From Connor McDavid to Ryan Miller

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Ryan Dadoun
·6 min read
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With just 56 games scheduled for the 2020-21 campaign, obviously no one was expected to reach the 100-point milestone. And yet, with nine games left on the schedule, Connor McDavid might get there. After recording another three assists on Wednesday, McDavid is on a 100-point pace. Presently he has 28 goals and 84 points in 47 contests.

He’s put up some truly unreal numbers this season. He has 26 multi-point games, 14 contests where he’s recorded at least three points, and he’s tallied three hat tricks. In terms of points-per-game, his 1.79 puts him in the same ballpark as Mario Lemieux in 2000-01 (76 points in 43 contests) and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96 (149 points in 82 contests). No one else in the salary cap era has come close to doing what McDavid is achieving this season from a PPG perspective.

You could argue that this season is so weird, particularly with its division-only play, that McDavid’s accomplishments are somehow less valid, but it’s not like the unique nature of this campaign has led to a dramatic offensive increase. In fact, scoring is actually down this season. The league average is 2.93 goals/game per team, which is a decrease from 3.02 in 2019-20 and the lowest level it’s been since 2016-17. If you want to argue that the Canadian Division is uniquely easy to score in, then I’d also note that while the Ottawa Senators have allowed 3.46 goals against per game and Vancouver is at 3.19 goals against, the other five Canadian teams are better defensively than the league average, so it’s not as if scoring is significantly higher in Canada than south of the border.

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What McDavid has done is valid. He’s a truly once-in-a-generation talent that is likely going to secure his third Art Ross Trophy and his second Hart Trophy.

As we’ve seen before though, McDavid alone – or McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for that matter – aren’t enough to carry the Edmonton Oilers in the playoffs and while the Oilers have made some strides to build a solid team around the duo, I’m actually starting to believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the squad that emerges from the North Division into the semifinals.

I’ll admit that to an extent I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Maple Leafs this season. Not that I thought they were a bad team, I just didn’t think they were a significantly better version of the group that lost in the qualifying round last season. Every now and then this season Toronto stumbled and it seemed like the wheels were starting to come off, but the Maple Leafs have found a way to right themselves and I got to admit, they are growing on me.

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The Maple Leafs obviously have star power with Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and William Nylander, who amount for a staggering 49.7% of their cap space, but in spite of those contracts, the Maple Leafs are deep too. Zach Hyman is a great role player, Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton can both provide veteran leadership and contribute offensively, Wayne Simmonds is a physical force, and the recently acquired Nick Foligno is fitting in nicely. On defense this team is pretty solid now with Morgan Reilly, Jake Muzzin, and TJ Bordie leading the charge, and while Frederik Andersen has been a mixed bag this season even if you ignore the injury issues, Jack Campbell has been terrific.

This generation of the Maple Leafs have been nothing but disappointments in the playoffs, but perhaps this is the year that things will finally click. They certainly look like a team finally starting to realize its potential.

From a team that might be realizing its potential to a goaltender who played well below it this season, it was announced today that Carter Hart will miss the rest of the season with a MCL sprain. Hart struggled mightily in 2020-21 with a 3.67 GAA and .877 save percentage in 27 contests, which is night-and-day when compared to his 2.42 GAA and .914 save percentage in 43 games this season.

This season was Hart’s first real misstep, and the big test will be how he responds to it. I certainly wouldn’t rule him out for next season. In fact, if people’s perception of him has dropped far enough that he ends up being a late round pick in next year’s fantasy drafts then I think he’s great value.

His struggles also speaks to a larger theme that I’ve touched on before: Goaltenders, even top tier goaltenders have wild swings season-to-season. It makes taking them early in drafts because – with rare exceptions like Andrei Vasilevskiy – there really aren’t any sure things when it comes to goaltenders. With McDavid you can draft him and feel comfortable knowing that he’s going to finish in the top-five in scoring as long as he stays healthy. You can draft Sidney Crosby and know he’s going to provide you with at least a point-per-game. There hasn’t been an equivalent level of relative safety goaltenders of this era.

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There used to be more relative sure things when it came to goaltenders though in the time of Dominik Hasek, Patrick Roy, and Martin Brodeur. More recently, Henrik Lundqvist was that kind of sure thing for quite a while and there was a time when Ryan Miller was close to that level too.

Miller has announced that he will retire at the end of this season and he’s closing the book on a great career. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2010 and he finished sixth in Vezina voting in 2007, but those were the only two seasons he got votes for that award. Instead, his career has mostly just been about him being solid year-after-year. He was the backbone of the Sabres and was solid in Vancouver. Over the last four seasons he’s been the backup goaltender in Anaheim and while that’s obviously not a glamorous role, he’s had some solid showings in that role.

His playing career will be remembered fondly.