“Lousy Smarch weather…”
A few thoughts to kick off your week, and previewing the things we’ll look at on this blog in Toronto Maple Leafs analysis, while we wait for the eternity between Leafs games…
No. 1 – Joffrey Lupul the Firewagon
My offseason forecasts on Joffrey Lupul are not looking too accurate right now, although I will mention Lupul has had a substantial totals goals drop thanks to his injury and that’s part of the reason I’m wary on him as a hockey player. There’s no doubt that, when Lupul’s in the lineup not only are the Leafs more fun to watch in general but he’s a big part of the reason why. Since being put with Nazem Kadri, the pair have been absolutely dynamite, and even a good defensive team like Ottawa had no answer for the pair.
I was working under the assumption that Lupul was actually shooting the puck more, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Here’s Lupul’s shot, goals and conversion rate throughout his career. That’s goals pro-rated over 82 games, and shots per game:
There isn’t much difference when you adust for ice-time, too.
Nobody could look at that and suggest a 73-goal pace for Lupul is sustainable, but, hell, it’s fun while it’s happening now and I love the addition of Lupul to the lineup because it means I’m not tracking games where both teams wind up in single digits in scoring chances. Lupul opens the game up, both sides of the ice, and his shots per game rate is the best it’s been since becoming a Leaf. That’s the good news.
The bad news… well there isn’t really any bad news as long as you accept Lupul isn’t going to continue firing at 28.6%, and 17.1% above his career average.
No. 2 – Be cautious about Nazem Kadri
I’ll have more on him later this week, but his percentages are sky-high right now and he’s in a contract year. If I’m Dave Nonis, I make damn sure his agent knows I know that his percentages are elevated in a short season. A lot of real good players end up signing for more money than they’re worth because of a good season producing above their expectation.
There are a couple of good case studies out of Edmonton. Specifically, Shawn Horcoff, a very good two-way player who got paid in the summer of 2008 and hasn’t been anywhere near worth his contract if you look at the offensive numbers. Again, I’ll have more on those.
No. 3 – Luuuuuuu
All through this goaltending saga I’ve remained adamant that while Roberto Luongo is a better goaltender than James Reimer or Ben Scrivens, there are no two more unnatural trading partners for this particular deal than Vancouver and Toronto.
The Canucks need centremen, and the centremen the Leafs have to offer are either worth too much (Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski) or too little (Tyler Bozak, Joe Colborne) for the return to benefit both clubs mutually. Additionally, as I mentioned in my Trade Deadline “Buyers” post, the Leafs don’t particularly need goaltending. Reimer’s still raw, but he’s been fine as a starter in his career thank-you-very-much. I’ve never really bought that Toronto was involved in any sort of deal for Luongo, but these are the rumours we’ll be subjected to as the media networks promote their trade deadline shows.
The talk will keep up until Luongo inevitably gets traded somewhere else. During the days of Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson, goaltending was a big issue. Again, the Leafs are on a 100-point per 82-game pace (47-28-13) in games where Reimer has earned a decision. I hate using goalie wins and losses as a proxy for goaltender quality, but we’re talking about a team that has issues at centre, defence and has fired a coach and general manager since Reimer took over between the pipes.
No. 4 – Leastern Conference
Before the season, it was expected that maybe 54 or 55 points would be the minimum threshold for the playoffs.
Take a look at how each team fares over 48 games at their current point pace:
The Conference is so top-heavy. Out West, the 8th place St. Louis Blues would hit 52 points over their 48-game pace. Those are much lower numbers than we expected. I doubt it would only take 50 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
No. 5 – Casting call
Running a blog is hard. Running a blog with a few contributors is hard. We work pretty hard each day to get you Toronto Maple Leafs content and analysis you can’t find anywhere else on the web (we’ll have a 36-game scoring chance update sometime this week).
If you have the urge to write a little bit about the Leafs for some exposure, shoot me an email, which is in all the biographical information below. This is a pretty unorthodox way to go about things, but at the Nations we pride ourselves on finding multiple voices and multiple points of view about all things hockey.