At the Half: A Look at Pre-Season Expectations vs Current Pace

Clarke MacArthur

Clarke MacArthur
Guess who leads the Leafs in scoring? Some guy named Clarke. No, not that one.

The Maple Leafs have reached the halfway point of the season on a tear, winning five of six games to kick off 2011 in style.

Despite the hot streak the team remains mired in 12th place in the Eastern conference, a full 11 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. While much can happen over the second half of the season, it is safe to say the Maple Leafs have not — as a collective unit — approached pre-season expectations.

The question is, which players are on pace to equal — or exceeded — pre-season expectations, and which players are not?

Last August, MLHS’ own Gus Katsaros put together a list of player projections based upon his notes for both the McKeen’s Hockey Annual Yearbook and the Maple Leafs Annual. The halfway point of the season would seem as good a place as any to track the progress of members of the Maple Leafs in comparison to off-season projections.

The following is a chart detailing the current Maple Leafs‘ roster, their statistics to date, the numbers they are currently on pace to produce, and the early-season projections posted here on MLHS last August.

Note that this is for interest’s sake only, and that pre-season projections are hardly an exact science. That said, it is quite interesting to see just how close many of those off-season projections appear to be with various players’ on-track projections, and which players have achieved beyond reasonable expectations.

Toronto Maple Leafs player statistics as of January 12, 2011″>

A few thoughts:

  • There are no projections available for MacArthur, as he was still a free agent at the time the projections were made. Others without projections were not expected to suit up for the Maple Leafs this season.
  • Also, there were no statistical projections available for the goaltenders in either the MLHS review or McKeen’s.
  • Not surprisingly, the Kulemin-Grabovski-MacArthur line jumps out as the group which is on track to exceed expectations most. This is a testament to the impact of great chemistry; each of these players complements the other, and all three have been lauded as among the hardest-working on the team.
  • Despite his horrendous November – December scoring slump, Phil Kessel appears to be on track to match early-season expectations. 40 goals remains a definite possibility if he can build upon his January hot streak, which would be quite the feat considering the struggles of his regular centre, Tyler Bozak, and the revolving door on their left wing.
  • Tomas Kaberle has quietly met expectations … and one could argue he has exceeded them from a defensive standpoint. Paired with the steadily-developing Luke Schenn, Kaberle has been able to do what he does best all season, focussing on setting up plays and running the transition game without having to worry about a lack of zone support from his d-partner.
  • Kris Versteeg is, as was expected in the off-season, on pace to set new career highs in goals and assists. Since enduring a 7-game pointless streak in October, Versteeg has quietly put up 29 points in his last 32 games, and has not gone more than two games without registering a point.
  • Dion Phaneuf has no doubt been the greatest disappointment, from a statistical standpoint, within the context of early-season projections. Shooting accuracy continues to be a hindrance to his game, as does the lack of big bodies to crash the net. A defender who relies primarily on a big shot to generate offense simply will not be able to put up big numbers without traffic in the slot; until the Leafs are able to address that aspect of their top-six Phaneuf’s numbers cannot be expected to significantly improve.
  • Similarly, Tyler Bozak has underperformed. Coming off a 27 point, 37 game rookie season, a 50-60 point projection over a full season was seen by many as an undervaluation.  Whether he fell victim to the “sophomore slump”, or whether his rookie season was an overachievement, remains to be seen. His play of late has been encouraging, however, with three goals and four assists in his past nine games.
  • This one might surprise you: Mike Komisarek is on pace to exceed expectations … and is only a -1 thus far on the season.
  • The on-track projections for the goaltending are less than encouraging (Reimer excepted, but the sample size is too small to make much of his numbers at this point). Given the defensive struggles of the club, especially a lack of forward support in the defensive zone, coupled with the team’s penalty-killing woes, these numbers should not come as much of a surprise to anyone.

What’s most interesting is the majority of the players listed above appear to be on track to produce at a rate in line with their off-season projections. Maple Leafs fans looking for signs of encouragement should note that for the most part, this roster is doing exactly what it was expected to do — with the notable exception of its top three scorers, who have far exceeded anyone’s expectations.

Looking forward to your thoughts as always,

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