By Stan Smith and The Old Prof
As a team, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent (over the past six years) playoff performance has been underwhelming. The team has won only a single postseason series since 2004. For all the firepower and regular-season success, the core group just can’t get the job done when the regular season is over.
Recently, my sometimes writing partner Stan Smith and I did two reviews of which of the Core Five (Morgan Rielly, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, and William Nylander) showed up the best during the playoffs. To analyze their play, we used old-school statistics (such as goals, assists, and plus/minus rating) for one review and then advanced analytics for another. Both were published in my main writing venue The Hockey Writers.
Here is a much shorter review of some of the findings. I encourage anyone who wants more in-depth analysis to click the direct links above and go right to The Hockey Writers. The findings are revealing, and some of them surprising.
Findings for Which Maple Leafs Players Played the Best During the Playoffs
Finding One: Morgan Rielly’s Offensive Performance
Morgan Rielly stands out as the best offensive performer among the Core Five players during the past six postseasons. He generated the most goals at five-on-five per game, and his Expected Goals For per game were also slightly better in the playoffs than in the regular season.
Finding Two: Mitch Marner’s Defensive Performance
Mitch Marner showcased impressive defensive capabilities during the playoffs. He allowed the fewest goals against per game at five-on-five and had the top Expected Goals Against per game among the Core Five players.
Finding Three: Mitch Marner’s Overall Impact
When combining offensive and defensive measures, Mitch Marner emerged as the top performer with an average percentage of 58.3%, indicating a positive impact on both ends of the ice.
Finding Four: Morgan Rielly’s Dual Role
Morgan Rielly’s performance is noteworthy as an offensive defenseman, and he leads in all offensive categories. However, he lags in his defensive metrics. Still, his strong offensive contributions outweigh his defensive shortcomings. In overall player impact on the Maple Leafs, he places second overall.
Finding Five: Auston Matthews’ Disappointing Overall Performance
Auston Matthews showed offensive prowess, leading in goals scored with 18. However, his overall impact was disappointing compared to Rielly and Marner.
Finding Six: William Nylander’s Performance
While William Nylander scored 16 goals, he struggled defensively. He was on the ice for more goals against than for in all situations. His overall impact was slightly negative at 49.6%.
Finding Seven: John Tavares’ Performance Was the Lowest of All Core Five Players
John Tavares had the lowest impact among the Core Five players, with a poor 38.2% Goals For and Against. This rating suffered primarily due to his low goal output and his defensive shortcomings.
The Disparities in Playoff Performances
These advanced statistics and old-school measures suggest that, although the Maple Leafs’ core players do possess individual talents, there are disparities in their playoff performances.
Marner and Rielly stood out as the most impactful players, with Rielly showcasing a strong offensive presence despite defensive weaknesses. Matthews demonstrated offensive prowess, but his overall impact was overshadowed by Marner and Rielly.
Nylander and Tavares struggled to make a significant impact, with Nylander’s slightly negative performance indicating some room for improvement.
The Narrative of Not Showing Up Carries Some Weight
As the team seeks to address its postseason struggles, knowing more about the Core Five’s individual performances sheds some light about how one might building a more balanced and effective lineup. Thus far, the Maple Leafs’ core players have not all played well.
The old-school statistics do highlight individual achievements; however, advanced analytics offer some deeper insights into players’ overall contributions and defensive capabilities. By combining both approaches, we’ve taken a look at how well (or in some cases not so well) the Maple Leafs’ individual players have played.
As the team moves forward, how will it make more informed decisions that can enhance its playoff success and ultimately put them on the path for a deeper postseason run.