Really, the only thing that Burke has emphatically said that he wants to acquire in the coming weeks is more size for his top-six. It’s not a bad idea per se, but the Leafs’ defense hasn’t exactly been stellar and their goaltending situation is questionable to say the least. In short, I’m somewhat surprised that there hasn’t at least been some mention of adding at another position.
For the moment, however, it’s safe to say that the defense has been getting better. The Leafs’ Road Tied SA/60 sits at 15th in the league and their Road Tied SF/60 sits at 24th. Furthermore, the Leafs’ forwards’ possession numbers are somewhat underwhelming with only Grabovski, Kadri, MacArthur, and Kessel posting Corsi On numbers in the positives. So maybe offense really is their biggest hole.
One aspect of the Leafs’ game that I think may link the issues of size, shot totals, and possession numbers is puck recovery. Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul do a few things really, really well, but, without justifying this statistically, I think we can agree that hunting down loose pucks and winning battles along the boards probably aren’t among their greatest assets. Would adding a big forward complement them (or other Leafs forwards) well?
Well, for starters, I think we need to determine if the Leafs really are small up front. What I’ve done is to find the average height and weight of Leafs forwards, as well as those for the rest of the league, and then weight them for ice time. Spoiler: it doesn’t make much difference:
So the Leafs’ are just the slightest bit smaller than the average NHL forward corps. Now, Burke thinks that his own group is too small, so he’s going to add size regardless of where the Leafs fit in to the rest of the league in terms of average size, and I’m fine with that. But I do feel as though the Leafs’ forwards have more trouble recovering the puck than their size would suggest, which leads me to wonder if adding more size is going to lead to many more puck battle victories anyway.
I guess that will depend on who Brian Burke is able to pick up.