For better or for worse, the 2021-22 Toronto Maple Leafs will be a different team than they were last season. As teams always do, each year some players depart and new players replace them. The purpose of this post is to ask the simple question: “Given the offseason roster turnover, will the 2021-22 Maple Leafs be better or worse?”
What a Difference a Year Makes for Maple Leafs’ Fans
Prior to last season, expectations were high. Once Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas had finished making moves during the offseason, the majority of the Toronto fans were ecstatic about the 2020-21 NHL regular season. They felt Dubas had addressed areas of weakness, such as size, physicality, and, most importantly, defense.
We all know what happened. Things worked out great during the regular season, but then fell apart during the playoffs. What happened and why has been a debate during the current entire offseason. The mood of the Maple Leafs’ faithful is bleak; and, perhaps, that’s an understatement. Perhaps that context hints at the continued discouragement with Dubas’ moves this offseason.
Have the Maple Leafs Taken a Step Backwards this Offseason?
From the reactions of our THW readers, many fans seem to think the Maple Leafs took a step backward this summer. Many believe that, with the team returning to the tough Atlantic Division, the current roster might not even make the playoffs. Are they right?
In this post, we’ll use some old-fashioned statistics to compare the two rosters – last season’s and this season’s – to see if we can answer that question. Is the 2021-22 iteration of the Maple Leafs truly that much worse than last-season’s?
Players on Last Season’s Maple Leafs’ Roster Who Are No Longer with the Team
Here’s a list of those players who started last season on the Maple Leafs’ roster who are no longer with the team. We’ve also included their production stats from last season, as well as their ages, heights, and weights.
Of the players listed above, the average age was 28, the average height was 6-foot-1, and the average weight was 200 pounds. The total for games played was 254, the total goals were 30, the total assists were 54, the total points were 84, the total number of hits were 267, and the added and subtracted plus-minus totals +9.
Related: Longest Stanley Cup Droughts
Looking at the new players who were brought in to replace them:
Of the players listed above, the average age was 27, the average height was 6-foot-0, and the average weight was 195 pounds. The total for games played was 169, the total goals were 26, the total assists were 28, the total points were 54, the total number of hits were 252, and the added plus-minus is -12.
Comparing the Outgoing and the Incoming Maple Leafs’ Players
Comparing the 82-game rate of production for each group of players:
|Outgoing||10 goals||17 assists||27 points||+3||86 hits|
|Incoming||13 goals||14 assists||27 points||-6||122 hits|
Comparing the two groups of players in relation to age, size, and in other categories shows that they aren’t much different. The new group of players is one year younger, one inch shorter, and five pounds lighter.
As far as production, they’re almost identical. When their production was translated over an 82-game schedule, both groups produced exactly 27 points last season. The outgoing group was plus-9 collectively, while the new group was minus-12 altogether. Last, the new group had 40 percent more hits than the old group; however, that number was heavily influenced by Ritchie, who threw 102 hits in 56 games. That translates to 150 hits over an 82-game season.
Considering the Intangibles of the Maple Leafs Coming and Those Leaving
Obviously, we’ve taken a narrow look at these two groups, and there are many intangibles these numbers don’t account for. Two of those intangibles are experience and proven talent.
The Maple Leafs lost the two Zachs – Hyman and Bogosian. Insofar as we know before the season begins, the organization has not replaced either player with a player of equal value. It appears the Maple Leafs hope to replace Hyman by committee using Ritchie, Bunting, and Kampf.
The Bottom Line: What the Maple Leafs Lost and What They Gained
Taking a systematic look at the players who are not returning to the Maple Leafs, as a group their impact drops quickly once you get past Hyman and Bogosian. Based strictly on the numbers, it doesn’t appear the team is losing much overall when the outgoing players’ contributions last season are compared with the incoming replacement players.
Obviously, for as much as we engage the numbers, we won’t really know how good these players are until we see them together on the ice. We won’t know how good the team is until we see it working together as a finished product.
That’s where the most important number of all emerges: how many games can this new team win?
[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.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf