Friday, May 22, 2015
Authors Posts by Joe Cino

Joe Cino

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James Vanriemsdyk
James Vanriemsdyk

In a Leaf era fraught with frustration and mistrust, nobody brought forth these feelings in fans more than Luke Schenn over the past couple years. After what many would call a promising start, Schenn’s career became known more for blunders than smart defensive plays. Though I have written on how Schenn’s stats seem to indicate underlying problems in his defensive game, I will admit that the goalies in Toronto have made everyone look bad lately. Brian Burke eventually saw what the fans saw in Schenn, trading him for James van Riemsdyk, another young player who had been somewhat soured in management (though that was due to injuries).

Will there be a 2012-13 season? Probably not. Will I do a ‘What to Expect’ for van Riemsdyk anyway? Absolutely. Come with me on a journey down the rabbit hole of advanced statistics.

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When Brian Burke took over the GM job in Toronto, there was nothing but talk about building from the net out. A defence first philosophy is a valid one, though recent Stanley Cup winners have shed light on the benefits of fast offence. Ultimately, Burke’s initial plan was sidetracked by players like Mike Komisarek and Colby Armstrong. It should therefore have come as little surprise to see Burke dip back into the defensive forward game, snagging Jay McClement for an AAV of $1.5 million.

McClement comes with more defensive pedigree than Colby Armstrong ever did. Avalanche fans were noticeably upset with his departure. In anticipation of the (hopefully) upcoming Maple Leafs training camp, I’ve decided to delve into the depths of McClement’s stats in order to properly gauge expectations for the (hopeful) 2012/13 season.

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Glenn Healy sees this in his dreams
Courtesy of Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2011-12 Season in Review: Top 6 Forwards | Bottom 6 Forwards | Defence | Goalies

Glenn Healy sees this in his dreams
Courtesy of Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A new year, same as the old one. Goaltending has been a constant battle for the Leafs since the lockout. Last season, James Reimer gave some hope to a goaltending deprived fanbase only to have it be dashed away the very next year. The Leafs’ goaltending in 2011-12 was atrocious and there’s no getting around that. So in evaluating goalies, threads must be found that can indicate potential future improved play. Let’s see if any of those threads can be found.

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Courtesy of Abelimages/Getty Images

Courtesy of Abelimages/Getty Images

Last week’s review focused on the Leafs’ top 6 forwards, while the week before that saw us take a peek at the bottom 6’s production. Now we’ll switch our attention to the defence, which always seems so promising before the season starts and it crumbles to pieces. Again, we’re only counting players that skated in at least 20 games for the Leafs, leaving us with seven players: Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner, Dion Phaneuf, John-Michael Liles, Carl Gunnarsson, Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek.

Green is best value, red is worst value

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Courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Last week we reviewed the bottom 6 forwards for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011-12. There were some good observations, but let’s be honest: it isn’t an area where the Leafs need to address nearly as many problems as other segments of the roster. That’s mostly why I chose to review them first; it’s easy to see why many of them are no good and why some are worth keeping. The top 6, defence and goaltending, on the other hand, are much harder problems to solve.  All we can do is look at the stats and hope management sees what we do. To that end, we look at the top 6 forwards today, of which the Leafs had seven: Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin, Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.

Green is best value, red is worst value

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Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Another year, another disappointing season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. A fantastic start was soured completely by a late season collapse from top to bottom, culminating in another post-season disqualification. So here we arrive again at my end of the year review. This week we’ll be focusing on the bottom 6 forwards on the Leafs, of which there were eight: Matt Frattin, Philippe Dupuis, Tim Connolly, Joey Crabb, Dave Steckel, Mike Brown, Colby Armstrong and Matthew Lombardi. I ended up deciding on who to include based on the number of games played, with 20 being the minimum. This took out a few players, like Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr. With all of that said, let’s take a look.

Green is best value, red is worst value

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Courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

When Grabovski got his new 5 year, $5.5 million per year contract, it was met with mixed reviews. You’d be hard pressed to find a Leaf fan who dislikes Grabovski. He’s the hardest worker on the team and puts up a fair number of points. However, it isn’t difficult to be lulled into a sense of disbelief when one learns that Grabovski now makes more than beloved team star Phil Kessel. So how does Grabovski’s contract compare to other players around the NHL and, more importantly, what are his stats in comparison to these players

Finding cap hit comparables is not a difficult assignment. Cap Geek has a comparables function built right into their website. So I pulled the names from their list of comparables for Grabovski and inflated their cap hits to 2011-12 money. By looking at the percentage that a player’s contract chipped away at the salary cap when it was signed, you can inflate their cap hit by making it the same percentage of the salary cap in 2011-12. Here’s the list, minus players under 25 and adding a few of my own:

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Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Courtesy of Elsa/Getty Images

Much has already been said of the struggles of Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur this season when playing with each other, so I won’t bore you further with another long diatribe. Instead we’re going to take a look at what it is that stats can show us about areas that have led to these decreased levels of play. Of course, I had the concept of this article all done before they had that amazing game against the Islanders on Tuesday, so I sound a little like a crazy person but that’s life.

