If Ben Harpur plays a single game for the Leafs next season, they might as well stop trying

When the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators made a trade on July 1st, it was seen as primarily just the swap of two bad defencemen that will see different amounts of time with their new clubs, but now it seems like one of the throw-ins within the deal might see some time in the NHL.

It was initially believed that Cody Ceci might not even find some time with the Leafs, but with his new contract in hand and the severe lack of any defencemen that hold the stick a certain way, he will most likely be on the blueline when the regular season opens.

If that was not enough, one of the other players that came to Toronto in the deal for Nikita Zaitsev, Ben Harpur, might just see some playing time in the NHL next season for a team that actually wants to win some hockey games. Some might be unfamiliar with the player and think that I’m talking about a singer-songwriter that makes songs to enjoy in the bedroom, but the actual Harpur is a 6-foot-6 left-handed defenceman that has played over 100 games in the NHL — I’m surprised too.

Through a total of 103 games, the giant from Hamilton has just a total of seven points — five of those coming from his 51-game season last year. Even though depth defencemen usually don’t see that much time on the ice, Harpur was able to average 17:37 TOI on the dogshit Ottawa Senators and still only get five points. That amount of ice-time is just 56 seconds less on average than Auston Matthews got last season, it’s honestly unbelievable.

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While offense is not the name of Harpur’s game, if you can say that he has a certain game that belongs in the modern NHL, he’s even worse defensively. While he was on the ice at even-strength, the Sens had a CF% of 41.37, only four skaters that had more than 400 TOI this past season had worst on-ice shot attempt percentages.

To get a greater sense of what exactly Harpur produces while on the ice, we turn to beautiful vizzes made by people that are incredibly smart.

via hockeyviz.com

Provided by Micah Blake McCurdy, his isolated impact model has pumped out just an incredible amount of stress and worry for what Harpur could be on the Leafs next season. A massive dip of offensive production, below league average, while the defenceman is out there and a giant blackhole defensively that lets teams just walk to the front of his own net and get a scoring chance — this is terrifying. He’s even been labeled as an effective penalty kill specialist, but he allows more scoring chances compared to league average while shorthanded.

Not even to mention that Harpur doesn’t draw any significant amount of penalties and has minimal shooting talent, the towering blueliner doesn’t really have a place on the Leafs’ backend. While they have other minor-leaguers like Andreas Borgman, Justin Holl, and even newly-signed free agents like Kevin Gravel and Teemu Kivihalme, those would instantly be better options for depth defencemen on the NHL squad in Toronto.

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Borgman, Holl and Gravel have NHL experience and weren’t complete garbage on both ends of the ice. Travis Dermott will be out for at least the first month of the regular season and that’s why these predictions putting Harpur into the lineup exist, but with more than capable defencemen to simply just be there on the bottom pair to start the season, there’s no reason to put this clear AHL-level skater on the blueline.

Harpur didn’t even make the 2018-19 Ottawa Senators opening-night lineup and that was probably the lowest bar in the entire history of modern hockey history. Getting called-up later in the middle of the season, he has never really shown the ability to be more than a minor-league player and that’s no real slight on the player.

This whole decision isn’t even involving the cap or any contract difficulties, it’s simply just being capable at the NHL level and the on-ice production. With what Babcock knows of Borgman and seeing Holl in every practice last season, he might have to calm his love of huge defencemen and put the depth players that haven’t shown to be complete ass in the NHL so far.

It’s not the perfect situation, having one of your best defensive players out to start the season, but slotting Harpur in a lineup that wants to win games and get off to a solid regular season to bounce back from a disappointing playoff performance, is just simply backwards.

Being a part of a team that wasn’t trying to win last season, it could be seen as just an unfortunate scenario for a 23-year-old defenceman, but compared to his teammates, Harpur was just simply uneffective.

via evolving-hockey.com

Even on the piles of hot garbage Sens, Harpur couldn’t stand out as an effective defenceman.

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Letting the opposing teams just walk all over him and then stop him from being even remotely solid in the offensive zone, Harpur had negative effects on both expected goals against and for his own team.

It’s just simply baffling that a team labeled as forward-thinking as the Leafs would pull out a lineup involving this player on their bottom pairing. Even in limited minutes, Harpur would be a negative impact player on the Leafs and be even more exposed — even making minimal passes to very good forwards, something that he couldn’t do in Ottawa, wouldn’t make Harpur look any better.

This goes against everything that Dubas has said publicly about what kind of team he wants, even in desperate situations and injury-riddled bluelines, Harpur should never see the NHL in Toronto.

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  • Martymc

    Lol I guess being able to read other people’s analytics has made everyone an expert. To say that Harpur has no chance of improvement in a different system is just foolish. Ottawa’s player development is almost nonexistent. They continuously fail at it and their only young stars, Chabot, Tkachuk, and Brannstrom are only succeeding because they were good enough to bypass it. Is there a chance that Harpur and Ceci are what they are? Yes of course, but at 23 and 25 I doubt it.

  • Nylander to Matthews

    uneffective – that should be ineffective.

    And if they play Harpur, even in one pre-season game, they might as well trade Matthews, Nylander, Tavares and Marner and restart the tank. Harpur is a poor man’s John Scott. Just a tall lug head who has no redeeming quality. I trust Dubas will flip him for a 1st round pick to some dumb GM who values that kind of non-skill

      • Harte of a Lion

        Ceci should start on the second pairing at best, and ideally play 3rd pairing minutes with Marincin.
        Harpur needs a year with the Marlies and the organizations skills and development team. On the few clips I have been able to find of him, his skating is average but his mobility and positioning is where he needs to improve. Can he still do that at age 24? If there is any organization in hockey that can improve Harpur (and Ceci) from being a borderline pylon to a reliable, hard hitting 3rd pairing d-man, it is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
        Though he doesn’t fit the “Dubas mould” (neither does Ceci), there must be some hidden talent or why would Dubas bother? Perhaps it was all an illusion to acquire Aaron Luchuk!

