The Toronto Maple Leafs Are Hockey's Most Perplexing Team

A combination of confounding wins and losses makes the Leafs nearly impossible to decipher.

St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs
St. Louis Blues v Toronto Maple Leafs / Claus Andersen/GettyImages

Before the puck dropped at Scotiabank Arena for the Toronto Maple Leafs game against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night, the Leafs learned they would be without their best defenseman for five games.

The NHL Department of Player Safety ruled that Morgan Rielly would be suspended that long for his after the whistle hit against Ridly Greig of the Ottawa Senators.

On top of that, captain John Tavares and All-Star winger Mitch Marner were felled by illness and ruled out against the Blues.

Everything lined up perfectly for an easy two points for the road team. Naturally, the most enigmatic team in the NHL played one of their most sound defensive games of the season in a 4-1 Leafs victory.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are Hockey's Most Perplexing Team

A sound defensive structure, a simple game plan, and an unexpected hat-trick from Bobby McMann led the Leafs to the improbable win.

By now, these types of results should not be surprising. The Leafs have had a maddeningly inconsistent season. It's a pattern that has followed them for years.

They lose more games than they should against weaker opposition, but counter that with impressive wins over Cup contenders.

The current season has seen dreadful losses against the Columbus Blue Jackets (twice), the Chicago Blackhawks (twice), the Ottawa Senators (three times), and the Buffalo Sabres (twice). A number of those defeats were at home, where the Leafs have been mediocre.

Victories over the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars (twice), Winnipeg Jets (twice), Florida Panthers and New York Rangers were noteworthy.

The Toronto Maple Leafs Record Without Star Players Defies Logic

The Leafs win over the Blues marked their first game this season without Rielly. Last season, he missed 17 games. The Leafs went 14-2-1 in those contests.

Combined the Leafs are a head-scratching 15-2-1 in their last 18 games without their best defenseman for a ridiculous .861 points percentage. Their all-time record without him is an eye-opening 39-18-7 for a .664 points percentage.

It is well-documented that the Leafs also perform well without their best player, Auston Matthews. The Leafs all-time record without Matthews is 35-19-0-2 for a .643 points percentage.

Interestingly, their all-time record without Mitch Marner is a more pedestrian 13-13-4. Without William Nylander it is a slightly better 46-39-12 for a .536 points-percentage.

As a comparable, head coach Sheldon Keefe has a career .667 points percentage. The Leafs have managed the absences of their best defenceman and top goal-scorer extremely well.

In many instances, they appear to be a disinterested team and need something to grab their attention.

The Toronto Maple Leafs secret to success is staring right at them. If the Leafs have a seat at the table when the playoffs begin in April, they need to have a star player or two sit out.


Of course, that's a laughable suggestion, but it's hard to figure out the most perplexing team in hockey.