To generate this post today, I looked back to a post I had written when Calle Jarnkrok was signed by the Toronto Maple Leafs. At the time, I had supported Jarnkrok’s signing but only because I believed in the process the Maple Leafs (as an organization) had engaged to create a team. I have become comfortable with a wait-and-see approach.

What Approach Are the Maple Leafs Using to Make Decisions?

That process fitted with a research approach I had written academic books about as a professor at the University of Alberta. That approach is both rigorous and iterative. It’s a process used by researchers (including those in business – and sports) – to make decisions. It’s not necessarily the same as Moneyball, but it shares many of the same principles. Specifically, it uses data to inform decision-making.

In simple terms, iterative processes are a way of managing complex problems by repeating a cycle of evaluating successes and failures, making adjustments based on what was learned, and using that knowledge to inform the next cycle.

Kyle Dubas, Maple Leafs GM

What we know from problem-solving research is that, by continuously evaluating their successes and failures, the Maple Leafs as a team can adjust their approach and make better decisions moving forward. In the specific case of the Maple Leafs, each season and offseason serves as a single iteration in this process, with the outcome of each iteration informing the next decision made.

This approach is not only effective in sports, but it’s also a good practice in business. By continuously evaluating and adjusting their approach, organizations can better achieve their goals. In computer science, algorithms are used to build sets of instructions that can help transform information into actionable insights, which can then be used to inform decision-making.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Quick Hits: Scoring, New Line Combos & Acciari

The Maple Leafs Did Their Homework When They Signed Jarnkrok

From my perspective, it’s great to see the Maple Leafs using a considered and rigorous approach to decision-making. Signing Jarnkrok was no exception. At the time, some Maple Leafs’ fans were critical of the move. One reader noted that some of the moves general manager Kyle Dubas made as general manager seemed “cobbled together.” [Implying a lack of consideration, I believe.]

About Jarnkrok, the move was called a “head-scratcher.” Specifically, a reader noted that Dubas “wasn’t finished lifting rocks and beating the bushes yet. There will be more unforeseen additions – like Jarnkrok –  to come.” 

Agreed, the signing of Jarnkrok was “unforeseen.” I also agree that (and one of the fun things about covering the Maple Leafs) I will be forever surprised by what happens by this team’s decisions about player signings or trades. Then, again, I’m not in the room where the Maple Leafs’ decisions are made (although I’d love to be).

What We Knew About Jarnkrok and What He’s Done

When Calle Jarnkrok was signed, we knew that he had been a consistent and reliable player throughout his NHL career with the Nashville Predators. We also knew about his versatility and defensive abilities. What we didn’t know was how significant his role would be for the team this season.

Jarnkrok has been used in a variety of positions, including center and wing. He’s been used on a number of different lines and has been a key penalty killer. No surprise. But, about his offensive contribution? Big surprise. He’s put up 17 goals and added 18 assists (for 35 points) in 62 games (averaging only 14 minutes a game.

Suddenly, Jarnkrok’s contributions to the team are being noticed by Maple Leafs’ fans. His consistent play and reliability have made him a valuable team asset. He’s having a career season and might hit 20 goals and 20 assists for the first time ever. He’s already scored a career-high in goals and points this season. And he’s got about a dozen games left to add to that total.

Related: Ranking the Maple Leafs Best Goalies Since 1990

Jarnkrok Has Found a Key Supporter in Auston Matthews

Jarnkrok has shown he can contribute offensively while still maintaining his defensive responsibilities, including his penalty killing. His ability to adapt to new linemates and play with a variety players is also impressive. Just as advertized, he’s flexibile and adaptable. He also has demonstrated a work ethic.

Suddenly, Jarnkrok’s efforts are earning him recognition on and off the ice. Specifically, he’s found a huge supporter in Auston Matthews. During a recent interview, Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe hinted that Matthews had approached the coaching staff adocating for Jarnkrok to be placed/kept on his line.

Has that worked out well? It certainly has. Together, the duo has generated an expected-goals statistic of 66.14 in just 60 minutes of icetime together. A rating of 50 is solid, and 66.14 is amazing. Clearly, when they are playing together, Jarnkrok and Matthews are working well together and driving the play.

Can we all even begin to imagine how lifting Jarnkrok to the top line might have a trickle-down effect on the strength of the second and third lines? If this move proves successful, it would be a promising recipe for success for the team. That would be especially true once Ryan O’Reilly returns to the lineup.

Jarnkrok Has Found His Groove with the Maple Leafs

It seems as if Jarnkrok has found his groove with his new team. If he continues to play at the level, he’ll be an even more valuable asset for the team moving forward.

When the Maple Leafs signed Jarnkrok, one fan said “We can only hope that this year’s crop of castoffs nets a few home runs.” Jarnkrok has been one of this season’s home runs.

Calle Jarnkrok’s success has helped Maple Leafs’ critics to trust the organization’s process

Related: Maple Leafs’ William Nylander Moved to 3rd Line: How Come?

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