The Leafs should not pay the price for Riley Sheahan

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 12:45 am by Ryan Hobart

Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SPORTS

On Saturday Night Headlines, Nick Kypreos reported that the Leafs are inquiring about Brendan Smith and Riley Sheahan

A number of pieces have already been written, including several by myself, analyzing the state of the Leafs’ fourth line centre situation. Here, here, here, and here. One might suggest that all that can be said has been said (I definitely plan to leave it be after this unless an acquisition is made). And, other than the new factor of the pursuit of Riley Sheahan, that certainly seems true. So this piece will focus entirely on the value of Sheahan himself and the Leafs’ apparent pursuit thereof.

Sheahan, a former Mike Babcock player with the Detroit Red Wings, has been a staple on the Wings’ fourth line since 2014. He is being shopped currently because he currently has just 9 points (and no goals) in 58 games. But, we should know by now that there are far more important numbers that we can utilize than points. So let’s take a look.

Wins Above Replacement

Here, we will start with Dawson Sprigings’ (aka DTMAboutHeart) WAR model. If you haven’t encountered these numbers as of yet, please take the time to read the writeups Dawson made, the most important of course being the Intro and the Final. The Testing portion of the Final writeup shows that this model greatly exceeds the power of Corsi statistics. Unfortunately, we only have data from 2013-2016.

480.64 89.83 2.42 0.36 -0.01 0 -0.17 0.44 0.04 0.27 0.66
923.97 187.42 51.89 0.59 0.13 0.51 -0.11 0.4 0.06 0.29 1.58
912.75 106.03 167.51 0.38 0.09 0 -0.94 -0.01 0 -0.95 -0.48
772.45 127.76 73.94 0.4433333 0.07 0.17 -0.4066667 0.2766667 0.0333333 -0.13 0.586667

The most important number is the OVERALL at the end, where Riley Sheahan’s average would be in the 76th percentile of all individual seasons of forwards with sufficient ice time in that 3 year time span. Any time you have a positive number in a “Wins Added” statistic, that’s a good thing, so it’s nice to see that from Sheahan.

Breaking into components, the table shows that his biggest deficiency is in drawing penalties, and his Even Strength defense and Faceoffs leave something to be desired as well. But all in all, he’s a pretty solid player by this model.

Corsi / xGF%

Since we have a smaller time frame that doesn’t include the current season, it’s important to include the analysis of our other strongly predictive models. The stats below are all from and are 5v5 and Score, Zone and Venue adjusted.

Season Rel.CF60 Rel.CA60 Rel.CF% Rel.xGF60 Rel.xGA60 Rel.xGF%
2011-2017 0.32 -0.41 0.35 0.05 0.06 -0.14
2016-2017 -3.78 3.39 -3.34 -0.44 0.2 -6.67

We can see Sheahan is nothing special here over the course of his career, but is at the level of good depth. However, this season, he has been very bad. It’s a risky assumption to make that he’ll return to form here. This certainly isn’t a good position to be in for Sheahan. 


There are times when the use of goal-based statistics is much bemoaned, but it can be valuable here as an approximation of how Sheahan looks as he has performed. While not as valuable in determining ability as the above metrics, it probably can be a good addition to approximate trade value.

Season Rel.GF60 Rel.GA60 Rel.GF%
2015-2017 -0.52 0.76 -13.65

Sheahan’s recent results are really bad, to the point where one scratches one’s head when thinking about how Kypreos suggested he might be worth a 1st round pick. With no abnormal usage elements to analyze, it seems the data paints a pretty negative outlook on Sheahan.


All in all, this doesn’t seem a wise investment to make. Despite the familiarity Mike Babcock has with Sheahan, it would be really hard to say confidently that Sheahan is an upgrade on Frederik Gauthier or Ben Smith, the current fourth line centre timesharers. 

Especially when you consider that Sheahan is going to cost you some level of future asset, likely not as high as a 1st round pick but something of some value, this acquisition would not be good asset management. Being 24, this is essentially as good as it gets for Sheahan (at least in terms of point production and shot attempt differential)

This is all without mentioning his cap hit being above $2M, which is well more than a team should pay for a 4th line C, especially one that isn’t anything above average there. It appears the apparent pursuit the Leafs are making for Sheahan is an ill-advised one.