  • StubbleJumper

    I will put an alert on my phone, so that the moment Harpur touches the ice for a regular shift in a regular season game I will head to the nearest bridge and jump off it.

  • wallcrawler

    Basing his game on stats while playing for Ottawa, seems very foolish to me. Hell, even Mark Stone’s Corsi went from 52.6% while playing for Ottawa, to 56.6% while playing with Vegas, albeit in only 18 games.
    I’m not saying Harpur will se a meteoric rise in his Corsi, but at the least, try judging his play on what he does in exhibition and not a bunch of skewed stats from a team that on most nights, hadn’t a clue what they were doing.

  • Harte of a Lion

    I was shocked when Toronto resigned Ceci without a large part of his contract being paid in signing bonuses to make the contract easy to flip. Obviously, Dubas and the analytics department sees something of value with this player. After Phaneuf was traded to the Sens, the prevailing opinion was he was a decent defence man playing way out of his depth. I am hoping that after the Leafs development team works with Ceci all summer, we will see a marked improvement in his play. The same goes for Harpur.
    In Ottawa, they had no structure. Watching the Sens play most nights was like watching 21 skating chickens with their heads cut off run all over the ice.
    Babcock needs to play this team to its strengths. Stop ramming square players into round holes.
    Babcock was able to win on the international stage because he had the 23 best Canadian players in the world. On defence, if there is no passing lane, dump it out. On offence, dump it in, recover the puck and create scoring chances. That may work in a short tournament like the Worlds, but will not work over an 82 game season with the lineups he has been given.
    Dubas has a vision which I refer to as SPS and Shanahan approves of. Skate, Pass, Score.
    If you have watched the Greyhounds since Dubas became their GM, they play that style.
    Skate, pass, score.
    The forwards come back hard to disrupt the opposition on the back check, thereby allowing the defence to stand up at the blue line or force the opposition to the boards before entering the zone. In most cases this forces the opposition to dump the puck in without the speed to recover it.
    His mobile defence can then recover the puck with land either skate the disc or force the play back up ice with short pinpoint passes
    Unfortunately, they have yet to win it all however that is due to a lineup determined by CHL rules. By the time you develop your drafted 15 year olds into great young players, or even stars, they move up to the next levels. In the NHL, as long as you can keep under the salary cap, you retain control over your young stars for 8 years + from the time they sign their ELC’s.

    • Harte of a Lion

      Sorry for the spelling error but the comment section is acting up on my iPad.
      Sentence should have read…
      His mobile defence can then recover the puck with “and” either skate the disc out of the d-zone or force the play back up ice with short pinpoint passes.

  • Rmck

    You need to improve your writing. I know I’m being “that guy”, but it’s that bad. I think you’re over exaggerating your points for the sake of making paragraphs rather than keeping everything simple. Way to many independent clauses and way to many broken up words.

    It could be seen as an unfortunate scenario for a young defensemen on a team struggling to win. He was ineffective compared with the rest of his team.

    Something like that. Look up independent / dependant clauses and it will give you different ways to form sentences rather than using multiple commas.

    • Bob Canuck


      You need to improve your writing. A quick scan of your post revealed the following:

      1. Who is “you”? I assume it is Thomas Williams but specificity would be preferable.

      2. The term “over exaggerating” is redundant. Simplicity would have been achieved if the word “over” was omitted.

      3. The word “to”, as in “to many”, is incorrect. In this circumstance, the proper word is too.

      4. Given that you are modifying “words”, it is preferable to use broken-up instead of “broken up”.

      5. “It could be seen as an unfortunate scenario for a young defensemen on a team struggling to win. He was ineffective compared with the rest of his team”.

      (a) Given that you are referring to Harpur, it is defenseman and not “defensemen”.

      (b) These two sentences contradict each other. The first sentence suggests that Harpur struggled because he was a young player on a poor team. The next sentence implies that he was ineffective regardless of the team’s performance level. Which sentence describes your view? Writing with clarity is critical if one wishes to improve one’s writing.

      6. Good writing requires the proper use of words. It is dependent, not “dependant”.

      Thank you for your considered contribution.

      • alltaken

        I expect NHL players to be better than beer league players. And I expect someone who writes for a living to be better at writing than a random commenter. Your comment failed to address any of the points brought up by OP, instead delving into a classic Ad hominem attack (attack the person, not the argument). As pointed out the article *is* poorly written. Does TLN not have an editor?

        • Bob Canuck

          I found it ironic that Rmck would post a poorly-written comment that criticized the author for a poorly-written article. If I were to criticize someone for poor writing, I would take care to try and ensure that my criticism was not poorly written. That is why I posted a reply.

          I could not address “any of the points” made by Rmck because they offered no specific examples in support of their criticism.

          I have no idea who OP is.

          Given that I made no personal comments about Rmck, my post is not an Ad Hominem attack.

  • Christopher Graham

    If letting him start the season while it taking a regular spot doesn’t creat a cap issue than there’s little harm in letting the young man show what he can do in a Leafs uniform. It’s often believed that defensemen don’t truly gut their stride that early in their career and maybe he benefits from less time in ice and responsiblity. Look he may be a pile of garbage but it sounds ljke a perfect opportunity to find out.