A Look Back at the Leafs Blueline

The Maple Leafs off season is in full swing and the action is expected to pick up with the draft and buyouts starting in two weeks. With a lot of people looking forward we wanted to take a look back at the defenseman of the 2013 season. Here is a breakdown of the Maple Leafs defense this season:

Dion Phaneuf

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

48

9

19

28

-4

131

25:11

53

91

Dion Phaneuf is the workhorse on the backend, he matches up against opposing team’s top nights and is relied upon to quarterback the powerplay and the penalty kill.  Near the end of the season and into the playoffs Phaneuf looked overworked.

Phaneuf has a tendency for giveaways and does not have good accuracy on his shot, missing 41 shots on net, hitting the net 88 times means he misses the net almost every third shot he takes. A top 4 defenceman who can help alleviate the pressure on Phaneuf should help him improve all weak facets of his game.

Cody Franson

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

45

4

25

29

+4

124

18:47

40

59

Franson proved all the doubters (Im looking at you Ron Wilson) wrong with a very solid season for the Maple Leafs. Despite seeing just 18:47 of ice per game Franson led the defenseman in backend production with 29 points. That production level prorated to 82 games would be 52.8 points

Franson looks to have locked up a top 4 defense spot on the Leafs blueline for next season and after his impressive playoffs many fans are excited to see him take the next step.

Carl Gunnarsson

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

37

1

14

15

+5

78

21:16

32

71

Gunnarsson was battling injuries all season and missed 12 games, the injury hampered his offensive game but he was still solid on the backend. Gunnarsson has shown he is prone to giveaways and sometimes has trouble finessing the puck.

Gunnarsson does what is asked of him and under new bench boss Randy Carlyle he stepped up the hitting and bought into the “finish every check” mantra that Carlyle believes in. If the Leafs do pick up a top 4 defenseman in the offseason Gunnarsson is most likely to drop to the 3rd pairing.

Mike Kostka

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

35

0

8

8

-7

49

22:04

31

66

Kostka started the season an unknown player getting big minutes for the Maple Leafs. Kostka was often paired with Dion Phaneuf in the first half of the season and got 22-24 minutes on a consistent basis.

Kostka began to struggle in the second half and was proven ineffective against more physical forwards. Kostka has the skills and work ethic to be an NHL defenseman, though he needs to work on his timing and as he gains more experience it will come more naturally for him. Kostka may not fit in the Leafs plans as Holzer is looking to be the 7th defenseman next season.

Mark Fraser

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

45

0

8

8

+18

153

16:57

26

102

Fraser was the pleasant surprise of the season, he was picked up in a minor league swap at the 2012 trade deadline and ended up becoming a fulltime 3rd pairing NHL’er. Fraser’s +18 ranked him near the top of the league.

Fraser likes to throw the body and has no hesitation about blocking shots (see Game 4) and sacrificing for the team. Fraser is not afraid to drop the gloves and regularly fights enforcers. A 3rd pairing D man as the season progressed Fraser played 20+ minutes some nights and has shown the ability to step into a top 4 if needed.

John Michael- Liles

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

32

2

9

11

-1

45

18:46

22

52

With Franson and Kostka taking regular spots, Liles was the odd man out at times this season. Liles has great puck movement abilities and like Gunnarsson made a concrete effort to start hitting more and blocking shots.

With Jake Gardiner seemingly ready for his top 4 role with the team it appears Liles is on his way out. There has been talk of Liles being bought out this off season, though the Leafs could possibly find a trade that would be suitable for both sides.

Korbinian Holzer

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

22

2

1

3

-12

61

18:30

15

54

Holzer enjoyed some success playing 22 games in the NHL this season, he uses his big body to deliver some big hits and clear the net. Paired with Fraser in his NHL stint the pair made a solid and hard hitting 3rd combination.

Holzer may not be ready for a full 82 game NHL schedule but he has earned the 7th spot with the Leafs, which leaved Mike Kostka’s future with the team up in the air.

Jake Gardiner

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

12

0

4

4

0

13

20:28

12

15

Gardiner was a regular on the blueline last season but this year under coach Randy Carlyle he only saw action in 12 games. Gardiner proved he is ready with his solid playoffs, forcing himself into a top 4 role with the Leafs paired with Franson.

The extra ice in the AHL seems to have done Gardiner good as his timing has improved and now that he has the coach’s confidence expect big things from Jake Gardiner.

Ryan O’Byrne

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

+/-

Hits

ATOI

Giveaways

Blocked Shots

8

1

1

2

+4

28

17:10

5

20

Ryan O’Byrne was a solid deadline pickup to help bolster the Leafs defense heading into the playoffs. He saw just 8 games of action but amassed 28 hits in that span and blocked 20 shots. O’Byrne plays a simple game and uses his big body to clear the net and win the battles in the corners.

O’Byrne’s lack of speed is what keeps him from reaching higher than the 3rd pairing on most NHL teams as he usually loses the foot battle. While serviceable it is not expected that the Leafs bring O’Byrne back for the 2013-14 season.