Many Toronto Maple Leaf fans have flocked to the internet to voice their displeasure with the moves that have been made this offseason, which includes many pondering draft decisions as well. With so many fans losing faith in well-seasoned GM Lou Lamoriello, I’ve decided to breakdown the moves and shed light on it from a more well-rounded view which combines analytics as well as player development.
First and foremost the Matt Martin signing: Inked to a fresh 10 million dollar deal dispersed over 4 years (another bonus laden contract which was a massive trend this July 1st thanks to the new CBA). Paying 2.5M a year for four seasons for a 4th liner seems counter intuitive on the surface of what the Leafs have been trying to accomplish, but in the end could help them more than anyone thinks. Looking at Matt Martin’s basic stat line is nothing impressive with just 10 goals and 9 assists with a paltry plus 2 rating after 80 games last year; many have assumed he is just another meathead fighter whose place in the NHL is coming to an end. Things are not always what they appear on the surface though and like an onion we will peel back the layers to reveal much more starting with a quick comparison to Steve Ott:
Many have proposed that if they wanted to insert a tough guy who provides leadership that they should have signed Ott who joined Detroit for a modest 800K on a one year deal. Looking at the chart its clear to see that Martin is a much more competent defender and even though he doesn’t offer much of offensive upside he can still put the puck in the net at a decent rate. As you can see from the solo chart below he is a positive influence on his line mates in regards to possession which can pay huge dividends on teaching the influx of young talent being brought into the Leafs next year.
Time will tell whether or not this move was the right decision but overall the underlying numbers tell a deeper story of the 27 year old 6’ 3 220lbs wrecking ball who has led the league in hits for the past four seasons. Martin should help provide guidance and protection for the youth movement that Toronto is entering, but with that said the latter half of this deal will need solid play on the ice to justify giving up the roster spot.
Probability of success with the Leafs 60%
Possibility of a trade within a couple of seasons 30%
Detrimental to long term goals 10%
Next up Roman Polak: This one year 2.25M dollar deal has puzzled many with the log jam that has formed on the backend, but Babcock likes rolling with 8 defenders and everyone knows how quickly injuries can tarnish the lineup. Personally bringing back Polak on a one year deal rather than signing Kris Russell to a multi year deal is a win in itself for me. Polak offers value come trade deadline just like Daniel Winnik provided in back to back years as well.
Looking at the stat lines it’s clear to see why I would much prefer him over Russell any day, but overall Polak is only coming in as a 5/6/7 defenseman who provides physicality on a very dainty backend. Many may argue he will take ice time from the youngsters who deserve it more, but in the end though they needed a veteran presence for a very young defense who’s next most seasoned vet is Jake Gardiner.
Likely hood of a trade by the deadline 99% barring an injury
Finally addressing the draft: Aside from the first pick many seem to believe Mr.Lamoriello made terrible draft selections, squandering picks that he acquired over the past year; the assumption being based around failed draft picks of the Devils in past. In all reality it was a group decision from the hierarchy in the Leafs organization with the scouts having a large voice in conversations particularly from Evgeny Namestinkov on the Korshkov selection. Last years draft was clear that skilled players with high ceilings were being picked above all else opposed to this years selection of more mature choices with an emphasis of physicality while also going after skill players that will have a higher chance of slotting in the bottom 6. Is this really a cause for concern though? The Leafs took advantage of the older draftees which have been an untapped market in past years, Korshkov looks very impressive after being passed over twice in recent years and with an excellent showing at the WJC it’s easy to see why they wanted to nab him early on rather than risking him not being there for the 57th pick. With their second round pick acquired from the Winnik trade they decided to take Carl Grundstrom who could follow the steps of fellow Leaf Leo Komarov in becoming a gritty fan favourite player who can rile up the crowd with his play. With the top 3 ranked goalies this year falling just out of grasp they decided to cut loses and take Joseph Woll to kick off the third round. Addressing defensive needs the Leafs went for size with all three picks at least being 6’ 4 and over 200lbs, but they also were all first year draft eligible players who will take 3-5 years before having a chance at the pros. Toronto went to the WHL to pick up three skilled over age forwards in Adam Brooks (3rd year eligible 72GP 38G 82A 120P), Vladimir Bobylev (2nd year eligible 72GP 28G 39A 67P) and Jack Walker (3rd year eligible72GP 36G 48A 84P) all of whom provide low risk and have the potential to be solid top 9 acquisitions. With all this being said I have trouble believing the Leafs squandered their picks, although they may have had somewhat of an unorthodox style of drafting this year it’s clear that they realize going forward they will need a wide variety of talent to fill up the line up. Time will tell but I have not lost faith yet.Checkout http://ownthepuck.blogspot.ca/
for many useful player charts