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How are you feeling 20 games into the Leafs season?

Well, I guess that’s mission not accomplished and when you set the bar low, you’ll be surprised how often you fail to meet those expectations. Such is the story of the first 20 games of the Toronto Maple Leafs. And with the Leafs hitting the quarter mark of the season midway through the second period of Friday’s game against Boston, it’s time to start reflecting on how the Leafs have been coming up short.

Going by the point standings the Leafs might look to be better off than they actually are, though even that isn’t ideal. The Leafs are sitting 4th in their division, and 8th in their conference, putting them in a wildcard spot and only one point out of second in their division. Cool. No reason to think things are going bad, right?

Well, the point percentage tells the realistic story where the Leafs have played more games than any of the teams that they are competing against for those playoff spots. They’ve burned through the first 20 games and have come up short on expectations and even using Babcock’s 6 points for every 5 game model, the Leafs would be tied with Tampa at 60% of their points, and would be at best a coin flip to make the playoffs. In other words, the results to date have been ungood.

Not getting results, doesn’t necessarily mean that the Leafs have been playing bad, maybe they’ve had a run of bad luck. You can certainly consider injuries to Tavares and Marner in that category, but Tampa has played without Brayden Point, St. Louis has lost Tarasenko long term, and both of those teams have found ways to go on. Colorado is another prime example of losing talent but not losing games.

The quick story on the Leafs lack of success can probably be connected to special teams, considering the Leafs only have the 20th best power play in the league (converting 17.65% of the time) and the 24th best penalty kill (killing only 75.34% of their penalties). Considering the Leafs have also given up the 4th most powerplay opportunities, it’s not surprising that they’ve also given up the 2nd most goals while shorthanded.

The powerplay’s lack of success might be even more insulting when you consider the personnel of Tavares, Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Rielly, and Barrie as their starting point, and then being able to add capable complimentary options like Kapanen, Johnsson, Kerfoot, Mikheyev, and Dermott as well. The Leafs having the 6th most powerplays in the league denies the narrative that the Leafs aren’t getting opportunities.

Not having special teams success is a major problem, but while it is glaring, it’s worth noting the Leafs haven’t been great at 5v5 either…

Perhaps the fact that expected goal data was unreliable for the early games of the season shielded us from how poorly the Leafs were doing when it comes to this metric, after all, if you look at their shot metrics, the Leafs were absolutely crushing the opposition on a regular basis, but expected goals tells a different, sadder story. Despite having the lowest expected goals when they are leading, and likely playing more of a defense first strategy, the Leafs did better compared to their league counterparts, although still not good enough to be considered playing at a playoff level.

In contrast, when the Leafs are chasing the opposition and trying to aggressively get back into the game, their 52.65% expected goals for, was only good enough to be the 20th best effort in the league, and when tied, the Leafs are at their absolute worst, which certainly aligns with the slow start narrative that plagued Toronto this year.

So far this season, the Leafs have had 8 games with an xGF% over 50. Their record in those games is 5-2-1, and the losses included are the night that Jordan Binnington stood on his head against Toronto, and last night against the Islanders where the Leafs had a 50.22 xGF%

The most telling difference in the Leafs 5v5 results is probably the difference between their Corsi For and their High Danger Corsi For. Their CF% is 53.18 on the season, good for third best in the league. Their High Danger Corsi For is 47.68%, which is 26th in the league. That lack of balance is a real concern, especially when both Freddie Andersen and Michael Hutchinson have had absolutely atrocious HDSV% so far this year.

The fact that so far throughout the year the higher quality opportunities have never matched the shots attempted is a pretty big problem. We can take some comfort that the cavernous period when John Tavares was out of the lineup is past us, but it remains to be seen that with the current game strategy and now with a prolonged Marner absence how much these numbers will improve.

Normally, I’d like to throw some suggestions out into the world on how to fix the Leafs, but I think at this point what we’re talking about is pretty close to complete overhaul being required. Not so much in a trade everyone sense, there is no doubt that there is still a lot of talent on this roster. I think more in a 20 games in and some of these lines and strategies just aren’t working sense. Possibly in a give a few Marlies a chance to make an appearance sense, and in a for the love of God, take Cody Ceci off the top pairing sense.

There is a need for some personnel changes, but they don’t seem major. They are just major in the sense that the Leafs have backed themselves into a corner cap wise, and that has to fall on Dubas. As for the poor utilization of the current personnel, well, that’s where it still seems like Babcock’s days are numbered.

All numbers harmed in the making of this post were locally sourced from Natural Stat Trick