The New Leaf Vision.

This piece gives some new angles from the angels on the new Leaf vision.

Strap in.


#1. People are underestimating Kasperi Kapanen.

Being part of the Kessel trade did him no favours. But the fact that we traded for him instead of drafting him means a lot of people think he’s older than he actually is.

So, look. He's only 20. In fact, Kasperi Kapanen [23rd July 1996] is younger than William Nylander [1st May 1996.] And younger than Josh Ho Sang and Brayden Point for that matter.

My point is... he’s YOUNG, alright?

And yet, he’s scoring at a Point-Per-Game pace in the AHL this year.

43 games, 18 goals, 43 points.

But he only just turned 20. So how many AHL’ers have scored at PPG pace and been younger than 20 these past two decades?

  1. William Nylander
  2. David Pastrnak
  3. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
  4. Mikko Rantanen
  5. Jason Spezza
  6. Jordan Eberle
  7. Jiri Tlusty

And what do these 7 kids all have common?

All turned out to be able to score at an NHL level as well.

So maybe let's us Kappy Kritics stand back and take a bit wider perspective on the kid:

At age 16 he started running PPG in Finnish Jr and had to be promoted, to play against men in the top Finnish league. Age 17 and 18, he played in their top men's league. Got drafted by Pittsburgh, 1st round. Age 19, he makes the Marlies, scores at a .59 P/Game pace. And, oh yeah, he then scores the Golden Goal to win the World Juniors for the Finns. He also gets busted up in here a couple of times, getting slew-footed by dirt-bags like Tyler Bertuzzi [BTW... nobody in Toronto's forgotten that, Tyler. You know you got something coming doncha Tyler.]


Anyway, this year, Kapanen turns 20, and cranks it up to run PPG in the AHL.

Now, lot of people are still thinking that if Kappy's not pushing Brown and Hyman and Leivo and Sosh out of the way on the Leafs, he can’t be that good, right? Well, let's just keep this one thing in mind.

Hyman is 4 years older than Kapanen. 4 YEARS.

Leivo is 3 years older.

Brown and Sosh are 2 + a 1/2 years older.

And yet, Kapanen is scoring more in the AHL than any of them ever did.


So how about it Toronto fans? You want a winger who can out-score these other kids? Cause Kapanen looks to be that calibre. Now, is he as good as Nylander? Well…. not likely, really. But he’s not as far off maybe as people think. Try out this thought:

Kapanen today is 9 months older than Nylander was last year.

  • Nylander had 18 goals & 45 points in 38 games las year, on a very good Marlies team.
  • Kapanen has 18 goals & 43 points in 43 games, on a not-so-good Marlies team - and is just 9 months older.

So what do we have in a Kapanen? Well… likely not a Nylander. And no, he’s not a kid who’ll crash like Hyman or Sosh or Brown.

Most likely, he's somewhere in-between a Nylander and a Brown. And we’ll see start to really see what that value is, likely next Fall.

Meantime though, let's not write the kid off. And remember that little list of the 7 kids under 20 who went PPG.


#2. Don’t write Alexei Marchenko off too quickly, either. 5 facts:

1. Marchenko still has only 121 NHL games, not the 300+ you want before making cut/run decisions.

In fact... invincible Detroit may have made another bad call here.

2. Because over the last 3 years, Marchenko ranks 24th [of 190 Defencemen] with just 1.89 Goals Against per 60 minutes. Not only better than any Leaf, but better than any of his Red Wing Defence Corps.

3. In Toronto, he’s still only allowing 1.98 Goals/60…. his Corsi is on par for the 11 games he’s played… and he’s a +1 so far. So, not a disaster, considering he was dropped in late in the season.

4. While no big Offensive wheel, you could see from how he played in the Detroit a while back that he actually has some offensive instincts. In fact, back in Russian Jr, Marchenko still holds the all-time highest PPG season for a defenceman at age 17. And then did it again at age 18. So... he's got some offence there.

5. Babcock loves emphasizing sided-ness in his Defencemen. But you know what I’d consider? Language.

Stick him with Zaitsev. They’re the same age, same height, both Moscow boys, both played for Red Army. Zaitsev’s an incredibly quick-skating and passing offensive kid. Marchenko's slower-footed, more stay-at-home.

