Toronto Maple Leafs: Jealousy or Ignorance? The William Nylander Story

TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the Tampa Bay Lightning fight for the puck during a game at Amalie Arena on February 25, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: William Nylander #88 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the Tampa Bay Lightning fight for the puck during a game at Amalie Arena on February 25, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs lost to the Ottawa Senators in horrendous fashion on Monday night.

The Toronto Maple Leafs blew a four goal lead with under 21 minutes left in the game, but so what? Score Effects are a massive issue in the world of hockey analytics because teams with the lead tend to sit back and let the game come to them.  This is such a common thing that for the most part, statistical analysis is routinely adjusted to reflect this.

So when you’re playing a condensed schedule and you have a four goal lead and you are the league’s top team and you’re playing the league’s worst team, it is the most normal thing in the world to stop playing.  The Leafs were going to lose that game about once in 1100 games, according to Evolving Wild.

Yes, it happened, but it’s the kind of thing so rare and weird to be completely meaningless.  No one should be blamed, singled out, or anything.  It’s just one of those things that happens once per NHL season and this time it happened to the Leafs.  It is less than no big deal, it’s just an amusing occurrence devoid of meaning.

But the shameless trolls who can’t get over the fact that the Leafs ignored them and not only kept, but thrived, with William Nylander, are taking this as an opportunity to once again try to run the popular and beloved player out of town, complete with one of the worst front pages in the history of Toronto, hockey, and possibly even newspapers.

It’s embarrassing, pathetic and more than a bit sad. But the question I have is: Is this jealousy or ignorance?

William Nylander Is a Superstar

Yes it’s true that Nylander isn’t exactly racking up the goals on Toronto’s second line so far this season, but goals are the worst way to evaluate a player.  It is EXTREMELY lazy for a professional reporter to base anything off counting totals.

Here is a direct quote from the Toronto Sun piece: “Nylander doesn’t spend very much time in the places where Matthews and Marner score.”

This is a weird thing to say about a player who led the NHL in net-front goals last year.  It is demonstrably false. But then again, facts don’t have any place in this analysis, which is why we have to ask the question that titles this article.

At 5v5 this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 8-5 when Nylander is on the  ice, which is 62% of the goals, which is really, really good.  If we look at all situations the Leafs are 19-8 with Nylander, which is second on the team only to John Tavares, and good for 70% of all goals.

Yes that’s right kids, the team gets over 70 percent of all goals when Nylander hits the ice, and people are actually complaining about him.  But why do they complain? Is it personal? Jealousy of his model good looks? Do they seriously not know better? And if they don’t know better, given their huge platforms, why isn’t anyone teaching them?

A basic tenet of hockey analysis is that you can’t just go by goals because they are very dependent on goalies and in such a small sample size don’t tell us very much. So let’s look deeper. All stats 5v5 from here on in.

The Stats Don’t Lie

The Leafs get 54% of the shot-attempts while Nylander is on the ice.  This leads the team among players who’ve played most of the games. 

The Leafs get 53% of the total shots whenever Nylander plays, guess who leads the team in this stat?

The Leafs are expected to get 57% of the goals when Nylander is on the ice.  I’ll give you one guess on who leads the Leafs in this stat. 

OK this probably won’t be shocking, but guess who leads the Leafs in high-danger scoring chance percentage?  It’s William Nylander.  That’s right, this supposed perimeter player who can’t play defense makes it so that when he plays, the Leafs get the biggest discrepancy of dangerous chances in their favor out of all their players.

He’s also third on the team in 5v5 scoring, behind only two of the best players in the entire NHL.  This despite an atrocious 8% on-ice shooting percentage.  He has 12 points in 16 games, and all the predictive stats we have tell us that the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the best teams in the NHL whenever he’s on the ice, and that they will get even better in the future once John Tavares starts to get a little luckier in the shooting department.

The way in which the Toronto Media ignores facts while pushing a clearly incorrect narrative is amoral. It lacks class, and worse, it’s disrespectful.  Not only to the player, but to the millions of Toronto Maple Leafs fans who don’t have time to parse the stats and dig for the truth.  When the guys with the biggest platforms either lie on purpose to push their own agenda, or disregard the most basic evidence so they can avoid changing their opinion, it amounts to the same thing and we all lose.

Perimeter players don’t lead the league in net-front goals. Bad defensive players don’t make their team among the best in the world whenever they step on the ice.  Had we not had to stop last year’s season, Nylander most likely would be a 40 goal scorer.  (all stats from

Next. Thoughts on the Latest Leafs Trade. dark

As it is, he’s just putting up some of the best analytics in the league while nearly scoring a point per game despite playing with a snakebitten scorer and being moved to the second powerplay.  Just admit you were wrong about Nylander and find a new hobby horse, we are begging you.