I have always admitted that many of my readers of my THW Toronto Maple Leafs articles (a) have been fans of the Maple Leafs for much longer than me and (b) know a lot more about the team than I do. . In fact, time and time again, I am in awe of your knowledge as readers and sent to the internet to find out more about some interests that you have honed in my curiosity.
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Although I realize that I will probably not reach my goal, I am trying to catch up. One of the results of this catch-up started this project to deepen my own knowledge of the rich history of the team I cover. Also, I thought there might be a few other statistics geeks like myself who might find the numbers interesting. As always, I invite readers to weigh in on them too.
A word of caution about comparables
It’s curious to compare the stats over the many seasons the Maple Leafs have played. Hockey is the same game, but it’s also a different game over the years. The rules change; the equipment is modified; training techniques are improved; and, a variety of other contextual changes shape the game of hockey season after season.
Comparing current Maple Leafs players to alumni is fraught with pitfalls. In addition, the teams are stronger or weaker so it is difficult to compare the seasons. At the end of the day, these are just not equal comparisons. Specifically, today’s young Maple Leafs stars Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are hard to compare to former great Mats Sundin. All that aside, the deep dive statistics offer some surprises that I hope readers will find interesting.
The thread in this post
In this article, I have focused on an insight I gained from studying statistics in Maple Leafs history. It jumped out at me that the current squad has a number of players who, unless they leave the squad, will likely challenge the all-time leaders at the end of their careers.
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In this article, I’ll take a look at the stats they put together. Then I’ll compare those numbers to all-time leaders in Maple Leafs history. What I found – and readers correct me if you see it differently – is that several current Maple Leafs players may soon surpass the greats in Maple Leafs history.
One last comment. I limited my attention to Maple Leafs skaters (not goalies) so I could manage my analysis. Goalies are quite different, and if readers find this article interesting, I will likely follow up with a similar article on Maple Leafs goaltenders throughout history.
Statistical Comparisons Between Maple Leafs Skaters: All-Time and Current
The Maple Leafs are an Original 6 team founded in 1917 and known as the Toronto Arenas. In 1919-20 the franchise was renamed the St. Patricks and finally the Maple Leafs in 1927. In this article I will look at these skaters and try to pull some interesting facts from the history of the team to compare them with. current Maple Leafs players. .
Interesting Comparison # 1: Mitch Marner Rises Fast in Games Played List
Mats Sundin leads all Maple Leafs skaters with 987 games played. Darryl Sittler is second with 916 games played. However, Mitch Marner, 24, now sits in 25e place with 358 games played during his five seasons with the team.
Interestingly, this includes two seasons impacted by COVID-19 where Marner only played 59 games in 2019-2020 and 55 games in 2020-21. During the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, he played all 82 games. If he were to play 82 games next season, he would jump to 17e place, one game behind the 441 games played by Wendell Clark.
Interesting Comparison # 2: Auston Matthews is already in the top 15 scorers of all time
If you want to know how well Auston Matthews has played in his five seasons, look at his goals scored. He has 199 goals, which already puts him in 14e in law. If he scores 40 goals in the 2021-22 season, he would enter the Maple Leafs’ top 10 all-time scorers – behind Bob Pulford.
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The Maple Leafs all-time leader in goals scored is Mats Sundin, who has scored 420 goals. Sundin is the only player in Maple Leafs history to score more than 400 goals. second from Darryl Sittler with 389 goals; Dave Keon’s third with 365; and Ron Ellis is fourth with 332 goals. No one else has scored more than 300 goals.
Interesting Comparison # 3: Matthews is ranked first in confrontation percentage for all current players
Based on what I’ve seen over the past season, I believed Jason Spezza would be high on the Maple Leafs all-time faceoff percentage list. To his credit, Spezza has won faceoffs with a high 55.62%, which places him first among all current players with over 400 faceoffs. He is also fifth all-time. However, John Tavares is not far behind Spezza with 54.92 percent.
However, during his career with the Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews is the current player with the most face-offs (2,336 won, with 2,182 face-offs lost) for a rate of 51.70%. That number of head-to-head wins ranks Matthews fifth all-time, with Mats Sundin first with an incredible 9,886 face-offs won during his career with the Maple Leafs. When it comes to faceoff percentage, Yanic Perreault, who played five seasons on and off with the Maple Leafs between 1993 and 2007, had an incredible 62.36% of his faceoffs (1,463 wins and 833 defeats).
Interesting Comparison # 4: Only two current players have over 1,000 shots on goal
Dave Keon is the Maple Leafs all-time leader in shots on goal with 3,586 shots. Darryl Sittler ranks second with 3,142 shots, followed by two Swedish players – Mats Sundin (3,104) and Borje Salming (2,487). In comparison, only two current players have recorded more than 1000 shots on the net in their careers: these are Auston Matthews (with 1229 shots) and Morgan Rielly (with 1211 shots). Matthews ranks 22sd in hits of all time and Rielly ranks 23rd.
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In shooting percentage, Matthews scored at a high rate of 16.2 percent. However, that doesn’t even rank him in the team’s top 10 of all time. He is in 12e in law. The only other active player in the all-time top 50 in shooting percentage is John Tavares, whose percentage is 14.2. However, he only managed about half of the shots (646) during his career with the Maple Leafs, unlike Matthews.
Interesting Comparison # 5: In goals per 60 minutes, Matthews is the Maple Leafs all-time point guard
By 60 minutes in all situations (power play, even strength and power play), Matthews is the Maple Leafs all-time point guard with an average of 1,860 goals per 60 minutes. Surprisingly, Tavares ranks third all-time with an average of 1.447 goals per 60 minutes.
The current player next on the all-time roster is William Nylander, who averages 1.039 (he is ranked 17th all-time). They are the only current players to have averaged over 1.0 goals per 60 minutes.
Interesting comparison # 6: highest assists per 60 minutes – that’s Marner
By 60 minutes in all situations, Marner is the Maple Leafs all-time point guard in assists per 60 minutes with an average of 2,260 assists. The only other player in Maple Leafs history with an average of over 2.0 was Jason Allison who only played one season with the Maple Leafs in 2005-06 and scored 17 goals and 43 assists (for 60 points) in 66 games.
What’s also interesting is that, throughout Maple Leafs history, exactly half of the top eight all-time point guard for 60-minute assists played last season. Spezza is fifth all-time with an average of 1.765; Tavares ranks seventh with an average of 1.667; and, finally, Nylander ranks eighth with an average of 1.614.
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Surprising conclusion: Maple Leafs have great players – right now
After my first look at the stats of all time and comparing what I found with current players, I was surprised at how current Maple Leafs players performed. Are times different and things changed? Or, could that mean that these current young Maple Leafs players, by the end of their careers, will rank high in the history of all-time Maple Leafs greats?
I think of the latter.
The former professor (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for over 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and just being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies the way a professional athlete should act).
If you’re wondering why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who is also Jim Parsons – wrote for Hockey writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so that readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher”. The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher”. It became his pen name. Today, apart from writing for Hockey writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He can’t wait to share his thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs and how the sport is more involved in life. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf