Do the Leafs results add up to them being contenders and deadline buyers?

Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
26 days ago
Heading into Saturday’s game against the Jets the Leafs are presently sitting at 56 points through 46 games. The Leafs sat at 63 points last season at 46 games and for the most accurate context, the Leafs had 76 points in 56 games on the day they traded for Ryan O’Reilly. If the Leafs win their next ten games they still would come just shy of the record that Kyle Dubas decided to go all-in with the Leafs on. They had a .679 points percentage, presently the Leafs are at .609. 
Now that was an exceptionally good season for the Leafs and Kyle Dubas as invested in the Leafs with worse records, but not by much. When Nick Foligno was acquired, the Leafs had a .663 points percentage. When the Leafs acquired Mark Giordano the Leafs had a .669 points percentage. Jake Muzzin was acquired at the 49 game mark with 63 points or a .633 points percentage.
The outlier in the Dubas era is when the big acquisition was Jack Campbell, which again wasn’t so much done out of beefing up for a playoff run but finding a way of ending a prolonged run of a Michael Hutchinson/Kasimir Kaskisuo tandem and obvious the COVID lockdown essentially limited the rest of the Leafs trades to some minor deck shuffling that seemed innocent at the time but included the Malgin for Marchment trade (but we don’t need to rehash that again.)
The Leafs history might not be as significant of Brad Treliving’s history and while the Flames weren’t as consistently as good as the Leafs have been (in the regular season) the Tyler Toffoli acquisition stands out as Brad’s big buy. The Flames made the deal 45 games into the season while the team had 58 points. Their points percentage was .644. It’s also worth noting that the Flames were one point of first in their division with three games at hand and on a six game winning streak at the time. Tyler Toffoli was also under contract for two more seasons after that one.
So where does that leave the Leafs? They aren’t obligated to hit one of those marks in order to become buyers nor is there a threshold for when they become sellers. And with the amount of change the Leafs underwent in the last season a bit of a step back is something that could be anticipated, so there might be an appetite to go for it in spite of their record. If recency plays a factor in their decision, Toronto has gone 9-8-3 in their last 20 games and leaves them with a .525 points percentage.
If we assume that 25 points in 20 games or a .625 points percentage is what constitutes the Leafs being buyers, you can see that the Leafs up until recently have been at that threshold.
Through the Leafs games 20 through 40 the Leafs dipped into what we will call “don’t buy” territory only twice, while games 41-46 have at the very least inspired the number of stand pat takes involving the Leafs and one, given Brad Treliving’s track record, is one that he is likely to support.
A way of looking at their current situation is that Leafs should be a .625 points percentage team by the time hit the trade deadline, like a game or two before hand, but if it takes until the 11th hour, Toronto has 17 games to be a .625 team. That would mean Toronto should be a 79 point team at the 63 game mark and that would require them picking up 23 points in their next 17 games, a points percentage of .678 and that is  a points percentage they’ve been able to achieve at points this year.
Another thing to consider is that the Leafs are still very much a playoff team. And for all the criticism thrown at them, they haven’t dipped below a .500 points percentage 20 game stretch and a team with a .600 points percentage makes the NHL playoffs any season and just getting in might be enough for the Leafs to think loading up is worthwhile.
Toronto Final Pts%16th seedPts %3rd in AtlanticPts %2nd Wild Card in EastPts %
18-190.610Avalanche0.549Maple Leafs0.610Blue Jackets0.598
20-210.688Canadiens0.527Canadiens (North Div)0.527N/A
YTD0.609Coyotes0.544Maple Leafs0.609Devils0.567
(YTD numbers as of end of the Leafs game on Wednesday night.)
It’s not going to be lost on anyone that the Canadiens, Panthers, and Lightning all went on runs from their position and if you want to play the 1 in 16 lottery that the Leafs are a team of destiny and will come together at the right time, good for you and no one is stopping you. Who it should stop is Brad Treliving who needs to think about whether the Leafs record says hold onto some prospects who look like they can be affordable roster options next year and a draft pick the Leafs can certainly use as it will also be in a slightly higher position than previous seasons.
The Panthers weren’t active at the trade deadline last season, The Canadiens were slightly more active in 2021 but trading nothing more valuable than a 3rd round pick, and while the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021-22 were notably more active, it’s also because their points percentage was .671 and certainly warranted doing what they can from a slightly lower seed, but a team that still had the 7th best points percentage in the NHL that season.
Now all of that said about the numbers, there are some things that if the Leafs do in the first few games following the All-Star break that would push the team in a buying direction. If the return of Joseph Woll goes as well as everyone is banking on, then there is a reason to believe that a better version of the Leafs does exist is probably the best example of that but improved special teams would probably be another significant change that is enough to turnaround the Leafs season. Better performances out of Ilya Samsonov certainly help the Leafs but Woll looks to be the best path forward.
Couple some stronger goaltending with a few more regulation wins and then hunting for a defenceman at the deadline feels a little less like mortgaging the future.
Data from Hockey Reference

Check out these posts...