What is there to say about Daniel “Moneypuck” Winnik? (note:
I hate myself for using the term Moneypuck.) The pessimistic among us say that
adding bottom six winger depth shouldn’t have been an organizational priority,
but we were flooded with the Komarov, Booth, Winnik signings, and of course the
trade for Frattin.
The optimists will say, that if you are going to bring in a
bottom six winger, a guy making $1.3 million who can hit 30 points isn’t a bad
guy to bring in and competition and depth will only make this team stronger.
Oddly enough, I count myself in the optimistic camp on
Winnik. He certainly doesn’t address any of the real issues with the Leafs, but
isn’t a bad guy to have, and if you’re out of the playoff picture in March he’s
a great guy to deal for a late pick in order to start playing the kids more. And
as you’ll see from his highlight reel, his hands aren’t that bad.
I’ve already celebrated Winnik’s glorious career high of 30
points (24 assists), though it should be noted that Anaheim really enjoyed
putting up points last season.
Points are not really the story on Winnik though. It’s
special teams. Winnik averaged 2:31 SHTOI last season, with Ryan Getzlaf being
the only other forward with over two minutes. As history has repeatedly taught
the Leafs, bringing in another teams top penalty killer isn’t often the answer,
but it’s noteworthy that they did it again, and although the Ducks powerplay
was middle of the road it was still light years better than Toronto’s. What
could be more Leafy than finding a forward who managed to block over 60 shots
in a season?
The numbers for Winnik from last season paint the picture of
Nonis/Carlyle type player, but it’s worth noting that his usage in Colorado and
San Jose supports that Winnik can be a strong possession player as well. A lot
of that is on the strength of linemates, but for a guy to who has had primarily
defensive zone starts his entire career to have this as a potential strength
could be beneficial to Toronto.
Last season there was more of a balance, as Winnik only had
51.7% defensive zone starts, and didn’t see any of a bump in possession
numbers, rather a decline. Winnik was most frequently playing with Andrew
Cogliano, and the now retired Saku Koivu. Winnik played against the toughest
competition of all Anaheim forwards, which is something the Leafs should be
excited about. The shift to playing a more offensive game may have over
extended this line or might be looked at as a pleasant surprise considering
their primary defensive role. Despite all three guys being solid two way players
they were outshot, but that seems forgivable given their usage.
We finally have the answer to “what if Chad Kilger was a
Leaf again?” As fun as it is to look at Winnik’s possession stats from his time
in Colorado and go, “wouldn’t it be great if he did that again?”, I don’t think
there’s a single example of someone seeing this improve under the sagelike
guidance of Randy Carlyle.
What will Winnik be? Most certainly this is a guy you’re
going to see a lot of on the penalty kill. He’s a guy who will go to the front
of the net and hopefully give skilled bottom six centers like Santorelli and
Holland someone to bank pucks off of. He’ll be that guy who goes into the
corners and does what Kulemin did last season, but not as well, but somehow
he’ll get even more praise for it.
You know all those people who really liked Jay McClement?
They’re all going to fall hard for Daniel Winnik (though if somehow Winnik’s
possession numbers do return to what he did in Colorado he could become the
most beloved Leaf of all time.)
Winnik is ideally someone the Leafs dress on their fourth
line, and trot him out as a fresh pair of legs on the penalty kills. He’s the
guy you’re glad you have when your team goes into overtime for the third time
this week, because you feel comfortable playing him more than six minutes a
night. He’s the kind of necessity the Leafs should have embraced two seasons
ago as there is something unsustainable about a coach that runs hard practices,
and rolls three lines. Winnik as injury relief for guys like Lupul and Booth is
a plus and removes the need to recall Greg McKegg only to play him three damn
Realistic expectations for Winnik are that provides a nice
safety net this year while the Leafs determine if they have anything in Ashton,
Frattin, or Leivo. He won’t be Kulemin good, but he’s not Fredrick Sjostrom
bad. He’s Chad Kilger and I think that’s a good thing.
He scores highly in the Fantasy Team Name pun category, but
even if your team name is “In It to Winnik” you’re probably not drafting him.
For fantasy advice, head on over to DailyFaceoff.com, and
make sure to check out their 2014-15
Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit. The draft kit is
free and has over 100 pages of projections and analysis, so if you have a draft
or two coming up this week, you’ll definitely want to give it a read.
Here’s Daniel Winnik proving he’s the most capable bottom
six forward the Leafs have dressed in a long time.
Here’s Winnik killing a penalty the best possible way