Toronto Maple Leafs: The Secret to the Success of David Kampf

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 /

Last season the Toronto Maple Leafs bet on a cheap defensive center named David Kampf.

There was a lot of outrage amongst Toronto Maple Leafs fans because this player had not accomplished anything stellar.

He had one goal in 2020-2021 and had all around terrible numbers for the Chicago Blackhawks. Fast forward one year later and Kampf has turned into a great asset for the  Leafs. A shutdown center deployed in hard minutes and defensive zone draws who is signed for one more year on a team friendly deal.

So, this begs the question: what did Dubas and company see in this otherwise unremarkable player? What were the hidden stats that they bet on making Kampf a huge success?

The answer, faceoff percentage.

Toronto Maple Leafs and David Kampf

During an iconic scene in the movie Moneyball, the main character Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and assistant Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) have a fixation on a particular stat, on-base percentage. Can a player get on base? Can he put the ball in play and give his team a chance to score? Doesn’t matter if he walks, or hits, or whatever, he just needs to get on base.

I believe faceoff percent is that same secret stat in hockey and I believe the Toronto Maple Leafs do too. Winning a faceoff is probably the most underrated and important talent in the NHL.

It’s the main reason Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins has been such a superstar for so long. If you win the faceoff, you gain the puck back for your team. Controlling the puck is good, it’s the Leafs’ whole philosophy. More time with the puck means more time your opponent doesn’t have the puck. More time for you to create offence and score and less time for them to do the same. Offensive zone, win the puck and get a scoring chance. Defensive zone, win the puck and give your team a chance to clear it removing a scoring chance for your opponent.

So that brings us back to David Kampf, what does he do? He wins faceoffs. Sure, John Tavares has the second-best faceoff percent second only to the aforementioned Patrice Bergeron, but Tavares has an 11-million-dollar cap hit. So, what do you do if you want multiple Tavares’ on your team but clearly can’t afford them?

To quote the movie is “recreate him in the aggregate.” Kampf’s cap hit is only 1.5 million and last year he had a faceoff percent of 52.9. That ranks him in the top 25 of players with over 1000 faceoffs and is the second cheapest option out of those players.

Among all players with over 1000 faceoffs last Season Kampf is ranked second in defensive zone draws and second in shorthanded draws. This means he’s not just winning a ton of faceoffs; he’s winning them against the toughest faceoff opponents in the league.

It is because of this faceoff percent that the coach trusts him and has no qualms throwing him over the boards against the leagues elite to close out games and kill penalties.

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It is the same reason the Canadiens would throw Philip Danault over the boards to shutdown superstar Auston Matthews in the 2021 playoffs– a performance many Leafs fans won’t soon forget.

Signing David Kampf to two years at 1.5 million seems to be one of Dubas’ greatest steals.