Toronto Maple Leafs: Pierre Engvall Doesn’t Deserve Criticism

The Toronto Maple Leafs most likely defeated the Buffalo Sabres last night, but I wrote the following in advance.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have gotten off to a great start to the season, but one that has been obscured by overtime losses, some bad shooting luck from their best players, and a rotating cast of goalies. 

The Leafs, despite almost constant complaining from their fans and media, are near the top of the NHL standings without anything close to the luck the teams ahead of them are currently getting.,

One concerning thing is how fans seem to have chosen Pierre Engvall and Rasmus Sandin to randomly complain about.  It is a Leafs Fan tradition but its the most shameful one, and it is almost never directed at anyone even slightly deserving. (stats

Toronto Maple Leafs: Pierre Engvall Is Playing Well

Pierre Engvall is coming off of a season where he played some of the NHL’s toughest minutes, going up against star players and coming out on top.  Last season he and David Kampf were an unstoppable defensive duo.

This season, as the Leafs tried to break Nick Robertson into the lineup at the expense of Alex Kerfoot and saw the bottom-six disrupted.  You can’t put the $3.5 million dollar Kerfoot on the fourth line and destroy his value when he’s going to most likely be traded. (He has since moved back to the LW spot on line 2).

During this period of unrest, Zach Aston Reese, David Kampf and Denis Malgin managed to form the team’s most consistent line of the young season, but at the expense of Pierre Engvall’s role.

Now he’s on the third line, and it’s been the team’s weakest one.  It’s also easy to see why Engvall attracts critics.  He is 6’5, 220 lbs, with excellent tools – he has a solid shot, he is fast, excellent defensively, and a good passer.

You look at this guy and wonder why he isn’t a star player.  His tools and his size at least suggest it’s possible.

Last year Engvall scored 15 goals, was an elite defender, and scored at a second line rate of 1.75 points per 60 minutes.

This year he has a 57% Corsi whenever he gets on the ice with anyone but Calle Jarnkrok, which has been about half the time.

Calle Jarnkrok isn’t winning me over, but Pierre Engvall already has. I think he’s a sneaky-good player who could probably do some damage on a scoring line.

Ultimately he has 2 goals and one assist in 17 games and plays on the Toronto Maple Leafs worst line, while fan favorite Nick Robertson sits.

You can see why people get annoyed, but it shouldn’t be directed to the underrated Engvall. Even though his line hasn’t really clicked yet this year, whenever he plays, the ice tilts in the Leafs favor.

He has a 53% Corsi, and the Leafs get more shots, scoring chances and dangerous scoring chances when he’s on the ice than they allow.   He’s not scoring, but that hasn’t really been his role.  Engall is good, and he’s cheap and he still has upside.  He doesn’t deserve to be the new Todd Gill, Larry Murphy, Brian McCabe, Jake Gardiner, William Nylander etc.

I don’t think Pierre Engvall is someone well-informed fans ever say a bad word about. I’m not saying he’s a superstar, I’m just saying that those in the bleachers who love to yell need to pick a more realistic target.