Why The Toronto Maple Leafs Are as Good as Tampa and Boston

Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins vs William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins vs William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t get the credit they deserve.

The Toronto Maple Leafs should be considered a top three team in the NHL, along with divisional rival Tampa and Boston.

Because the Toronto  Maple Leafs had a rocky start to the season, and went through a bad stretch under their new coach where the team was decimated by injuries, the Leafs aren’t thought to be the same caliber of team.

But they are just as good.  Might even be better.

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Tampa vs Boston

The reason that I say the Leafs are just as good as their rivals is because the stats prove it.

The Leafs had a terrible start to the season. They lost six games in a row. They changed coaches.  Their back-up goalie didn’t get any points for them for several months. Their goalie – a former allstar who has thrived in front of terrible defensive teams – had his worst season ever.

The team didn’t dress their optimal lineup for a single game.

They played nine games missing their two top defensemen.

They received some of the NHL’s worst 5v5 goaltending.

They switched half their roster over the summer, then learned a new system on the fly.

Despite all of that, the Toronto Maple Leafs still finished a respectable 12th overall.

With Sheldon Keefe in the fold, they finished 8th overall.

The Leafs won over 70% of the games where Keefe coached and Morgan Rielly played.

In fact, their team statistics were very close to both Tampa and Bostons.

Let us check them out, courtesy of naturalstattrick.com.

Since Keefe was hired:

Overall Standings: Boston 1st overall, TB 2nd , Toronto 8th

Puck Possession: Tampa 5th, Toronto 8th, Boston 11th

Expected Goals Percentage: Tampa 3rd, Toronto 5th, Boston 7th

Scoring Chances Percentage: TB 3rd, Toronto 5th, Boston 7th

PDO (It measures luck, so the higher you are ranked, the luckier you were) Tampa 1st, Boston 7th, Toronto 15th.

Save Percentage:Boston 1st, Tampa 4th, Toronto 24th.

I think these stats very much prove my point.

The Leafs are thought to have had a bad season, and yet, since they hired their coach, they are the 8th best team overall (which is good) but have very similar stats to the NHL’s two best teams (who both play in their division) in every statistic we have that is predictive.

This is confirmed by looking at the save percentage and the PDO, the two places where the Leafs are way behind their opponents, which clearly explains why the Leafs are six standings positions behind Boston.

What bodes well for the Leafs is that they did this while learning a new system, dealing with many significant injuries, and getting really bad goaltending.

This isn’t mean to excuse away their season or to hype them up. It’s simply my opinion based on what I perceive to be the most important ways to measure a hockey game.

Which can be boiled down to one basic sentence: the team that has the puck the most is most likely to win.

In puck possession, scoring chances, and expected goals percentages, the Toronto Maple Leafs were ahead of the Bruins and just behind the Lightning.

Short-term results can be a bit random, but over enough time, it’s clear that Tampa would be slightly ahead of Toronto, who would be slightly ahead of Boston.

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Given the Leafs put these numbers up under some circumstances that are not likely to reoccur, it’s reasonable to think they’re just as good as Tampa.

Maybe better.