MLHS Player Reviews turns to one of the newest in the blue and white, fourth line tough guy Frazer McLaren. Like a lot of Leafs, 2013 was something of a banner year for the Winnipeg native statistically. He reached career highs in games played (36), goals (three), and penalty minutes (102). Of his three goals, two were – astoundingly – game winners; one of those was actually pretty nifty, too.
But that’s not why Dave Nonis picked McLaren up off of waivers on January 31, 2013. He was brought to fight often and win, and he did just that for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
Despite playing a very limited 5:12 minutes of ice a night, McLaren was second on the team and fifth in the league with 12 fights this season. According to www.hockeyfights.com, McLaren won eight of his bouts, and a quick search of YouTube will show you that his victories were often of the devastating variety.
Much of his martial prowess stems from his behemoth 6’5”, 230 lb. frame and great reach. Even against the league’s heavyweights, he possessed a distinct size advantage in most fights and an absolutely vicious right hand. He fought a wide variety of challengers, from noted combatants Chris Thorburn, Matt Carkner and John Scott, to useful, everyday hockey players like the Habs’ Josh Gorges and Brandon Prust.
He’s also a bit of a bully in scrums, using his massive wingspan and great strength to cause havoc for smaller opposition. And I am perfectly alright with most his post-whistle intimidation and agitation tactics, because if he’s going to take as many penalties as he does, he might as well try to bring somebody off with him.
Despite the seemingly contentious nature given the Leafs statistically implausible season, I’m still regarding a lot of the underlying statistics as significant when analysing any player’s season. As such, there’s not a lot to like when taking a peek at McLaren’s numbers outside of fighting. He’s a fighter, not a player.
Even in his extremely limited role as an enforcer, his -27.45 mark is the second worst Corsi score of any Leaf player – after Jay McClement. The main difference is that McClement was skating against some of the league’s best at directing the puck towards the net, whereas McLaren faced some of the most sheltered and soft minutes. No Leaf had a higher percentage of their starts in the offensive zone (indeed, no Leaf other than him and Colton Orr took more than half their draws in the oppositions’ zone). He was also unable to generate any offense while playing against other fourth liners and fringe NHLers, because he’s a fringe NHLer himself.
This passes the eye test. Despite having some of the most favourable line match ups, and some of the most advantageous zone starts, the puck was considerably more likely to be in the Leafs end with McLaren on the ice the season. Were it not for his .935 on-ice save percentage – the second best mark on the team after Orr – his on-ice deficiencies would have been even more notable.
The truest condemnation of McLaren’s overall skillset as an NHLer is that he was sat during the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals match up against the Boston Bruins, despite his role in the regular season. He featured in only one game, and appeared ill-suited to the pace of the post. Coach Randy Carlyle couldn’t rely on McLaren to provide much more than violence, which is easier to dole out in the regular season. When it mattered, McLaren was no real help on the ice.
McLaren is a restricted free agent this July, and according to James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel almost assuredly getting re-signed this offseason. That isn’t particularly distressing to me, as he is a willing and winning pugilist and gives Phil Kessel a new best friend once Tyler Bozak signs in Calgary for a hilarious sum.
What is distressing is that both Mirtle and Siegel agreed Orr would be re-signed as well. The Leafs have a real opportunity to improve their roster this offseason, and it seems imprudent to carry two enforcers. This is especially true given the minimal overall effect of fighting on winning games. Though I’d say the team needs neither, if you held a gun to my head and made me choose, I’d take him over Orr. If you need good goons to protect yourself from bad goons, it’s this simple: McLaren bigger, younger, scarier and doesn’t have the same concussion history as Orr.
Plays of the Season:
Gotta admit, those were some pretty quick hands in tight. The goal also eventually stood up as the game winner, the first of a surprising number of wins against the Bruins in 2013.
McLaren drops the gloves with Josh Gorges, The most amazing part of this video is McLaren’s maniacal laughter while he’s pounding the significantly smaller Gorges into a bloody pulp. Terrifying, really.
Frazer McLaren demos Dave Dziurzynski with an atomic right less than 30 seconds into the first period against the Senators. Though it’s a bit of a scary moment, it’s also a prime example of McLaren’s pugilistic prowess. He can and will implode faces.
RATE THIS PLAYER: Out of 10, rate Frazer McLaren’s season relative to his role, opportunity/usage and the expectations for the player entering the season. Be sure to back it up.