The Maple Leafs are now 18 games into the 2014-15 season, a decent enough sample size to take an early advanced stat look at the Leafs performance so far.

In the off season, the Leafs overhauled much of their front office and jumped on the hockey analytics bandwagon in a big way, although they left the general manager and head coach in place. Player wise, the majority of the third and fourth lines also changed along with a pair of their defensemen (Polak, Robidas). The question is: Has anything changed in terms of playing style, tactics, or results? This week I will take a look at the individual players before breaking down the team more generally next week in an attempt to answer that question.

I’ll try to explain everything as best I can as we go along, but if you need a refresher on some of the advanced statistics I discuss here, take some time to read my Introduction to Advanced Hockey Statistics/Analytics. Also note that all statistics discussed here are for 5v5 play only.

Leafs Forwards Corsi Stats Through 18 games

Player_NameCF60CA60CF%CF60 RelTMCA60 RelTMCF% RelTM
JOFFREY LUPUL65.249.756.811.94-15.1411.7
NAZEM KADRI66.661.55214.322.085.2
DANIEL WINNIK56.357.949.3-0.31-2.851.1
MIKE SANTORELLI46.55247.2-5.9-9.081
PHIL KESSEL61.369.946.711.9610.511.3
LEO KOMAROV46.65446.3-6.21-6.1-0.5
RICHARD PANIK47.855.746.2-4.23-4.58-0.1
TYLER BOZAK55.466.245.6-0.292.71-1.2
JAMES VAN_RIEMSDYK56.270.844.30.9710.89-3.7
PETER HOLLAND42.858.342.3-10.190.34-5.4
Leafs Forwards Corsi Stats Through 18 games of 2014-15 season

The table above are corsi statistics for Leaf forwards through the first 18 games. As a reminder, corsi measures all shot attempts, regardless of whether they were blocked, missed the net, were saved or resulted in a goal. Corsi isn’t a perfect measure of ability to produce goals, but because shot attempts are far more frequent than goals they are more reliable in small sample sizes (certainly anything less than a full seasons worth of data).

CF60 is Corsi For per 60 minutes of ice time, CA60 is Corsi Against per 60 minutes of ice time, and CF% is Corsi For Percentage, which is the percentage of shot attempts taken by your team divided by all shot attempts (both teams combined). It is important to note that these are on-ice statistics, not individual statistics, so teammates can have a significant impact on a player’s results. We attempt to account for this by looking at the players statistics relative to what their teammates do when they are not playing with them and call this “RelTM” (or relative to teammates).

Compared to past seasons, there really aren’t too many surprises here. Newcomers like Winnik and Santorelli have been good CF% players on other teams in past seasons while the Leafs top line of Kessel, Bozak and JVR have frequently been among the worst in the league. Kadri has also been among the better Leaf forwards in CF% the past few years as well; no real surprise there.

The one big surprise is Joffrey Lupul. Generally speaking he has been a weak CF% player over the years. He has certainly benefited from playing with Kadri and Winnik the majority of the time. We must also remember he has only played 9 games, so his stats are a little less reliable due to the smaller sample size.

Overall, the Leafs have a bit better CF% as a team, but with only Lupul and Kadri posting a CF% above 50%, it still isn’t very good.

Leafs Defensemen Corsi Stats through 18 games

Player_NameCF60CA60CF%CF60 RelTMCA60 RelTMCF% RelTM
CODY FRANSON59.359.649.95.54-4.824.4
MORGAN RIELLY61.463.649.111.724.753.4
DION PHANEUF59.363.248.46.862.632
STEPHANE ROBIDAS4854.147-6.9-7.6-0.1
JAKE GARDINER46.95645.6-8.77-6.15-1.7
ROMAN POLAK50.565.143.7-5.017.1-5.2
STUART PERCY46.961.943.1-8.411.56-4.7
Leafs Defensemen Corsi Stats through 18 games of the 2014-15 NHL season

