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|
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.