Mitch Marner Has Proved to Be Most Valuable of Maple Leafs’ Core Four

We want to start this post by acknowledging something a reader wrote in the comments section recently. Long-time THW reader gcmgome wrote, “Sorry but my eyes glaze over when these types of stats are dragged out.”  

We sympathize. We get the same way when we’re reading articles with extensive stats or charts. As writers, we value opinions; however, we also like to test our own ideas – what we see with our eyes – by seeking additional evidence. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Mitch Marner’s Salary vs. Production & More

When we write a post that shares an opinion, if that opinion can be backed up by statistics, we try to do so. We realize numbers are only one way to support ideas, but we also believe they should be used when they can be. 

For those who don’t like numbers, we invite you to bypass or skim the statistics portion and go right to the conclusions. You can always go back and look at certain numbers if you wish. Thanks gcmgome for bringing that up.  

Mitch Marner Has Become the Focus for Scorn Among Maple Leafs’ Fans

For the longest time, William Nylander was the main target for the scorn of many Maple Leafs’ fans. He was too soft, too lazy, and – the worst sin of all – overpaid. However, with his emergence as one of the team’s top goal scorers (he’s second on the team since the start of the 2019-20 season with 60 goals) and the development of a 200-foot game that’s seen him added to the penalty kill unit this season, there are fewer calls for Nylander to be traded. 

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

With Nylander no longer a target for Maple Leafs’ fans, the attention has shifted to Mitch Marner. Marner’s lack of production in the recent playoffs, his close to $11 million salary, and his slow start this season have really fired the flames of an online diatribe.

The focus recently has been on the Marner-less Maple Leafs’ power play, which has scored eight goals in the four games since Marner’s been sidelined with a shoulder injury. Marner bashers are using the power-play’s success as a demonstration of one more reason why Marner should be traded.  

Related: Maple Leafs’ Draft Picks That Got Away

It’s hard to argue that, over this small number of games, the power play has been great without Marner. It also begs the following questions: “Is the power play better without Mitch Marner on it?” “Have the coaching staff’s changes to the power play in Marner’s absence led to these better results?”  Or, “Is the success a statistical blip that will ‘correct itself’ in the long run?” 

Truthfully, none of those questions are answerable over the short term. Only time will tell.

The Maple Leafs’ Record With Marner Out of the Lineup

One thing we have noticed is that, over the five games since Marner’s been hurt, the Maple Leafs’ record is 2-2-1. They’ve gained five of 10 possible points and have a .500 winning percentage. During those five games, they’ve scored 19 goals (3.80 per game) and have given up 23 goals (4.60 per game).

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Mitch Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That five-game record compares to their record of 15-2 during their previous 17 games with Marner in the lineup. During those games, the Maple Leafs averaged 3.59 goals-for and 1.71 goals-against.   

Related: NHL Hat Tricks History & Fun Facts

Comparing these records made us wonder, when the Core-Four forwards of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Marner, and Nylander are compared with each other, how has the team fared when one or the other of these players has been out of the lineup? 

The Maple Leafs’ Overall Record Since the Beginning of 2016-17

Using the team’s overall record since Matthews, Marner, and Nylander started playing as a group, and later adding Tavares to the mix, from the beginning of the 2016-17 season the team’s record is 225-128-48 in 401 games. In total, the team has collected 498 points in 401 games, which is a winning percentage of .621. In those games, the team has averaged 3.35 goals-for and has given up 2.89 goals-against.

Games PlayedWinsLossesOver-time LossesPointsWinning percentageAverage Goals-For per GameAverage Goals-Against per Game
40122512848498.6213.352.89

Looking at Maple Leafs’ Records, Player-by-Player

During that time, Marner has missed 22 games. The team record without him in the lineup is:

Games PlayedWinsLossesOver-time LossesPointsWinning percentageAverage Goals-For per GameAverage Goals-Against per Game
22811319.4323.183.77

In that same time period, Auston Matthews has missed 41 games. The team record without him in the lineup is:

Games PlayedWinsLossesOver-time LossesPointsWinning percentageAverage Goals-For per GameAverage Goals-Against per Game
412514252.6342.852.21

During that time, Nylander has missed 36 games. The team’s record without him in the lineup is:

Games PlayedWinsLossesOver-time LossesPointsWinning percentageAverage Goals-For per GameAverage Goals-Against per Game
362410250.6943.532.75

Finally, John Tavares didn’t join the team until the start of the 2018-19 season. During the two seasons before he joined the team, the record was:

Games PlayedWinsLossesOver-time LossesPointsWinning percentageAverage Goals-For per GameAverage Goals-Against per Game
164895322200.6103.292.83

Since Tavares joined the team, its record has been:

Games PlayedWinsLossesOver-time LossesPointsWinning percentageAverage Goals-For per GameAverage Goals-Against per Game
2361357526296.6273.382.92

Since he’s joined the team, Tavares has only missed eight games. The team’s record in those eight games has been:

Games PlayedWinsLossesOver-time LossesPointsWinning percentageAverage Goals-For per GameAverage Goals-Against per Game
842210.6252.852.21

Looking at Maple Leafs Winning Percentages, By Player

If we focus on winning percentage over the past five seasons, with each player out of the Maple Leafs’ lineup, the team’s record is as follows:

PlayerWinning Percentage
William Nylander.694
Auston Matthews.634
John Tavares.627
Mitch Marner.432

The team’s overall winning percentage during the past five seasons is .620.

Looking at Maple Leafs Goals-For and Goals-Against

Another interesting statistic is the goals-for and goals-against. During those five seasons, the team’s Average Goals-For per Game is 3.34. Its Average Goals-Against is 2.88.

With each player out of the lineup their Goals-For and Goals-Against looks like this.

PlayerGoals-ForGoals-Against
William Nylander3.532.75
Auston Matthews2.852.21
John Tavares3.362.90
Mitch Marner3.183.77

It’s interesting to note that the goals-for and goals-against didn’t change much without Tavares or Nylander; however, both the goals-for and the goals-against dropped drastically without Matthews in the lineup. Without Marner, the goals-for dropped slightly, but the goals-against increased by almost a full goal per game.  

Toronto Maple Leafs Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews
Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitchell Marner and Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)

That same pattern is reflected over the past five games Marner has missed. The Maple Leafs have given up 4.60 goals-against per game without Marner.  

Without Marner In the Lineup the Maple Leafs Suffer Defensively

Does this analysis mean that the Maple Leafs are that much better defensively with Marner in the lineup; or, is it a coincidence? It’s difficult to answer this question conclusively. 

However, although many factors come into play when any given player is injured and out of the lineup for a period of time, it’s interesting to see that the Maple Leafs winning percentage drops by almost .200% from .621% to  .432% without Marner in the lineup.  

Related: Marner Could be Moved if Maple Leafs Decide to Retool

We know we can’t change anyone’s mind about Marner’s positive impact on the team; however, we know where we fall on the answer of how much better the Maple Leafs’ lineup is when Marner’s in it. 

[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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