Five Leafs thoughts to begin the week: Smarch 1st

“Lousy Smarch weather…”

A few thoughts to kick off your week, and previewing the things we’ll look at on this blog in Toronto Maple Leafs analysis, while we wait for the eternity between Leafs games…

No. 1 – Joffrey Lupul the Firewagon

My offseason forecasts on Joffrey Lupul are not looking too accurate right now, although I will mention Lupul has had a substantial totals goals drop thanks to his injury and that’s part of the reason I’m wary on him as a hockey player. There’s no doubt that, when Lupul’s in the lineup not only are the Leafs more fun to watch in general but he’s a big part of the reason why. Since being put with Nazem Kadri, the pair have been absolutely dynamite, and even a good defensive team like Ottawa had no answer for the pair.

I was working under the assumption that Lupul was actually shooting the puck more, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. Here’s Lupul’s shot, goals and conversion rate throughout his career. That’s goals pro-rated over 82 games, and shots per game:

Year Goals/82 Shots/GP Sh%
2004 14.2 1.83 9.5%
2006 28.3 3.65 9.5%
2007 16.2 2.12 9.3%
2008 29.3 3.14 11.4%
2009 25.9 2.46 12.9%
2010 35.7 2.87 15.2%
2011 21.3 2.39 10.9%
2012 31.1 2.89 13.1%
2013 72.9 3.11 28.6%
Career 24.9 2.65 11.4%

There isn’t much difference when you adust for ice-time, too.

Nobody could look at that and suggest a 73-goal pace for Lupul is sustainable, but, hell, it’s fun while it’s happening now and I love the addition of Lupul to the lineup because it means I’m not tracking games where both teams wind up in single digits in scoring chances. Lupul opens the game up, both sides of the ice, and his shots per game rate is the best it’s been since becoming a Leaf. That’s the good news.

The bad news… well there isn’t really any bad news as long as you accept Lupul isn’t going to continue firing at 28.6%, and 17.1% above his career average.

No. 2 – Be cautious about Nazem Kadri

I’ll have more on him later this week, but his percentages are sky-high right now and he’s in a contract year. If I’m Dave Nonis, I make damn sure his agent knows I know that his percentages are elevated in a short season. A lot of real good players end up signing for more money than they’re worth because of a good season producing above their expectation.

There are a couple of good case studies out of Edmonton. Specifically, Shawn Horcoff, a very good two-way player who got paid in the summer of 2008 and hasn’t been anywhere near worth his contract if you look at the offensive numbers. Again, I’ll have more on those.

No. 3 – Luuuuuuu

All through this goaltending saga I’ve remained adamant that while Roberto Luongo is a better goaltender than James Reimer or Ben Scrivens, there are no two more unnatural trading partners for this particular deal than Vancouver and Toronto.

The Canucks need centremen, and the centremen the Leafs have to offer are either worth too much (Kadri, Mikhail Grabovski) or too little (Tyler Bozak, Joe Colborne) for the return to benefit both clubs mutually. Additionally, as I mentioned in my Trade Deadline “Buyers” post, the Leafs don’t particularly need goaltending. Reimer’s still raw, but he’s been fine as a starter in his career thank-you-very-much. I’ve never really bought that Toronto was involved in any sort of deal for Luongo, but these are the rumours we’ll be subjected to as the media networks promote their trade deadline shows.

The talk will keep up until Luongo inevitably gets traded somewhere else. During the days of Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson, goaltending was a big issue. Again, the Leafs are on a 100-point per 82-game pace (47-28-13) in games where Reimer has earned a decision. I hate using goalie wins and losses as a proxy for goaltender quality, but we’re talking about a team that has issues at centre, defence and has fired a coach and general manager since Reimer took over between the pipes.

No. 4 – Leastern Conference

Before the season, it was expected that maybe 54 or 55 points would be the minimum threshold for the playoffs.

Take a look at how each team fares over 48 games at their current point pace:

  Games Points Points/48
PIT 36 56 75
MTL 34 49 69
BOS 33 46 67
OTT 35 44 60
TOR 36 44 59
NJD 35 39 53
WPG 36 38 51
CAR 33 34 49
NYR 34 35 49
NYI 35 35 48
WSH 34 33 47
BUF 35 32 44
PHI 34 31 44
TBL 34 31 44
FLA 36 28 37

The Conference is so top-heavy. Out West, the 8th place St. Louis Blues would hit 52 points over their 48-game pace. Those are much lower numbers than we expected. I doubt it would only take 50 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

No. 5 – Casting call

Running a blog is hard. Running a blog with a few contributors is hard. We work pretty hard each day to get you Toronto Maple Leafs content and analysis you can’t find anywhere else on the web (we’ll have a 36-game scoring chance update sometime this week).

If you have the urge to write a little bit about the Leafs for some exposure, shoot me an email, which is in all the biographical information below. This is a pretty unorthodox way to go about things, but at the Nations we pride ourselves on finding multiple voices and multiple points of view about all things hockey.

  • It could, and unfortunately I didn’t take any zone entry data this season. But I don’t think Lupul’s abilities changed over night. It’s clear he has a lot more space to work with since teams are concentrating on Kadri.

  • SiSmith

    I’ve really been enjoying an alternate point of view on hockey and the leafs in particular! Not that I agree on everything but its generally a fair and well reasoned analysis! What kind of help are you looking for?

  • I thought about this the other day after the Hurricanes game. Zone entries would be cool to track. I believe in that game vs Carolina, Kessel and Frattin contributed most of the controlled zone entries, but I agree that Kadri definitely seems to carry the puck in a lot

  • Mason from NC

    Re: goaltending, there’s no reason to immediately distrust Reimer and Scrivens after the work they’ve been doing.

    Let’s quickly look at some stats between last year and this year.

    Last season

    3.12 team GAA
    .898 team SV%

    This season

    2.63 team GAA
    .916 team SV%

    If you had told me before this season started that those numbers would shift like that, I’d have asked you who we gave up for Luongo. Through 36 games (a decent sample size, particularly in this year’s context), the Leafs’ goaltending has not been an issue. It shouldn’t be a main priority, just as Nonis reiterated this afternoon.