Analyzing Toronto’s Game Score from January

Photo Credit: Raj Mehta/USA TODAY SPORTS

After every month of hockey (and sorry we’re late on this), it’s good practice to take a look back and assess what happens. That’s my goal here with these posts analyzing the Leafs Game Score for each player for every month. You can find October’s here, November’s here and December’s here.

For those unfamiliar with Game Score, it’s a single number stat meant to measure single game productivity and player value that I developed over the summer. It basically combines the most important box-score stats and weights them by their relevance to goals. It’s not perfect and there’s much that is unaccounted for, but it does pretty well for something that is relatively simple to compute and comprehend.

The sample is still incredibly small, but I figure taking a look at the team on a monthly basis could provide some insight into how the team is doing. So without further ado, here’s how the Leafs January looked through the eyes of Game Score and some thoughts on it.

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1. As always, we start with the MVP of the month and this time it wasn’t Auston Matthews or Frederik Andersen; it’s Nazem Kadri. He tallied 15 points in 13 games was fourth on the team in Corsi (although a plus-12 isn’t too impressive for the month as the Leafs were pretty close to break even). Kadri has done well in his role and is having an amazing season on pace for 62 points, a career best for him and everything we all thought he would be when he was taken 7th overall.

2. The two usual leaders for the team had down months to varying degrees. A down month for Matthews is apparently anyone else’s good month as he was still fourth on the team and managed nine points in 13 games and led the team in shots, as he usually does. Andersen, on the other hand, had a lowly .902 save percentage and wasn’t nearly as sharp as the previous two months. He either runs very hot or very cold and this latest stretch is the latter.

3. The Tyler Bozak line was probably the Leafs most impressive here, although their defence could clearly use some work. Bozak was great, but the stars of that line are the wingers, James van Riemsdyk and Mitch Marner, who both had 15 points last month to share the team lead. Eight of Marner’s 11 assists were primary which is a good sign that the offence went through him (but we already knew that).

4. For a guy that was the subject of trade talk throughout the month, of course William Nylander led the entire team in Corsi. Of corsi did (sorry, sorry, I’m trying to remove it). He had a somewhat quiet, and snake-bitten month, but was still solid through most of the games. He has been a great addition to the Kadri line.

5. I know your eyes were drawn to it, so let’s talk about the other side of the chart, the one the team’s number one d-man resides in. This was, to put it lightly, not a good month for Morgan Rielly. Really, anytime you’re negative here it’s pretty awful. He did only play in seven games thanks to an injury, but he was largely ineffective in them. The minus-36 Corsi was a team worst by a large margin and it’s an average of over minus-five per game.

6. To add to Rielly, you gotta wonder if it’s time to ease the burden on him on the top pair. His play has taken a turn for the worst of late and they’re getting hemmed in. Nikita Zaitsev was the team’s second worst, so that’s an issue. I know it’s hard to spread the wealth with the quality of the Leafs defence, but it’s clear they’re overworked.

7. If you want to spread the wealth, look no further than Toronto’s top d-man for the month Jake Gardiner. He has his mental lapses at times, sure, but it’s hard not to think he hasn’t been the Leafs best d-man over the last month or more (maybe years but whatever) and he deserves to show what he can do in a bigger role. When Rielly went down, Gardiner still had some solid games despite more responsibility, although it’s interesting to note he struggled to start the month too.

8. Martin Marincin was out for a long stretch of time, but once he came back he was really solid if you look at the by game numbers below. That’s funny to think about considering how bad he’s been recently since Rielly came back. Might be a quality of teammate thing playing with Roman Polak, but who really knows.

9. On the subject of Polak, I’m not sure if I’m reading the chart below right, but apparently he actually had an eight-game stretch where he was Actually Fine or better? Weird. Has to be a record for him. Even with that stretch, a few truly horrible games drags him near the bottom. 

10. No Ben Smith for the entire month, and wouldn’t you know it, Matt Martin plays his best hockey of the season. Really strange, probably not a coincidence. Though, when you look at Frederik Gauthier clogging up the bottom, it’s clear the options for fourth line centre are limited right now and it’s no surprise he was sent down.

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