After a good comeback/confidence-building game against the Tampa Bay Lighting, the Toronto Maple Leafs have perhaps created more questions than answers. The Penalty Kill keeps improving (now 6th in the East) and, even as a "work in progress" defensively, they can at least score in bunches to get themselves out of trouble. They are starting to show the signs that the elite teams in the league show on a regular basis. While they are probably a couple of roster moves away from being mentioned in the same breath as a Pittsburgh Penguins, the rebuild is starting to see the...
That Kadri kid is pretty good isn't he? Back when Brian Burke stepped up to the podium at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal, I imagine this was the player he was envisioning that night: slick, slippery and drenched in skill. That was an absolute clinic Kadri put on out there against the Lightning, displaying all sorts of offensive creativity, patience and ingenuity with the puck. This is a player who is gaining confidence and progressing by leaps and bounds - a player on the verge of making a lasting imprint in this star-starved market. But before we get...
It’s like déjà vu all over again.
And no, I’m not talking about “The Slide.”
Last season, the Leafs went into the year with moderately low expectations. Many had hoped the Leafs would be able to squeak into a playoff spot, but few experts and analysts actually predicted them to make it last season.
But when the Leafs got off to a hot start last year, led by career seasons from Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, expectations grew for the team quickly and playoff fever started to rise in Toronto. Of course, we all know how the story ended when the Leafs...
Here’s five Leaf thoughts to get you through your Friday, with five links at the bottom.
Steckel and McClement Faceoff Woes
I was taking a look at the faceoff numbers, and I noticed some altogether startling numbers from Steckel and McClement. Both were once kings of the faceoff circle, with McClement averaging 51.6% of his 1152 draws in 2010-2011 and 51.3% of his 873 draws in 2011-2012, whereas Steckel won 62.3% of his 820 draws in 2010-2011, and 58.0% of his 1108 draws in 2011-2012.
This season, McClement has won only 45.3% of his 139 draws, while Steckel has only won 46.9%...
Among certain members of the mainstream media covering the Leafs, there seems to be this idea that won't go away where Tyler Bozak will name Mikhail Grabovski's $5.5 million as his starting point if he is going to negotiate a new contract with Dave Nonis.
You don't need me to tell you it doesn’t make any sense.
Bozak is turning 27 this month, which means he is two years younger than Grabovski. In his four seasons in the NHL, this being his fourth, Bozak has centered the Leafs most talented player, Phil Kessel, for pretty much the entire time.
With the first half of the season in the books, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit firmly entrenched in fifth place in the East with an impressive record of 15 – 10 – 0. So who should we thank for the great successes so far at the midway mark?
In the least interesting reveal of the article, Nazem Kadri wins this first Middy™ by a wide margin. He took the team lead in points in the third game of the season and hasn’t looked back, having tallied 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 25 games. His arrival...
For reasons beyond my comprehension, the two-year contract extension handed out to 25-year-old Korbinian Holzer yesterday generated reactions beyond "oh, alright" on Twitter.
Unless you're predisposed to criticizing minor decisions with little downside, what is there to hate?
Worst case: The Leafs have signed a relatively young, homegrown depth defenceman for a deal below the 900k salary required for a one-way contract to count against the salary cap if the player is in the minors. Yes, he takes up a SPC slot, but you need cheap depth options in your organization.
The best case is that Holzer, he of 18 games, develops...
Since we are almost at the halfway point, I thought now would be a good time to write some notes on each individual player thus far. Here is the close-but-not-quite-halfway Leafs Notebook:
James Reimer - He’s played very well and has certainly quieted some doubters, but if you look at his career he has always played well when healthy. The problem for Reimer has been staying healthy, and he got hurt again this season. More than anything, he’s going to have to prove he can stay healthy. On the positive side, he has not appeared to be as susceptible...
Mike Brown has been traded to Edmonton for a conditional 2014 fourth round pick (could become a 3rd depending on if he shaves or retains his moustache) as the Leafs are anticipating a few injured bodies will soon return to active duty. Matt Frattin may make his return to the lineup tonight vs. the New Jersey Devils - he's labeled a game time decision - or a little later on this week.
Alas, carrying McLaren, Orr and Brown on the 23-man active roster doesn't make a whole lot of sense given the Leafs are right at the limit and Nonis'...
No games for three days makes for very little in Maple Leafs land development. There’s Komisarek’s laughable trade request, there’s Frattin’s potential return to the lineup this week, and there’s still the question of why isn’t Gardiner on the Maple Leafs, but for the most part all of it is nothing more than a waiting game. Instead, I’m going to look at the most basic of stats (goals and assists) and how the first line forwards are doing in those categories.
38% - That’s the percentage of game winning goals scored by the first line this season. Kessel...