As far as point production goes, only Grabovski is on a good pace. His 16 goals and 32 points puts him on an 82 game pace of 30 goals and 61 points. Kulemin is on an 82 game pace of 8 goals and 33 points while MacArthur is on a 27 goal, 46 point pace. This was easily the most productive line last season, so the drop off in production is quite surprising to many.

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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Courtesy of Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

In what has been an incredibly positive season for the Maple Leafs thus far, it is Joffrey Lupul who stands out the most. Sure, Phil Kessel has been great, but with his skill set we all knew he would break out soon enough. With Lupul, the massive jump in production (1.07 PPG) has been the best surprise of the year. After a promising start to his career, back injuries took him down a notch with the ultimate result of being a salary dump in the Beauchemin trade. The important question to ask is whether this season is an aberration or if Joffrey Lupul has finally succeeded in living up to his potential.

Let’s look at a few basic stats for Lupul, going all the way back to his 07/08 season with the Flyers:

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Courtesy of the National Post

Courtesy of the National Post

The Toronto Maple Leafs have gone through a rollercoaster almost halfway into the 2011-12 season. Though December’s tough scheduled slowed them some, the team is still on pace for 95 points and a playoff berth for the first time since before the NHL lockout. The question then becomes whether the Leafs’ play is sustainable, with the best avenue to find out being a statistical overview. Today we’re going to dig into some of the good, bad and ugly aspects statistically to the Leafs thus far. Unless otherwise stated, all stats are at even strength.

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Image courtesy of Getty Images

Image courtesy of Getty Images

We’re now 18 games into the 2011-12 season. Though the Leafs have hit a bit of a rough patch in the last few weeks, there is much to be optimistic about with regards to playoff hopes. Kessel has emerged as a new player, Lupul is back to old form and though not scoring as much as last year, Grabovski and MacArthur have played well. The oft injured Connolly has been excellent in limited action so far. However, there will be several nights this season where the top six forwards don’t produce. On those nights, a good complimentary package in the bottom six is required to pull out the win. In my review of the bottom six from last season, I stated that without increased scoring from them, the playoffs would be a far more difficult goal. Unfortunately, not much seems to have changed thus far in the 2011-12 season.

The top six for the Leafs have scored 81 points so far, 37 of which are goals. The defence has scored 42 points, 5 of which have been goals. Finally, the bottom six has scored a miniscule 17 points and 9 goals. So they’ve accounted for only 12.1% of Toronto’s points this season. For reference, the Blackhawks have 35 points and 18 goals from their bottom six so far this year, meaning they’ve contributed 22% of the Blackhawks’ points so far. This lack of production can likely account for a few of the losses so far this season and if it keeps up, many more in the future. So the question then becomes what in particular has lead to this lack of production.

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Photo: Dave Abel/QMI Agency

Last night, only two days before the Leafs’ season opener against the Montreal Canadiens, Brian Burke added Dave Steckel to the roster in exchange for a fourth round pick in 2012. Although drafted in the first round, no one would mistake the 29 year old Steckel for an offensive forward. He’s kept himself in the league through his defensive play, made significantly easier by his big size, despite his inclination to not use said size. So tonight, one night before the regular season begins, we’re going to take a peek at Steckel’s defensive stats and see how he measures up with other centers on the two teams he played for in 2010-11.

Steckel split time between Washington and New Jersey in 2010-11, totalling 75 games played. His ice time at even strength was extremely limited, coming out to 10:04 minutes per game. This put him below centers Boyd Gordon, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich, Jason Arnott and Nicklas Backstrom on Washington and Jacob Josefson, Brian Rolston, Dainius Zubrus and Travis Zajac on New Jersey. The team’s save percentage (Sv%) when Steckel was on the ice was .924, which puts him ahead of all of the aforementioned except Josefson (.943) on New Jersey and Backstrom (.934), Laich (.940) and Johansson (.929) on Washington. A high Sv% indicates that attacking forwards were forced to the outside by strong defensive play.

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Source: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Toronto Maple Leafs training camp opens today, with an enormous player base of 70 invitees. Some are guaranteed spots, some are looking to secure one. All of them want to make a positive impression. Here are some thoughts on the camp outlook.

At forward, Tim Connolly, Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong are guaranteed spots on the roster. For Lupul, training camp and the preseason this year is an opportunity to show coach Ron Wilson that he has what it takes to be a first line forward. If he fails in doing that, someone like Nazem Kadri could easily come in and usurp that position with a strong preseason. MacArthur, Kulemin and Grabovski will be looking to show that their line wasn’t a one year wonder and, with Grabovski in a contract year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some explosiveness from this line in the preseason contests.

