Toronto Maple Leafs: Kapanen Can’t Replace Nylander

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 31: William Nylander
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 31: William Nylander /

Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander remains out of the lineup in a contract dispute.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a great 6-1 start.

But that doesn’t mean Kasperi Kapanen can replace William Nylander.

Even in Toronto, where insanity about everyone’s favorite team reigns supreme, that qualifies as crazy.

Kasperi Kapanen

Kapanen has world class wheels and is a potentially great player with a very nice upside.  But he’s not the same level of player as William Nylander – maybe Kapanen busts through the ceiling of even the most optimistic scout or analyst (some players do), but that doesn’t someone negate Nylander or make him expendable.

Regardless of balance, positional need or coaching style, the most important factor in roster building is to collect elite players.  If somehow the Leafs were lucky enough that Matthews could turn Kapanen into an elite asset, having William Nylander only makes them better.  It doesn’t make Nylander expendable.

William Nylander is one of the best wingers in the NHL.  He has elite offensive abilities and is not a defensive liability. At 21 he’s already a first line player, his potential ceiling is that of an all-time great.  Had the Leafs not drafted Marner and Matthews, Nylander would be considered one of the top three Leafs draft picks of all-time, along with Wendel Clark and Tomas Kaberle.

Nylander has the potential to compete for an NHL scoring title. To be a complete player who eventually has a statue built of him outside of the arena. This is not someone you trade away because for this one single season you happen to be weak at right-defense.  (Rasmus Sandin, Sean Durzi and Timothy Liljegren are all right handed).

Kasperi Kapanen is OK.

But the two aren’t even comparable, and I wouldn’t listen to anything anyone who tells you differently has to say.

I like Kapanen as much as the next guy, but just because you give someone a late night talk show  doesn’t mean they’re  David Letterman.

Great Run, But Get Real

I am a huge Kapanen fan and  think he’s got some real upside. But Nylander is a legitimate first line player.  Nylander missed out on being in the top ten for 5v5 points last season by four points, while outscoring Crosby, Malkin, Tavares and Tarasenko.  He is probably one of the only players in NHL history to repeat a 60 point season while suffering from a 50% decline in power-play points. (I couldn’t find out, but I think it’s an impressive accomplishment).

Kasperi Kapanen is pretty good.

But this Nylander thing is getting out of hand.  I’ve seen people say to trade him, suggest he’s being selfish, that the Leafs don’t need him anymore because Kapanen has taken his place.

The Leafs are doing great right now and it’s really fun, but their early season performance is not indicative of the team they will always be. Teams just don’t score four goals per game and win six out of every seven.  Not in professional sports leagues they don’t.

So to say “The Leafs don’t need Nylander because they are averaging four goals per game” is very shortsighted.

The Leafs are scoring a ton, but their best player is shooting close to 50%. they’re scoring on damn near half their power-plays. Ironically, the best way to keep that going would be to add an elite winger to their lineup with the opportunity cost of Frederik Gauthier.

The Leafs have been great, but it’s not sustainable.  Auston Matthews isn’t going to score 100 goals or 160 points.  The Leafs power-play isn’t going to be 20% better than the next best of all-time.  So if you think the Leafs “don’t need” Nylander because of some early season scoring (against the weakest schedule imaginable), then please reconsider.

That is ridiculous.  Of course you “need” the elite player who is currently not on the team.  Because you can guarantee that the Leafs will not win six out of every seven games they play.  That there will be periods where it will be hard to score, and hard to win.  When that happens, you’re going to want to ice the best team possible, and for the Leafs, that includes William Nylander.

Next. Don't Fall for Bad Nylander Takes. dark

Do not make the mistake of thinking that just because the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing OK without Nylander that they don’t need him.

To sum up:  Wings has a better chance of replacing the Beatles as the greatest classic rock band, than Kasperi Kapanen does of replacing William Nylander.