Maple Leafs Commentary: Who’s Hot & Who’s Not?

We are four games into the regular season and the Toronto Maple Leafs have an unexpected and not-so-great record of two wins and two losses. Using Old-School insights and Analytics, in this post we’re going to look at who’s been playing well in those four games and who’s not.

An Old-School Review 

Looking at the Team’s Forwards

William Nylander is the only Maple Leafs’ player who has more than one goal. He has three. Seven forwards have one goal apiece.

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

John Tavares leads all forwards with four assists, followed by Mitch Marner with three. No other forward has two assists. Five forwards have one assist.

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Tavares also leads in points with five, followed by Marner with four points. Auston Matthews, Calle Jarnkrok, and Michael Bunting all have two points.

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Austin Matthews By the Eye Test

Denis Malgin leads all forwards in plus/minus at plus-2. Matthews and Alex Kerfoot are the only other forwards that are a positive at plus-1 each. Four of the Maple Leafs’ bottom-six forwards are tied for the worst plus/minus for forwards at minus-2.

Looking at the Team’s Defense

Morgan Rielly leads all defensemen with four points, all assists. But, he also has the worst plus/minus on the team at minus-5. 

The only defenseman with a goal is Justin Holl with one marker. He’s also the only defenseman to not have a single assist. 

Justin Holl Toronto Maple Leafs
Justin Holl, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Mark Giordano leads the defense in plus/minus at plus-3, followed by Rasmus Sandin at plus-2. Holl is the only other defenseman in the pluses at plus-one. 

Rielly, as we mentioned is a team worse minus-5.  TJ Brodie is second-worst at minus-2.

Looking at the Goalies

Ilya Samsonov leads the team in everything. He has a 2-0 record, a 2.00 goals-against-average, and a .926 save percentage.

Related: Maple Leafs’ One That Got Away: Tuukka Rask

Both Matt Murray and Erik Kallgren are 0-1. Murray has the worst goals-against-average at 4.05 and the worst Save percentage at .826. Kallgren’s numbers after one game show a goals-against-average of 3.05 and a save percentage of .833.

A Review Using Analytics

Looking at the Forwards

Analytics One: Shot Attempts

As might be expected the top three players for shot attempts are the three players on the top line. Matthews leads at 70.2 percent. Marner is second at 67.3 percent, while Bunting is third with 67.0 percent. (As a note, in reading these analytics, of the total shot attempts between the two teams the percentage shown is the team’s total number of shots when the player named is on the ice. If a player has 60 percent, it means his team has 60 percent of the shot attempts and the other team has 40 percent while he is on the ice.)

The worst three forwards are Zach Aston-Reese 31.9 percent, Nicolas Aube-Kubel 36.1 percent, and David Kampf 36.9 percent. They are the only three players under 50 percent as Pierre Engvall is next at 53.5 percent. 

Analytics Two: Shots

The third line has the top two spots in this category. Kerfoot leads with 76.3 percent. Calle Jarnkrok is second with 69.7 percent. Matthews is third at 66.1 percent.

Alex Kerfoot Toronto Maple Leafs
Alex Kerfoot, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Aston-Reese (31.9 percent), Aube-Kubel (36.1 percent), and Kampf (36.9 percent) are the only three players on the team below 50%

Analytics Three: Scoring Chances

We are back to the first line once again. Matthews is first at 72.5 percent, Marner is second at 71.6 percent, and Bunting is third with 70.8 percent.

The fourth line shows up with the worst numbers again. Aston-Reese is at the bottom with 32.1 percent. Next is Kampf at 38.5 percent, and Aube-Kubel at 38.9 percent.

Analytics Four: High-Danger Chances

Surprisingly, Kerfoot leads in high-danger chances with 65 percent. Bunting is second at 64.3 percent, and Matthews third with 63.3 percent. Marner is just outside the top three at 62.1 percent.

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Could Mete be the next Bunting?

Similar to the other three analytic statistics we examined the bottom line has terrible numbers in this category. Aube-Kubel is the worst at 12.5% (two high-danger chances for, fourteen against).  Aston-Reese is next at 14.4% (two high-danger chances for, twelve against). Kampf is the third-worst at 22.2% ( four high-danger chances for, fourteen against).

