Fun fact: the Toronto Maple Leafs are not a terrible hockey team.
There are a lot of bad teams in the NHL this year. Toronto is not one of them.
Now, I know what you’re saying. "What the hell are you talking about, Lambert?" is something many of you likely just wondered aloud, and on the surface, you are, of course, correct.
Getting just 40 points from 43 games isn’t great. Neither is the team goal total of 113, or goals against of 130. Nor is the fact that four guys have double-digit goal totals, and no one else has more than seven. And all their goalies are pretty bad except rookie callup James Reimer, who just got sent down again.
But that’s overall. If you want to look at things more in-depth, and realize how bad they aren’t, all you have to do is have a look at the games in which Ron Wilson doesn’t play a truly and embarrassingly bad defenseman named Brett Lebda.
Brett Lebda has played in 21 games this year, getting an average of just 14:18 of ice time, recorded one assist, and been a minus-18. And in the 21 games for which he’s appeared, the Leafs are an almost unthinkable 5-12-3, a 53-point pace. Without him, they’re 13-8-1, an honest-to-god 101-point pace.
Let’s consider this further. In Lebda’s 21 games, the Leafs have scored 50 goals (HEAVILY buoyed by a 9-3 W over Atlanta win in which he was somehow a minus-3) and allowed 72, or 3.43 per night. Scoring 50 in 21 is 2.38 per game, well below league average of 2.82, and even the Leafs’ more meager average of 2.63.
That means, in their 22 other contests, the Leafs have scored 63 goals (2.86 per night), a boost of nearly half a goal a game. It also means they only allowed 58 (2.63 per game), a decline of 0.8 per game.
I talked about the Cone of Jokinen earlier this year, but perhaps the far, far more apt name is the Cone of Lebda. This guy is a serious anchor around an otherwise perfectly good team’s neck.
And he’s in the lineup tonight. Go Flames.