Assessing how much “DAWG” the Maple Leafs have in them

Jon Steitzer
1 month ago
It seems like we are once again on course for another battle between the “just watch the game” crowd and the crowd that really wants you to see charts about how great every offensive defencemen on a third pairing seems to be. Along with it comes the tired debate of which is more important to playoff hockey, talent or toughness.
Me, I fall in on Team Grey Area. People who say stats don’t show everything aren’t completely wrong and there is a lot of context and situational variance that makes it hard to simply rank players based on their numbers and instead it is often best to look at a collection of numbers and come with a meaning analysis based on the information at hand, not to necessarily rank them. On the other side of things, having thousands of random strangers sports yell their opinions on players is largely meaningless. Is there value in opinions of former players and coaches, absolutely. Is there notably less value in the opinions of an AM radio host attempting to fill a daily two-hour block with takes hot enough to maintain a regular listening audience, that is absolutely true. And that dude in the breakroom frothing at the mouth about the last bad play he witnessed, you can pretty much write him off. (Please note we are all that dude sometimes.)
There is an equally important balance between talent and toughness. Well…I’ll admit my bias and say you still need more talent than toughness but having players who are hungry to get the puck back, make life a bit more difficult for the opposition when they have the puck, and generally have something to offer during the time that your team isn’t in possession of the puck isn’t as trivial as some would make it out to be.
It’s in the spirit of appreciating toughness but also statistics that I bring you DAWG, the only stat that measures how much DAWG a player has in him. For the sake of making it an acronym let’s say DAWG stands for Doing Awesome things to Win Games. It’s a measure of individual shot attempts from high danger areas combined with hits and willingness to take hits. It’s drawing penalties but also playing on the edge that you take a few. It’s the willingness to drop the gloves and block shots. Sure, you can look at all these things individually, but it is the combination that truly lets us know where players stand, and this Leafs team appears to have more DAWG in them than any team in the NHL.
That’s right, following the trade deadline the Leafs have more DAWG in them than any other roster. That’s the Joel Edmundson, Ilya Lyubushkin, and Connor Dewar difference. You don’t see the Jets getting that kind of DAWG bump from Tyler Toffoli, do you?
The downside for the Leafs is the Atlantic Division has a lot of DAWG in them and Boston, Florida, and Tampa Bay all could put the Leafs in a DAWG fight come playoff time. Still, this isn’t an element to the Leafs game in previous years so in all seriousness, this seems like the new angle that Brad Treliving is pushing for. He just calls it snot.
When looking at the numbers you can see what Leafs fans have been saying for years and that is William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and T.J. Brodie don’t have much DAWG in them. What might be a bit more surprising is the lack of DAWG in Joel Edmundson, Max Domi, and Morgan Rielly. All three are likely to get some additional DAWG in them at playoff time and that should help push the Leafs over the top.
When it comes to league leaders it is probably no surprise that Matt Rempe leads the way with more DAWG in him than any other player with 68.5 DAWG/60. The next closest player is actually the one game we’ve seen of Alex Steeves who had 44 DAWG/60 in his brief showing with the Leafs. The next closest DAWG/60 of an NHL regular is Michael Pezzetta of the Canadiens at 39.5 DAWG/60, which gives you a bit of a sense of how hard it can be to maintain a high level of DAWG over the course of a full season.
Listen, at this point if you have to be told that when I’m showing you tables with Raw DAWG on them that this is an unserious post, I’m going to do that now. The other thing I will say though is that the Leafs do appear to be a measurably snotty, dog filled team compared to the rest of the league and there is at least some hope that the narrative this playoff season won’t be that Toronto was pushed around and was too easy to play against.
If for some reason you want to look at this ridiculousness further, here’s the spreadsheet with all the DAWG values for players up March 11, 2024 this season.
The numbers that were abused in this post originally came from Natural Stat Trick.
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