Analytics Six: Expected Goals

As you might expect this category closely mirrors the others. Bunting (68.8 percent). Matthews (68.7 percent) and Marner (68.4 percent) are the best while Aston-Reese (20.1 percent), Aube-Kubel (21.9 percent), and Kampf (26.4 percent) are the worst.

Looking at the Defense

For the most part, the six defensemen the Maple Leafs have used to date are in the positive. With one exception, those that are below 50 percent are not that far below.

Analytics Seven: Shot Attempts

The best two are Rielly and Brodie, both at 60.8 percent. The worst two are Muzzin (52.7 percent and Sandin (53.9 percent).

Analytics Eight: Shots

Holl is first with 62.7 percent, and Giordano is second with 61.1 percent.

Morgan Rielly Toronto Maple Leafs
Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Rielly is worst at 54.1 percent, and Brodie is second worst at 56.3 percent.

Analytics Nine: Scoring Chances

Brodie is on top with 64.3 percent. Giordano is second at 61.8 percent.

Muzzin brings up the rear at 48.5 percent with Holl close behind at 48.7 percent.

Analytics Ten: High Danger Scoring Chances

Brodie is the best in this category with 61.8 percent. Rielly and Giordano are tied for second at 55.6 percent.

Related: 3 Best Trades in Senators History

Holl is really bad in high-danger chances with only eight for and nineteen against for 29.6 percent. Muzzin is a distant second at 40 percent. 

Analytics Eleven: Expected Goals

Brodie (60.8 percent) and Giordano (60.1 percent) are the only two defensemen above 60 percent.

Holl (46.2 percent) and Muzzin (48.5 percent) are the only two defensemen under 50 percent.

Conclusions: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

A Review of the Forwards

Old School-wise, Nylander and Tavares are having good seasons as far as their production goes. However, they are both at zero when it comes to plus/minus. Similar to last season, they are giving up as much as they score. 

Marner is in the same boat. He has four points but is also zero in plus/minus. Both Matthews and Bunting are having slow starts production-wise with only two points each. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

None of Kampf, Aube-Kubel, or Aston-Reese have scored a single point yet and all three of them are minus-2 in plus-minus. 

Analytically the top line is its dominant self. That should mean that both Matthews and Bunting should eventually start seeing results in their production. 

Although Kerfoot and Jarnkrok have not produced much offensively, their analytics show they are playing well. 

According to the Old School numbers and the analytics, the fourth line of Kampf, Aube-Kubel, and Aston-Reese, which is supposed to be a huge upgrade over the last season’s fourth line of Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds, and Ondrej Kase/Kyle Clifford is getting caved in by the opposition. 

A Review of the Defense

With the exception of Rielly, the defense isn’t producing much. That said, the six defensemen aren’t giving up much either. The one exception is Holl’s 29.6 percent in High-Danger Chances. 

Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: The Need To Avoid Age-Old Mistakes

The best defenseman by a long shot in productivity is Rielly. But he’s also by far the worst in goals for and against at minus-5.

Analytically the best two defensemen overall are Giordano and Brodie, while the worst two are Muzzin and Holl. That’s no surprise and generally matches the eye test. 

A Review of the Goalies

To sum it up quickly, Samsonov has been good. Murray and Kallgren have not been so good. 

What We Might Expect To See

With the added cap space created when Murray joined Timothy Liljegren on LTIR, Nick Robertson, Wayne Simmonds and Victor Mete have all been called up to the Maple Leafs. If Muzzin can’t go Thursday, we would expect Mete to take his place in the lineup. Likely he would play to the right of Giordano with Sandin moving up to play on the left side with Holl. 

Mark Giordano Toronto Maple Leafs
Mark Giordano, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

It would not surprise us if Nick Roberson and Wayne Simmonds are in while Aston-Reese and Aube-Kubel are out. Robertson would then slide in alongside Tavares and Nylander while Denis Malgin would likely drop down to the bottom six. Simmonds would come in on the fourth line. 

[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]


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