My colleague Andrew Forbes shared a curious statistic with me recently, the Toronto Maple Leafs “Core Four” of John Tavares, William Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner have combined to score 49 percent of all the points for their team. They also take up 49 percent of the team’s salary cap.
In this post, I’ll look at how these four players are doing with 25 games completed in the 2022-23 regular season.
Looking at the Core Four Statistics
A Look at the Core Four’s “Primary” Scoring Statistics
The chart below shows how the four players are doing scoring-wise this season. Fortunately, all of them have been able to play every game of the season. There was a concern that Tavares might not start the regular season with the remainder of the team; however, the oblique injury he suffered during training camp healed faster than expected.
|Player||Games||Goals||Assists||Points||+/-||Penalty Minutes||Time on Ice|
Notes: As shown, Marner is the team’s leading point producer with 29 points on the season. Surprisingly, Matthews is not the team’s leading goal scorer. That would be Nylander. Matthews is tied with Tavares with 12 goals on the season.
Marner leads the Maple Leafs forwards with 21:28 per game. Matthews is also logging over 20 minutes (20:24). There was a hope the team would be able to cut down ice time for the top-six players – especially Marner and Matthews.
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However, although the team’s been winning, the games have been close. It’s hard for Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe not to throw out the lineup he thinks will win, and that lineup includes his two go-to players (Marner and Matthews). As well, with Marner chasing the franchise record of consecutive games with at least a single point, it’s tough to not give him the best chance to do so. That means ice time.
A Look at the Core Four’s “Secondary” Scoring Statistics
For this chart, I have gathered what I call secondary statistics. They are probably no less important than the primary statistics, but they are statistics that are often ignored when comparing players on an NHL team.
|Player||Power-Play Goals||Power-Play Assists||Short-Handed Goals/Assists||Shots On Goals||Shots On Goal %||Game-Winning Goals||Face-Off %|
Notes: Marner has not scored a power-play goal; however, he does lead the team in power-play assists with 10. Tavares has been a beast on the power play and leads the team in power-play points with 14. He also leads the team in power-play goals with seven. Marner has also never taken a face-off on the season.
Not surprisingly, Matthews leads the team in shots on goal with 104, with Tavares a distant second with 84 shots on goal. Nylander leads the team in shooting percentage with 17.3. Although Matthews’ shooting percentage has improved since the beginning of the season, he’s still last among the Core Four with a percentage of only 11.5. However, Matthews does lead the team with two game-winning goals.
None of the Core Four has scored a short-handed goal, but Marner does have a short-handed assist.
How Each Core Four Player Has Done this Season
Marner is currently chasing the franchise record of 19 straight games with at least a point. He’s been held off the scoresheet only twice this season. That said, his season hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. In an overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, he made a couple of defensive gaffs that cost his team a win.
In comparison with other NHL players, Marner is tied for sixth in assists and is in 13th place with 29 points. Among NHL forwards, Marner sits in eighth place in average TOI with 21:28.
Although Matthews hasn’t put together a hot streak in the 2022-23 season, he might be starting one. He’s scored a goal in each of his last three games and has six points in those games.
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Matthews is still producing, but his game is different this season than last. Still, the 25-year-old star is leading the team in different ways. Against the Detroit Red Wings, he led his team with five shots and five shot blocks.
Matthews scored his 200th even-strength goal this season. And he’s done it without having multiple-goal games. His only multiple-goal game was on Nov. 5 against the Boston Bruins.
Against other NHL players, Matthews is tied for 16th place in goals, 19th for points, and seventh in power-play goals.
Tavares started the season on a hot streak. However, over his last three games, he’s only had a single assist. Until these three games, he was on a four-game streak where he scored three goals and added four assists.
Tavares’ offseason hard work seems to have given him extra speed and improved his strength and agility. At 32 years old, he has not slowed down. He scored his 400th career goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins and scored a hat trick against the Philadelphia Flyers in early November.
In comparison with other NHL players, Tavares is tied with Matthews and others for the 16th spot in goals scored. He’s tied for fourth place in power-play goals. However, he’s in 13th place with 250 face-off wins.
Although Nylander didn’t have a point in his last game, his first-period goal against the Red Wings was his ninth in 12 games. He’s also improved in his plus/minus rating. In fact, he’s only been a negative plus/minus in five games this season. In 2021-22, he was a minus-9 on the season.
The 26-year-old right winger has exactly 25 points in his 25 games. Recently Nylander tied Maple Leafs’ great Borje Salming for the second-most goals (148) by a Swedish player in team history.
Compared with other NHL players, Nylander is tied for 10th in goals. He’s also tied for 32nd place with a large group that includes Alex Ovechkin and Johnny Gaudreau. All these players have 25 points.
The Core Four Is Leading the Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs have a winning record this season in part because of its Core Four players. As noted at the start of this post, they’re scoring almost half of the team’s points. At the same time, they’re taking up almost half of the team’s salary-cap space.
Where the team ends up on the season has a direct correlation to how these four players do. Obviously, any NHL team is more than four players; however, the way this team has been constructed, these four are pulling their weight.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf