The Case for Keeping William Nylander

So, Nicky thinks it’s time to move on from our beloved Swedish Calgarian zone entry wizard. I think it’s just a case of hair envy, but I suppose we can look into the hockey related reasons for keeping what I think is the best value contract out of the Leafs big 4 around.

Now, Nylander is far from being a physical presence, Wendel Clark he is not. He’s also not a defensive stalwart by any stretch of the imagination as Nick pointed out, and I won’t be arguing that. There are 2 things about young Mr. Nylander that make him worth keeping: He is young and talented. What he needs now is for someone to hold him accountable without simultaneously sewering him

The entire roster has a new lease on life right now. We’re seeing players, who were held back and downright fucked over under Babcock, now flourish under Sheldon Keefe’s guidance. Personally, I’d like to see what a few months of Keefe’s work can do to change Nylander’s game and round him into a more complete player. He’s already benched him once (to the utter orgasmic joy of Boomer Twitter) making it clear that the type of disinterested looking play that drives exactly half of Leafs Twitter up the wall will not be tolerated. He’s also acknowledged Nylander’s efforts on nights when he does well, like the other night against the Rangers where Nylander was dominant (to the utter orgasmic joy of Millennial Twitter) for large stretches. What I see is a coach who can help fill the gaps in Nylander’s game. We’ll never know if we trade him now.

We like to joke about zone entries, but it’s a proven fact that entering the zone with possession leads to more scoring chances. An outstanding example here, Nylander moves through the neutral zone with possession, makes a fantastic move at the blue line to keep the play onside then finds Matthews who proceeds to make the entire city of Buffalo his bitch.

Nicky Pizazz: That’s baby makin music right there ^

Now some, including a certain person we’ll just call K*nn*th like to mock the old “Willy curl back” which is funny, because when I was taught as a kid to curl back while entering the zone it was called the “Gretzky Curl.”

I’m not unreasonable. I’d love to see Willy use that big body to cut hard to the net once in a wh….

Well, nonetheless, he could do that more often. The point is, Nylander’s primary function is to move the puck into the zone and pass it to Matthews. Carrying it in and curling back to look for a pass is an effective way to do just that. Matthews and Nylander clearly have chemistry and work well together. And if the Marner-Matthews pairing gets more time, a certain John Tavares is going to need a winger, Nylander could slot in well with Tavares if need be, I wouldn’t be trading a top 6 winger away until that’s all figured out.

Now, let’s talk about that contract. 6.9M times 6 years, as far as cap hit goes anyway. Kyle’s “big mistake”. The “massive overpay”. The contract negotiation that birthed the ever so creative “Greedlander” (seriously people, do better) moniker. I’m going to break this down with a new advanced stat I’m working on, PPM! Points Per Million. We’ll compare current players on the Leafs and with comparable contracts around the league, and yeah, Pasternak is gonna have a better contract than Willy, get over it.

So what I did here was take each players current 82 game point pace and divide it by their cap hit, yielding some interesting results.

Nylander-8.61 PPM
Kevin Hayes-6.37

So, as we can see, Kevin Hayes’ contract sucks, Pasternak is a freak and Marner’s resurgence since coming back from injury has made his contract well worth it. Nylander is producing at a better value(points wise) than Matthews and Tavares, and sits just behind Panarin in terms of value per dollar. Now, I’m not hearing a lot of “Trade Panarin” talk out of Rangers fans. Is Nylander outperforming his contract? No, but it’s also not to the point where it needs to be offloaded.

Of course, in any situation where we’re talking about trading a player, the return has to be considered. If CBJ’s front office gets white girl wasted over Christmas and offers Jones or Werenski then you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. But trading away skilled young players is *usually* not the path to success. If it’s a backup goalie we want, I’d argue that Johnsson or Kapanen would be sufficient trade bait to lure a Georgiev or similar to Toronto at the trade deadline.

I’m also not of the opinion that Engvall or Mikheyev are by any stretch equal replacements for Nylander on either Matthews or Tavares’ wing. They are fast skaters and hard workers but they lack that lethal element that makes players like Nylander, Marner, Matthews and JT special. Keep one of them on that line, but don’t expect to see Nylander outside the top 6 for any stretch of time. If you’re taking Marner away from Tavares, you’d better be giving him someone else who’s close talent wise to play with.

My ideal top 12 right now is


I see Mango as the expendable player here. Dmitro Timashov has shown himself to be a solid 4th liner with some offensive touch that can slot in but without Nylander that lineup isn’t nearly as terrifying at the top. The entire identity of this team is based on speed, puck possession and scoring, Nylander checks all the boxes. He’s a good fit with this club, he’s still developing and he’s got a new coach who is willing to do what it takes to motivate him. At this point, trading Nylander for a RHD has the potential to the the worst trade since Hall for Larsson. And for that reason, I’m out.

Have fun arguing about this all through Christmas!


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