Hockey, Sports

2013-14 Toronto Maple Leafs Review

I must admit, I am pretty much done with the Leafs at this point. Not so much the team, but management. Both Burke and Nonis have made numerous avoidable mistakes – Nonis is making Burke look practically visionary so far – and the Leafs haven’t been a playoff team in a decade. (We should regard last year as the aberration it so clearly was – shortened season performances should always be regarded with healthy skepticism.) Carlyle is making Wilson look like a genius and in retrospect it is very easy to see that, had Wilson got the goaltending Carlyle has gotten, Wilson never would have been fired. (So, it stands to reason, that Wilson should never have been fired.)

I hate the GM, I hate the coach, I don’t think Shanahan will do anything material to fix anything – unless he fires both of them and then I will change my tune – and, frankly, I’m just going to watch the Raptors now. I am done with MLSE deciding they don’t need to take the Leafs seriously. Until intelligent decisions are made by management about coaches and players, I cannot support this any more. I think I’m finished.

That being said, here is my ridiculously uninformed summary of the Leafs’ season; perhaps the last season where I cared. (Famous last words?)

The Leafs finished as the 12th best and the 5th worst team this year, by goals; a credit to Carlyle’s ‘system’. However, by shots, the Leafs gave up over 2900, which puts them among the worst defensive teams in NHL history since the league tracked shots.

So before I go to the players, I just want to say that Randy “I should never have won that Norris” Carlyle has given conclusive evidence that he should not coach in the NHL. I really, really doubt that Nonis will notice, however.

(The players below are, as always, ranked in terms of total minutes played.)

Jonathan Bernier, G, 25: $2.9 million until 2015

  • This season: 26-19-7 in 55 games, 1 SO, .922 save percentage, 2.70 GAA, 12.6 GPS (5th)
  • Career: 55-39-13 in 117 games, 7 SOs, .918, 2.52

I was very skeptical of Nonis’ trade for Bernier this past summer, but at least in one thing Nonis proved absolutely correct: Reimer was a health risk and was inconsistent.

Bernier is the only reason the Leafs masqueraded as a playoff team for as long as they did. He is the team’s MVP this year and given his age it seems fairly imperative that they keep him around (i.e. extend him).

Dion Phaneuf, D, 28: $7 million per year until 2021

  • This season: 24:34 ATOI; 8G, 23A for 31P, +3 in 80 games
  • Career 82 game average: 24:51 ATOI; 14G, 31A for 45P, 0

The folks that continue to deny that Phaneuf has regressed offensively have no evidence; Phaneuf has never returned to the offensive success he found in his first couple years in the NHL. And that’s generally why I don’t support his new contract, as he’s not a consistent shut-down defender either.

That being said, he’s not going anywhere it seems. (And honestly, he’s hardly the problem – the problem is Carlyle and Nonis.)

James Reimer, G, 25: $1.8 million ending this season.

  • This season: 12-16-1 in 36 games, 1 SO, .911 save percentage, 3.26 GAA, 6.3 GPS
  • Career: 65-48-15 in 140 games, .914 %age, 2.84 GAA

Reimer once again had injury troubles and also suffered from a decline in play (though it wasn’t his worst season to date). I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs trade his rights before July 1.

Am I silly for thinking they should have locked him up last summer?

Phil Kessel, RW, 26: $8 million until 2022.

  • This season:  37G (5th), 43A for 80P, -4 in 82 games.
  • Career 82 game average: 31G, 33A for 64P, 0

Kessel looked like he was going to score 40 for the first time in his career this year, instead he went into a slump and the result was that he had his worst offensive season since 2010-11 (albeit barely).

Kessel remains one of the top offensive players in the league when he is on but he is still struggling with consistency and he remains not enough of an all-around player to dominate in the way us fans would hope.

I am still uneasy about the commitment to this man, who still appears to require another star to elevate the Leafs’ offense to a level that will make up for their godawful defense.

Jake Gardiner, D, 23: $0.875 million until this summer

  • This season: 21:40 ATOI; 10G,21A for 31P, -4 in 80 games
  • Career 82 game average: 21:16 ATOI; 8G, 24A for 32P, -3

I think it’s safe to say at this point that Gardiner is the real deal – that is he is at least a legitimate NHL Top 4, and he is only 23. I am glad the controversy between him and the coaching staff appears to be over.

