Joffrey Lupul has become the latest Maple Leaf to suffer an injury during the Leafs’ mini cap crunch. He missed practice this morning with a “bruised calf” and is day-to-day, travelling with the team to Nashville and it’s conceivable he may play, but are the Leafs ever scrambling for depth early on in the season so far.
So far the team has had to use Troy Bodie, Trevor Smith, Jamie Devane and Spencer Abbott in place of Nik Kulemin (chipped bone in ankle), Carter Ashton (broken nose), Jay McClement (paternity leave) and Frazer McLaren (who cares). So far the new guys have acquainted themselves well to depth positions on an NHL roster.
We only have minuscule samples of player data to work with, so looking at shot differential numbers for those players is a little suspect. Still, it’s funny that Carter Ashton and Troy Bodie have been some of the best Leafs for driving play in the early going. They’ve played some of the lowest quality of opposition players, but the Leafs have 23 shot attempts for and just 9 against with Ashton on the ice in the early going. It won’t last if he continues to play as much as he is, but it’s still miles better than anything Colton Orr ever accomplished.
Using Extra Skater, I broke up the early season Corsi numbers by the Top 6, Bottom 6 and Replacements. The “Replacements” are the players whose names weren’t written in pen on the roster in the pre-season. They’re Carter Ashton, Troy Bodie, Jamie Devane, Spencer Abbott and Trevor Smith:
|Avg. TOI||Corsi For||Corsi Vs.||Corsi %|
Last year I spoke a lot about how the Leafs were just wasting an organizational strength of good minor league wingers. You have all the time in the world for Bottom Six guys like Ashton and Bodie, and you can tell that the work with Barbara Underhill is paying off. These guys look like very fast skaters and, though it’s been four games, I can’t really pretend that the Leafs are missing a chunk of the speed that they lost last season.
What happens, though, when Josh Leivo plays in place of Joffrey Lupul on the second line, facing tougher competition than the Leafs face on the bottom six. That’s why depth is important, but I sure like the Ashtons and the Bodies over the Orrs and McLarens.
A point about Jay McClement
The “Bottom Six” and “Replacement” Corsi percentages come closer to even if you remove Jay McClement. It’s odd how successful he is on the penalty kill, but he gets absolutely hammered at even strength. Steve Simmons was on Winnipeg radio yesterday, and while I didn’t listen to the segment, a few statophiles in the Jets blogosphere knocked him around a little bit. Supposedly, he called Jay McClement “the third worst player in the league” if all you did was look at Corsi. Corsi isn’t a mathemagical simulation designed to rank players, it’s simply a record of which team took the shots when a player was on the ice.
I should have looked into why McClement’s Corsi was the lowest in the league among regulars more this summer. According to Behind the Net, the Leafs were outshot by 31.73 attempts per 60 minutes with McClement on the ice. It’s easy to say that it was because he played a lot of his minutes with McLaren and Orr, but I broke up his stats from last season, via Hockey Analysis’ WOWY app, to see how he fared in certain situations:
|TOI||Corsi For/20 MIN||Corsi Vs./20 MIN||Corsi For %|
(*The only two replacement forwards last season were Ryan Hamilton and Joe Colborne, which shows you the disparity in injury luck from last year to this year.)
I’m paying close attention to that 21.4% Corsi rate with Top 6 players like Nazem Kadri and Clarke MacArthur, generally the best Leafs at controlling shot attempts last season. He was okay with Bottom Six guys like Mikhail Grabovski, Leo Komarov, Nik Kulemin and Matt Frattin. Well, not okay because 40% is still pretty low, but considering how they’d play very tough defensive minutes (Grabovski-McClement-Kulemin was often the line sent out to protect a lead if the Leafs had a defensive zone draw) it’s alright.
Playing with the best offensive players, McClement saw just 7.6 shots per 20 minutes go the Leafs way, compared to 28.0 against. I think that’s pretty interesting and merits a closer look. What did the Leafs do differently with McClement on the ice with a skill guy as opposed to a checker? How did the system change? He saw 40 minutes with Kessel and 35 with Kadri and the Leafs generated absolutely nothing in those situations.
Jay McClement was sixth in Selke voting last year, but I hope nobody was counting his even strength play with that. The Leafs got torched with him on the ice at 5-on-5 last year. It was probably more to do with the system than the player, considering the player was the No. 1 penalty-killer on an elite PK unit.
Those problems have surfaced once again this year. The Leafs have been outshot 15-33 in 29 minutes with McClement on the ice. What is happening out there?