I already hate myself for writing this, but this is my manifesto on the most absurd it boy ever to come out of a deep failure of a Leafs season.

We've got reports that the Leafs want to extend Max Domi who they signed to a one-year, $3 million contract last season. That contract wasn't, in a rare turn of events, the biggest payday he'd ever had. Noted player evaluator Jarmo Kekalainen signed him to two years at $5.3 million in 2020. In between Kyle Davidson also signed him to $3 million in 2022.

Columbus traded him at the deadline in 2022 to Carolina. Chicago traded him at the deadline in 2023 to Dallas. None of those teams re-signed him.

Who Did We Think He Was?

Last summer when he was signed, the short version of the analysis on Domi was that he had some offensive skills, occasionally had high-scoring seasons, but was notably bad defensively. Not just a null factor like your ordinary scoring winger, but actively detrimental.

What Have We Learned Since?

Well now, that depends on who you ask. Sheldon Keefe put Domi in at centre on the third line at just the right time to hit a run of mostly weak opposition, and many a narrative was born. Not least because Keefe is the opposite of it boy right now, so admitting he knows how to bring out the best in players is basically impossible for most of the fanbase. In fact, a large number of people will tell you Keefe is personally responsible for any moments Domi looked bad in the regular season.

Domi, you see, just needs to be a centre because it helps him concentrate and forces him to be the first forward back. I actually heard that on air in the playoffs. This would be the same playoffs where I was so massively irritated by his lazy slack-jawed wander on the backcheck that I just couldn't even find the words to express it.

This is the root of the problem with Domi – both that his decision making and mental checking out on defence can be so frustrating that you lose your objectivity, but also that he is a fast player who handles the puck well so that when he has moments of success they inspire these retconning narratives to explain why this one time, this player who looks bad by the numbers is actually great.

Everyone has lost their mind about this player as a player before you ever touch on his personality or his past.

This state of agitation is what cold, hard numbers are meant to be the solution to.

Cold Hard Numbers


Starting with personal shooting, the comparison here is the prior four years combined vs his season in Toronto.

Season Team Position GP TOI G/60 A1/60 A2/60 Points/60 iSF/60 iFF/60 iCF/60 ixG/60 Sh%
19-20 MTL C 71 963.92 0.75 0.68 0.25 1.68 8.22 10.96 14.38 0.72 9.09
20-21 CBJ C 54 690.83 0.52 0.87 0.17 1.56 6.51 8.08 10.34 0.43 8
21-22 CAR C 19 201.23 0.6 0.89 0.6 2.09 6.56 8.65 11.03 0.55 9.09
21-22 CBJ C 53 628.22 0.67 1.15 0.48 2.29 5.54 8.21 12.03 0.55 12.07
22-23 CHI C 60 853.7 0.42 0.98 0.49 1.9 5.48 7.94 9.77 0.57 7.69
22-23 DAL C 20 268.98 0.22 0.67 0 0.89 6.25 8.25 12.49 0.64 3.57
Combined 0.57 0.88 0.33 1.78 6.54 8.88 11.78 0.58 8.65
23-24 TOR C 80 967.73 0.5 1.43 0.81 2.73 7.25 9.86 12.71 0.58 6.84

His goal rate is almost dead on his usual number, but his points rate is up, and driven largely by primary assists. He's only ever had points at this pace in his one golden season in Montréal. Meanwhile his Shot on Goal rate (iSF) is slightly high, as are the unblocked shot rate (iFF) and Corsi rate. His Expected Goals rate is exactly his former average.

You can see that his Shooting % fluctuates, like most players, and this year was below average, but not by a lot. His average is low, however. For forwards with at least 2,000 minutes of five-on-five play over these same five years, which gives 373 players, Domi ranks 310th. It's clear he's not much of a shooter, and it's clear his personal shooting didn't change on the Leafs much, despite a slightly higher rate.

A quick perusal of NHL Edge which gives even-strength zone time for the last three years, shows Domi is below league average in the percentage of time he spends in the offensive zone, and his Toronto number is similar to his 21-22 season, and much higher than 22-23. So his shot rate wasn't being influenced up by more zone time.

