The Toronto Maple Leafs have suffered a lot of injuries to their blue-line.
The fact that they entered the season with five out of six blue-liners being over the age of 30, and one of them being the oldest player in the NHL, means it is entirely their own fault that the Toronto Maple Leafs have had to dress several AHL Players.
It's hard to think of another Cup Contender ever making a bigger miscalculation than having $20 million to spend over a summer and failing to upgrade their blue-line with anything other than John Klingberg.
Klingberg was brutal, and is one of the worst free-agent signings in team history. But even if he was good, the addition made no sense, since the Leafs blue-line needed physicality more than anything, and he brings none.
But, Brad Trelving's pathetic performance aside, the Toronto Maple Leafs have had to use William Lagesson, Simon Benoit, Connor Timmins and Max Lajoie.
I figure it's time to check in and see how they are doing.
Just How Are the Toronto Maple Leafs Defensive Replacements Doing?
The Leafs are winning most of their games, so it's easy to say that they are doing well, but the fact is that short-term NHL results are close to random, so we have to trust the stats to tell us what
our eyes miss when the results are so positive.
It would be good to know if these winning ways can last, and if these players are any good.
Let's start with William Lagesson. He has played about 170 minutes at 5v5 (for comparison, Rielly has played nearly 600), and his most common partner is Jake McCabe, which means that Lagesson has had some top-four minutes. He does, however, only average 13 minutes of ice-time which is tied with Simon Benoit for the lowest of anyone who has played more than 5 games, so it shows he's not that trusted in tough minutes).
While Lagesson's stats are not very good at all (The Leafs lose the puck possession battle when he plays, they allow more shots, scoring chances, dangerous chances and goals, and have a 47% Expected Goals rating). (stats naturalstattrick.com). He has also gotten some PK miutes, but the Leafs PK is ranked poorly overall.
Overall, Lagesson has been OK but not great. He probably shouldn't be an NHL regular on a competing team, but that's on Treliving. You can praise him for finding a useful player, or criticize him for needing to use him, it's up to you.
Next up is Simon Benoit, one of the worst players in the NHL last year with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. While you can't blame Klingberg on the Ducks, it does seem that Benoit is way better than anyone thought when the Leafs signed him.
Benoit saw some early time on the second pairing with McCabe, but it did not go well. However, when played on the third pairing, he's been very good.
To put it bluntly, the Toronto Maple Leafs are crushing Simon Benoit's minutes. 51% Corsi, 53% shots-for, and 56% Expected Goals Percentage. It's a small sample size, but the Leafs are winning 8-3 when he's on the ice.
While Benoit has proven to be a solid third pairing option, and has outplayed Lagesson overall, the real gem so far has been Conor Timmins.
Timmins has a 53% Corsi (puck possession), and when he plays, the Toronto Maple Leafs get 57% of the shots, 59% of the scoring chances, and 63% of the dangerous chances. They have won his minutes 12-4 75%).
Timmins most common partner is Benoit, and they have formed an excellent third pairing. Timmins can move the puck, and Benoit is physical. If they are winnig their minutes, then they are a perfect complimentary pairing.
Time will tell if this is just temporary, but right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are better with John Klingberg and Mark Giordano injured than they are if they are healthy.
If McCabe and Liljegren can prove to form a strong second pairing (the jury is out, but the potential is there) then the Leafs might consider making Benoit and Timmins their permanent (or at least for the rest of this season) third pairing.
With Giordano and Lagesson as the seventh and eight defensemen, this blue-line is a lot better than it looked a couple of months ago. If this holds, the only thing the Leafs need is an elite player to replace TJ Brodie with Morgan Rielly.