't play hockey and have no place on an NHL team that wants to make the playoffs in this day and age.
@.JVR. @Cameron19 He doesn't play like that anymore though. He was incredibly damaged last year. Unable to make any hits. Too slow to catch any of his targets. Lost most of his fights. That series was the last bit of hockey he had left in him. I think he and McLaren will be watching the Marlies from the press box.