Yesterday, my colleague at The Hockey Writers, Brandon Share-Cohen, wondered if the Boston Bruins trading defenceman Adam McQuaid to the New York Rangers in September might come back to haunt them, if McQuaid ends up being moved by the Rangers to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins’ most likely first-round playoff opponent.
Share-Cohen wrote that McQuaid “can certainly shore up a significant hole on a Maple Leafs roster,” and that “he can provide very solid defensive minutes to help close out a game on the right side.” This was brought up by TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie on Monday on TSN 1050 — that McQuaid might be a potential fit with the Blue and White. “Real hard rock, more of a depth defenceman, more of a 5-6-7, but brings an element that the Leafs and other teams look for at the deadline,” McKenzie said. “There’s no question in my mind that the Rangers are going to trade him.”
While there is no doubt the Maple Leafs need to do everything they can to add one more right-shot defenceman before Monday’s trade deadline, it’s very clear that McQuaid is not the answer.
More Shots Against with McQuaid on the Ice
I understand the need for a defensive defenceman. I also understand the need for more grit on their back-end. That is why I was in favour of the Jake Muzzin trade. It made sense because Muzzin is a guy who can cut off the cycle and clear the front of the net in the defensive zone. The Maple Leafs badly needed this.
Muzzin also made sense because with him on the ice, his team usually out-shot and out-chanced the opposition. So while McQuaid would technically fill a hole on the Maple Leafs roster, he would not be able to provide solid defensive minutes.
This season, his 43.67 Corsi for percentage (CF%) is the eighth-worst among NHL defencemen that have played at least 500 minutes. It’s likely those poor numbers have to do with him playing for the struggling Rangers, a rebuilding team that has the second-worst CF% in the NHL. But he has a minus-4.32 relative CF%, 163rd out of 183 defencemen.
From 2016-18 — his two most recent seasons with the Bruins — McQuaid’s shot suppression numbers weren’t good. With him on the ice, the Bruins allowed 52.1 shot attempts per-60 minutes, the third-most of eight blueliners on the team who played at least 500 minutes. The Bruins also scored just 46.2 per cent of the goals at five-on-five in those two seasons. That was with an offensive zone start percentage of 57.87 (nearly as high as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand) because he played over 1,000 minutes alongside Torey Krug (also one of the better possession players in the NHL).
In summary: despite playing on a very good Bruins team with a very good partner in Krug and getting favourable deployment, the Bruins gave up a lot of shot attempts and were outscored significantly with McQuaid on the ice. Does that sound like a defenceman who would help the Maple Leafs?
McQuaid Struggles with his Transition Game
Grit and size mean nothing if you can’t clear the defensive zone when you have the puck on your stick. What’s becoming more and more important in today’s game is transitioning out of your own zone with possession instead of just clearing it off the glass. Obviously, there is a time and a place for ‘glass and out,’ but a clean zone exit — whether it be with a pass or a carry — is always preferable to giving it back to the other team.
In the 23 games of zone exit and entry data tracked by Corey Sznajder from 2016-19, McQuaid struggled mightily with possession zone exits, as the chart below shows.
I’ll admit right now 23 games is quite a small sample size, but that doesn’t negate the fact that McQuaid sits in the sixth percentile in the NHL in possession exits per-60 minutes and the 16th percentile in possession exit percentage. Even if he were in a bottom-pairing role on Toronto with a smooth skater like Travis Dermott, I don’t imagine the results would be pretty. Playing Igor Ozhiganov is a better option than McQuaid.
Kypreos & MacLean Spout Nonsense on the Fan 590
During HockeyCentral at Noon on the Fan 590 on Wednesday, Nick Kypreos was up to his usual shenanigans. He said the Maple Leafs need to acquire someone tough like McQuaid because Nazem Kadri was on the wrong end of a clean hit from St. Louis Blues defenceman Vince Dunn and nobody responded.
“I see Vince Dunn taking a run at Kadri and you don’t have a lineup to respond at all to it,” Kypreos said. “It just opens up more teams watching that last night, going ‘If it worked for St. Louis in the first, why shouldn’t it work for us when we play against them?'”
Then analyst Doug MacLean saw his opportunity and ran with it.
If you’re Brendan Shanahan who was at the game watching that and Kyle Dubas…then you’ve got to say ‘We need a couple of guys here that can give us a little pushback…If Adam McQuaid is playing for them — and I’ve got a soft spot for McQuaid [because] I drafted him in Columbus and he’s a [Prince Edward Island] kid — I know what he would have done at the start of the second period last night. He would have challenged a few people. And whether that’s ‘goon’ hockey, or ‘dinosaur’ hockey, he would have.
Yes, McQuaid absolutely would have challenged a few people, but that would not have helped the Maple Leafs win the hockey game. Kypreos and MacLean began the whole conversation because the Maple Leafs were dominated in their own zone by the Blues in the first period. Having McQuaid on the ice would have made that worse.
I find it shocking how many people watched Tampa Bay dominate Boston in the playoffs last year and still think you need an Adam McQuaid to beat strong forechecking teams. https://t.co/4yYAP6etMX
— Ian Tulloch📊 (@IanGraph) February 20, 2019
I want to make it clear that I absolutely agree that some kind of response was necessary to the Dunn hit. Someone else could have stepped in. Why would you give up assets to acquire someone whose only positive value is standing up for his teammates?
If we’re talking about which players the Maple Leafs should look to acquire at the trade deadline for a deep playoff run, they need to focus on defencemen who will help them win hockey games and add some toughness (Radko Gudas, perhaps?). McQuaid can’t be targeted just because he drops the mitts at the right time. When he’s on the ice, goals tend to get scored against his team and he can’t clear the puck out of the zone. Acquiring Roman Polak 2.0 is not a smart idea. We’ve already been down that road.
Nathan Kanter covers the Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs for The Hockey Writers. He received his master’s in journalism from Western University in May of 2015 before serving as the first ever Digital Managing Editor at Western’s university newspaper, The Western Gazette, in 2015-16. From 2016-18, he served as the radio play-by-play voice of the Battlefords North Stars in the SJHL. His work has been published in The Hockey News, at Sportsnet.ca and at Dobber Prospects.