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What advanced statistics say about the Leafs start

Phil Kessel #81 and Joffrey Lupul #19 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrate Joffrey Lupul goal against the Ottawa Senators during NHL action at the Air Canada Centre October 8, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)

Abelimages/2011 Getty Images

As tends to be the case with these sort of things, your mileage will vary when it comes to advanced statistics in hockey.

Me, I like to look at some of the newer numbers people are producing, if only to add another layer of analysis beyond goals, assists and points that we often see when it comes to stats and the NHL.

So back in September, The Globe put together a series of stories on this type of "Moneypuck" analysis, which you can read about here and here.

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As part of the package, hockey statistician Gabriel Desjardins suggested four "key" new stats that were worthwhile and helped outline what they meant. They were corsi, quality of competition, PDO and zone start and the breakdown of what they are is here.

All of these numbers are available here on Desjardins' website, Behind The Net, which I recommend checking out.

As for the Leafs, after 28 games and with the team sitting sixth in the East, what follows is a breakdown of their skaters based on the four numbers listed above.

All of these statistics, other than ice time, are based on only 5-on-5 play.

Defence (sorted by ice time)



RK

NAME

GP

Ice time

Corsi Rel

Qual Comp

PDO

Zone start

1

D. PHANEUF

28

25:38

17.4

0.94

964

54.1

2

J-M LILES

28

21:39

2.4

0.11

1000

52.3

3

GUNNARSSON

27

21:17

7.1

0.91

980

50.9

4

J. GARDINER

26

20:32

-4.6

0.11

1021

54.0

5

KOMISAREK

18

16:59

-17.7

-0.02

1049

43.8

6

LUKE SCHENN

27

16:33

-20.2

0.14

1035

48.3

7

C. FRANSON

13

15:32

8.1

-0.63

993

50.4

One thing to keep in mind here is that the Leafs are right in the middle of the pack in terms of even strength play, and these numbers reflect that.

What do these advanced stats say about Toronto's defencemen? For one, Dion Phaneuf has been a very big part of the blueline, leading the group in facing the other team's top lines every night (qualcomp) and also doing very well when it comes to puck possession (corsi rel).

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Phaneuf's play has also been better than his plus-minus would indicate, as he has the lowest PDO of this group. For the most part, he's having a great year and been one of their best players.

At the other end of the spectrum, Komisarek and Schenn have struggled this season while playing in, as we would expect, defensive roles (zone start). Komisarek will be out until January with a badly broken arm, but Schenn has been playing much better on a pairing with Gardiner and should improve these numbers.

Gunnarsson, Liles and Gardiner have all been fine by these measures, with Gunnarsson standing out because of how often he's out against top lines. Franson, meanwhile, is sheltered more than anyone on the blueline from those situations, a sign of the coaching staff's confidence in him so far.

Forwards (sorted by ice time)



RK

NAME

GP

Ice time

Corsi Rel

Qual Comp

PDO

Zone start

1

PHIL KESSEL

28

20:05

2.3

1.65

1021

56.8

2

J. LUPUL

28

19:06

-7.2

1.65

1021

56.0

3

CONNOLLY

16

17:32

-2.5

0.87

1023

60.5

4

GRABOVSKI

22

17:22

13.7

-0.21

1008

54.0

5

T. BOZAK

26

17:20

-6.7

1.34

1018

53.2

6

N. KULEMIN

28

15:17

5.2

0.16

1007

52.6

7

MACARTHUR

21

14:34

13.0

0.15

990

58.9

8

D. STECKEL

27

13:53

6.3

-0.36

952

40.5

9

COLBORNE

9

13:15

-6.3

-1.05

1052

45.5

10

LOMBARDI

19

13:10

-8.0

0.08

942

50.4

11

JOEY CRABB

17

13:06

-8.6

-0.73

1003

48.6

12

M. FRATTIN

25

12:48

-5.5

0.25

1028

50.9

13

P. DUPUIS

25

11:09

-0.9

-0.36

961

42.9

14

ARMSTRONG

5

10:30

-1.6

-0.31

800

53.8

15

M. BROWN

18

9:45

13.5

-0.58

958

34.2

16

J. ROSEHILL

14

6:04

-1.6

-1.82

941

50.0

A ton of information here, but what immediately stands out is how the top line is holding its own against tough opposition.

Last season, it was Grabovski's line that was ranked highest in terms of quality of competition, but Ron Wilson is leaning much more on Kessel's line this season - at both ends of the ice - and it hasn't burned them.

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That said, the Lupul-Bozak-Kessel line is usually going over the boards for an offensive zone faceoff (zone start) - which makes sense - and Wilson's relying on Steckel and his other checkers when there's a defensive zone draw.

In terms of corsi, that first line gets out chanced at even strength, but that is hardly a surprise given the way they play and attempt to generate goals off the rush. It also doesn't matter if they're producing offence like they have so far this season.

It's also clear that Grabovski and MacArthur are having better seasons on this front than with their point totals - and that's a sign they should be able to turn things around. Kulemin's struggles, however, run deeper, as his numbers look little like last season's on all fronts.

Among the depth players, it was a tough start for the now injured Lombardi, and young players like Colborne and Frattin still have some developing to do. Steckel and Brown have done well in their roles, but in general, the Leafs could use more from their bottom six forwards.

Wilson does a good job of making sure Rosehill is only on the ice against other puncher types. In that context, he's done fine in his six minutes a game and is an upgrade over Colton Orr.

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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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