What in Leafs Nation?

We wanted to take a stab at assessing the fallout of what was easily the busiest two days in recent memory for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

All we can do is make a bold prediction – the Leafs will not win any games next season by a score of 1-0 or even 2-1. We suppose this is why we are here and the Brass in Toronto gets paid the big bucks.  Let us explain.

Many pundits will espouse that the Leafs wholesale raking out of their perceived dead weight will result in a overall better team, with more financial flexibility, the ability to lock down Mitch Marner, and the ability to offer a deep, seasoned, and Cup contending team next season and beyond.  However, they say nothing of “pugnacity and truculence”…..of which this team now finds itself after yesterday with, well, uh, none.  The 2019-20 Leafs are going to be incorrigibly millennial with their style.

That means finesse, to be kind. It also means not worrying about the glass behind the nets becoming dislodged.  Cue the stretch passes.

Assuredly Toronto is in a better financial situation than they were, and have likely cleared enough cap space to sign Marner (or even go after Point or Laine, should Plan A fail), and now have NHL ready players on the top lines of both their forward and defensive corps.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that lines 3 and 4 on offense and defensemen 5-7 are below, and in some cases far below, replacement according to our metric which tabulates player propensity for mistake minimization – especially on defense.  To demonstrate;

1) Nazem Kadri has been one of the best mistake minimizers (our metric does not calculate impacts of getting suspended during the playoffs lol) in the NHL.  He is exactly the type of player the leafs desperately need – someone who can actually draw penalties for a astoundingly average, but sometimes brilliant, power play – even though the man advantage unit appeared with the least frequency in the NHL in 2019.  Per the moves yesterday such as the Kadri trade, we don’t see how man up chances increase.  Kadri, along with Connor Brown, were among the only two players up front who actually got…..dirty.  No pugnacity = no power play.  So instead of scoring 6.54 goals per game 5×4, the Leafs have to play more than any other team 5×5.

That’s not good.  Here’s why.

2) Cody Ceci and Ben Harpur are two of the worst players in the NHL according to our metric.  Ceci has actually been trending materially worse over the past three seasons while Harpur has been a basket case in his two seasons.  Albeit these guys have played on a “bad team” for the last two years: however part of the reason the team was bad was….gasp…..they were on it.  Combined they cost Ottawa over 12 goals at the margin.  Fans may be begging for the return of Dion Phaneuf by Halloween.  Seems to us like a large price to pay for a less than lateral move – Zaitsev wasn’t that bad – and his defensive stats were certainly better than both of these other two.

On the flip, Tyson Barrie has been solid for most of his career.  Think Eric Karlsson light.  He is an offense first D man, and a right shot.  Both things Toronto has needed.  However, the rap on him is that a) he played on, and scored half his points on, the PP starring McKinnon et al, (aka, the Mile High Club) who notably had 75 more attempts than Toronto 5×4.  While the offensive talent is comparable in Toronto, it is by no means as dominant as the top line in Colorado, who was on pace to for six weeks of 2018-19 to be the most prolific goal scoring machine in the history of the NHL.  We would therefore look for Barrie to drop to about 51 points in his new home…..compounded by a negative 3 AB score (which in 2016-17 was a horrific -8, btw), which is an overall production decline of 11 points.  This would be an acceptable outcome, but his job is decidedly to help put the puck in the other net, not to keep it out of his own.

There seems to be a lot of that going around.

The same can be said about Kerfoot, who is a solid player, wins faceoffs more than he loses (56%) but cost the AVs 3 goals himself last year.  This puts him in the bottom third of the league in this respect.  He also screams one-way player.

Need we remind Toronto fans what life in the (journeyman) Phil Kessel era was like when he, Bozak, and JVR were combined about -100 a few years back.  While we are not saying this team will be anywhere near that, we do surmise that with moves such as those made by the front office in the last couple of days, we would not be picking Freddie Anderson as our fantasy goalie come September.

Overall, we are not sure that Toronto is going to be able to outhustle, outmuscle, out grind, get back on D, avoid odd man rushes, or outscore opponents by being compelled to score 4 goals in order to have a chance of winning every night.  However, while that may be entertainment…..we aren’t sure its hockey…..at least in the way it has traditionally been played by Stanley Cup Champions.

 

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