Toronto Maple Leafs: Daniel Winnik is Week One Analytics Star


Toronto Maple Leafs: Daniel Winnik is Week One Analytics Star

Oct 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul (19) knocks the puck away from Montreal Canadiens defenceman Tom Gilbert (77) during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

For the Toronto Maple Leafs, this season is all about catching up to the pack.

Puck possession, Corsi, replacing enforcers with team toughness, increasing offensive zone time…the Leafs are not ahead of the curve here.

Commenting on this problem, Dave Feschuk for the Toronto Star writes:

"The Leafs can talk all they want about playing the puck-possession game that is favoured by the best teams in the league…[but] far from being ahead of the curve on this — like, say, the L.A. Kings, who won the Stanley Cup after possessing the puck an average of 56.8 per cent of the time last season — the Leafs are merely a lamb among a vast flock of sheep playing catch-up with the state of the art.– Dave Feschuk @ Toronto Star – “Puck Possession Not Maple Leafs Forte”"

Sheep or no, the Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to improve their puck possession rate and offensive zone time.

Though it’s only a few games into the season, and the advanced stats tend to be best-viewed after large swaths of data are compiled, let’s take a quick look at how the Toronto Maple Leafs are doing in advanced metrics so far this season.

Toronto Maple Leafs Forward Daniel Winnik

Early this season, Daniel Winnik has starred for the second line of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Though the Leafs have only mustered a 43.7 Corsi For% as a team so far, Daniel Winnik has registered a 58.6 CF%. Even more impressive, Winnik’s Corsi Relative to his teammates is a robust 42.5.

Again, the season is young but Winnik has proven to be a stabilizing force in the Maple Leafs lineup through the early going.

Toronto Maple Leafs Forwards Phil Kessel, Brandon Kozun, and Richard Panik

While Winnik has started strong. Forwards Phil Kessel , Brandon Kozun, and Richard Panik have stumbled out of the gate.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Phil Kessel had registered a 34.9 CF% and a -29 CorsiRel.

Kessel probably hasn’t heard the stats but he’s keenly aware of the struggles he and his linemates have had in the first set of games this season:

Despite Phil the Thrill’s rough start, the Leafs star is in no danger of losing power play minutes or his spot on the first line.

But for Brandon Kozun and Richard Panik, the threat of an AHL demotion is real.

Through Tuesday, Kozun had managed a paltry 37.5 CF% and an ugly -26 CorsiRel. Richard Panik has been even worse, with a 29.5 CF% and an atrocious -72 CorsiRel.

Oct 11, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Richard Panik (18) is upended by Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Simon Despres (47) at Air Canada Centre. The Penguins beat the Maple Leafs 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Again, the season is young. So, for a star like Phil Kessel, there is the luxury of working hard in practice, waiting for good bounces in games, and watching his advanced stats even out a little as the season progresses.

But for Kozun and Panik, both interchangeable forwards who have ready replacements like Petri Kontiola, Troy Bodie, and Colton Orr waiting in the AHL, the dangers of a poor start could interrupt their NHL seasons before the advanced stats have time to even out.

For now, Leafs fans are best off celebrating Daniel Winnik’s early successes and taking a deep breath while waiting for Kessel’s puck possession rates to smooth out.

What do you think, Leafs fans? Has Daniel Winnik justified his roster spot so far? How many chances will Brandon Kozun and Richard Panik get before they are demoted?