Potatoes and perception: Toronto’s divisive offseason


Depending upon whom you ask, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ offseason ranks as either a shrewd reboot or a baffling series of missteps.

At its core, the debate seemingly pits fans who rely upon “advanced stats” against those who base their opinions on gut reactions, win-loss records, intangibles or other more “traditional” factors.

The most succinct way to summarize the divide probably comes in the perception of GM Dave Nonis.

Against Nonis: 71 percent of voters at popular Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets voted that potato would have had a better offseason than Nonis.

For Nonis: Conversely, Leafs ownership gave him an emphatic stamp of approval by way of a five-year contract extension.

Lupul lets loose

In most hockey markets, the stat-loving crowd tends to argue in less mainstream circles, even as deeper analysis appears to be making in-roads to NHL front offices. In Toronto, the debates are prominent enough that Maple Leafs players are addressing them directly.

For one thing, Joffrey Lupul took to Twitter in July to lambaste the use of Corsi numbers, which essentially track shots in a similar way to how plus/minus tallies goals for and against.* (Click here for a more sophisticated explanation.)

It’s unclear what specifically left the 29-year-old so steamed, although many wonder if his strong 2013 results were fluky, as he connected on a staggering 26.2 percent of his shots on goal during the regular season.

Bozak vs. Grabovski

Still, the Lupul debate is a mere whisper compared to the divide between how the Leafs and some of their stat-leaning fans view centers Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski.

Members of the number-crunching community argue that Phil Kessel is the reason Bozak is a first-line center and many praise Grabovski’s puck possession skills. Conversely, the team gave Bozak a big extension and bought out Grabovski, who’s still looking for NHL work.

These rumblings prompted a public response, too. The discussions were widespread enough that Bozak addressed his critics in mid-July, stating that he’d gladly follow his coaches’ opinions rather than Twitter commentary.


Leafs fans are divided on a significant chunk of this summer’s moves, including the additions of David Clarkson and Jonathan Bernier.

Still, considering how long they’ve been waiting to see the Buds bloom into a legitimate contender, it’s likely that most of those fan-critics would be glad to be wrong. For the most part, anyway.

* – Although Corsi includes shots that miss the net and so on.

Quick on save percentage: ‘Those numbers don’t mean nothing’

Jonathan Quick
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With a quote that’s sure to raise the ire of the stats crowd, here’s Jonathan Quick on his .833 save percentage to start the season:

“That’s for people that don’t know the game. Those numbers don’t mean nothing. We’re 0-2, though. That number means something, so that’s something that we’ve got to get better at.”

(That quote, per LA Kings Insider.)

Quick allowed four goals on 22 shots in his last outing, a 4-1 loss to Arizona on Friday, after which head coach Darryl Sutter said of his star goalie: “He didn’t play very well tonight, did he?”

So even if Quick doesn’t think much of statistics, he should still be extra motivated for tonight’s home game against Vancouver, assuming he gets the start.

Last season, Quick’s .918 save percentage ranked in a three-way tie for 14th out of the 29 goalies who started 40 or more games.

Wild lose Graovac (groin) for 2-3 weeks

Tyler Graovac, Sam Reinhart,
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After making the Wild out of training camp, Tyler Graovac got some bad news on Tuesday — head coach Mike Yeo said Graovac would miss the next 2-3 weeks with a groin strain.

Graovac, 22, played just under 14 minutes in Minnesota’s crazy 5-4 comeback win over Colorado in the season-opener, but sat out Saturday’s win over St. Louis.

At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Graovac was a notable physical presence in the Wild lineup, and is an intriguing prospect — he impressed with AHL Iowa last year, scoring 21 goals and 46 points in 73 games.