The Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled through the first quarter of the season.
Not only are the many mistakes of the Toronto Maple Leafs new GM on full display every night (and they were obviously mistakes in the summer, so this isn’t a case of hindsight being 20/20) but the team has no identity, no blue-line, a rookie goalie, a bad coach and a bunch of players (Domi, Kampf) with no obvious place to fit into the lineup.
One of their biggest problems is said to be the injuries to their blue-line.
Although, that’s kind of an excuse, and not really true. The best blue-line the Leafs could dress right now, if all their players were healthy, would still be among the worst in the NHL.
That is because Jake McCabe was unplayable before he was injured. So was John Klingberg, and as for Giordano, he’s not unplayable, but he’s not doing great either.
Only Timothy Liljegren was playing well when he went down, so how much can these injuries really hurt? If anything, McCabe’s been much better since he was shut-down, and every game Klingberg can’t play is like getting a bonus.
So Giordano is out for a while, and the pundits will say how big of a loss this is, but is it, really? It might just be what the doctor ordered.
Mark Giordano Injury Doesn’t Really Affect the Toronto Maple Leafs
Giordano is a crutch for the coach. He let’s the coach avoid calling up a rookie, or giving a fringe player more of a chance.
As soon as there is a hole in the top-four, up goes Gio at the behest of the coach who can’t get past the classic NHL problem of assuming former star players don’t decline and can do anything.
And he does fine, but fine doesn’t win the Stanley Cup. Stanley Cups are won when a good team finds a diamond in the rough and suddenly becomes great.
And having Gio unavailable for a few weeks will for the Leafs into action. Whether that’s a bigger role for the surprising William Lagesson, or whether it galvanizes the GM into action, or forces the team to call up a Marlie, it’s going to force the Leafs to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do, but which could help a lot.
Giordano’s numbers aren’t horrendous, but they are also not great. He’s over 40 years old.
Overall, the Leafs have lost his minutes and have a 48% Goals-For percentage when he’s on the ice. This matches his 48% Expected Goals rating.
The most concerning thing about Giordano’s stats is that when he is with his most common teammate – William Nylander – the Leafs crush it with a 58% Expected Goals rating. But Gio without Nylander is an unplayable 40%.
The fact he isn’t crushing his 3rd pairing minutes isn’t a good sign. The fact that he is only effective when on the ice with an MVP candidate isn’t exactly a great sign either.
Considering he’s playing a lot of top-four minutes he has no business playing, his numbers aren’t so bad. But they are losing numbers. He’s under 50% expected goals, and that’s not great, especially when, after Rielly, he’s in competition for being the Leafs best defenseman, at least with Liljegren out.
Unlike Klingberg, I’ll stop short of saying Giordano’s injury actually helps the team, but I really don’t’ think it will hurt that much. His injury may lead to the team doing something that gets them out of their funk.
It’s not likely, but finding out that Mikko Kokkonen or Topi Niemela is a very good NHL defenseman would be season-changing. Its not the kind of thing the Leafs would otherwise try, so maybe there is a bright side to this.
And if not that, there’s always the Big Trade. Time for Treliving to get to work.