Jake Muzzin’s Surprisingly Offensive 2020-21 Season for the Maple Leafs

Morgan Rielly is commonly regarded as the Toronto Maple Leafs #1 offensive defenseman. He has been the team’s highest-scoring defenseman for the past six seasons, with the exception of last season when Tyson Barrie earned that spot. However, Maple Leafs’ fans will remember that Rielly either missed games because he was injured while he was playing. 

Related: Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors: Matthews, Andersen, Muzzin & Tavares

In the end, although Barrie scored the most points, Rielly held a slight edge in points-per-game (0.57 points-per-game) compared to Barrie (0.56 points-per-game).

In this post, I’m once again collaborating with long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith to ask the question “Who’s the Maple Leafs’ best offensive defenseman? Which defenseman generates the most offense? As you can tell from the title of this post, the answer is not Morgan Rielly. It is Jake Muzzin?

If you were surprised, we were, too.

This Season’s Scoring by Maple Leafs’ Defensemen

Comparing total scoring during the 2020-21 season, Rielly led the Maple Leafs’ defense this season with 35 points; Muzzin scored 27. However, if we track both players’ points 5-on-5, Rielly had 18 points in 1,050 minutes played, while Muzzin had 20 points in 940 minutes played. Doing the math, Muzzin’s production works out to 1.28 points per game, while Rielly’s works out to 1.03.

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Morgan Rielly
Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner celebrates with teammate Morgan Rielly (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill)

Looking at the Numbers More Deeply

What if we look deeper into the numbers? Using the following advanced “On-Ice” offensive statistics from naturalstastrick.com (a) Corsi For (CF), (b) Shots For (SF), (c) Scoring Chances For (SCF), (d) High-Danger Scoring Chances For (HDCF), (e) Goals For (GF), and (f) Expected Goals For (xGF) and tracking these per 60 minutes for each Maple Leafs’ defenseman who played at least 100 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey, here’s how the defensemen ranked for each statistic.

Related: Where Are They Now? The Jonathan Cheechoo Edition

How All Seven Maple Leafs’ Defensemen Ranked Per 60 on Offense

Offensive Comparison One: Corsi For

RankPlayerCF Per-60 Minutes
1stJake Muzzin56.4
2ndZach Bogosian55.0
3rdRasmus Sandin53.0
4thJustin Holl52.8
5thMorgan Rielly52.6
6thT.J. Brodie52.2
7thTravis Dermott51.4

Offensive Comparison Two: Shots For

RankPlayerSF Per-60 Minutes
1stRasmus Sandin32.2
2ndJake Muzzin31.5
3rdZach Bogosian31.1
4thJustin Holl29.4
5thTravis Dermott29.1
6thMorgan Rielly28.7
6thT.J. Brodie28.7

Offensive Comparison Three: Scoring Chances For

RankPlayerSF Per-60 Minutes
1stJake Muzzin31.9
2ndMorgan Rielly31.5
3rdT.J. Brodie 30.6
4thZach Bogosian 29.7
5thRasmus Sandin 29.2
6thJustin Holl28.9
7thTravis Dermott27.8

Offensive Comparison Four: High Danger Chances For  

RankPlayerHDCF Per-60 Minutes
1stRasmus Sandin13.0
2ndZach Bogosian 12.8
3rdMorgan Rielly12.5
4thT.J. Brodie 12.1
5thJake Muzzin11.8
6thJustin Holl11.6
7thTravis Dermott11.5

Related: NWHL Roundup: Orlando Retires, 8 Players Sign For Season 7

Offensive Comparison Five: Goals For

RankPlayerGF Per-60 Minutes
1stRasmus Sandin4.3
2ndJake Muzzin3.3
3rdT.J. Brodie 3.2
4thJustin Holl3.0
5thMorgan Rielly 2.9
6thZach Bogosian2.7
7thTravis Dermott1.8
Nick Foligno Morgan Rielly Mitchell Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Foligno, Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

Offensive Comparison Six: Expected Goals For 

RankPlayerXGF Per-60 Minutes
1stJake Muzzin 3.9
2ndT.J. Brodie 3.8
3rdJustin Holl3.3
4thMorgan Rielly 2.6
5thZach Bogosian2.5
6thRasmus Sandin2.4
7thTravis Dermott2.3

Overall rating for 5-on-5 Offensive Generation by Defensemen

Overall Rank for 5-on-5 Offense
Among Defensemen 
1stJake Muzzin 
2ndRasmus Sandin
3rdZach Bogosian
4thT.J. Brodie
5thMorgan Rielly
6th Justin Holl
7thTravis Dermott

2020-21 Findings About the Maple Leafs’ Defensemen and Offense Generation

Using the advanced statistics above, by the numbers Muzzin was the Maple Leafs best offensive defensemen during the 2020-21 season. Surprisingly, Rielly wasn’t even second. He was fifth, behind Sandin, Bogosian, and Brodie.  

Jake Muzzin Toronto Maple Leafs
Jake Muzzin, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Obviously, other circumstances must be considered for players like Sandin and Bogosian. Their minutes were on the third-pairing, playing with bottom-six players and against bottom-six players. Sandin only played 111 minutes, so it was a small sample size. Both Rielly and Brodie played a lot more minutes and a lot tougher minutes than either Bogosian or Sandin.

Interestingly to us, Brodie – a player who was supposedly brought in to handle the tough defensive duties and to allow Rielly to concentrate more on offense – actually finished ahead of Rielly in the offensive rankings. 

2019-20 Findings About the Maple Leafs’ Defensemen and Offensive Generation

When we ran the same numbers, last season’s statistics are also surprising. The offensive rankings for the defensemen with at least 100 minutes played can be seen below.

2019-20 RankingPlayer
1st (tied)Morgan Rielly
1st (tied)Jake Muzzin
3rdTyson Barrie
4thMartin Marincin
5thJustin Holl
6thRasmus Sandin
7thTravis Dermott
8thCody Ceci
9thTimothy Liljigren

It’s also interesting that, for a good portion of last season, Rielly was either injured or, when he wasn’t on the injured list, he was playing injured. As a result, last season was regarded as a bad season for him. Still, he finished tied for first in offensive team statistics.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the other hand, this season he was healthy for the full season; and, the season was considered to have been much better for him personally. However, his underlying numbers and his ranking among other Maple Leafs’ defensemen was not nearly as good.

Numbers Don’t Tell the Entire Story

Obviously, Maple Leafs’ fans know that individual numbers and advanced statistics don’t tell the whole story of how good a player is or that player’s value to the team. Hockey at the NHL level remains a team game, played by humans with different skills, talents, training, and personalities. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Rielly Trade Rumor, Andersen to Penguins?

However, using advanced statistics offers fans a different window to see what’s happening on the ice. As such, it gives us food for thought.  

And, here’s what we’re left to chew on by the numbers. Last season’s best Maple Leafs’ offensive defenseman was Jake Muzzin.