Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports

Can the Leafs find the elusive 300-goal season?

Teams in the NHL used to score 300 goals in a season on the regular. You probably would’ve already guessed that in the 80’s, when Gretzky was capable of putting up 200 points on his own, offense wasn’t hard to come by.

All through that absurd decade and the one that preceded it, where goalies looked like they were wearing Sears catalogs over their shins, everyone was unsurprisingly ripping off huge goal-scoring numbers. To date, teams have potted 300+ goals in a season a total of 220 times. It’s really nothing too special.

But out of those 220, here are all the teams that have done it since the turn of the millienium, along with those who’ve come closest:

via Hockey-Reference

For all of Mike Babcock’s reputation as someone who focuses on keeping things tight on the defensive side of things, he coached two of those Wings teams featured in the top five here. Both finished with very good goal differentials, mind you – 96 and 51 respectively – but the point is he can really let the reigns off, as we’ve seen evidenced further in the last 18 months. It’s good to know if probably won’t stop.

So where are we now? The Leafs have been the talk of the league in the early going this season, mainly because they’ve exploded out of the gate to the tune of 22 goals in four games. At that pace, they’d hit 451 goals over 82 games and eclipse the all-time record set by the ’84 Oilers of 446. We know that isn’t going to happen. Things will slow down to an extent. But is the 300 mark attainable?

Let’s take a look at that Capitals team from 2010, the most recent true offensive powerhouse.

At first glance I assumed this was Ovechkin’s 65-goal season, but nope, he only had 50. This was Mike Green’s Karlsson-esque season though, where he put up 76 points from the back-end.

When you see how the Leafs want to play this season, and the fact they have three strong lines of scoring and a 20-goal scorer technically playing on their fourth, 300 goals doesn’t really seem that unattainable. But looking through a rundown of how the Caps’ best scorers fared in that 2010 season just by their boxcar numbers, you get a better grasp of the talent and the types of performances needed to shoot the lights out at such an absurd level.

Player GP G A PTS S%
1 Alex Ovechkin 72 50 59 109 13.6
2 Nicklas Backstrom 82 33 68 101 14.9
3 Alexander Semin 73 40 44 84 14.4
4 Mike Green 75 19 57 76 9.3
5 Brooks Laich 78 25 34 59 11.3
6 Mike Knuble 69 29 24 53 19.2
7 Tomas Fleischmann 69 23 28 51 19.0

At first that doesn’t seem too daunting. There are seven 50+ point-scorers on this list, and the Leafs had six of their own last season. The difference is the absolute top-end talent and the help from the blue-line.

If Toronto were to follow a similar path, in their case this would mean Matthews and Nylander getting up into the 100-point zone, while some secondary scoring from a player like Marner or Van Riemsdyk was near the point-per-game pace. I would never expect anyone from the Leafs’ back-end to notch points at Green’s pace, so the trio of Zaitsev, Rielly and Gardiner, who are all off to hot starts, would need to make it up by committee.

Then of course there’s special teams. In 2010 the Caps converted on the powerplay at 25.2%, but that might be the easiest area for the Leafs to make up the difference. Last season Toronto were second in the league at 23.8% and they look even more dangerous this go-around.

A lot of things have to go right in order for something like this to happen in today’s NHL, hence why we haven’t seen any team do it in nearly a decade. Washington put more than 200 shots on goal in 2010 than the league average, and their team shooting percentage was 2.5% better. According to Corsica, their all-situations expected-GF for that season was 251 and they beat it by nearly 70 goals.

But this isn’t impossible by any means. Right now Toronto’s expected-GF is actually 23, which indicates the team isn’t even particularly hot – they’ve scored a “true 22”, if you will. Pittsburgh is second in this regard at 16. Like, the Leafs somehow could be scoring even more this early on and it wouldn’t be that surprising.

With all that said, things will cool down a bit in Toronto, unquestionably, but given how Babcock has iced offensive juggernauts in the recent past, it isn’t far-fetched to envision him letting the team keep running and gunning a bit. A big talking point in the media now is about how, after the recent loss to the Devils, the Leafs will have to change their game and settle everything down. That’s partly true, they will try to check tighter and eliminate some of the chance trade-offs as the season goes on, but if you’re expecting 2-1 games from here on, it simply isn’t going to happen. Toronto’s 450-goal pace will taper for sure, but if we’re lucky, perhaps it’s only to the tune of 300.

  • Ivan Drago

    Wow so-called Leafs fans you guys are pathetic. I feel bad for the writers on this site cause no one comments. Literally articles up for hours and even cpl days and nothing but crickets.