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Analyzing the Maple Leafs’ turnover rates and what it means for the team

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If you’ve ever found yourself watching the Toronto Maple Leafs play while thinking “Gahd, they turn the puck over a lot,” it’s because they do. After one month of NHL action, they’re 31st in the NHL in turnovers as tracked by SportLogic. More on that in a sec.

“Turnover” is tougher to define than you’d think. For example, is a chip out of the D-zone to relieve pressure a turnover, even if it’s the smart play? Is a dump-in that gets quickly broken out a turnover? It’s all unfortunately subjective, as the NHL shows with their own tracking of the stat, which appears to hinge on the opinion of a single person at each arena on any given night.

Because of that, SportLogiq uses the clear explanation of “a change of possession,” which also gives us a much larger sample size, which helps us hone in on the answers we’re seeking. Further to the Leafs showing up at 31st in this stat (ahead of only the Winnipeg Jets, and just behind Vegas), the Leafs are 32nd out of 32 teams in the NHL in offensive zone turnovers.

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So those turnovers you’re seeing, they’re very real.

[radioclip id=5237121]

But they’re the ultimate “confirmation bias” team because if you love how the Leafs play, good news. This is strongly related to them having the puck all the time, as they sit third in possession time per game, meaning that even though you see lots of turnovers, it’s mostly related to them having the puck a whole bunch.

By turnover rate (as measured up against possession time), they’re actually eighth-best at taking care of the puck, turning it over just 15.5 per cent of the time. Their 21 per cent rate in the O-zone is 10th-best in the league, which brings me to my favourite Leafs turnover stat of all: in the neutral zone they’re FIRST in the NHL in turnover rate, handing it to the opposition just 6.4 per cent of the time, which is what directly leads to their huge O-zone possession totals. Only two teams in the NHL spend more time in the O-zone with the puck than the Leafs because of their great play through the middle.

I can’t think of anything that explains the Toronto Maple Leafs better than statistics that confirm both the people who see lots of turnovers, and the people who see a talented team that doesn’t seem to turn the puck over any more frequently than the next team.

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Here are those numbers:

You can’t really ask the Leafs to take care of the puck much better than they have this season despite the sheer volume of turnovers. They’re supposed to be a creative offensive group that makes plays, and with making plays comes the odd turnover.

A peek at the individual players reveals some of what you’d expect – the top names on the team have the most turnovers, but good turnover rates. But there are some surprises in there too. Keep in mind when you look at the totals, the players who turn the puck over the most around the league are Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak, and Mark Scheifele … i.e., good players. Auston Matthews headlines the Leafs’ list on the “totals” front, as you’d expect.

Have you got a friend who thinks Willy Nylander turns it over too much? I know I’ve heard that a few times, which is … flat-out wrong. He’s got the best “turnover rate” among all Leafs forwards. If you see a player who turns it over a lot, you may be subconsciously looking for it.

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By rates, the forwards who turn it over the most are almost exclusively bottom-six players. Nick Ritchie is dead last, which won’t surprise anyone who’s been watching, followed by Wayne Simmonds, Jason Spezza (somewhat surprisingly), David Kampf and Ondrej Kase. Michael Bunting is the only top-six forward among the guys with high turnover rates at 20 per cent, and that might tell us something about where he’d be best suited on a team with better left wingers.

Here’s the list before I get into the D:

Now take a look at the D list, where the top red number will probably catch you off guard.

Jake Muzzin has the worst turnover rate among Leafs defenders. He plays against the toughest competition of any of the D on the team, so that’s no small consideration here. But it doesn’t square with his reputation for being so sound. I think it’s fair to say his year hasn’t been up to his expectations. (Copy and paste those sentiments for Justin Holl as well.)

What is notable to me is that the guy they just gave the big deal to, the guy who plays the most on the team, has got the best turnover rate. Somewhat surprisingly, Morgan Rielly leads the Leafs in total possession time – just ahead of Matthews – and yet he turns the puck over a bit more than a tenth of the time. Rielly is a major “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” player for Leafs fans, though internally they seemed to recognize how important it was to keep him around.

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The Leafs may turn it over a lot, but they’ve also got it a lot. It’s a stylistic thing, and one I wouldn’t expect to change much barring significant roster changes.



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LeBron James on whether Kyrie Irving can help Lakers: 'Duh'

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LeBron James has no doubt that Kyrie Irving would make the Lakers a contender, but he noted that he’s not in the team’s front office.



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NBA Roundup: Gilgeous-Alexander drops 42 in Thunder win; Clippers top Knicks in OT

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points and Oklahoma City set a Thunder record for points to rout Houston.

