Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY SPORTS
The Leafs are off to a rough start to the 2016-17 season winning just three of their first ten games, and while the record isn’t great so far, the season hasn’t been a complete disaster yet. For starters, this team is not as bad as their record might suggest and a lot of that has to do with the fresh new faces on the team.
With that being said, I wanted to take the end of the first month as an opportunity to look at the Leafs player’s Game Score more to see which players played good or bad, which ones have been consistent and also the most surprising names based on pre-season expectations.
For those unfamiliar with Game Score, it’s a single number stat meant to measure single game productivity and player value that I developed over the summer. It basically combines the most important box-score stats and weights them by their relevance to goals. It’s not perfect and there’s much that is unaccounted for, but it does pretty well for something that is relatively simple to compute and comprehend.
The sample is still incredibly small, but I figure taking a look at the team on a monthly basis could provide some insight into how the team is doing. So without further ado, here’s how the Leafs October looked through the eyes of Game Score and some thoughts on it.
1. Unsurprisingly, the two guys at the top are the two guys who have been killing it all season. William Nylander and Auston Matthews have been lights out for the team from both a production and a shot rate perspective. They’re the ones driving the bus so far and that’s probably going to be true for many years to come. We all knew they would be good, but this good and this fast was probably one of the bigger surprises of the season so far, a very pleasant one though.
2. At the other end of the unsurprising spectrum is the goaltending which has been a tire fire so far. Almost the entire team has pretty respectable numbers (possible because #TheLeafsAreActuallyGood), but the goaltending has really let them down so far this season. Both guys have a decent track record so I don’t think it’s time to panic yet. They should bounce back and the team should start getting some wins as a result.
3. Jake Gardiner is good. I will not hear anything disparaging this claim. The fact he’s averaging only 18.4 minutes per game is concerning. Whether you think he’s being “sheltered” or not, he’s obviously thriving in his current role and deserves some more minutes. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Matt Hunwick, but I’m pretty sure he’s on his way to Robidas Island so that’s something.
4. Connor Carrick doesn’t have many points, but he’s been a revelation on the back-end and leads the team in Corsi differential. I can’t believe the team got him in the Daniel Winnik trade, what a steal.
5. Why is Matt Martin? And was there really any reason to pick up Ben Smith?
6. Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak have been pretty even this season in pretty much every way. Kadri is doing it with much worse teammates though, so I wouldn’t mind seeing those two flipped especially since Kadri has the better track record. Still, Bozak has been solid and that line has been very good so it’s not exactly a concern, just more of a “Kadri deserves better than this.”
7. Speaking of Kadri deserving better… what’s with the -2 penalty differential? This guy is the king of drawing penalties, but hasn’t been getting many calls go his way this season. That’s gotta change soon right? In his place as the new penalty drawing king (for now at least) is Matthews, which makes sense considering how difficult it is to stop him.
8. Below you’ll find a chart of all their games this season. What you’ll notice is that every player has a couple bad games and a lot of them have the occasional trash game too. Very few players are consistently great from game-to-game which is why it’s important to look at trends over a few games. As for the guys who have been most consistent, it does appear like Gardiner and Kadri are the guys. Gardiner has had just a single bad game according to Game Score and is mostly at least fine. Kadri is the same, but that one bad game was really bad.
9. It’s probably time to try Frank Corrado in place of Roman Polak. To his credit, Polak’s first two games were really good, especially by his standrads, but he’s reverted back to his old self of late and it wouldn’t hurt to finally get Corrado some action. Matt Martin has had a pretty bad string himself, but I doubt he comes out of the lineup much this season, so no point barking up that tree.
10. A lot of people were skeptical that the Leafs could improve drastically this season and had them pegged for another last place finish. Look at the top of the list. The top player played 20 games last season (and is even better now). The third guy played 40. The second and fifth guys are rookies. That’s a lot of talent being injected into the roster and why there was reason for optimism before the season started (and there still is now too). October might’ve been rough, but the rest of the season won’t be.