Noah Gregor takes a lap during warmups
Photo credit: USA Today Sports

One of the Leafs' biggest problems is actually the easiest one to fix

Published January 17, 2024 at 11:05

When you take a look at the standings, you'll notice that the Toronto Maple Leafs are 3rd in the Atlantic Division with a 21-13-8 record. They're 6th in the Eastern Conference and 12th in the NHL. Not a bad start to the season as they've officially reached the mid-season mark. However, it hasn't been a pretty season by any stretch of the imagination and while the goaltending has taken the brunt of the blame - as it should - the offense has been sliding, in large part because Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner are doing all of the heavy lifting with little goal support coming from elsewhere in the lineup.

The Leafs have games in hand on the teams in front of them and the teams chasing them, but in reality, it shouldn't be that close to begin with. With a 3-game losing streak already on tap, their schedule doesn't get any easier as they face the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Seattle Kraken, and the Winnipeg Jets (twice) to end out the month of January.

Now, it might not seem like the biggest deal, but the fourth line needs an overhaul. In terms of the worst xGF% for a Leafs player since 2007-08, Noah Gregor and David Kampf are currently 3rd worst and 6th worst respectively on a list that includes Colton Orr and Korbinian Holzer.

For his role, Gregor started off the season well but has tailed off since the calendar turned over to December with 2 goals and 4 points in 20 games, carrying a -5 rating, and averaging 12:16 TOI along the way. His impact is minimal at best and he currently holds career-lows in CF%, CF% rel, FF%, and FF% rel - by wide margins.

Kampf, on the other hand, has not been anywhere near the same player he was when he first joined the club back in 2021-22. He scored 11 goals and 26 points before improving to the tune of 20 assists and 27 points last season. Currently, he has 4 goals and 8 points but just 1 assist in his last 14 games. Similarly to Gregor, his analytical numbers are career-lows and some of the worst around the league, primarily his CF% rel and FF% rel.

Luckily, fourth line problems might be the easiest to solve as the Leafs currently have a myriad of options in the system to call up. Alex Steeves has 12 goals and 28 points, Kieffer Bellows has 15 goals and 27 points (but would require an NHL contract), Joseph Blandisi has 26 points, Nick Abruzzese has 24 points, and Logan Shaw has 21. Any player from the aforementioned list would help the listless, offensively inept fourth line that currently eats up anywhere between 9-13 minutes a night.

If the Leafs don't want to dip into their system, then they can look on the open market, perhaps at someone like Corey Perry. It might be a game of chicken to see which team bites first, but he will come at a very cheap cost, he brings a feisty element, still provides scoring punch, and has a boat load of experience that would help all throughout the lineup.

Beyond that, most 4th liners, even good ones, come at a relatively cheap cost on the trade market, so there are plenty of options available to the Leafs if they do want to explore a bit of a culture shift in the bottom six. The Leafs don't need to keep dipping into the same well with Kampf and Gregor when there are far better options within the organization and on the trade market that could make an impact at this very moment.

January 17   |   1066 answers
One of the Leafs' biggest problems is actually the easiest one to fix

Do you think the Leafs should rebuild their 4th line?

Yes, they can do a lot better46443.5 %
No, the 4th line isn't even a problem39937.4 %
It's a band-aid for a bullet wound20319 %
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