Oklahoma City surpassed the 150 it scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 in a loss to the Rockets on Wednesday night. He bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals in the rematch, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists.

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Josh Christopher and TyTy Washington each scored 20 points for Houston.

NETS 125, WIZARDS 123

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NEW YORK — Cam Thomas scored a career-high 44 points off the bench and short-handed Brooklyn overcame a 23-point deficit to beat Washington.

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Edmond Sumner also set a personal best with 29 points. Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving was out with what the team said was right calf soreness a day after he told the Nets he wants to be traded.

The Nets, who also played without Kevin Durant (right knee MCL sprain), T.J. Warren (left shin contusion) and Ben Simmons (left knee soreness), also lost Seth Curry (left adductor) and Markieff Morris (sore left knee) in the game.

Kristaps Porzingis led the Wizards with 38 points.

SUNS 116, PISTONS 100

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DETROIT — Deandre Ayton had 31 points and 16 rebounds to help Phoenix beat Detroit.

The surging Sungs have won eight of 10 games, including a victory at Boston on Friday night, and have help on the way with Devin Booker nearing his return. The three-time All-Star guard has been out since Christmas with a groin injury, but dunked in warmups in another sign that he’s close to coming back.

Chris Paul had 14 assists for a balanced offence that didn’t need him to make shots, finishing 0 for 7 and without a field goal for the first time since March 18, 2017, when he helped the Los Angeles Clippers beat Cleveland by 30 points.

Mikal Bridges scored 24 points, Cameron Johnson had 20 points and Torrey Craig added 14 points for Phoenix. Saddiq Bey had 25 points for Detroit.

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BUCKS 123, HEAT 115

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had a triple-double with 35 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists and Milwaukee beat short-handed Miami for its seventh straight victory.

Jimmy Butler scored 32 points and Tyler Herro added 24 for the Heat, who had just nine available players. Notable injured Miami players included Kyle Lowry (sore left knee) and Victor Oladipo (sprained right ankle).

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Antetokounmpo had his third triple-double of the season and 32nd of his career. The 11 assists matched his season high.

Antetokounmpo’s latest triple-double came two nights after he scored 54 points in a 106-105 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. During the Bucks’ six-game winning streak, Antetokounmpo is averaging 39.4 points, 14.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists.

WARRIORS 119 MAVERICKS 113

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SAN FRANCISCO — Stephen Curry had 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds before injuring his left leg defending a drive and Golden State beat an undermanned Dallas team missing injured star Luka Doncic.

The Warriors said X-rays for Curry were negative, and he will have an MRI exam.

Draymond Green added 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for Golen State.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 25 points for Dallas. Doncic bruised his right heel in the third quarter of 111-106 home victory against New Orleans on Thursday night.

PELICANS 131, LAKERS 126

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NEW ORLEANS — LeBron James moved 36 points away from breaking the NBA career scoring record in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 131-126 loss to New Orleans on Saturday night that ended the Pelicans’ losing streak at 10 games.

James had 27 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists as he continued to close in on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record total of 38,387 points.

Brandon Ingram scored 35 points for the Pelicans.

CJ McCollum had 23 points, highlighted by a late 3 to help New Orleans close out the final 3:14 on a 9-5 run that kept the Lakers at bay.

Anthony Davis had 34 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers.

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CLIPPERS 134, KNICKS 128, OT

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NEW YORK — Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points, Paul George added 30 and Los Angeles beat New York in overtime.

After the Clippers lost a 17-point fourth quarter lead, Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer at the regulation buzzer tied it at 115.

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The Clippers scored the first four points of overtime and never relinquished the lead. Leonard connected on all of his eight free throws in the extra session, finishing 12 for 12 from the line.

Norman Powell added 24 points for the Clippers and Marcus Morris Sr. had 17. Los Angeles has won seven of nine.

Jalen Brunson, who returned after missing a game due to a non-COVID illness, led the Knicks with 41 points. Julius Randle had 28.

BULLS 129, TRAIL BLAZERS 121

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CHICAGO — Zach LaVine scored 36 points, DeMar DeRozan had 27 and Chicago topped Damian Lillard and Portland.

Nikola Vucevic added 23 points and 11 rebounds as Chicago won for the third time in four games, erasing a 17-point deficit in the second half.

Lillard scored 40 points for Portland, and Anfernee Simons had 27. But the Trail Blazers looked a little tired in the second half of their third game in four nights. Portland had won five of six, including a 124-116 victory at Washington on Friday night.

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Tre White's 22 points leads USC to hard-fought 80-74 victory over Washington

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Tre White led the USC Trojans to the hard-fought 80-74 win over the Washington Huskies. White led all scorers on the night with 22 points and added eight rebounds on the night.



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