Here at Pension Plan Puppets Kitten Ranching and Manufacturing Ltd., we’re sometimes accused of being too numbers-focused in our analysis. While we believe in the value of metrics and hard data, we don’t want to neglect the more emotional, instinctive side of the game. So we’ve put together these mid-season looks at Leafs players with no reference whatsoever to any real stats. This is A Purely Instinctive Leaf Evaluation, or A PILE.
Note: we didn’t promise we wouldn’t use charts.
Fulemin: Is Auston Matthews the greatest man ever to live? You have to ask the question. I lean yes.
Brigstew: We’ve all joked about it, but I think that Matthews will end his career widely considered the better player than McDavid.
Seldo: End his career? He already is!
Hardev: People always say that Sidney Crosby is the greatest third liner in hockey because of how hard he works and how dilligent he is at doing all the little things. This is how I view Auston Matthews.
Arvind: Matthews is both overrated by many Leafs fans and still supremely good. He is not a close competitor to McDavid, at all. He is not a top 10 forward in the league (yet). He’ll get there soon enough, though, and he’s definitely a player you can build a championship team around.
Katya: Auston Matthews once put on Clark Kent glasses and went out with Morgan Rielly like they’d be incognito. He once scored four goals in his first game. He won the Centennial Classic. He has a sweater with a lion on it that cost four figures. He won the Calder. He dresses like one of the Corleones had his teenage personal assistant buy his clothes at Urban Outfitters. He believes he’ll score every time he steps on the ice. So do I.
Annie: There are not words in any human language to describe my joy at Matthews’ personal style, a tryhard mishmash of expensive labels that he manages to pull off a frighteningly large percentage of the time. I adore it. Every inch of that man’s gigantic frame is filled with confidence, and if I could play hockey the way he does, I too would coolly leave the house wearing things like this. In conclusion: he is a god.
Fulemin: William Nylander is elite. I don’t care what anyone else says and also I will not be defining what “elite” is. Thank you.
Brigstew: I said it during the T25U25 and I’ll say it again: Nylander > Marner, though it’s close.
Arvind: He’s good, but he does a lot of small things that really annoy me. He whiffs on passes/shots more than someone with his skill level should. He does that stupid little button-hook EVERY time in the offensive zone, even when he has a lane to take it to the net. It feels like he goes offside more than anyone else on the team. All these things are only annoying because he has such a complete skillset that every mistake stands out. I want him to be not just a first liner, but a top-30 forward in the league, and I think he can get there... which make his obvious errors all the more aggravating to me.
Katya: I love Nylander because he’s flawed. It’s easy to be Auston (not really) or Mitch who tore up junior. Willie played for MODO when they were just falling off the cliff. He got 100% of the “oh, shit, we’re bad”, and none of the dramatic firings of everyone and the scrappy comeback. He was 2C on the Marlies to the very slight Marc Arcobello, and he walked into the NHL and straight into, “Play Mitchy with Auston, OMG, play Mitch there.” Years from now he will still be great, underrated and have better hair than you.
Annie: You know that Regina George Mean Girls meme? That’s what I think of when I think of William Nylander. I bet his hair is insured for $10,000.
Arvind: Marner has had a quietly brilliant year that has been obscured by his personal shooting percentage slump. Just start shooting more!
Katya: Marner is one of those guys who can go on about how happy he is to be in the NHL, and he takes every day as a gift, and he is just grateful, and I don’t want to grind my teeth down in irritation. Okay, he’s the only guy. Also his deep voice always shocks me. I’m getting used to the wow moments on the ice.
seldo: Marner is fine, but I’m still made about the OHL Finals.
Fulemin: I like him a bunch, but also, I wanted to link to this article, which is one of the two best things Battle of California ever did.
Arvind: I was too low on Marleau coming into the year, though I always find myself swearing at his line when they’re on the ice. Generally, that has more to do with Leo than him though.
Katya: I am very underwhelmed by Marleau on the eye-test. I’m tempted to cheat and look him up. I think part of it is the handedness of Kadri, and his long history with Komarov. They simply leave Mar
seldo: He’s the one true #6dad and we all need to get behind him. For the first two seasons anyway.
Annie: When it comes to infuriating people, Nazem Kadri is a god-tier talent. I love and respect this. He also has very lush eyebrows!
Katya: He’s part lost Tkachuk brother and part sweet scoring centre. I long for the day when he gets to drop the shutdown mask and just be himself. But he’s going on a season and a half of plausible fakery, so I’ll live with it.
Arvind: Kadri has managed to convince everyone, including himself, that he’s good defensively. He’s not, but he’s the best we have, and we love him for it.
seldo: He’s a very good player on a very good contract. Once he threw his stick and t almost hit my wife, so I thank him for that story.
Fulemin: I don’t always adopt a grinder, but when I do, Mike Babcock agrees with me.
Katya: I love subversion of stereotypes. I love that our lunch bucket guy had his way into hockey paved with money, but then turned hard work into his core purpose. His greatest excitement this season came when he scored a shorty, but I love watching him forecheck.
Arvind: Hyman annoys me to no end when he whiffs on a ridiculously easy pass or shot. But he does so much good for his team and his line.
seldo: See pushy annoying hockey dads? One day your hard work will pay off.
Brigstew: is the obvious candidate for 4C and Babcock just doesn’t know it yet.
Arvind: Please, stop playing this man in OT.