Source: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Defence is a lot more multi-faceted than is the forward position. It requires more finesse and more all around ability in order to rise to the upper echelon of NHL defencemen. The Leafs tried to compliment each of their offensive defencemen with a more defensive partner. This is a winning strategy often used on championship teams. With that in mind, of the six regulars on Toronto’s blue line at the end of the season, who rises to the top? Let’s find out.

The previous articles in this series are recommended reading. You can find “Season in Review: Top 6 Forwards” here, while the article entitled “Season in Review: Bottom 6 Forwards” can be found here.

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Source: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Sometimes miracles do happen. In one of the more lopsided trades of recent memory, the Leafs dumped Brett Lebda (and our weakest prospect in Robert Slaney) on Nashville, in return obtaining the oft injured Matthew Lombardi and young defenseman Cody Franson. The deal was done on the basis of Nashville being unwilling to pay $3.5 million for Lombardi, who will likely sit out this next season and possibly be forced to retire. As for Franson, he was one of Nashville’s best defensive prospects and has spent two seasons in the NHL.

Franson was a high price to pay for a salary dump, but just how high a price was it? Looking at some advanced statistics, I’m sure we can find out.

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Source: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Leafs Nation was parked outside Brad Richards’ agents’ office on July 1st, singing songs they hoped would sway him to our little corner of the universe. It was not to be, along came Tim Connolly, the Leafs’ silver medal. He has been notorious in his time in Buffalo for injuries that leave him absent from the team for large chunks at a time. At only 2 years, is Connolly a gamble worth making for the Leafs? Time to find out.

Source: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Please read the preceding article in this series on top 6 forwards here. For this article, the bottom 6 forwards on the Leafs are: Colby Armstrong, Joey Crabb, John Mitchell, Darryl Boyce, Fredrik Sjostrom, Tim Brent, Mike Brown, Jay Rosehill and Colton Orr. I decided to leave Kadri out of my forward reviews due to his few games played in conjunction with his rapid change from top 6 to bottom 6 from game to game.

When all is said and done, the bottom 6 forwards on Toronto in the 2010-11 season dropped the ball in a big way. This is no more obvious than in their scoring. We’ve established that Toronto’s top 6 scored at a decent clip, but the bottom 6 had almost none at all. The leading scorer in Toronto’s bottom 6 was Colby Armstrong with a measly 8 goals. Third liners should all be expected to score at least 12-15 goals per year if you want to be a serious championship contender. In 09-10, the leading bottom 6 scorer on the Leafs was Lee Stempniak, who managed 14 goals in 62 games (and somehow ending the year with 28). It goes without saying that if a bottom 6 group scores as little as Toronto’s did this season, they have to be making up for it with some stellar defensive play. Let’s take a look at some of the relatively unseen stats (which can be found at BehindTheNet.ca) and see what we can find.

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Photo Credit: avalance.nhl.com

Photo Credit: avalance.nhl.com

All of Leafs Nation was elated to finally have a first round pick in what seemed like forever on draft day this year. However, there was still another surprise only hours before the draft began. John-Michael Liles was brought in by Leafs general manager Brian Burke for a second round pick in order to fill the hole left behind by the departed Tomas Kaberle. Is that a reasonable expectation? Let’s find out.

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Photo Credit: Paul Chaisson/Canadian Press

One little note: The terms top 6 and bottom 6 are thrown around rather frequently, but they’re anything but that simple in reality. Lines change often and players move up and down based on recent performance. For the sake of the article, I will be naming the following players top 6 players on the Leafs: Phil Kessel, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak.

The curtain has closed on another disappointing Leaf season without the playoffs. This year had more than its fair share of ups and downs, but the emotional end leaves hope for the future. Goaltending was certainly the biggest change in the second half, with Reimer stepping up after Giguere and Gustavsson tumbled to the floor. But there was another noticeable improvement to the Leafs this season: top 6 scoring. Two players reached 30 goals this year (Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin), improving on last season’s one (Kessel again). This was helped by two further players getting at least 20 goals (Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur), again improving over last season’s one (Niklas Hagman). However, there is much more to winning NHL games than scoring some goals. With that said, we’re going to analyze the Leafs’ top 6 forwards and see which players rise to the top.

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Quick note: Complications resulting from increased university work, my job and sickness have combined to prevent me from doing any articles recently. The good news is I should have that stuff figured out, so expect some larger team articles soon.

Brett Lebda came into Toronto with a lot of praise from current Leafs VP of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin. The praise came from a familiar place; Poulin was the head coach for the University of Notre Dame for 10 years, where he initially scouted and recruited Lebda for their program. Lebda later chose Detroit as his destination for pro hockey, staying in their system for seven years, of which five were spent with the Red Wings themselves. He lived under the shadow and tutelage of great defensemen such as Nicklas Lidstrom, Mathieu Schneider and Chris Chelios.