I predicted at the outset of the season that the Leafs would be faster, better on the power play, more intense and more fun to watch than in past years. For eight recent games this season, this looked a bit on the optimisitc side. After beating Dalllas and now 3-1 in last 4, it may have a ring of truth again. I suppose it depends which one is the real leaf team. I still am optimisitc about this squad's ability to squeeze into the playoffs.
Here though, is a perhaps more grounded review of this year's talent. Everyone is rated A (outperforming), B (meeting expectations) or C (underperforming). Keeping it simple. Let's remember we are talking about expectations, which means that someone like Clarke MacArthur will do very well, as he is clearly having a better year than most expected whereas someone like Phaneuf may not be having a terrible year, but will score lower as a result of high expectations.
I'm only rating players that have played more than 5 games and that are with the team now. Assume that those who started with the Leafs and are now with the Marlies would get C's.
We'll start in net and work our way out, as Burke likes to do.
Solid goaltending, not spectatucular, as the numbers 5-5-2 and .892% reflect. The price tag might be a little high, but in retrospect it is hard to fault Burke for bringing in a solid goaltender who gives Gustavsson room to grow. If the stint since Giguerre's injury is indicative, it has served Gustavsson very well.
At 2-4-1, 919% Gustavsson has been better than his numbers reflect. A couple of soft goals, but for the most part, he has looked like the real deal. Trending towards A.
This pains me. He should, can and will be better. Needs to score some goals (why are so many of his point shots off high), eliminate defensive lapses and crunch some opposition. He's the 6 million dollar man, so expectations are high. Credit him for the intangibles though. Probably exceeding expectations in terms of leadership given the rumours floating out of Calgary when he was traded here. It will be hard for this ever to look like a bad trade, as we didn't give up much, but I'm sure Burke expected more.
Numbers: 0 goals, 4 assists and -6.
This is another case of high expectations. He was signed at 4.5 for five years with the expectation that he would be a very solid and very gritty stay at home defenceman. There have been too many defensive lapses for it to be fairly said that he is meeting expectations. The brutal giveaway in Montreal notwithstanding, his game has improved since Phaneuf's injury and at the current pace he will be meeting expectations by the half way point. He has 1 goal, 5 assists and is +1
A propos nothing: when the players polled for the most overrated players in the league, Phaneuf and Komisarek were first and second respectivley.
He seems invisible most nights, which is one of the best complements for a stay at home defenceman. Nothing flashy here. His numbers are a lot like Komisarek's, but he benefits a bit from lower expectations coming in and from a slightly smaller contract (4.2 over three years).
Numbers: 1 goal, 4 assists and +1
Schenn has demonstrated that the sophomore slump was indeed a sophomore slump. He's having a great year and exceeding the expectations that he lowered with a poor performance last year. Let's not forget that Burke picked Luke seven spots ahead of Tyler Myers. Myers is having a rough year now, but his positioning in the draft highlights the kind of expectations the organization has of this young defenceman.
Numbers: 1 goal, 4 assists and +4
Unfortunately, for him, an offensive defenseman needs to post better numbers to meet expectations. He has looked good at times moving the puck out of the Leafs zone, and he has cut down on the defensive gaffes. Still needs to be more productive, especially on the pp. And especially in a contract year - c'mon Kabi, pick it up.
Numbers: 0 goals, 10 assists and +1
Ever so quietly doing his job. Nothing fancy, but solid defensive work. No sophomore slouch here.
Numbers: 1 goal, 1 assist and +/- even
Sometimes the numbers say it all: 0 goals, 0 assists, -9. Ouch. Burke cannot feel good about this signing (1.5 million for two years) at the moment.
You can't fault Tyler for lack of effort, but a first (or second) line centre simply needs better numbers than 2 goals, 4 assists and -2. His place in the lineup has created expectations that he has not been able to meet so far.
Grabo benefits from low expectations coming in to the year, as there was chatter about his lack of comitment and backchecking. Not in evidence this year. He is very strong defensively and is one of the better producers on the team.
Numbers: 5 goals, 9 assists and +2.
Slightly higher expectations than Grabovski and not as strong on the backcheck, but. playing well
Numbers: 5 goals, 6 assists and -2.
Some will think he should be lower. The expectation of Kessel is that he is a streaky one dimensional player who can score goals. He is on track for 40 (ok, 38), which is the expectation (a very high expectation - not many players in the league pot 40 year after year). Needs to be lined up with a better centre to exceed expectations.
Numbers: 9 goals, 4 assists, -4.
This one hurts too. Obvious talent here, but this fellow was expected to put up good numbers. He hasn't really, but may be coming on of late. Very bad +'/-. Burke must have expected better from this signing. Could easily turn things around.
Numbers: 5 goals, 5 assists and -8.
I remember hearing MacArthur being interviewed after he was picked up by the Leafs and commenting that he could put up better numbers with the Leafs than he as so far in his career. Can't recall who was doing the interview, but they were quite fairly sceptical. Well, MacArthur is proving to be a very solid acquisition.
Number: 7 goals, 10 assists and +1
Based on his numbers, Sjostrom is underperforming. His +/- in particular is not good. However, he plays well and is always on the ice in difficult situations, e.g. penalty kill. Expectation was a good penalty killer. I think he meets the expectation despite the numbers: 1 goal, 1 assist and -5
Note: Why does the winner of most accurate shot in skills competition not score goals?
What were you expecting?
On too many nights, Brown has been the best player on the ice. He's a fast skater, gives it all and doesn't back down. An asset on the penalty kill and "truculent".
Numbers: 1 goal, 1 assist and even on the +/-
Nothing to write home about here. As was expected.
Numbers 1 goal, 1 assist and -2.
The very low expectations here might merit an "A". At a minimum, he is fulfilling his role as a fourth line plugger.
Numbers: 2 goals, 1 assist and -1
He might be the victim of excessive expectations. He is a grinder, not a goal scorer. Three years at 3 million per years seems high for this kind of talent. At a minimum it creates expectations that aren't being met. To bring himself up he needs to at least draw more penalties and fix the +/-.
Numbers: 1 goal, 0 assists and -2.