Let’s just hope they don’t throw him too much money this summer.

James Van Riemsdyk, LW, 24: $4.25 million until 2018

  • This season:  30G, 31A for 61P, -8
  • Career 82 game average: 24G, 24A for 48P, -1

Well, JVR improved yet again and so my dislike of the trade that brought him here continues to look foolish. Hopefully, JVR will continue on this trajectory and peak as a PPG player in a few years.

Cody Franson, D, 26: $2 million ending this summer

  • This season: 21:42 ATOI; 5G,  28A for 33P, -20 in 79 games
  • Career 82-game average 17:02 ATOI; 7G, 27A for 34P,+1

So the minus is going to scare a lot of people off but knowing what we know about this stat, it’s certainly partly luck that Franson found himself the flag-bearer for the Leafs’ bad D.

I’m of two minds with Franson’s regression: the Leafs should probably let him walk – as they have enough offensive D to sink a ship (or they should perform a sign-and-trade!). But on the other hand how are the Leafs going to replace him?

Carl Gunnarsson, D, 27: $3.15 million ending 2016

  • This season:  19:25 ATOI; 3G, 14A for 17P, +13 in 80 games
  • Career 82 game average: 4G, 19A for 23P, +4

Gunnarsson was his usual steady self though he saw his minutes drop, probably in part due to the various strategies of the coaches.

Mason Raymond, LW, 28: $1 million until this summer

  • This season: 19G, 26A for 45P, -7 in 82 games
  • Career 82 game average: 18G, 22A for 40P, +2

Raymond was a reclamation project who worked out rather well, having the second best season of his career (offensively).

Hopefully the Leafs don’t freak out too much when they give him the raise.

Nazem Kadri, C, 23: $2.9 million ending in 2015

  • This season: 20G, 30A for 50P, -12 in 78 games
  • Career 82 game average: 21G, 31A for 52P, 0

Kadri had his inevitable step back this season – I say inevitable because of his unsustainable shooting percentage last season – but it was a minor step back – he basically put up career average numbers – and he’s still young.

Morgan Rielly, D, 19: $894,167 until 2016

  • This season: 18:37 ATOI; 2G, 25A for 27P, -14 in 73 games

Were I the Maple Leafs, I would not have brought Rielly up this early. I mean, what exactly was the point? Now, I didn’t watch the team enough to see how he did, but what exactly was the rush? I figure a guy like this could use a few years in the minors playing lots of minutes. Especially when the Leafs are so bad.

Maybe I’m crazy.

Joffrey Lupul, LW, 30: $5.25 million until 2018

  • This season: 22G, 22A for 44P, -15 in 69 games
  • Career 82 game average: 25G, 28A for 52P, -8

So begins the long, slow and oh so inevitable decline of Joffrey Lupul. After two years of scoring above a point-per-game, Lupul went back to his career average this year, and for the 10th time in his career, he didn’t make it into every game in the season. (If you’re counting, that’s every season he has ever played.)

The annoying thing about this is that last year Lupul was healthy and coming off the best season of his career, and then Nonis signed him and he promptly got hurt. Who could have seen that coming? Well, lots and lots of people. And now the Leafs have an aging, declining, oft-injured player who they will probably not be able to move before the end of his contract, unless he goes on a tear and they are wise enough to sell high.

Otherwise, this situation reeks of ‘buyout’ just as much as last year.

Tyler Bozak, C, 27: $4.2 million until 2018

  • This season: 19G, 30A for 49P, +3 in 58 games
  • Career 82 game average: 20G, 31A for 51P, -11

There are many people out there who look at Bozak’s line this year and say “Bozak turned a corner” and / or “The Leafs were right, Bozak is a legitimate #1 centre in the NHL” despite whatever health problems he had. Bozak set career highs in goals, assists and points and scored at a higher rate than ever – the second highest rate came in his rookie season, where he only played in 37 games.

