Report Card: The Leafs’ core players

Did anyone on the Leafs have a “great year?” Not really. To be brutally honest, nearly everyone had a down year. A few highlights, plenty of lowlights, and a bunch of mediocrity from the Leafs core led to the 2014-15 season. 

Phil Kessel: B-

Kessel’s 61 points were his lowest since 2010. Among right wingers, Kessel finished 9th in the league in scoring After averaging over a point per game over the past four seasons, Kessel was eventually bound to have an off year. Unfortunately, as you’ll probably realize, so did everyone else. The leading scorer on an abysmal team, Kessel was CLEARLY the Leafs’ biggest problem. 😉 

James van Riemsdyk: C+

After his first career 30 goal season, JVR came back with 27 goals along with 29 assists, but often saw himself caught in poor situations leading to strong offensive chances for the opposition.  

Tyler Bozak: C

Bozak tied a career high with 49 points. Career high. 49. Top line centre. 

Point of Importance: Though none of the Leafs’ “Big Three” were ever defensive stalwarts, all three of these players had an abysmal defensive season. In the entire NHL, these three were on the ice for the 5th (JVR) 10th (Kessel) and 11th (Bozak) most shots against/60 minutes of ice time at even strength. Yikes. 

Joffrey Lupul: C-

Lupul had 21 points this season in 55 games, huh. Definitely not his best go around.

Nazem Kadri: B-

Kadri finished second on the team in points/60 minutes at 5 on 5 (behind… Leo Komarov?), though still was by ice time the Leafs’ number 2 centre. Kadri also led the team in Corsi 5 on 5 with 49.8. Not an overly impressive season, but not exceptionally poor either by his standards. 

Dion Phaneuf: C

After an exceptionally rough 2013-2014, Phaneuf was tasked with playing with a multitude of partners this season. Here’s some very basic 5-on-5 possesion numbers of his various pairings this season.

Player With Phaneuf Without Phaneuf
Franson   45.5 53.9
Gardiner   48.9 49.9
Brewer 44.9 44.8
Robidas 39.0 44.5

Well, he made Eric Brewer slightly more competent? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Morgan Rielly: B+

After the departure of Cody Franson, Rielly was arguably the Leafs’ best defenceman. There were flashes of brilliance from the 21-year old, and he upped his icetime to average over 20 minutes a night by the end of the season. 

Jake Gardiner: B

Among Leafs regular defencemen, Gardiner led the team with a 49.8 Corsi, but struggled early on in the season. Moving forward, Gardiner is about hitting his peak as an NHL defenceman, and will be vitally important in the Leafs’ future.  

Jonathan Bernier: C+

Bernier finished 30th in the league with a .912 save percentage, slightly below the league average of .915. In the Ontario public school system of marking, that’s a C+. 

James Reimer: C-

.907 save percentage. Same criteria as Bernier. Sometimes has been a good NHL goalie in the past, not a great year by any stretch. 

With the overall performance of the Leafs core, coupled with a rather weak bottom half of the roster, and the selling of assets at the trade deadline, it’s not hard to see why the Leafs finished where they did in the standings. 

  • TGT23

    Way too kind!

    Those kind of grades, might be appropriate for a team that just missed the playoffs.

    The Leafs winning percentage was around 41%.

    The grades should mostly be “D” with the occasional “C” or “B” and some “F”

  • TGT23

    You know you guys here are almost as bad as the knuckle draggers that think the Leafs just need to be tougher. Giving Kessel a B+ is ridiculous. I’ve been coming to this website for 2 1/2 years now because I was sick of the idiots who insisted the Orr or McLaren had to be on team or that they made the playoffs because they were tough. Kessel was atrocious for the calendar year of 2015. He very obviously quit on this team when things went south. Is Kessel the biggest problem on this team? Not by a long shot but he was a very big problem this year. Your guys refusal to admit the obvious is as big a joke as the meat heads. Phil Kessel is paid for one reason to put up points, he didn’t do it. Not even close. He was barely in the top 100 of league scoring. That’s not nearly good enough when the only thing you do is score.

    • Let’s just put aside for a moment that there was a mid-season coaching change that not only changed the team’s breakout and defensive zone coverage mid-season, that a down year from Lupul and Nonis letting the entire MGK line walk for nothing meant that the Leafs finally became a one-line team, and that Spott refused to change the powerplay once other teams found out.

