September 20 2016 09:12AM
As everybody knows, September is Jake Gardiner Appreciation Month. I kicked off JGAM by writing about how, contrary to popular opinion, Gardiner is actually very good defensively. As I discussed in that piece, Jake has had pretty big, positive defensive impacts over the past few seasons, comparable to some of the better defencemen around the league. This time around I'm going to talk about another area where Gardiner's impacts are impressive: how he lifts his teammates.
September 06 2016 08:05AM
Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY SPORTS
If you were to ask people around the NHL what Jake Gardiner is good at, you'd probably hear a lot of things related to his offensive abilities. Earlier this year James Reimer said that Gardiner has a rare aptitude for passing. Writing for the Canadian Press last fall, Stephen Whyno described Gardiner as a "young, smooth-skating, offensive-minded" defenceman but added that he "could be an adventure in the defensive zone." I think those comments are representative of the general opinion about Jake: he's a talented skater who's got great vision, but he hurts his team when he doesn't have the puck.
Conventional wisdom on Gardiner, however, is wrong. While he struggled a bit early on in his NHL career, over the past few seasons Gardiner has been one of the most reliable players in the league at reducing the burden faced by his team's goalie. The same skills that Gardiner uses to generate offence, like his skating and his vision, help him keep the puck away from his own net.
August 31 2016 10:04AM
There's now less than a month until NHL training camps open up and, and the first exhibition games will start getting played in late September. That means Auston Matthews's debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs is getting pretty near. While Auston's time spent playing in the World Cup may delay his first game with the Leafs by a week or so, it won't be long until Leafs fans finally get to see him don the blue and white.
Expectations for the recent 1st overall pick are sky high, but Mike Babcock has tried to keep expectations in check by saying that Matthews will start the season on the third line. Any player's production is going to be affected by their ice time, so just how many points the Leafs prized rookie can score is going to depend if (or, let's be honest, when) Matthews starts moving up the lineup.
August 23 2016 12:03PM
Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY SPORTS
When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Roman Polak to a $2.25M contract last month, did they do it with the intention of having him play some or all of the 2016-17 NHL season with the Toronto Marlies? The question seems silly. Why would you sign a player to a $2.25M NHL contract if you wanted him to play for your minor league affiliate? I admit that it is not the most likely scenario. No team that I can think of has ever done something like it. The Leafs probably intend for him to be an NHL player. And yet there are a few pieces of evidence that hint at the possibility that the question might not be as bizarre as it initially seems.
August 13 2016 09:44AM
Photo Credit: Brad Rempel/USA TODAY SPORTS
Back in 2014, I wrote an article about Randy Carlyle's effect on Corsi for players on the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was the end of Carlyle's second full season behind the bench after taking over for Ron Wilson part-way, and it seemed like a good time to reflect on how the coaching change had affected possession. The conclusion was stark: virtually every player who played for both coaches on the Leafs saw their Corsi fall, usually precipitously, after Carlyle replaced Wilson. The effect was so strong it could be seen mid-season the year both men coached the Leafs for part of the season.
The Leafs have now finished their first full season with Mike Babcock behind the bench, roughly a year and a half after Toronto decided it was time to move on from the Carlyle era. Since we've now got another coaching change to look at, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the idea and see if the Carlyle effect is apparent in reverse.