Again, despite the rate change, the shot selection is very poor:

An interesting comparison to Domi is Anthony Beauvillier, who scores at a similar low percentage, has about the same number of goals in the last five years, but lags a little in points – 111 to 151. Even he shoots from much better locations. And when comparing Domi to the classic elite setup men in the NHL – Mitch Marner and Artemi Panarin, the difference is overwhelming.


Looking very briefly at the less reliable individual stats: takeaways, giveaways and hits, the hitting stands out as unusual. With the caveat that scorer bias shows up in hitting counts in all sorts of ways, Domi delivered hits at a much higher rate on the Leafs than his normal number: 3.6 per 60 minutes vs 1.43. And he got hit even more: 4.43 vs 2.52.

In that same list of 373 forwards over the last five years, Domi ranks 296th for total hits. So while he was more physical on the Leafs than he has been anywhere else lately, he is not a "physical" player in the sense of hitting a lot. In this season, he ranks 229th for forwards with at least 300 minutes played at five-on-five.

Penalties tell a different, but murkier story. Domi had the most penalty minutes on the Leafs by virtue of six fighting majors, but in terms of minor penalties, he's in a group with Jake McCabe and Matt Knies. Tyler Bertuzzi and Simon Benoit are not far behind.

There is a classic pattern to a poor defensive forward's penalties where they take "chasing the play" infractions like slashing and tripping. This is not Domi's pattern on the Leafs. His minor penalties are cross-checking and roughing more than anything else. You can find the hooking, holding and tripping more in prior seasons, and notably, in prior years the fighting majors aren't there, the roughing majors are much fewer and the totals are a lot lower.

Domi had the worst differential on the Leafs for penalties drawn vs taken, however. So his physicality tended to put the Leafs on the PK or to take him off the ice for five minutes. He also took two instigator penalties, a sure sign the referees are tired of watching him fight. It is worth considering why a player with the speed of Domi wasn't drawing penalties and if that was more about the style of team play than his own. He's had better records in the past at drawing. I have never seen any evidence that penalty differentials are a repeatable skill, however.

Power Play

Domi has one goal and one assist on the power play for the Leafs in 102 minutes. That's his worst rate in the last five years, and given the small amount of time, big fluctuations are possible, so the base goals scored is not very revealing. Both his individual and on-ice Expected Goals rate was better on the Leafs than on his prior teams.

His individual rate is in the bottom third of the NHL forwards who had power play time, and his on-ice rate is in the top third. But that needs to be seen in the context of the Leafs power play as a whole.

Again, this is a difficult thing to discuss because everyone can chant the success % of the power play over whatever truncated period of time fuels the grievance the best. And everyone knows the setup is bad and everyone knows it's all Keefe's fault.

But this is the Leafs power play with and without Domi:

Top third in the NHL is fine for your second unit if you don't plan to use them much. Otherwise it's a problem to be solved.

On Ice

On ice at five-on-five, Domi has poor possession numbers. The NHL Edge even-strength numbers already showed that he's spending very little time in the offensive zone. Corsi shows him at 51% on the Leafs, after a prior five years spent fluctuating wildly as he travelled from bad team to good. Simple on-ice Corsi is so heavily influenced by teammates that it doesn't say much about the person. For deeper looks at individual impacts, there is the Hockey Viz or Evolving Hockey models.

This certainly indicates that Domi's positive impact on goal scoring was of a high value. But any time there's a big goal impact with a small Expected Goals impact, you need to think this over. Particularly when his impact on puck possession – the CF and CA bars, is a deep negative.

HockeyViz shows the Toronto offence as better when Domi was on the ice than when he wasn't by an amount and of a type that's meaningful. He was out there when the volume of shooting around the net was at its best.

The HockeyViz career assessment of Domi, as of this moment in time is not kind to him. It shows a negative impact on offence generation, which is a decline from his prior value. He is rated as a negative value overall.

There are two other things HockeyViz shows which offer some contradictory evidence. He was played less against top lines than is usual for a player with his ice time. This is also a Sheldon Keefe trademark with players he is struggling to find a role for. They usually get some special treatment in terms of matchups.

