TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 6: Luke Schenn #2 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in a game against the Montreal Canadiens on October 6, 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Despite a 3-0-1 record, there are a lot of questions with the current edition of the Leafs. Aside from the top pairing of Phaneuf (+8) and Carl Gunnarsson (+4), the Leafs D has proved to be a bit of a conundrum so far this season. Mike Komisarek has continued to demonstrate some of the holes in his game that have become obvious during his tenure in Toronto. His slow foot speed and mental gaffes have already led to numerous goal scoring chances against. John-Michael Liles has provided some offense but his defensive miscues lead one to the conclusion that he provides about as much defense as was advertised prior to his acquisition. Jake Gardiner has played about 14 minutes a night and skates the puck up ice well, but his defensive game needs some polish at this point.
Follow after the jump for a bit more depth on some (very) early trends so far this season (I know I know, Small Sample Size).
This brings me to the more concerning aspects of this issue, Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek and Cody Franson. Schenn has been on the ice for 5 goals against, with only 3 of those coming at ES, but obviously the coaching staff has seen some things it doesn't like. Schenn played 22:06 in the season opener against Montreal, his ice time dipped to 18:17 in game 2, and then under 15 minutes for games 3 and 4. Even more worrying is the fact that his ice time dipped when he had NO penalties served, so this was totally a coaching decision.
Unfortunately it seems that Cody Franson has been picking up the minutes Schenn has surrendered. Through two games, Franson is averaging 17:59 a night, a 5 minute increase over the 12:49 a night that Jake Gardiner was averaging. I say Unfortunately because Franson has yet to demonstrate much in the way of offensive acumen so far as a Leaf, and his decision making has led to quite a few scoring chances against.
While Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson are amongst the best defensive pairings in the NHL so far this season, the rest of the team's D has been sub-standard thus far. Komisarek and Schenn have both had atrocious seasons so far defensively, getting shelled repeatedly in their own zone. A comparison of both their Zone Shift and Corsi ON values should indicate that - particularly for Komisarek.
|Player||Corsi REL QoC||Corsi REL QoT||SA ON/60||Corsi ON||OZ%||Zone Shift|
Based on the info above, it would be fair to say Gunnarsson has benefited from the play of Phaneuf, Schenn has suffered from the high level of competition and lack of support he's dealing with, and well... Komisarek is his usual self.
Zone Shift is typically negative when players have over 50% Offensive Zone starts, while it is typically positive when players have under 50% Offensive Zone starts. In fact, the lower the OZ%, the higher the Zone Shift normally, which makes Komisarek's number particularly worrisome. Meanwhile Phaneuf and Gunnarsson look stellar so far.
Komisarek is playing with decent line mates, he's facing inferior competition, and yet he's giving up a ridiculous amount of shots, his Corsi is atrocious, and his Zone Shift is worse than it should be. He's been pretty horrible so far this year. Luke Schenn would likely be outperforming him in similar minutes and situations.
I know this is a small sample size so far, but I'd like to see more out of Schenn and perhaps less usage of Komisarek. So what's the problem with Franson? Well here's where it gets scary. Despite having a Corsi ON rating of zero, Franson has 50% OZ starts, but his Zone Shift is -18.7. He doesn't maintain the offensive zone, or even gain it with regularity, and his numbers aren't being helped by the likes of Komisarek. Gardiner's Zone Shift was at least positive, as he had 23.1% OZ starts, and a Zone Shift of +26.9. That's far more in line with what we'd like to see out of the younger D. Obviously Franson is facing very difficult competition (for him at least) so far, and his line mates have been atrocious from a Corsi REL perspective (early in the season).
More balance would be a good thing for the Leafs Defensively. I know it's early on in the season, but feel free to share your thoughts and observations in the comments.