How Many Toronto Maple Leafs Players Had “Elite” Seasons?

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 16: David Rittich #33 of the Calgary Flames makes the game winning stop against Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 16, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Flames defeated the Maple Leafsd 2-1 in a shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 16: David Rittich #33 of the Calgary Flames makes the game winning stop against Mitchell Marner #16 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at Scotiabank Arena on January 16, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Flames defeated the Maple Leafsd 2-1 in a shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are a deep team that is well coached and who have assembled a nicely balanced roster that helps make them Cup Contenders.

However, there is factor that stands out above all that makes the Toronto Maple Leafs one of best teams in the NHL (if not the best).  That is their high-end players.

As the Montreal Canadiens are learning, it’s nearly impossible to do anything in the NHL without true top-level players.  Even if you assemble a deep and well balanced roster (as they have) you need elite players to win.

Look at the Oilers roster and compare it to the Canadiens.  Outside of two star players, the Canadiens roster is obviously better, but yet it’s the Oilers who are competing for a Cup this year.  The reason is that hockey is very much like basketball in the sense that the teams with the best players are the best.  Star players matter in the NHL more than anything else.

This is why the Leafs chose to use the “studs and duds” salary cap strategy, and it’s why that strategy is paying off big time right now. 

So with that in mind, let’s count how many players on the Toronto Maple Leafs qualify as “elite.”

Elite Members of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Obviously Auston Matthews is on a different level.  He’s the best players in franchise history and the second best player in the NHL right now.  It’s not improbable that he goes down as one of the best players in NHL history when all is said and done.  He is elite compared to other elite players, but for our purposes today, it’s the secondary elites we are concerned about.

Using @Jfresh Player Cards and Dom Luszczyszyn’s Game Score from the Athletic, we will find out who on this year’s Toronto Maple Leafs had an elite season.

The Player Cards place players into percentiles, while the Game Score is just a number (Matthews is a 4.9 for example).  Both of these numbers attempt to take a player’s total contributions and assign  a single number to them.  We will count each player who achieved either a spot in the 80th percentile or above, or players with a 2.0 Game Score as “elite.”

Leafs Who Finished above 2.5 Game Score: Matthews, Hyman, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, and Rielly and Muzzin.  That is seven players!  For context, Montreal has Tatar, Gallagher and Petry.

Leafs who finished above 80% on the JFresh Player Cards: Matthews, Hyman, Marner, Nylander, Brodie and Muzzin.

The Player Cards do not consider Tavares to have had an elite season (by quite a lot) and they have Rielly just missing out (79%).  Of course, it’s better to look at the three-season cards for a more accurate representation, and please note, these are just for this year only.

A good example of how these two models differ is that Brodie, by the Player Cards, is the Leafs best defenseman, but by Game Score he’s third and not elite.  Tavares is another player they disagree on quite heavily.

I think this is a good thing though, and not problematic – evaluations, no matter how statistical in natures, still require a human to decide which categories to add significance to.   Therefore, even statistical evaluations are subjective.

It is objectively true that Matthews, Marner and Nylander are elite. There is no room for argument.  However, with the other players, it’s a matter of taste.  Regardless, the Toronto Maple Leafs have eight players – Rielly, Muzzin, Brodie, Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Hyman and Tavares – who are high-end players better than a significant portion of the rest of the NHL.  Whatever word you choose to use, is also a subjective choice.

dark. Next. Leafs Are Relentless, Stacked, Deep

Based on my survey of ratings and statistics, I conclude the Toronto Maple Leafs have eight elite players.  You are free to draw your own conclusions.