Sizing Up the 2014-15 Eastern Conference’s Potential
Last season, the Toronto Maple Leafs experienced all the highs and the lows that hockey fans expect from the most loved/hated team in the NHL.
The Leafs posted a final record of 38-36-8, finishing an utterly disappointing 12th in the Eastern Conference. Toronto led the league in fighting majors, star Phil Kessel finished sixth in league scoring, the now departed Mason Raymond salvaged his career, and James Reimer and Randy Carlyle became entangled in one of the more overblown “controversies” in recent Leafs history.
Lots of highs. So many lows.
Let’s take a look back at the season that was for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013-2014.
Phil Kessel - Phil the Thrill finished sixth in league scoring, posting 37 goals and 43 assists for 80 points in 82 games. Since 2011-2012, Kessel has 214 points. Can you guess how many players have more points than that?
Maybe Sidney Crosby?
Or Alex Ovechkin?
Only Claude Giroux has more (227) points while Evgeni Malkin has 214 points, tying Kessel. Love the infamous trade with the Boston Bruins or not, Phil Kessel has delivered as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs since Brian Burke acquired him in 2009.
Team Toughness - Brian Burke’s legacy lived on last season in more than one way. The Toronto Maple Leafs were absolutely truculent as they led the league in fighting majors with 48, finished third in hits with 2,592, and finished fourth in blocked shots with 1,278 (stats courtesy of the Leafs Season in Review Guide).
Franchise Goaltender – In his best move as the Toronto Maple Leafs’ current GM, Dave Nonis acquired Jonathan Bernier for spare parts – a second round pick, the recently returned Matt Frattin and Ben Scrivens. As I’ve written elsewhere, Bernier stood on his head throughout the season, finishing with 26 wins, a .923 save percentage and a goals saved above average (GSAA) of 15.07 (good for seventh best in the NHL).
The Leafs are firmly set in goal moving forward.
The losing Streak - The Toronto Maple Leafs mustered one regulation win (!) in their last 14 games. They missed the playoffs. Let’s leave it at that.
Team Corsi – Corsi is one of the most popular advanced stats for evaluating teams and players these days. Basically, a strong Corsi rating indicates that a player/team has controlled the play in a game, which is a key factor in winning (much, much more on Corsi here).
As a team, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished last in Corsi. Yup. Dead last.
Perhaps Kyle Dubas’ distaste for dump-and-chase hockey will improve the team’s overall puck possession this season…
The Reimer-Carlyle Soap Opera - Playing in
the media shark tank Toronto is hard. The Leafs started losing late in the year. The season began to unravel. Bernier began to buckle under the strain of blocking so many shots in his first season as a starting goalie. Bernier got hurt and then…
Carlyle’s simple “okay” to describe James Reimer’s play one night became an ugly, drawn-out saga. Sad, as James Reimer is widely regarded as a decent goaltender and a really nice chap, too. This situation was fully overblown.
Fortunately, Dave Nonis recognized Reimer’s value as a backup with starter’s experience, re-signing the likable goalie to a two-year contract this summer.
Despite the late-season collapse, the poor possession stats, and the controversies, the Toronto Maple Leafs never wavered in the most important aspect of the game: the fan base.
Their Winter Classic matchup with the Detroit Red Wings set the record for attendance at an NHL game (announced crowd of 105,491) and averaged 19,447 fans per game (even though the Air Canada Centre claims a maximum capacity of 18,800 for hockey games). Just another day at the office in Leafs Nation.
Lots of highs.
So many lows.
Go Leafs go!
What did you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2013-2014 season? Let us know in the comments section below.
Click here to read the series introduction, which includes links to the rest of the series.