There’s a plague that seems to have infested the vast majority of hockey reporters: the need to measure individual ability by team achievement. It comes up all the time, despite the fact that measuring the ability of one by the results of 20+ is just plain crazy. Fun narratives aside, hockey is a team sport and a single player, no matter how exceptional, can only do so much.
Today’s example courtesy of Steve Simmons, who covers the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Sun:
A Sunday question: If Tomas Kaberle is the power-play specialist he is purported to be, how come the Maple Leafs have been 30th, 16th, 15th and 16th with the man advantage the past four seasons?
Let’s see if we can answer Simmons’ question. The point totals of Toronto’s leading power play point scorers from last year is a nice place to start:
- Tomas Kaberle: 25 points
- Phil Kessel: 16 points
- Matt Stajan: 13 points
- Lee Stempniak: 12 points
- Francois Beauchemin: 10 points
That’s the entire list of double-digit scorers. Personally, I’d suggest that the reason the Toronto power play stunk last season was because their leading scorer was a defenceman who ran away with the title. Kessel’s totals tie him for 98th overall in the NHL, and I don’t need to tell my readers that the other guys finished even further down the league rankings. Kaberle, meanwhile, finished tied for 30th in the league.
As sad as that is, it isn’t an aberration either. Over the last three seasons, Toronto has not had a single forward on the roster with more power play points than Tomas Kaberle. One has to go all the way back to 2006-07, when Mats Sundin recorded 34 points (four ahead of Kaberle, who ranked third) to find a year where the Maple Leafs had a forward on their power play outscore Kaberle.
Given that data, we really have two options:
- Option A: Decide that the Leafs’ problem is a boatload of crappy forwards on the power play
- Option B: Decide Kaberle is sabotaging everyone other than himself and thereby singlehandedly wrecking the power play unit.
Ah, who am I kidding. Undoubtedly we all agree with Steve Simmons; I’m sure Jason Blake, Matt Stajan and Mikhail Grabovski could easily have pushed the Leafs into a top-10 power play spot if only Tomas Kaberle wasn’t so busy trying to collect points.