Mid-Season Grades For the Toronto Maple Leafs Defense

New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs
New York Islanders v Toronto Maple Leafs / Chris Tanouye/GettyImages
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Simon Benoit

Simon Benoit was signed to a one-year minimum value contract in the offseason by Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brad Treliving, mainly as a depth option.  In other words, Benoit was meant to play for the Toronto Marlies, and be available as an occasional callup to the Leafs.

Injuries to various Toronto defenders (McCabe, Liljegren, Timmins, Giordano) enabled Benoit to not only draw into the Leafs lineup, but to also play significant minutes.  Benoit has averaged 16:24 of ice time over 39 games, which is way more than anyone expected.

Benoit contributes pretty much zero on the offensive side of things.  He has a mere 3 points in those 39 games, which is not an anomaly for him (18 points in 176 career NHL games).  He is as guilty as most of the other Toronto Maple Leafs D in his ability to quickly transition the puck from defence to offense.

However, Benoit does offer something this team needs more of – toughness.  When Ryan Reaves is not in the lineup (and sometimes when he is), the role of designated tough guy has usually fallen to Benoit.  Not really a fighter, Benoit has stepped up as needed and held his own in several fights this season, and has become a fan favourite with a collection of thundering bodychecks to unsuspecting opponents.

Benoit uses his 6’4” 205 lb frame well in the defensive zone, and trails only Jake McCabe for the team lead in hits (129).

Statistically, Benoit’s CF% (46.78) and XGF% (48.90%) are near the bottom of Toronto’s D corps, not surprising for a guy with no offense.  Ideally, Benoit should (at best) be playing sparingly on the third pairing, but zero team depth has dictated otherwise.

Grade: B (for his never-quit attitude, not his actual skills)