The Toronto Maple Leafs had a decent Trade Deadline by anyone’s standards.
While their opponents paid heavily to add depth pieces, the Toronto Maple Leafs added two pieces to their blue-line.
Mark Giordano is by far the best defenseman who changed teams, while Ilya Lyubushkin, is younger, cheaper, better and cost less to acquire than Josh Manson (Col) or Ben Chiarot (FLA).
Even their most ridiculous critic couldn’t say much bad about the Leafs adding better defenders than their rivals while paying less to do so.
The only non-seller who did better than the Leafs was the Panthers who added Claude Giroux, the best player available, at least by any statistical analysis of how any of the players have played this season to date.
However, watching the first two games of the Mark Giordano era, I was forced to reconsider, because he has been absolutely unreal so far. He’s 38, so let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, but if (and it’s a big “if”) he can play at this level, then the Leafs added a #1 defenseman and improved their team tenfold, for basically nothing. (stats naturalstattrick.com).
Toronto Maple Leafs and Mark Giordano
In the first period of last night’s game (the best the Leafs have played all season, and one I’m not going to waste any time arguing about with negative people) Mark Giorano made a defensive play that fans of the Leafs might have previously thought impossible.
I was unable to find the video, but basically he circled back and casually stole the puck preventing what would have been a very high-danger chance against. Auston Matthews does things like this in the offensive zone when he loses the puck, but a Leafs defenseman? Never.
In both games, I’ve been struck by how cool he is, how he is always in the right spot, how the team is just better with him on the ice. It’s very much like watching a Tampa game with Victor Hedman.
The game seemed to me to be filled with such plays, and here is the thing: I always try to question what I see, because I know that I (like everyone) am susceptible to confirmation bias. Maybe I am just hoping Gio is the savior, so I’m seeing what I want to see, so let’s go to the numbers.
Vs Montreal, Giordano played 16:23 of 5v5 hockey, and posted a 71% puck-possession rating, while the Leafs outshot Montreal 9-3 (75%) while getting 80% of the high-danger chances and an Expected Goals rating of 74%.
OK so it turns out that the numbers line up with my eyes – for 2 x games so far, Mark Giordano has been the elite #1 all-purpose defenseman the Leafs have always lacked.
That is the type of game where you can’t really learn anything, unfortunately. The numbers are just too good. Those are best-in-the-world numbers. We can’t expect that. Not regularly.
After two games, the shots are 15-6 in the Leafs favor when Gio is on the ice, and he has a 75% Expected Goals.
That’s a very small sample size, and he’s one of the oldest players in the NHL. He’s the same age as Jason Spezza, who, while we love him, is clearly not the player he used to be. This is why I wasn’t interested in adding Giordano before the deadline and it’s while I remain skeptical that he will keep it up.
However, if he does, then wow. There is no way to say what adding a #1 defenseman to what was already the 4th best team (by points percentage) in the NHL, without resorting to over-the-top-hyperbole.
If Mark Giordano can consistently do what he has done for the last two games, then the Leafs won the trade deadline by ten miles and no one’s roster is even close to theirs. I don’t even dare to think he can be this good, but damn, it’s been fun to watch him so far.