Pair ‘em up, I say.

Will it work?

Well… they paired on the Russian National Team two years back. Had a +12, the best plus/minus in the Tournament. Won a medal.

Worth a spin, maybe next Fall in training camp, maybe before.



#3. Ok, I think we’re all agreed we gotta do something about Mirtle.

It was all fun and games those first few years, but clearly the guy’s a fucking Warlock, and his spells are bringing Leaf Nation down.

And now we hear he's building some nasty alliances, over at the so-called "Athletic," and the thing is, James' ambitions basically run to "Barad-Dûr II - Bad to the Bone."

Anyway. Imma go over there to the Athletic's HQ next weekend with Fulemin and Bohonos, maybe even Briggy if he shows on time. Then Fulie and me are gonna throw Bohonos’ jewelry at the windows. [Lobonos got some major bling. Got shit for body parts I don't even have.]

And... unless something catastrophic happens…. I figure we're pretty much a lock to win this one.

Whatever happens though, we’re getting a picture of Mirtle wearing his Canucks sweater. Whichever sweater the Nucks are wearing this year. Is it the year where the Whale's eating the stick? Or wait, was that Wellwood?

Hey… has anybody actually watched a Canucks game this year?




#4. Just so we’re keeping track of Zaitsev and what might be expected from him, he’s at 33 points in 74 games in his rookie year.

Yes, he’s 25 years old, but it still takes some time to adapt, and he’s been on a really young team, with a weak defence, and has had to focus a lot on just on that. But he’s just 3 points back of Jake and 6 up on Rielly, so not a bad year.

In fact, looked at league-wide, Zaitsev is already in the league’s Top 40 defencemen in scoring, and Top 30 at even strength points.

Not sure what he’s worth in a contract, and not sure exactly how good his defence will end up being, but if we could get him back, and find someone he paired well with, I’d be pretty pleased.


#5. Here’s that same fact people keep forgetting, only this time, about the Leafs defence.

They’re frigging YOUNG too.

Forget Hunwick and Polak. They’re not going to be here when we win a Cup, and people should probably stop stressing so hard about them and their minutes.

  • Jake is the old man of the others and he’s only 26.
  • Rielly has just turned 23 [and as I say, is dealing with a hellacious bad ankle.]
  • And as we know, Zaitsev is old’ish, at 25, but still a rookie.

So Jake, a Rookie and Kid Morgan.

And the other three?

  • Marchenko is 25, but only has 121 NHL games - that’s less than 2 full seasons.
  • Carrick is just about to turn 23, but only has 112 games himself - less than 2 full seasons again.
  • Even Marincin is only 25, and - at 175 games - has less than 3 full seasons.

That’s 6 young’ish defencemen getting big games in all. Which means, even if they’re not all rookies like the Forwards, they're still young, and we need to be cutting them a wee bit of slack.


#6. Take a look at this ---> Points/60 during 5v5 (Close) play.


Now, I know it’s not the most comprehensive or well-balanced or high-end complicated stat in the world, but here’s the thing:

If I want to know who scores points during real, 5 on 5, hockey, this stat will TELL me.

And in fact, I WANT to know that number.


Well, because it's a no-bullshit number:

    • A number that cuts out all the PowerPlay Points,
    • and all the bullshit Empty Net Goals,
    • and all the points where players are just running up the score with a huge lead already
    • and all the points where you score but nobody cares because you're 5 goals down.

This stat is straight-forward, simple:

  • It's just the points you get during even strength, 5v5 play.
  • When the game is close, competitive - either tied or within a goal.
  • And then it's made fair by adjusting it for the 60 minutes you play.

Sweet, right? I know!

It's basically the 1/2 of the game when it's not special teams, and the game is still competitive.

Real Hockey.

Now. Who do you think is the best at scoring points during 5v5 play when it’s close?

"Crosby," says smart little you.

And lookie lookie, you’re right! When you pile up those stats year over year, overall… it’s that dirty little Nova Scotian, Sid.

He scores around 2.98 points per 60 over this past decade. And he’s followed by Benn and Malkin and Kane and Datsyuk and Getzlaf and Stamkos and the Sedins and so on. In short, the players that we goddamn good and well know are GREAT.

So this one stat identifies those players about as well as any.

