Toronto Maple Leafs Quietly the League Best In One Key Area

Toronto Maple Leafs forward David Kampf (64) wins a faceoff. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Maple Leafs forward David Kampf (64) wins a faceoff. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Maple Leafs have quietly become the best team in the league this season in one key area. That key area being their ability to win face-offs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have risen from a league 10th-best team faceoff win percentage of 51.1% last season to a league leading 55.8% this year.

You can of course argue that face-off winning percentages don’t equate to goal scoring, nor game wins. In fact, Sports Illustrated looked at their importance in 2017 drawing a conclusion that face-off wins didn’t necessarily mean that much.

The official NHL website also looked at it in 2013, drawing the conclusion that face-off set plays were creating more goals than ever at the time. Finding a 2022 study of the importance of face-offs leads to no conclusion either way.

Either way, the Toronto Maple Leafs are improved on face-offs and that surely can’t be a bad thing as it leads, at the very least, to retained puck possession most of the time.

What has changed for the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Across the offensive, defensive and neutral zone, the Toronto Maple Leafs are top-three in the league. This isn’t simply down to one center performing well on their own; this is a four-line effort.

In fact, the only area for improvement really is the team’s ability to win face-offs shorthanded. In this area, they rank 10th. On the powerplay, they’re also top-three and lead the league at even-strength.

Perhaps key here is the ongoing improvement we see in Auston Matthews’ all-round game, but also the addition of David Kampf in the summer.

Kampf has stepped in this season, taking the lion’s share of defensive zone face-offs and managing an impressive 52.3% winning percentage on them.

Matthews meanwhile has really upped his defensive faceoff game; last season, his defensive zone draw winning percentage was 52.8%, this year it’s sitting at 59.6%.

The only regular Toronto Maple Leafs center to take a step back this season is Jason Spezza and even he is at 54.7% for the season. Really not a bad downturn, all things considered.

Toronto Maple Leafs’ special teams seeing big benefits

Kampf is really proving invaluable, with an above-average 51.49% face-off winning percentage on the penalty kill.

This puts him in the same realm as Jonathan Toews, Tyler Seguin and Jordan Staal in terms of shorthanded face-off winning percentage this season. Not bad company to hold.

Looking to the powerplay, Auston Matthews leads the team with 65.22% while John Tavares and Jason Spezza aren’t sitting far behind, with 64.03% and 63.64% respectively.

The likes of Sidney Crosby and Claude Giroux are sandwiched between this group. Again, not bad company to be holding.

Is this enough to put the Toronto Maple Leafs over the edge?

Of course, the question must be asked whether winning face-offs can put the team over the edge when it comes to the post-season.

That question remains to be answered. While it’s fantastic that we’re among the league’s best at winning face-offs in the regular season, we still need to prove we can get it done when it counts.

And whether it actually will make a post-season difference. The Tampa Bay Lightning had a 48.1% last season and a 48.4% the season before, while the St. Louis Blues the season before sat at 50% in the playoffs. ( Statistics courtesy of and Natural Stat Trick).

Next. Tavares Quietly Having a Great Season. dark

Let’s hope the Toronto Maple Leafs can turn their face-off prowess into something even more impressive as we enter the second half of the regular season.