The Toronto Maple Leafs had a decent trade deadline by anyone’s standards.
While their opponents paid dearly to add deep plays, the Toronto Maple Leafs added two plays to their blue line.
Mark Giordano is by far the best defender who has changed teams, while Ilya Lyubushkin, is younger, cheaper, better and cheaper to acquire than Josh Manson (Col) or Ben Chiarot (FLA).
Even their most ridiculous reviewer couldn’t say much about the Leafs adding better defensemen than their rivals while paying less to do so.
The only non-seller who did better than the Leafs was the Panthers who added Claude Giroux, the best player available, at least according to any statistical analysis of how any of the players have played this season so far.
However, watching the first two games of the Mark Giordano era, I was forced to reconsider, as it has been absolutely unreal so far. He’s 38, so let’s not get too far ahead of us, but if (and that’s a big “if”) he can play at that level, then the Leafs added a #1 defenseman and grew their team tenfold, for almost nothing. (naturalstattrick.com statistics).
Toronto Maple Leafs and Mark Giordano
In the first period of last night’s game (the best the Leafs have played all season, and one that I’m not going to waste time discussing with negative people), Mark Giorano made a defensive play that fans of the Leafs might have previously thought impossible.
I couldn’t find the video, but he basically turned around and casually stole the puck, preventing what would have been a very dangerous chance against. Auston Matthews does things like that in the offensive zone when he loses the puck, but a Leafs defenseman? Never.
In both games I was struck by how cool he is, how he’s always in the right place, how the team is just better with him on the ice. It’s like watching a Tampa game with Victor Hedman.
The game seemed to me to be full of such games, and here’s the problem: I always try to question what I see, because I know I’m (like everyone else) susceptible to confirmation bias. Maybe I’m just hoping Gio is the savior, so I see what I want to see, so let’s get to the numbers.
Against Montreal, Giordano played 16:23 of 5v5 hockey and posted a 71% puck possession odds, while the Leafs outscored Montreal 9-3 (75%) while getting 80% high-danger chances and an expected goal rating of 74%.
OK, turns out the numbers match up in my eyes – for 2 x games so far, Mark Giordano has been the elite #1 versatile defender the Leafs have always lacked.
It’s the kind of game where you can’t really learn anything, unfortunately. The numbers are just too good. These are the best numbers in the world. We can’t expect that. Not regularly.
After two games, the shots are 15-6 in favor of the Leafs when Gio is on the ice, and he has an expected goal ratio of 75%.
It’s a very small sample, and he’s one of the oldest players in the NHL. He’s the same age as Jason Spezza, who, while we love him, is clearly not the player he used to be. That’s why I wasn’t interested in adding Giordano before the deadline and it’s as long as I remain skeptical that he will continue.
However, if he does, then wow. There’s no way to tell what it’s like to add a #1 defenseman to what was already the 4th-best team (by point percentage) in the NHL, without resorting to over-the-top hyperbole.
If Mark Giordano can consistently do what he’s done the last two games, then the Leafs have won the ten-mile trade deadline and no one is even close to theirs. I dare not even think it could be this good, but damn it, it’s been fun watching it so far.