Now. Who do you think might be leading the NHL this year?

  • Well… it’s not Claude fucking Giroux, that’s for sure. He’s only getting 0.95 Points per 60 at 5v5 Close.
  • And it’s not the Corsi-monster, Patrice Bergeron either. He’s only getting 1.49
  • Nor Ovie. He’s 1.97
  • Or Panarin, the little Russian Wizard. He’s at 2.01
  • And not Sid. Not this year. He’s at 2.26
  • And nope, not Pat Kane. The little shit. He’s at 2.27
  • Nor Laine, he’s 2.53. Which is great, but not #1.
  • Not even Connor McDavid. He’s at 2.79
  • Not even Auston Fucking Matthews, who’s at an otherwise amazing 2.43

Yes friends, it’s little Mitch.

Mitch Fucking Marner.

Who is scoring a psychotic 3.24 Points per 60.

Now, just compare that to the rates listed above.

Mitch is generating 5v5 points - when the games are close - at the same rate as:

Alex Ovechkin… PLUS Ryan Johansen.

Joe Thornton PLUS Gabe Landeskog.

Tarasenko PLUS Drouin.

As many as Jack Eichel PLUS Wayne Simmonds PLUS Brayden Schenn.

You might wanna stop and catch your breath on that one.

Or, if you like rookies, think of it like this.

Marner = Jimmy Vesey + Dylan Larkin + Mikko Rantanen.

Mitch is 19 years old.

And sure, JVR and Bozak are doing well also. But they’ve never done nearly this well. Not even with Phil.




#7. Now, I’m still not sure we have any real grasp of just how good these little fuckers are? Both the Leaf rookies, but also the younger kids as a whole.

I mean, speaking as someone who's been watching the NHL for... whoa, can’t quite believe this... but watching it for more than 50 years now... anyway folks, this kind of a performance…. has never happened.



Just plain frigging NEVER.

Sounds like a stupid thing to say. And believe me, I know a lot about saying stupid things.

But it's just the case.



This Leaf team is not a team which has just added a couple of nice hockey players that we’re going to enjoy watching in the coming years. This Leaf team - on straight up points and production - is adding world class, and potentially HOF levels of production players, and adding them in as part of a gigantic wave of talent to the team.

Think of how great it was for the Hawks or Ducks to add a Toews and a Kane, or a Geztlaf and Perry, in the same year.

Well, we did that, with Matthews and Marner.

And then added a Nylander. Same year.

And Zaitsev.

And a Brown, a Sosh, a Hyman, a Carrick, a....


#8. And you know what? The Leaf-haters that point to The Scoring Race, and argue that because none of our kids are in the Top 20, they’re not all that great?

Well…. thing they’re ignoring is that these are 19 year old kids. And Babcock is trying to keep their minutes down.

So, they’re averaging 1 minute less per night on the PP than the BIG dogs. And another 2 minutes less of 5v5 ice-time.

FACT. Kane, McDavid, Crosby & Eichel all get 20-21-22 minutes a night.

Matthews gets 17:38

Marner gets just 16:50

And Nylander only 15:59

You know where those 3 would rank, if their TOI is equalized?

13th - Marner

16th - Nylander

22nd - Matthews

You tell me the last time an NHL team had 3 rookies bust into the Top 20 or so in scoring?


#9. All lists which reach 9 points are hereby instructed to reserve the space for use by this photo.

Of Norm Ullman's #9 Leaf sweater.

As worn by Bob Dylan.



#10. The pro-Zach Hyman argument has become just plain arse stupid, so I’d like - if I may - to just whack it with a crowbar one last time and be fucking done with it.

Look. Maybe Hyman contributes intangibles. And maybe he’ll get better in the future.

But you know what? I played just like fucking Zach Hyman. I oozed goddamn intangibles. No really, ask my coaches. Just like Babcock, they went on and on about it. "Would run through walls," they said... and ran through walls, I did.

Thing was, I had hands Just. Like. Zach.

And handled passes like Zach.

And had a touch around the net like Zach. etc.

In short, the only way I got to play with really good players was through the sheer luck that there weren't better options around. And that… boiled out… may be where the Leafs are right now.

But to argue Hyman is actually adding much right now? Let's not bother, folks.

