The Toronto Maple Leafs just got bounced by one of the NHL’s worst teams.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, as I write this, are not in a playoff spot.
As legions of Leafs fans are snowed in this Sunday afternoon, feeling bad about their team, I’ve got some news for you:
You shouldn’t feel bad about this team.
You shouldn’t feel frustrated about this team.
But you should feel hopeful, proud, excited and pumped the hell up.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Best Team in Hockey
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a great goalie, three first pairing defensemen, two of the five best centres in the NHL, and two of the five best right wingers.
They’ve also got about 100 interchangeable depth players who could all play on the third line of any competitive team in the NHL – they’re the deepest team in the league.
They’ve also been the most injured.
Zach Hyman and Travis Dermott each missed months. Andreas Johnson missed over a month. Rielly is out for eight weeks, and Muzzin has missed ten games so far. Tavares and Marner combined to miss 19 games which is almost half the season so far.
Their back-up goalie lost six straight games.
They had to fire their coach.
And despite all that, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit three points out of sixth overall in the NHL standings.
That alone means they are obviously a much better team than the standings would currently indicate, but check this out:
From the day the Leafs hired Sheldon Keefe to the day Jake Muzzin was injured, they were the NHL’s best team.
Since then, if we include the ten games Muzzin has missed, the Leafs are still the 5th best team in the NHL since hiring Keefe (ahead of Boston).
During that time, they are ranked 21st in 5v5 save percentage.
That means that they are overcoming bad goaltending and still getting it done. If Andersen and Hutchinson combine to be even league average, they’re probably 1st overall during this time. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
I think we can pretty much count on Andersen being better in the future than the 21st best goalie in the league.
Being 5th overall for a big stretch of games while getting such bad goaltending reflects very, very well on this roster. It points to them being a powerhouse team.
Another reason to be positive, is that in the three games without both Rielly and Muzzin (which is essentially gutting the team) the Leafs have picked up 50% of the possible points. It might have seemed like a crappy week for the team, but that is actually impressive.
In a league with a three point separation between 18th and 6th, it’s hard to exaggerate how much losing your two best defensemen hurts.
My conclusion is this: the Leafs have the best roster in the NHL on paper. Since they brought in Keefe, they are the 5th best team despite a preposterous injury situation and a very disappointing performance from their all-star goalie.
The calculus says that makes them the best team in the NHL.
I would put zero percent stock into last night’s game. This team has been through the ringer in the first half of the season and a ten day rest couldn’t come at a better time.
For the second straight year they’re going to add an elite defensemen named Jake Muzzin to their lineup at the start of February and it will make all the difference.
The evidence shows that this is a great team primed to do amazing things. I am absolutely psyched about the rest of the season, as this is the best Toronto Maple Leafs team I’ve seen in my entire life.