TLN Monday Mailbag: February 22nd


I took last weekend off to go to New York on a whim. It was pretty cool; even if I couldn’t see a third of the ice at the Barclays Center and Grabovski and Kulemin made me feel too nostalgic for comfort. But I’m back, and I’m here to take on some of your questions. Let’s begin!

@ahurst11 asked: What is the best advanced statistic? Is it still Corsi?

The idea of a “best” advanced statistic is a relatively recent philosophy, and in my opinion, it’s one that is counter-intuitive to analytics. There are a wide variety of stats out there that you can use to initiate a closer look into a player, but a proper end result requires more than a single data point; multiple statistics, video, and research into at the situation surrounding them are the way to go. 

Look at baseball. Managers don’t just pay a player on a scale attached to their WAR. Every number out there is useful as long as you use it as a puzzle piece rather than a completed look.

@Spiam_Liers asked: Could Garret Sparks be an elite NHL goaltender by the time the Leafs are competitive?

Goaltenders are so hard to predict in this day and age, and the necessity for an “elite” (much above the curve) goaltender has diminished over the years. With that said, to be good in today’s game, you have to be large, mobile, and most importantly, constantly looking to refine your game. That’s a description that fits Sparks very well, and it’s a major reason he’s turned himself around from “okayish junior goaltender” to one of the best outside of the NHL.

With that said, “elite” goaltenders also have their performance attached to longevity, and it remains to be seen if Sparks can be healthy for enough of a season take on the types of workloads he did with Guelph. This year he suffered a groin injury when he was with the Leafs, and it’s far from the first one he’s had since going pro. Tweaks like that have become much less frequent since he changed his technique up last season, but do we know for sure if it will last?

@LeafHead2154 asked: Do you think the Leafs will trade for a genuine top-four defenceman before next season? Defence is their biggest hole right now.

I don’t see them going out of their way; there isn’t a huge rush to get immediately good, and there are plenty of potential second-pair guys in the organization. Some might come sooner than you’d think; Nikita Zaitsev, though he hasn’t signed yet, is expected to be with the team next year and his KHL history would lead you to believe that he can play in that role next year.

@mrstewtosh asked: Would you trade Morgan Rielly for the first overall pick?

Rielly is a phenomenal young player, but we’re talking about Auston Matthews here. He shattered just about every USA Development program record in his mid-teens, and is now scoring like a freak in a highly-defensive mens league. His upside is much higher than Rielly’s, so if that opportunity comes, you take it.

@a12b4 asked: How many players do you think the Leafs hit on in this upcoming draft?

Probably a lot of them. Brendan Shanahan is going to come into their room, wearing a nice suit, and will offer them all a nice candlelit dinner and a promise that they’ll take things slow. It might not be overly professional, but it will get the job d-

OHHH, that kind of hit. Well, the odds are still in their favour so long as the team has the combination of data and eyeballs that they do. Prospect-driven analytics consider last year’s haul to be one of the best by any team in a long time; another year of refining the digital and optical methodology should make their chances even better.