Especially when it means pointing to the fact of Auston Matthews’ great performance, and adding the magical clause:

"And Matthews wouldn’t be doing that well without Zach Hyman."

Which... look… is kindof hilarious. Because, well, here… look.

Those two have played 884 minutes together at 5v5 before tonight.

  • Hyman has 0 goals from Auston Matthews passes. [In 74 games.]
  • Hyman has 1 goal off a rebound of a Matthews shot. [From 170 Matthews shots.]
  • Hyman has one goal from a tip-in of a Matthews shot. [See: 170.]

0 goals off passes from 74 games alongside Auston Matthews.


Come on, people. Defending that is insane.

It just is.


Oh - the supporters add - but he’s fabulous at digging out the puck and feeding Matthews! Really?

Then how come he only has 6 (six) primary assists on the 25 Matthews 5v5 goals scored this year?

And then… stretching their defence into a Donald Trumpian proportions… they actually argue that Matthews is…

"... not much of a passer."

Gulp. Auston Dude had 3rd best USDP season for assists. Ever.

And anybody see those passes from Matthews behind the net earlier this year? So fast, so slick and so surprising they made not just your eyes but your HANDS hurt?


Anybody see him winning the puck, again and again, in the offensive zone, and then holding off a defender, again and again, working to set up his linemates?

And then his shots? They’re quick, from everywhere, and they take people by surprise. Including the goalie. And thus….. have produced well over 100 REBOUNDS.

Of which precisely 1 has been potted by Mr Hyman?

Enuff is enuff.

Look. I don't much care if you want to replace him with Sosh or Marner or Leivo or Kapanen or JVR.

In fact, whether you do it this year or not, I don’t much care. Leave him for this season.

Just... before next season... do it.


Unless Hyman really works at and develops his hands this Summer.

Because people, even NHL players, CAN improve their hands. Maybe they can't not turn into fabulous stick-handlers.

  • But learning how better to position oneself for rebounds? Yes.
  • And working at actually getting a stick on a rebound? Yup.
  • And working at lifting a loose puck over bodies? Jamming it in? Banking it in? Absolutely.
  • And working on positioning to tip more shots? Yuppers.
  • And practicing getting to the net with your stick on the ice for redirections more? Can do.

And if Hyman can learn to do any of those things better next year, then I’d be thrilled with him there.

But I think we have to have someone who can score 15-20, maybe even 25 on Matthews' wing to make a full run at a Cup.

Because right now?

Teams have realized they can collapse on Matthews, because Hyman is NOT going to score.

  • Hyman has 0 goals in 10 games.
  • Just 2 goals in his last 30 games.
  • And just 3 assists in that period.

And finally, can we please stop trying to buttress the pro-Hyman case by arguing that somehow Hyman’s penalty-killing has been anything to write home about this season.


Sure, I too loved those 3 short-handed goals.

But he has allowed 24 goals Against in 208 minutes on the PK. That’s 6.91 per 60 minutes.

Which is 104th of 181 NHL forwards.

That’s the bottom half, folks - not the top.

And his Corsi Against is 117 per 60 minutes. Which is 165th of 181 NHL forwards.

I’m gonna repeat that. His Corsi Against is 165th of 181 NHL forwards on the PK.

That’s the bottom 10%.

And meanwhile.... Sosh's performance on the PK? Not a peep from people, other than to say "he’s lucky." Well, ok.

But he's still only had 1 Goal Against in 63 minutes on the PK.

Which kindof puts him in 1st place of 181 NHL forwards.

And his Corsi Against? Well, it’s 84 per 60. Which makes him 28th of 181 NHL forwards.

Now I’m not saying he’s the guy to replace Hyman, but when having the debate, let's skip the imagined facts like Hyman the PK wizard, ok?

And overall, let's not attribute magical, unmeasured abilities to Hyman over Leivo or Sosh or anyone else.

Meantime, he’s on a line with Matthews, and in fact, we may not want to disrupt that this season.

And that may be just fine. A judgment call. Let Babs make it.

But let’s not imagine this 0 goal rut he's in is sufficient as a serious way forward.

Anyway, all it means is the Shanaplan may need to grind out a few Tough Decisions this Summer.

But as far as the Shanaplan's results right now kids... wow.

Gotta say, it's producing some kindof damn fine results.

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