After 20 games this season, the Leafs record is 12-8-0 for 24 points.
After 20 games last season, the Leafs were 11-7-2 for 24 points.
This year’s team has scored 57 goals to this point and allowed 46. That’s a +11 differential.
Last season’s team scored 60 goals and allowed 66. That’s a -6 differential.
Five of the Leafs losses to that point in their last season were by three goals or more (6-2 BOS, 7-0 BOS, 5-1 FLA, 5-2 OTT, 4-1 NSH- in fairness Nashville scored an empty netter here). They also almost blew a four goal third period lead against Ottawa...
The looming question mark below the surface of a good first 20 games (12-8-0) in the 2013 Leafs season is the fact that the Buds have been pretty consistently outshot (30.8 SA/G, 22nd in the league, versus 28.3 SF/G).
Now, teams that play good enough team defence, control the main areas of the ice consistently enough and get solid enough goaltending can manage to make the playoffs despite losing the shots battle. Ottawa made the playoffs last season despite allowing the second most shots in the league per game; Phoenix was third last in the regular season, made the playoffs...
The always tedious Hockey Night in Canada Hot Stove brought us a worthwhile nugget to examine this weekend, and that’s our first look at the proposed four new conferences that the NHL will be rolling out next season. Earlier in the week, both Darren Dreger and the more reliable Bob MacKenzie hinted that we are only a week or two away from this realignment being finalized, so we can assume this is pretty close to being set in stone:
Of course, we thought we might be close to a...
If I reported back from the future after the Leafs' first 17 games and told you before the season started:
Joffrey Lupul has been out injured since game three, Jake Gardiner has only played two games and is in the minors, Phil Kessel went on a 10-game goalless drought to start the season, Dion Phaneuf recorded only one assist and no goals in his first 11 games, James Reimer has been out injured for several games and we haven't acquired Roberto Luongo or any form of goaltending help, our only player acquisition since the lockout ended is Frazer McLaren, Colton...
One of the more interesting, borderline meaningless stats associated with the Maple Leafs at the moment is their league-leading hit count despite the subtraction of Luke Schenn’s ~270 “hits” (not that Schenn wasn’t physical, but pity the ACC stat recorder who decided his patented three-step push counted as one). Through 16 games in 2013, the Leafs lead the league, ahead of the Flyers and Rangers, with 454 hits.
Now, Leo Komarov alone is responsible for 63 of these, taking up Schenn’s mantle as the undisputed team leader, and it’s not like the Leafs finished in the basement in total hits...
The Leafs may have shown the hockey world what they are capable of when they get rolling on Saturday, but one game does not make a season or an identity.
It was only a few weeks ago the Leafs pulled off a fantastic 5-2 win against Pittsburgh on the Pens home opener and things were looking great. James van Riemsdyk said at the time, “We’re a little bit of an unknown, not really picked by anybody. But you’ve got to go out there and prove it every game.”
The next night they lost to the Islanders at home 7-4. Two...
On Hockey Day in Canada in February of 2012, the Leafs organization added special lustre to their matchup against the Montreal Canadiens with the decision to honour Mats Sundin with a pregame banner raising ceremony at the ACC. The Leafs were 28-21-6 at the time, in the playoff hunt, and had even more reason than usual to put on a good showing. They proceeded to get stomped by a score of 5-0, slipping silently into the night and initiating a disastrous slump that would eventually extend the team's playoff drought and end their head coach's tenure behind the bench.
Ten games into a regular season is usually when the good teams and players start to shake off the summer rust and really get rolling. In a 48 game season, there aren’t any games to spare.
Over a fifth into the season now, the Leafs, just like every other team, have had some positives and negatives worth discussing. At the end of the day, 10 games is still only 10 games and nothing is conclusive, but here is the good, the bad and the ugly of the beginning of Toronto’s season:
Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin
Whether or not you think...
Before getting into the meat and potatoes of the blog, I (keon) want to give a shout out to Cameron. He made a post of few days ago about the Leafs effectiveness in drafting since the 2004-05 Lockout and it was that post that inspired me to look into this topic in greater detail. The thought of which team or teams are the best at evaluating junior age talent, and vise-versa, has always intrigued me, so when Cameron broached the subject I thought maybe it was a good time to finally look into it.
While there are obviously a lot...
This is the first of five reports I'll be writing after each 10-game (and one eight-game) segment of the Leafs schedule, where I break down the team's numbers in the key areas of even strength and special teams; all good factors to consider when you wager on NHL. Note: obviously, be weary of the small sample size in this first report.
At the ten game mark, the Leafs have gone goal for goal at even strength. This isn't awesome, but five teams did the same or worse and still made the playoffs last season - Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey,...