Friday, October 28, 2011

Elite Players' Break Out Seasons: Individual Data

Building on yesterday's post regarding players' breakout years, I've put together a couple more graphs so people can see some more individualized data.

If you're reading this blog, chances are you're a Leaf fan.  The key guys I wanted to look at were Kessel, Kadri, and Colborne.  Given this, I've provided data for all players who have exceeded 70 points in past three seasons who were drafted between the 3rd and the 20th pick overall in their respective drafts.

I've received a handful of requests asking to put some controls into the data set to try and mitigate some of the outliers.  When dealing with such a relatively small data set, I'm reluctant to pull out any of the numbers, so what I've done is provide all cases that fall within the defined ranges but presented each of them individually so you can draw your own conclusions (while of course offering some of my own).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When Do Elite Players Become Elite? A Look At Kessel, Colborne, and Kadri

Joe Colborne and Phil Kessel have LeafNation abuzz.  Phil Kessel has been tearing up the NHL and appears to have taken his game to an entirely different level this season scoring 15 points in 8 games.  Joe Colborne is doing much the same in the AHL, putting up 12 points in 6 games to start the year.

Part of what's so exciting about the emergence of these two players is their age.  With Kessel at 24 and Colborne at 21, these guys could be leading the Leafs for a long time.

Tempering this excitement in Kessel's case is the question of whether or not it can last.  He's been a streaky player in the past so the question with Phil is whether this is a step forward in his development or just another one of his infamous streaks.  In Colborne's case, I've heard people question whether or not he should be in the NHL at 21 if he were a true 'blue chip prospect'.

These questions, along with a couple of articles over at PPP by Steve Burtch (The Apprenticeship of Joe Colborne) and Bcapp (Nazem Kadri is a Bust... Or is He?) inspired me to take a look at when elite players develop and whether we should be excited (in the case of Phil Kessel and Joe Colborne) or concerned (in the case of Kadri).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crowded House: Making Space For New Talent - Defense

Jake Gardiner really threw a wrench in things.  The plan coming into this year was undoubtedly to send Gardiner to the AHL where he played only 10 games last season.  Conventional thinking is that young defensemen need professional seasoning before they make the jump to the NHL.

And yet, after 5 NHL games, Gardiner has a pair of assists and is even in the +/- column.  He's looked poised with the puck and his defensive lapses have been manageable and declining of late.  In short, he looks ready.

Dion Phaneuf is lighting it up to start the year and looks like the number one defenseman we hoped we were getting.  He's got 9 point in 7 games, he's +6, and he has clearly improved his defensive game under Ron Wilson.

Over at PPP, Steve Burtch put together a piece on Korbinian Holzer and Juraj Mikus where he looks at the development of a couple of our more unsung prospects.  Holzer in particular looks like he'll be a solid depth defenseman in fairly short order.

Add to this Jesse Blacker's strong play last season in the CHL and good start with the Marlies and Keith Aulie's potential as an NHL defenseman and you've got a crowded house.  Following up on yesterday's look at the center position, I've put together a look at some defensemen who will be pushing for roster spots over the next couple of seasons.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crowded House: Making Space For New Talent - Centers

Leaf fans, it seems, are always talking about cupboards.  The cupboards were bare when Brian Burke took over, and now they seem to be a little overfull.  For years our organizational depth has been laughable and our prospect pool was almost non-existent but now our management team is faced with a different challenge.  How do we make space for these guys?

Oddly, the Leafs' greatest need is at center and their best depth is at center.  What?

The Leafs need a true number one center, no doubt about it.  Tim Connolly is a good player, as is Grabovski, but neither are ideal longterm fits for Kessel.  Having said this, both are great second line centers.

Bozak and Lombardi are very good third line centers who bring a defensive element.  Lombardi has great speed, Bozak has been strong on faceoffs and has shown this season that he can fill in with Kessel in a pinch.

David Steckel has won better than 61% of his faceoffs so far this season and seems to win all the key draws.  When the game is on the line, you can bet that Steckel will be the one taking the draw.

Those are five NHL centers, and only Grabovski's deal is expiring.  Given the season he put together in 2010-11 and all of the positive accolades he's received from Ron Wilson and Brian Burke, you would expect that the team brass would like to keep him around.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Big Guns Are Firing

The Toronto Maple Leafs entered the 2011-12 NHL season as a team that was expected to compete for a playoff spot, but also a team most predicted would fall short. 

When examining the team's roster heading into a new season, a lot of people (myself included) have a habit of picking around the edges and looking for minor improvements or guys who had down years that might be able to provide some added production.

Three games into this year it seems that we should have been looking at our stars.

Phil Kessel has 8 points (5 of which were goals) in 3 games to start the year.  It goes without saying that those are incredible stats but those are incredible stats!  Even more impressive (or at least more surprising) is that Phil Kessel is +7.  Say what you will about +/- as a statistical indicator, it does measure results and hockey is, after all, a goalscoring competition.