Toronto Maple Leafs: Goodbye Yellow Brick Goat

The Toronto Maple Leafs made many off-season moves, but one kind of went under the radar.

Prior to the NHL Free Agency Period, the Toronto Maple Leafs chose not to issue a qualifying offer to veteran centre Frederik Gauthier.

A polarizing player during his tenure in Toronto, Gauthier simultaneously lived up to and completely failed to meet expectations.  On one hand, as the 21st overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, you’d have liked to see a player who could play higher in the lineup.  On the other, given the number of regimes that Gauthier went through (Burke, Nonis, Dubas/Hunter, Lamoriello, Dubas), and the fact he was written off in some corners completely, as early as the day after he was drafted, you’d have to say he outdid a lot of people’s expectations.

Overall, the former first round pick is a good example of the Leafs current regime’s drafting philosophy:  take high ceiling players and not safe players who can make the NHL but have no where to go beyond the fourth line.

Freddie and the Leafs

The writing was on the wall for Gauthier this summer when he appeared in just a single playoff game and got under four minutes of 5v5 ice time. (All stats

Overall Gauthier played 168 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, over the course of five seasons. He scored 13 goals and had 31 points.

The problem with Gauthier was never where he was drafted or the fact that he was huge (six-foot-five) but didn’t play like it.  The problem was that he had no offense to his game.  The problem was that he was a throwback to an era that no longer exists.

Used to be that a player like the Goat could carve out a solid 1000 games of 4th line duty relying on his size and reputation to do what the numbers could not: tell a positive story about him.

The reason the NHL now rejects these players, and why you’ll see the Leafs dress a fourth line that resembles a very old or not quite good enough second line, is that purely defensive players are useless outside of the structured routine of the penalty kill.

Put on a Gauthier and you completely give up puck possession and play a passive game that (now that we can measure it) is 100% ineffective.

With Gauthier on the ice, the Leafs never exceeded 46% puck possession or 47% expected goals.  When he was on the ice, the team did not win.  A likable guy who was easy to cheer for, Gauthier just wasn’t providing the results.

Here’s hoping he catches on with another team.