      Phil Kessel did not have a very good year by HIS standards, but relative to LEAGUE standards, he certainly got a B+. When you consider that guys like Chris Neil are Fs, it makes sense.

      Did he “obviously quit on the team?” Or, maybe after selling all of our depth off, Kessel was keyed on even more than he already is by opposition shutdown units?

      I mean his center didn’t even crack 50 points. How many wingers do you know who finish with over 60 points when their centers don’t crack 50?

      • TGT23

        Excuses, excuses, excuses. Its all you guys can come up with. Kessel is paid to put up elite points and has every single year before this even though he had Bozak as his center for 4 years. I don’t care anymore about your excuses. Kessel is amongst the highest paid players in the league for a reason. He can be an elite player in the NHL when he wants to be. This year he obviously didn’t. How did he repay the Leafs for making him one of the highest paid players? He showed up fat and out of shape. His conditioning was no where close where it has to be. Yet, all I heard was “who cares if he didn’t work out this summer” “leave the guy the alone he gets 35 goals and 80 points every year anyway”. Except this year he didn’t. Not even close. If he couldn’t score this year with these players how in the hell is he going to do it next year or the year after when the Leafs are even worse? Kessel has an atrocious year and refusing to acknowledge that is as stupid and dumb an argument as the one that if Colton Orr had played this year the Leafs would have been playoff contenders.

        • TGT23

          To be fair… Wasn’t there zero 90 point players this season? For this season 85 isn’t just elite, it’s close to league leading.

          Which means had Kessel been a 35 goal, 80 point player we’d be talking about him in the same league as OV, Sid, Stamkos.

          So all that is to say 60 points this season was a fairly okay total… How he got there, to me, is the greater issue.

          Because I do believe he packed it in. He was on pace for an elite season and disappeared for three months.

          Now, it IS fair to suggest the coaching change was influential in that. I remember OV having a season that felt like this one. Everyone thought he was done but it was a system issue.

          So that isn’t an excuse so much as it is a possible cause for his bad stretch. Not sure I buy it but I can’t fully discredit it, either.

          I just hope they don’t sell Phil cheap and next year we find him as a 35+ goal scorer again and the team got nothing for him.

      • silentbob

        Wasn’t Kessel paid 10 million dollars this year to play well and put up points regardless who he faced every night? If he can only produce when not facing tough opposition or when his center produces, he isn’t someone we should be paying 10 million (I know, 8 million dollar cap hit) to.

  • TGT23

    Far too generous! All the core Leaf players should of gotten C’s and D’s, grading by the overall inability to at least finish in 20th place in the league. One road win in 2015? c’mon. The only exception to this I think, is that of Reilly, Kadri and maybe Gardiner.

  • TGT23

    I think the three previous posters are way too hard on Adam. I guess they don’t realize that this blog is a fan boy site where the leafs can do no wrong. Heh I get it that in the other cities the nation blogs are the same thing. Objectivity on the leafs isn’t even a concept in here.

    You want real journalism you simply read sites such as the pension puppets.

    • TGT23

      Then leave, bro.

      No one is asking for your opinion. Not one person cares about your rants about how great the 60’s were and how nerds with calculators are ruining the game. How all the Leafs suck 100% of the time and should never be credited for anything positive. And how people like you with your old school, narrow minded thinking will lead the Leafs to glory.

      And stop talking about PPP as if they agree with you. They dont. They like Shannahan and Dubas and embrace analytics. Everything you hate.

      Now, as for the article, I can understand the justification of a Kessel B- but I don’t agree with it. He was on pace for 40 goals and then disappeared for 3 months.

      Are there extenuating circumstances surrounding that? Sure. Was scoring (individually) down around the league? Sure. But I wouldn’t rate his season a B-.

      C to C+ maybe, when you factor in his place statistically in the league.

      • TGT23

        T.G. Bro I as a bro I am concerned about your health. That raging anger you have isn’t good for you. It can lead to high blood pressure and other major health problems. Cool out bro and ACCEPT THAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT OPPINIONS. Do you drive with the same anger, are you confrontational with innocent people. Get some help you poor soul.

    • TGT23

      Rielly: A-, Kadri: B+. Gardiner greatly improved as soon as that dinosaur was kicked to the curb so I would give him a B and Holland was decent when healthy so B-. Panik was good in spurts so I’ll give him a C+. Everyone else: F-.