Predicting Which 5 Toronto Maple Leafs Will Have the Best Plus-Minus in 2014-15
The team has looked spectacularly good and amazingly awful within a span of a few games at different times. General defensive play continues to be an issue, but newcomers to the blue line Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak have added a level of steady play.
Based on the first 22 games and last season's numbers, let's predict the top five plus-minus players on the Leafs in 2014-15.
5. Nazem Kadri, Centre
Nazem Kadri sits 10th on the team in plus-minus right now with an even rating, but his scoring totals have to improve over the last 60 games of the season. He has just 10 points this season despite his exceptional puck skills.
While he won't be confused with a Selke Trophy winner, he has played better two-way hockey on many nights this year. Kadri doesn't often see the same elite defending as the top Leafs players so expect his plus-minus number to rise in the coming months.
Kadri should end up with a plus-minus rating well above even by season's end.
4. Leo Komarov, Winger
Leo Komarov has been extremely good in his return to Toronto. His 16 points in 22 games is great, although don't expect him to sustain it over the entire season.
He's been great on the forecheck and very reliable in his own end of the rink.
He's a plus-three already, and that number could and should increase slightly with the Leafs getting healthier and Komarov settling in even more with his teammates.
3. Tyler Bozak, Centre
Tyler Bozak finished fourth on the team in 2013-14 in plus-minus. He has played with elite wingers for a few seasons now, and his 20 points and plus-1 rating have him near the top of the heap in both categories.
Bozak is on pace to have one of his best offensive seasons as he could finish with somewhere close to 80 points based on this pace.
Even if he doesn't play great defensive hockey, excellent five-on-five offensive numbers should see him with a solid plus-minus number at season's end.
2. Cody Franson, Defenceman
Cody Franson has seen his plus-minus numbers improve dramatically from last season's team-worst minus-20 rating. He's been much better defensively at five-on-five.
He's also played a lot of minutes with Dion Phaneuf. While many fans love to rail against the Leafs captain, Phaneuf has had relatively good plus-minus numbers for multiple seasons.
Franson has all of the tools to be a top-pairing defenceman. This might be the breakout year in which he does this consistently.
Franson is a plus-seven currently which has him tied for third on the team.
1. Dion Phaneuf, Defenceman
Captain Phaneuf was one of seven skaters to post a positive plus-minus rating in 2013-14. He's leading the team in plus-minus in 2014-15 with a plus-10 rating.
His 11 points in 22 games has reflected his strong offensive play. He has just one goal in those 22 games and a shot percentage of just 2.6.
His career average is 6.1 percent so his goal total should improve. This should help improve his plus-minus number over the course of the season.
He's playing well in all three zones, and staying at the top of the plus-minus heap for the Leafs seems likely for the former Red Deer Rebels star.
All stats can be found on NHL.com unless otherwise noted.