However, there is clear evidence that Domi with Matthews was a good combination. Domi without Matthews was very poor, and Matthews without Domi was still very good but not as good. It would take hours of number crunching to ascertain if those two things happened at the same time. So concluding that Domi played with Matthews in easy matchups is unwarranted. Logically, it's likely the opposite.

Tyler Bertuzzi and Calle Järnkrok were the two forwards Domi played the most five-on-five minutes with. Matthews is there for 200 of his over 900 minutes and their time together accounts for Domi's best on-ice Corsi numbers.

As for scoring, Domi assisted Nick Robertson six times, Auston Matthews five, and Tyler Bertuzzi five. Four assists each helped Calle Järnkrok, Matt Knies and William Nylander. Robertson achieved much better offensive rates with Domi than without, but curiously Domi seemed to have better defensive results only.


HockeyViz shows him as a borderline fourth liner. Evolving Hockey's player card has him at the 43 percentile rank overall, with a vivid offensive value which makes him above replacement level, but only some of the time. Bobby McMann rates a 61.

The evidence points well away from Domi himself for that big purple GF bar on the Evolving Hockey chart and right at two men he passed the puck to: Nick Robertson on the rush, and Auston Matthews on the cycle. The EH model tries to account for that but it isn't foolproof.

In some ways, Domi's Toronto season was better than most of his prior efforts. His defence was poor, his shooting stayed poor, and everything rested on the passing, but that side of things went well.

In the playoffs there's some evidence – and you could see this easily – that his speed was useful for a team struggling to gain the zone.

My opinion

I think he's a very limited player, and there are several key reasons why I wouldn't re-sign him even at $3 million again. He has no secondary value beyond his passing. His fame makes him expensive, when the similarly limited Nick Robertson isn't. The tough guy show he put on, staging fights, sitting for yet another roughing call and generally putting the Leafs on the PK is razzle that dazzles a certain type of fan and the odd GM here and there, but it does not get you wins.

Modern NHL teams need at least 10 forwards who can, when necessary, play on the power play. Having one of your major secondary players – a top-six winger – as virtually unplayable is a problem unless you plan to barely use the second unit.

He adds no meaningful value towards puck possession, the ultimate measure that tells you if his physical play (to the extent it exists) is valuable. Discussion of the value of his toughness is meaningless diversion.

There is reason to believe that his good results on the Leafs are the happenstance of the skill fit with two other players, and not his actual contributions. In other words, he is not making lesser players better shooters in any meaningful way. He's helping two guys who don't actually need it. He was the boat that was floated on the rising tide.

The stories told about how when he's there Auston Matthews turns three times widdershins and tosses the puck over his left shoulder directly into the net are amusing up to a point, but they are absolutely a convoluted and illogical tale told to backfill a pre-existing belief. If you look at Max Domi and don't start out with the assumption that his success is due to Matthews, then I think you're creating a fantastical world to no purpose beyond propping up some vision of reality you want to be true.

It is still possible that his playmaking is real – I mean, he's not making other players worse, here, let's be clear. But it's not real enough to hang millions on because of the zeitgeist that's built up around this player.

The zeitgeist is spectacularly strange, bizarre and annoying. It's 90% conspiracy theory stuff and I can just imagine the persecution-complex-infused twaddle that will get used to explain why he doesn't draw penalties on the Leafs.

And again, I am sorry I even wrote this. I don't think it's possible to get off the fairy stories and onto any real understanding of this player. And that is at least in part because he's new, Mitch Marner is resented beyond all reason, and that's enough to get him paid as a 3rd generation photocopy of Marner, while he actually plays like a 15th.

Do you like him? Whatever that means. Good, enjoy watching the players you like. I like Simon Benoit heaps. But don't fall into the trap of making them into imaginary stars to justify your enjoyment. I think Max Domi set out to be "the show" in Toronto, and I think he succeeded. But I don't think he did much of that with his hockey playing activities. Be dazzled if you're so inclined. I know what I think he's worth.

The End. May we never speak of this again until Brad Treliving overpays him.