According to the Toronto Star this morning, the Maple Leafs are virtually the same team as the Columbus Blue Jackets. Sports reporters Mark Zwolinski and Bob Mitchell did a “top to bottom” assessment of both teams and concluded that the Leafs “are on par with” the Blue Jackets.
I’m afraid it wasn’t an assessment well-grounded in the facts.
To summarize the Star’s findings, the Leafs have better forwards and better prospects than Columbus. The Blue Jackets have a better defense and better goaltending; therefore the two teams are on par.
Of course, there’s one big, gaping logical hole in the argument: if the two teams are on par, with the Blue Jackets holding the edge in two of the three categories that matter this season (as “prospects” don’t typically tend to have a major influence in the here-and-now) then why on Earth is Toronto 19 points up in the standings and ahead by 54 goals in terms of goal differential?
The writers at the Star recognize the massive gap. They say, “the Leafs hold a comfortable edge this season.” Then they go on to explain that the Blue Jackets are better in two of the three areas that matter this season. How do they reconcile that dichotomy? I have no idea.
In any event, they’re dead wrong on a lot of things. Sure, Toronto’s James Reimer hasn’t had a great season, but a few good games for the perpetually disappointing Steve Mason and the presence of THE Curtis Sanford doesn’t really give the Blue Jackets a major advantage in the goaltending department. Personally, given a choice between Sanford, Mason, Reimer, and Gustavsson I’d pick Reimer and I don’t think I’d have a second choice.
Then there’s their take on Jack Johnson, who might be the most overrated player in the NHL (and is certainly more overrated than Dion Phaneuf, who currently gets mentioned a lot in that category. I took a hard look at Johnson last month when the trade rumours first surfaced – he’s terrible defensively and doesn’t do enough offensively to make up for it. Sure, he’s had a nice dozen games with Columbus, but there’s years of data to back up my viewpoint.
Also amusing: Mike Komisarek (622 minutes played this season, seventh-most on the team) is mentioned as a “key member of the blue-line, while Carl Gunnarsson (1501 minutes played this season, second-most on the team) isn’t. But I digress.
This was a sloppy and superficial comparison. A simple glance at the standings or goal differential should have woken the writers of the piece up to the fact that what they were writing had little to no grounding in reality. Instead, they put it off to one side and trudged ahead gleefully into flagellating the Leafs.