Hardev: Split up Naz and Leo for both their sakes. Naz needs help scoring at the moment and Leo hasn’t been able to bring more than sound defensive play for months.
seldo: Oh man everyone is going to be so mad when he re-signs with the team this summer.
Fulemin: You know those actors who are always like the third character in a romantic comedy, or the fourth member of the squad in a heist movie? That’s Connor Brown. Connor Brown is the bubbly best friend who specializes in picking safes.
Brigstew: He’s this regime’s Tyler Bozak. Overrated offensively and defensively, but still a good pl’r.
Arvind: Love his story and personality, am totally bored by his game.
Hardev: A good complimentary player when played with skilled players. If he’s not moving up the lineup, give him better players on his line.
seldo: At least he’ll never be a -72 in one season again.
James van Riemsdyk
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Fulemin: He’s fine, I guess.
Katya: At some point, the spell that turned a poodle into a man will be reversed and the happiest guy to just be here will be gone.
Fulemin: He’s all right. If Matt Martin ever lands a punch on Jake Dotchin, I retract all of my complaints about his contract.
Brigstew: I like Martin as a bro, but if there’s one guy I look at on the Leafs’ forward roster as the most obvious position for improvement, it’s Martin. He doesn’t kill penalties, he doesn’t specialize on the PP, he doesn’t really do great things at even strength, he pretty routinely gets among the lowest ice time.
Hardev: He’s been fine in the role the Leafs have him in, just don’t think the role makes use of the roster spot he takes up.
Arvind: I talk a big game about non-violence, but the second anyone looks at one of our guy the wrong way, I want Martin to beat his face in. That’s worth something, right?
seldo: Only if he actually does it, which......nope.
Fulemin: WHEEEEEEE HE’S A 1D NOW
Annie: If a golden retriever ran afoul of a wizard and was cursed to become a NHL player (please, just go with this hypothetical), that NHL player would be Morgan Rielly. I bet he gives great hugs and would shovel out your driveway if you asked nicely, and I’m giddy about the jump forward he’s taken this year. Also, he has very mobile eyebrows. That’s important.
Katya: Thing I have said, “Oh god, yes, Naz, just pass it to Mo!” The “dwinger”, as it’s termed, is a maligned role in hockey for weird reasons only 200 Hockey Men can explain in gruff voices, but Mo does it perfectly. Last year’s go pretend to be a defenceman exercise is paying off big.
Arvind: I didn’t think Rielly would take the step he has this season... if it’s legit, we have a 1D for the next 6-7 years.
Hardev: Morgan’s on pace to take the most shots of his career. On one hand I love it, on the other, I wouldn’t mind if he moved the puck when on those odd-man rushes.
seldo: Our next captain ladies and gentlemen.
Fulemin: Come back the way you were, Jakey.
Arvind: Meanwhile, Jake’s play this season is giving me real pause as to whether we should extend him in the summer of 2019.
Fulemin: Gee, uh, that contract makes me nervous sometimes.
Katya: Stop making your fantasy defence pairs as if Zaitsev went into the west or something.
Hardev: Better than Polak, i guess?
Fulemin: You know Ron Hainsey’s actually pretty handsome? Needs some dental work, like all hockey players, but he’s a good-looking dude.
Annie: He has nice eyes. Very piercing blue.
Arvind: It’ll be a nice moment when he breaks the record for shorthanded TOI this season. Less nice will be his body disintegrating into dust ten minutes after.
Fulemin: Polak’s drawbacks are, unfortunately, starting to outweigh his benefits in my opinion.
Arvind: It’s not that hard man... stop boarding people!
Hardev: Babcock doesn’t think he has anyone better. He’s also wrong.
Hardev: It brings me so much joy to see my boy Dermott in the NHL doing what he’s been so good at in the A. I feel like a proud parent.
Annie: Next time the Leafs really lay an egg, I’m going to occupy myself just staring at Dermott’s skates. His edgework makes me feel things.
seldo: He’s called up, when will The Athletics's propaganda machine for him stop?
Freddie in October vs. Freddie in November pic.twitter.com/MV2coqIUB1— Acting the Fulemin (@ATFulemin) November 29, 2017
Katya: An odd thing about Freddie is that he does a lot of media scrums. Freddie comes out and explains what went wrong there. Freddie tells you what they did well this time. Freddie has a thousand standard hockey platitudes, one for every occasion. But in games, lately, I barely see him. I feel so secure that he’s not going to do anything too silly, that I just forget him. I imagine the defencemen feel the same way.
Yes, it continues to bother me when they’re on the road.
Hardev: Fule, stop being wrong.
Katya: There is nothing about watching the Maple Leafs that annoys me more than an organization absolutely soaked to the gills in money playing hockey on garbage-quality ice. It. Is. Trash. If you can make decent damn ice in Las Bloody Vegas, you can do better than that in Toronto in the winter.
Arvind: Would it kill this team to release information on time? You know how often we (Katya) have to hunt down the AHL transactions page to see some minor event that is backdated to 4 weeks ago, but was never mentioned by the team? Also, there are no rumours anymore! Do you see the stuff we have to speculate on? Kris Letang? That’s not happening! Give us something fun to talk about.
Dammit, I just cursed us into trading for Erik Gudbranson, didn’t I?
seldo: Let Leo grow his mustache back, he looks weird without facial hair.