Not a single defenseman has a CF% above 50%, showing clearly the Leafs still struggle with the possession game, although generally they have been slightly better. That said, there are a few more minor surprises, or changes, in the corsi stats for defensemen. Last season the Leafs defensemen ranked by CF% were Gardiner, Franson, Rielly, Ranger, Gleason, Phaneuf and Gunnarsson. We have seen Phaneuf rise up the list this season while Gardiner has fallen down the list. Phaneuf has played the majority of his ice time with Franson this season, so that could be a major part of it. He has also been given significantly fewer defensive zone starts and has seen his shutdown defenseman role reduced a bit from previous seasons. This is something I have been suggesting was a smart thing to do for a long time. He just doesn’t seem suited to play a defensive shutdown game. Polak has been given that role this season.

As for Gardiner, his problem is the opposite of Phaneuf. Where Phaneuf gained Franson as a defense partner this season, Gardiner lost him as a defense partner. Gardiner played almost half his ice time last season with Franson and the remainder split mostly amongst Ranger and Rielly. This season he hasn’t had a regular defense-mate, playing 92:13 with Robidas, 64:42 with Polak and 59:47 with Rielly and just 13:38 with Franson. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Franson is a pretty good defenseman. It’s a shame they haven’t locked him up long term and instead played contract hardball with him.

Prior to the start of the season I looked at Robidas and Polak and investigated what kind of impact they might have on the teams shot attempt against rates, which were ridiculously high in past seasons. In it I showed that generally Robidas had a neutral to postive impact on shot attempt against rates while Polak generally had a negative effect resulting in increased shot attempts against. From the table above you will notice that Robidas has the best (lowest) CA60 and CA60 RelTM on the team while Polak has the worst (highest) CA60 and CA60 RelTM. It’s always nice when trends continue but it doesn’t make the Polak acquisition look too smart.

I am going to finish up with one more table, a table of individual statistics.

Maple Leafs Individual Statistics through 18 games

PHIL KESSEL8614431.851.393.2487.510.46
DANIEL WINNIK167180.321.912.2377.89.18
LEO KOMAROV178200.281.932.2172.711.46
NAZEM KADRI448281.021.022.0566.78.76
JAMES VAN_RIEMSDYK549401.140.912.05907.25
CODY FRANSON156180.261.311.5735.312.41
MIKE SANTORELLI145240.281.111.3845.512.36
PETER HOLLAND224180.690.691.3866.78.7
DAVID CLARKSON415251.010.251.2755.68.18
MORGAN RIELLY235350.490.731.2245.58.4
TYLER BOZAK145260.230.941.1745.58.27
JOFFREY LUPUL112220.460.460.91406.67
RICHARD PANIK112120.40.40.79506.45
STEPHANE ROBIDAS0331000.730.7333.38.41
ROMAN POLAK213200.380.190.5727.37.48
STUART PERCY011800.520.52258.16
JAKE GARDINER11290.240.240.4933.36
Maple Leafs Individual Statistics through first 18 games of 2014-15 season

Kessel is light-years ahead of anyone else and is the key drive of the Leafs offense. He has been on the ice for 44.44% of all the Leafs 5v5 goals and has had a point on 87.5% of all goals scored when he has been on the ice. I have included each players on-ice shooting percentage (oiSh%) to give an indication of whether each players statistics are sustainable.

For Kessel, it mostly is: His on-ice shooting percentage this season is 10.46% compared to 9.78% for the past three seasons, so it’s not that much higher than typical for him. His IPP will probably drop as he has typically been around 78-79%, which will reduce his point production some (particularly his goal scoring rate which is above normal due to an exceptionally high individual shooting percentage).

Several guys near the top of this list we are likely to see regress significantly. Most notably Winnik, Komarov and Santorelli who more typically have on-ice shooting percentages well below average, or in the 6-7% range. Conversely, Lupul is a forward that typically has a much higher on-ice shooting percentage, historically more in the 9-9.5% range.

As I said at the start, next week I’ll look at the team statistics in more detail. Time permitting, I’ll look at some individual players in more detail over the next few weeks as well.