Why Are the Toronto Maple Leafs Just an Average Team Over Last 60 Games?

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 7:Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs heads to the ice with teammates Auston Matthews #34, Morgan Rielly #44 and John Tavares #91 before facing the St. Louis Blues at the Scotiabank Arena on October 7, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 7:Mitch Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs heads to the ice with teammates Auston Matthews #34, Morgan Rielly #44 and John Tavares #91 before facing the St. Louis Blues at the Scotiabank Arena on October 7, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images) /

There’s been a lot of talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs record dating back to last season.

Since January 1st of last year, the Toronto Maple Leafs have played 56 games, and are just 26-22-8 over that span.

Now, over-time in the NHL is a essentially a coin-flip, and getting a point is much better than a regular loss, but it’s hard not to see that as 22-30, even though it’s incorrect to do so.

This is a team with more elite players on it than every other team in the NHL.  This is a team that people – me included – keep saying is a Stanley Cup Contender (Note, I think they are).

So what’s going on?

Toronto Maple Leafs Recent Woes

Before continuing this analysis, one thing needs to be said: I am writing this article because people are mentioning this to me a lot, not because I think it makes sense to use arbitrary, if convenience, end points. .

I don’t think artificial endpoint analysis is very useful.  I don’t think comparing last year’s and this year’s team is very fair.

This year’s team has played a preposterous 4 back-to-backs in the first month (including three in 12 days) has been missing up to four core players from their lineup, and are posting underlying numbers that suggest they deserve a better record.

Additionally, they’ve turned over a third of their lineup over the summer, so some time to mesh, for the new players to learn the systems, etc. should be expected.

But with all that said, let’s take a look at the team since January 1st anyways, and see why they haven’t been very good.

Stats Since January 1st

One thing you should know: hockey analytics have established the sample size for skill to eclipse luck as the most important factor in determining results is over 70 games.

So it is mathematically likely that a team could play 56 games and not “be the team that the results suggest they are.”

Since Jan. 1st, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 15th in the NHL’s overall standings.

But during that time, they are 7th in CF%, 1st in scoring-chances for percentage, and 22nd in save percentage.

The rest of their numbers average, suggesting their 15th place position is maybe slightly low, but not significantly.  A holistic approach to all available statistics does not give one the impression that this team has  been extremely unlucky, only slightly.

They are offensively amazing, defensively putrid, and as such, they are 15th in the NHL over an amount of games roughly equal to 75% of  a season.

Still, the 7th best Corsi team should probably be ranked higher, but their record is depressed by their 22nd ranked save percentage.


One thing we do have to consider, is their roster.  Last year they had a version of Patrick Marleau who was quite possibly the least effective player in the NHL, given the minutes he played.  Marleau scored at a lower rate than Freddie Gauthier, played pathetically bad defense, and yet was deployed as a top six forward.

Getting rid of Marleau improved the team.

The Leafs also had Hainsey in a ridiculous top pairing role, and now they have the equally stupidly deployed Cody Ceci.  No change there.

No question though, that for the portion of this analysis that includes last year, the fact they were using Hainsey, Brown, Marleau and Zaitsev in prominent roles hurts their record.


I have to say, the #1 thing someone can say to me that will make me ignore the rest of their opinions on all other topics, is that injuries don’t matter; that they happen to everyone.

People get excited if their team makes a trade.  Adding one new player can make a big difference.  So does losing one.

You can look it up: the healthiest teams almost always win the championships in their respective sports.

If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say that injuries explain 95% of the Leafs mediocrity over the last 60 games. (Specific dates from ESPN.com game logs).

Let’s break it down:

Jan 1st – 13th 5 games – Andersen (groin)

Jan 1st – Feb 16th 18 games – Ennis (Leg)

Jan 1st – 9th 3 games – Hyman (ankle)

Jan 23rd  1 game – Johnsson (leg)

Feb 19th – March 8 – 9 games – Kadri (concussion)

Feb 25th – April 4th – 16 games – Gardiner  (back)

Feb 28th – April 1st – 15 games – Dermott  (shoulder)

March 10 -16th 4 games – Kapanen (concussion)

March 17- 22 2 games – Gauthier (foot)

April 4th – 1 game – Kadri (undisclosed)

April 2-6 3 games Muzzin (illness)

April 6 – 1 game Hainsey (rest)

April 6 – 1 game Zaitsev (rest)

October 2nd – 27th 13 games Dermott (shoulder)

October 2nd – 27th 13 games Hyman (knee)

October 17th – 27 5 games Tavares (finger)


The first thing to notice is that all these injuries overlap.  Since January 1st, the Leafs played one period of hockey – against the Blues the night Kadri was concussed – with their full lineup.

The Leafs, over the last 56 games, have lost 110 man games to injury by my count.

While some games feature just one injured player, most games were played without two players, and in most cases these were core players.

For much of the time, the Leafs have been without three core players.  Add in the back-to-backs where they were forced to play their backup goalie, and there are several games where the Leafs played without four core players.

Yes every team plays without a player on most nights.  But it is not common for a team to play nearly 60 games and average two core players out of their lineup at all times.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a good team, potentially a great one.  But injuries are a legitimate reason for a team to struggle.

“Good teams overcome injuries.”

This is true, and we should acknowledge that during this run of injuries, the Leafs are eight games over .500 and, at least for the portion that includes this current season, deserve a much better record than they have.

That is an example of how a good team overcomes injuries.  It’s probably way better than we had a right to expect.

If you can go 60 games without two, and sometimes as much as four, but always at least one, players injured, and still be a playoff team, you’re roster is probably pretty damned good.

I find this stretch of play is convenient for the people who want to rail against Kyle Dubas’ focus on skilled players, but otherwise, it should be written off as a period in which a team working towards an eventual championship faced a bit of adversity and performed in an adequate fashion.

The injuries explain everything.

Next. The Best Player in Half the Leafs Games So Far. dark

In fact, while the Toronto Maple Leafs are missing the checking grinders that old-timers tend to associate (erroneously) with character and guts, the current team has shown a resiliance that is impressive.

Their record over this stretch of injuries is pretty good, all things considered (great even, when you consider that they outplayed the Bruins and deserved to move to the second round of the playoffs) and I think this team has shown the ability to overcome adversity in a way that shows excellent character, resiliency and guts.