Of course, this ignores the very vital change that happened this season: Bozak scored on more of his shots than he ever had before, and can ever be expected to do again. And if you doubt that I bring up Kadri, who appeared to be a PPG player last season, only to not appear this way this season. Last season, Kadri had a ridiculous shooting percentage, as Bozak does this year. Coincidence?

As an aside, while looking at his profile, I noted that 2 people voted for Bozak to win the Selke last year. I’m guessing one of them was Steve Simmons.

Jay McClement, C, 30: $1.5 million until this summer

  • This season: 4G, 6A for 10P, -8 in 81 games
  • Career 82 game average: 9G, 16A for 25P, -10

McClement does his thing but his scoring is declining.

There may be in house options.

Nikolai Kulemin, LW, 27: $2.8 million until this summer

  • This season: 9G, 11A for 20P, -4 in 70 games
  • Career 82 game average: 16G, 21A for 38P, -2

For reasons I cannot really figure out, Kulemin seems to have lost his ability to score. This season was the worst season of his career, offensively (career low of 20 points, career low of .29 PPG).

However, Kulemin is one of the elite defensive forwards in the league, in my opinion. The problem is that his value has greatly diminished since he apparently cannot score to save his life. It’s hard for me to argue that the Leafs should extend him right now, given that virtually all professional athletes expect a raise when they are extended. That being said, maybe this is just a really long string of bad luck, and he will return to at least his career average in the next couple seasons.

It’s impossible to know, but I’m not sure if Kulemin sans offense is worth $3 mil per season.

Paul Ranger, D, 29: $1 million ending this summer

  • This season: 17:25 ATOI; 6G, 8A for 14P, -1 in 53 games
  • Career 82 game average: 20:44 ATOI; 6G, 21A for 27P, -3

Ranger was essentially a warm body this year but I guess it’s safe to say he performed slightly better than that in limited minutes.

David Clarkson, RW, 29: $5.25 million until 2020

  • This season: 5G, 6A for 11P, -14 in 60 games
  • Career 82 game average: 17G, 13A for 30P, -8

The only thing worse than the Leafs’ new marquee acquisition halving of his career PPG is that it was all so inevitable. Sure, I thought the contract was bad if Clarkson managed to score .58 points per game – which he only ever achieved in one season – but I figured the inevitable result would be something like .2 PPG near the end. This season he managed .18. It’s worse than anyone could have ever imagined. (People have already dubbed this The Worst Contract Of The Salary Cap Era).

But even if Clarkson bounces back, this is still a terrible deal and was still a terrible deal the moment he signed it. Clarkson’s best year saw him score 46 points in 80 games. How is that this valuable?

Tim Gleason, D, 31: $4 million until 2016

  • This season: 17:57 ATOI; 1G, 4A for 5P, -14 in 39 games
  • Career 82 game average: 19:11 ATOI; 2G, 15A for 16P, -3

Yes, Liles declined. But how Gleason was supposed to be an upgrade on Liles I will never know.

Peter Holland, C, 23: $0.87 million until this summer

  • This season: 5G, 5A for 10P, +1 in 39 games
  • Holland has played in 68 NHL games total

This is the kind of pickup I can support: a second chance to a young player.

Troy Bodie, RW, 29: $0.6 million until this summer

  • This season: 3G, 7A for 10P, +5 in 47 games
  • Career 82 game average: 5G, 7A for 11P, -5

Not sure there is much to say about a player like Bodie.

Dave Bolland, C, 27: $3.375 million until this summer

  • This season: 8G, 4A for 12P, -1 in 23 games
  • Career 82 game average: 18G, 24A for 42P, +7

Apparently all will be well if we just sign Bolland. At least Bolland is worth his current money (when healthy). But the idea that an injured player needs to be extended seems far-fetched.

Nobody else managed 300 minutes.


So there’s my half-assed summary of the season.

Frankly, I’m done. Until Nonis is gone (and it sounds like he won’t be) I’m not sure I can take the team seriously.

I certainly cannot take the team seriously as long as Carlyle is coach and the team continues to believe that being out-shot is a winning strategy. So maybe this is the last Leafs post you will see from me for some time.

I guess I’ll sit on the fence a little longer. But if the Raps win some playoff games, I don’t really know why I should worry any more about our Leafs.

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