Going into yesterday’s game against the Panthers, we had a surprise announcement that Hyman would be out due to an ankle sprain. Shortly after the game, it was announced that Hyman would be out for a minimum of three weeks.
Zach Hyman (ankle sprain) will be out a minimum of three weeks.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) December 21, 2018
Of course, this comes shortly after his two game suspension, so this isn’t the first time that the Leafs have had to play without him this season.
So, how does this affect the Leafs play until he gets back?
Well, if there was ever a time to get hurt and not miss a ton of games, it’s right now during the holidays. The Leafs have quite a few breaks over the next couple weeks, and if Hyman comes back in three weeks, he should only miss 7-8 games, so nothing too crazy.
Also, out of the top nine forwards the Leafs have been running this season, Hyman is arguably the most replaceable. Unlike the other players that are about his caliber (Johnsson & Marleau), Hyman doesn’t have the offensive upside that they do, and his defensive impact is pretty average, as he’s been rocking a solid +0.99% 5v5 CF Rel since entering the league. That’s not bad by any means, but it also shows that he isn’t really shifting the game too much in his favour.
It also helps that the Leafs have a very similar player in Connor Brown that can (and has so far) slip onto the Tavares-Marner line and play a very similar game. While Brown’s possession impact isn’t as good, with a -0.9% 5v5 CF Rel, it’s still pretty similar to Hyman’s, and also doesn’t really change the game too much.
Offensively, they are almost identical in 5v5 primary point production, as Hyman has a 1.13 5v5 P1/60, while Brown is slightly behind with a 1.11 5v5 P1/60. Hyman starts to pull ahead when you bring in secondary assists, but also keep in mind that Hyman’s most common linemates since entering the league have been Matthews, Nylander, Tavares, and Marner, while Brown’s has been JVR, Bozak, Matthews, Kadri, and Komarov. Still some talent there, but not to the same level that Hyman’s been playing with.
Also, it’s not like the Leafs have been playing that badly without Hyman. They’re 2-1 so far without him, and that one loss was Tampa, where they ran into a hot goalie. In those three games, they’ve had a 5v5 CF% of 54.39, and outscoring teams 11-6, so they haven’t had too many problems so far.
Obviously Hyman plays an important role on this team, but if the Leafs can play like a top 5 team without Matthews and Nylander in the lineup, they’ll probably do just fine over the next few weeks.