MGK - Who Leads Whom?


One of the things that I've been wondering about the MGK line is which players on the line drive their production, particularly in terms of puck possession.  Does one guy lead the way, do two guys bring the third guy along, or do they all contribute equally?  To try to figure that out, I've compared some of the more important possessional stats for these players.  For each statistic, I've given the players a rank to indicate how well they did in comparison to other Leaf forwards who played at least 20 games.  For Zone Starts the rank is from toughest zone starts to easiest, and I've not included a ranking for Zone Finishes because they're quite relative to Zone Starts.  With that in mind, if you look at last year, you get the following:


Player Corsi On Rank Corsi REL Rank Qualcomp Rank Zone Start Rank Zone Finish
Mikhail Grabovski 9.91 1 21.3 1 0.017 2 50.2 10 53.4
Nikolai Kulemin 4.77 3 13.7 3 0.016 4 51.0


Clarke MacArthur 8.54 2 19.3 2 0.008 7 49.5 9 53.5


Those statistics seem to tell a pretty clear story - Grabovski played tough competition, but dominated play; MacArthur was only slightly behind Grabbo; and Kulemin played tough competition, but didn't perform quite as well as his two linemates.  It looks at first glance as though Grabovksi and MacArthur made Kulemin look better.  What happens if we expand our view a little bit?  Follow me past the jump and we'll see.

What we just saw doesn't quite accord with what I've seen though.  What I've witnessed over the past two years is that Kulemin has become a force at both ends of the ice, driving possession and making those around him look better in the process.  Have my eyes deceived me, or are the stats hiding something?  In order to try and answer that question, I decided I would look at how these three players have performed over the previous couple of seasons.  Hopefully this will isolate them from each other a bit, providing a glimpse into what they might provide individually.  I've included rankings for Clarke MacArthur for the 2009-10 season compared to the Atlanta Thrashers, where he finished the season.  However, he started the season with the Buffalo Sabres, so the rankings aren't entirely accurate, so take them with a grain of salt.  Here are the previous two years worth of statistics:



Player Corsi On Rank Corsi REL Rank Qualcomp Rank Zone Start Rank Zone Finish
Mikhail Grabovski 17.93 1 13.6 1 -0.009 10 55.1 8 52.0
Nikolai Kulemin 10.98 2 6.9 2 0.056 2 50.4 2 50.7
Clarke MacArthur -2.66 9 -1.1 9 0.008 7 47.2 7 49.5


* * *



Player Corsi On Rank Corsi REL Rank Qualcomp Rank Zone Start Rank Zone Finish
Mikhail Grabovski 3.97 3 3.9 3 -0.012 7 52.5 4 54.4
Nikolai Kulemin -0.7 6 0.69 7 0.009 2 52.4 3 53.0
Clarke MacArthur 0.74 3 4.1 2 -0.004 9 44.9 1 48.0


So what can we see from these charts?  Perhaps the most obvious thing is that Grabovski has played consistently well for the Leafs for three straight years.  First he played against middling competition and put up good numbers, then he played against middling competition and put up outstanding numbers, and then he played against tough competition and still put up extremely impressive numbers.

Two years ago Kulemin was used primarily in a checking role, and he played that role fairly well.  The next year he really broke out, continuing to play the toughest competition on the team and starting to provide considerable performance despite it.  He more or less put in the same kind of performance in 2010-11 as he did in 2009-10.

MacArthur has a bit of a tougher path to chart.  Like Kulemin, he was used primarily in a checking role in 2008-09, playing middling competition with difficult zone starts.  It's a bit difficult to know what to make of his Corsi numbers, which are not very good overall but were among the best on a Sabres team that was consistently out-shot.  The next season MacArthur took a real step back - he continued playing fairly middling competition, but was on the negative side of the Corsi ledger.  That may be why he was traded and then let go in the summer - he provided mediocre performance against mediocre competition.  Then this past year his numbers were fantastic.

What can we make of all this?  I think it's clear that Grabovski is an excellent player; he's taken on an increasingly difficult role each year, and he's continued to dominate puck possession all along the way.  Kulemin started out playing in a checking role and took a bit of time to adjust to the NHL, but by his 2nd season he was carrying possession against difficult opposition, and he continued to do so last year.  MacArthur spent two seasons providing middling performance against middling opposition.  Then this past year, while playing with two players who were strong possessionally, his numbers shot through the roof. 

I'm open to hearing other interpretations, or statistics I didn't look at here, but I think it's pretty clear that while MacArthur had a great year, and deserves credit for having done so, he got a pretty significant boost from being paired with arguably the two best players on the Leafs. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of

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