How Do the Maple Leafs Compare From Last Year?

Nazem Kadri is enjoying a better season in Toronto. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Nazem Kadri is enjoying a better season in Toronto. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

All data comes from Corsica, Stats.HockeyAnalysis, and HockeyReference, and is through December 9th, 2016

After a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night, the Maple Leafs evened up their record to 10-10-5. Their 25 points are currently tied for last place in the Eastern Conference with the Islanders, who have struggled so far, but appear to be coming on as of late.

Since we are a little under a third of the way into the season, let’s check out how they stack up after the first 25 games of the season, compared to the Maple Leafs of last year.

The 2015-16 Maple Leafs were just 8-12-5 with 21 points through the quarter century mark last season. The offense was dry (tied for 25th in goals for) and the defense was less than stellar (tied for 24th in goals against), shown by their -15 goal differential. This year’s Leafs has two more wins, four more points, and an improved offense. They, so far, have shot up to 14th in goals for but only up two spots in goal against.

This year’s lovable Leafs are only slightly in a better position for a possible playoff run. Last season they sat 8 points out of a wildcard spot, but they played an even amount of games as other teams or more. So far this season, they are 10 points out of a playoff spot, however, they’ve only played 25 games and have as many as four games in hand on other teams. They also have a 27.5% chance of making the playoffs, as well (via @omgitsdomi). The Leafs and the Blue Jackets are the only two teams with the least amount of games played.

Even if they numbers in the standings don’t quite show it, the Leafs are an improved team than the standings indicate.

(Data via Corsica)

(Data via Corsica)

The numbers clearly show an upward trend. The Leafs CF% jumps up to over 50%, which is certainly helped by a CF differential from last year to this year at +122 and a SF differential of +70. Make no mistake, the Leafs improved offense isn’t just from a shooting percentage that increased by only 3%, but they are getting shots on goal.

It’s no coincidence that the more the shots that are taken, the more likely some of those shots land in the back of the net. Sure, it sounds cliché, but driving play and getting the puck on the net is only going to lead to goals. It also doesn’t hurt that the Buds have much better talent throwing these pucks on net than last year, but we’ll get to that later.

Even for all the non-believers that don’t believe in that line of thinking, just take a look at the scoring chances. They’ve had 80 more scoring chances for through the first 25 games this year. Again, it’s no mistake that all of these shots on scoring chances resulted the Maple Leafs to have increased their goal total from 36 to 59 in a year.

This team is a lot more offensively gifted than a year ago, there’s no doubt about that. However, the high flying offensively leaning game, leads to a lot of scoring on the other end.

Last season, for as bad as that team was, the Maple Leafs were being bailed out every game with solid goaltending. With Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer in net, they posted a really nice save percentage of .933. This year, that number has taken a considerable dip. With Freddy Andersen and Jhonas Enroth between the pipes, they have a combined save percentage of just .906, which ranks last in the league.

That number is on an upward trend though, especially with Andersen. His October save percentage of .876 had fans and writers questioning if bringing him in was the right move. Since the beginning of November, his save percentage on the season has risen to .911, after slapping a terrific .931 save percentage last month. If he could hover around .915 (league average), the Leafs and Andersen should be in good shape for the rest of the year.

Enroth was waived last week, probably because of a .872 save percentage in four starts. Karri Ramo is expected to be signed to back up Andersen and it remains to be seen if he’ll be much of an upgrade over Enroth. His career save percentage is .906, so if he can operate around that, the Leafs will be content with that.

As long as goaltending is gravitating towards league average, the Leafs should end up finishing much better than the 69 points they concluded with last season. Nevertheless, this means that the offense will have to continue to score, which is already doing better this season.

Through the first 25 games of the Maple Leafs’ 2015-16 season, they had six players who had over 10 points and only three over 15 points. The leading scorer was Tyler Bozak with 18 points. Compare that to this season and they have eight players with double-digit points, including six with at least 15 points.

James Van Riemsdyk leads the way with 20 points, while rookie phenoms Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have 19 a piece, while William Nylander has 16. This years’s Leafs are already getting a lot more individual production from their big players than they did last year and it’s proving to help out in their team stats, as well.

Last year’s team also didn’t have one player finish over 50 points or have anyone finish with over 2 points/60. This season they have six players that are projected to finish with over 50 points and so far, have four players above the two points/60 clip, with a fifth player just .09 points away.

Lastly, just one more aspect to consider while comparing the two seasons so far. Look at the ice time of the top six forwards and the top four defenseman. Last year’s game 25 had Roman Polak, Morgan Rielly, Matt Hunwick, and Dion Phaneuf as the top defenseman in ice time, and the top six forwards in ice time was Tyler Bozak, Byron Froese, Nazem Kadri, PA Parenteau, James Van Riemsdyk, and Michael Grabner. Not exactly scaring anyone, right?

Flash forward and now this top four in game 25 is Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev, and Matt Hunwick, while the top six is Tyler Bozak, Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, James Van Riemsdyk, Auston Matthews, and Connor Brown. Doesn’t this year’s version look significantly better than last year?

Comparing this year’s squad to last year makes this year’s team look like a perennial powerhouse. Not just the whole roster that is massively improved, but all the statistics point that they are on the right track to not be a laughing stock anymore. I bet next year after game 25, we’ll be potentially talking about the blue and white being a powerhouse. For now, just know that Maple Leafs first 25 gmes is a lot better than their first 25 games last year, even if it doesn’t show show in the standings.

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