Raking Leafs

Mixing metaphors and casting cliches about hockey and the Maple Leafs for the ether's pleasure since MCMLXVII.

7/21/2006

All well and wood

Last week James Mirtle published a feel-out post, asking his readers to make some predictions as to which players will surprise the rest of the league. I was tempted at the time to herald young Master Wellwood as a player who would put up numbers that would stop the monocled-Steen talk when it comes to the Leafs. I resisted because, frankly, I don't like to feed the Leaf-trolls. However, after seeing the Toronto Sun's article today, I felt compelled to re-visit the question: How good will Wellwood be during the 06-07 season?

Last year, Kyle put up 11g-34a-45pts in 81 gp, for a 0.55 production rate, with 22 pts coming on the power play. I'm not going to institute the scientific method to come up with a prediction, but several 'soft' variables point to a big increase in production.

First, the Leafs look to be far better equipped to score at even strength. Simply from a tactical viewpoint, Quinn barely adjusted to the new rules, and appeared content for at least half of the season to merely gain the red line then dump and change lines. 5-on-5 offense was virtually non-existent, by design. Scary, I know. Under Maurice, I anticipate a game plan that contemplates offense and defense in all three zones while at even strength for the entire season. This alone should provide a healthy boost in production by the crafty top-9 center.

Second, almost half of Wellwood's points were scored a man, or two, up. Assuming the Leafs, and the league, maintain a similar pace of penalties, in conjunction with Wellwood starting the season on the powerplay, there is reason to believe this figure will increase as well.

Finally, Wellwood himself offers reason to believe,
I really don't remember standing out and being a star in any game or anything like that...I'm going to go into camp with the attitude that I can be more patient with myself
Given Quinn's well known predilection for not giving rookies much of a chance, the pressure to perform was understandable. Without that pressure, and some added confidence with a new two-year one-way deal, Kyle should really start to mature as a play maker. And if Maurice actually gives him steady linemates?

Oh right, so I'm supposed to make an actual prediction after all that rambling. Barring injury, knock on (well)wood, a 50% increase is well(wood) within his capability. So I'll say 23g-49a-72 pts.

UPDATE: Eight days later, Ken Campbell of the Star is thinking Wellwood will put up somewhere in the area of 80 pts. It must be nice to have access to players and the coach so you can ask them questions. Maurice is thinking of slotting Kyle as the second line center flanked by Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov, Darcy Tucker, Jeff O'Neill or Alexander Steen. Maurice is also thinking of using Kyle on PP1.

Ken does a good job of extracting some quotes from Kyle ("Playing there, you definitely get a ton of what I call free points."), and gives an update on the Matt Stajan situation ("You can put on all the muscle you want, but if you lose your speed you're not going to be effective. Hopefully I can keep my speed and at the same time, I'll be stronger on my skates and stronger along the boards.")

Ken, it was nice working with you.

9 Comments:

  • At 2:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    As a long time leaf fan and reader of the blog .. just wanted to say keep up the good work!

     
  • At 12:40 PM, Blogger PPP said…

    I can't wait to see what Wellwood can do with some serious PP time. He is the kind of young, quick, creative player that the Leafs have been sorely lacking.

     
  • At 1:37 PM, Anonymous pete said…

    Scorers don't tend to make huge leaps in production from one year to the next. You're far more likely to see a Sedin-like or Horcoff-life slow, steady progression to #1-line status than you are to get a Eric Staal-like doubling or trebling of points.

    So I doubt your 50% gain prediction, but with ice time and a coach who likes him, I'd certainly pencil him in for 50-60 points this year - roughly a 10-30% gain.

    If he's there in the late rounds (Leaf bashers have no respect for the Buds' legit prospects) I'll probably grab him in my fantasy pool.

     
  • At 9:51 AM, Blogger ninja said…

    Anon, I appreciate the kind words.

    Pete, we'll have to wait and see, though I agree with your point about scorers' development. I was feeling generous so I went with the high-side of what I think is possible. Mid-60s is probably more likely. Just remember, Quinn had Wellwood on the fourth line at times last year.

     
  • At 7:26 PM, Blogger Ingmar "W" Bergman said…

    I havent seen Wellwood as much as you have. I only caught three Maple Leafs games on tv this season, but IMO Wellwood looks like he could have a brighter future than Steen. The games I saw Wellwood had a more well rounded game than Steen.

    Wellwood grasps the defensive part of the game and yet, he still has a lot of untapped scoring potential.

    Steen might just be the better offensive player now (although just barely) but he's no great player defensively.

    Just my thoughts, maybe I'm wrong from the limited amount I've seen of them, but I saw him a lot playing for Frölunda in Sweden and lets just say he was nowhere near being iced for the last minutes of games.

    Pardon my english, great blog and I've added you to my blogroll.

    Peace

     
  • At 12:01 PM, Blogger ninja said…

    Ingmar, thanks for adding Raking Leafs to your blogroll. I have done likewise with your blog.

    Your english is very good, so please don't be shy with adding your insight. In particular, I'm curious to hear more of your thoughts on Steen.

     
  • At 2:21 PM, Blogger PPP said…

    HA! I just noticed that Campbell saw fit to follow your lead in praising Wellwood! (vacations are not conducive to staying on top of things)

    It was interesting to see how he makes an offensive jump in his second season. Hopefully he keeps it up.

    Him setting up Mats could make quite a dynamic duo on the PP.

     
  • At 6:44 PM, Blogger MetroGnome said…

    In the games I saw him play I thought Wellwood was frequently one of the better players on the ice for the Leafs. I think, now that he has a chance to develop properly with Quinn gone, that he has a bright future.

     
  • At 9:27 AM, Blogger ninja said…

    PPP,
    A2Y has an interesting post on the MSM vs. Blogger phenomena.

    Metrognome,
    I hope you're right.

     

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