By the emoji: Midseason Leaf grades

    The season’s mid-way point seemed like a good enough time to evaluate our beloved Maple Leafs. We decided to use a tried-and-true measuring tool: emojis. Each member of the Blue Steam team was given full creative license. On a scale that includes ?, ?, and ??, here’s how each Leaf stacks up so far.

    Forwards

    Auston Matthews

    • Nick: Tears.
    • David: Future Calder/Hart/Lady Byng/Conn Smythe/Stanley Cup winner. One, maybe two this year.
    • ?‍❤️‍?‍? Spencer: My boyfriend.
    • ??? Andrew: This guy f****.
    • Brendan: Art in motion.
    • Trevor: The most popular name for kids born in 2017, for both Canada and the USA.

    Mitch Marner

    • Nick: GIF machine.
    • David: Damn fun to watch and effective.
    • Spencer: My other boyfriend.
    • Andrew: Marginally better than Dylan Strome, I guess.
    • Brendan: Keeping fellow young gun Tyler Bozak’s career running for longer than originally anticipated.
    • Trevor: Makes it look fun out there. The biggest smile on the team hands down.

    James van Riemsdyk

    • Nick: Better than Luke Schenn.
    • David: Ho-hum, another 25+ goal season for JVR.
    • Spencer: Offensively, he’s 12x more productive than Luke Schenn this year.
    • Andrew: Such good hands for a big guy. As always, he’s been incredibly dangerous around the net.
    • Brendan: Trade him for Adam Larsson.
    • Trevor: A consistent hockey player with a beauty of a hockey dad.

    Tyler Bozak

    • Nick: Performing much better in a sheltered role. Still a liability in his own end at times.
    • ?? David: Eating crow here: Young Bozak is fine/good. Has a cute baby now, which is impressive given that he himself is also a baby.
    • ?? Spencer: Always considered Bozo a barnacle on Kessel’s career. Nice to be proven wrong.
    • Andrew: Doing well as a 3C. A defensive liability at times, but creates tons of offense with his line.
    • ⚓ Brendan: Sometimes can weigh down linemates with poor d-zone play. Great in a sheltered role.
    • Trevor: Reminds me of King Midas, put him with anyone and he will give you gold.

    William Nylander

    • Nick: Unbelievable hair and talent.
    • David: Want to put ? here, but Babcock’s doghouse had other plans. He’s also definitely the coolest Leaf so the shades fit.
    • ?️ Spencer: Not sure if he’s underperforming or AM / MM are just shattering rookie expectations. Either way, hoping for more Will Nye in the second half.
    • ?‍♂️ Andrew: ⬅️️ The true source of his power.
    • Brendan: Zesty in the offensive end. Get this kid the puck more.
    • Trevor: Great athlete and ladies’ man, best is yet to come.

    Nazem Kadri

    • Nick: Has officially transitioned into a great two-way center. Crazy good value.
    • David: The perfect pest i.e. one that fills the net. Love that other teams/their fans hate him.
    • ?? Spencer: Excelling in every role, doing what’s needed to win. Good Canadian Kid.
    • Andrew: Maybe the best value contract in the league right now
    • Brendan: Able to lock down the second best player in the world.
    • Trevor: Never thought it would come to this… McDavid’s biggest rival. Really turned things around.

    Connor Brown

    • Nick: Rock solid player who had shown is offensive upside in the last 15 games.
    • David: Got his chance and is performing. Wish there were ginger emojis.
    • Spencer: He’s proven he can compete at every level. Why would the NHL be any different?
    • Andrew: A+ nickname, crushing it since he left the 4th line
    • Brendan: Stock is rising. Shameful self-promotion here.
    • Trevor: Snipeshow.

    Zach Hyman

    • Nick: Better at writing children’s books than scoring goals, but tries hard and has been better the last month.
    • David: Used to despise Hyman, but those xG numbers corroborating his obvious puck-digging/hunting skills … I’m confused.
    • ? Spencer: Does whatever’s necessary to get Matthews the puck. Not all heroes wear capes.
    • Andrew: Makes all the right plays to get the puck, but should he be on a scoring line?
    • ?️ ‍Brendan: His grit/strength brings much-needed balance. Improving NHL17 line chemistry rating. Super important.
    • Trevor: Absolute mucker, works the corners, 40/30 low centre of gravity Grit Grinder (credit to TSN).

    Leo Komarov

    • Nick: Best goal celebration of the year but has not been that great.
    • David: Still hilarious but not good this season.
    • ?? Spencer: Uncle Leo = babysitter.
    • Andrew: Leo pays the iron price.
    • Brendan: Great at being a pest, great in the locker room, not so great hockey player. I’d like to keep him around just for the novelty factor.
    • Trevor: Spends more time on Rosetta Stone than on the scoresheet but I like what he brings to the rink.

    Matt Martin

    • Nick: Patrick Laine probably could have used him. Too soon? Actually a much bigger fan of his since the start of the year.
    • ?? David: *Team America Matt Damon voice* MATT MARTIN
    • Spencer: I understand his bodyguard role, but still don’t think he’s worth $2.5 mil per year.
    • ⚓️ Andrew: Nice guy, tries hard, loves the game.
    • Brendan: Has twice as many fights as he does points. One piece of poo.
    • Trevor: A fighter, a grinder, a role model, a true character for such a young team and Mitch.

    Ben Smith

    • Nick: Babcock must be scared to send him down cause this guy is JACKED.
    • David: http://i.imgur.com/yNlQWRM.jpg
    • Spencer: Seth Griffith and Peter Holland each have more points with their new teams than Smith’s had all year.
    • ⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️⚓️ Andrew: Why does Ben Smith.
    • ? ? ? ? Brendan: Four poos. Four of them.
    • Trevor: Slight chance we get rid of him and bring him back again next year for some crafty reason.

    Nikita Soshnikov

    • Nick: I still can’t get over his first goal celebration.
    • David: Not much opportunity and, unlike Brown, flopped when he got his chance. Still think he’d be good in Hyman’s role.
    • Spencer: The other rookies are playing so well they may have cemented Sosh in a bottom-6 role (injuries pending).
    • Andrew: Not living up to the expectations he set last year, but come on, look who he’s stuck playing with.
    • Brendan: Stock trending downwards since last season. GET THIS KID SOME LINEMATES.
    • Trevor: There is some potential with this kid but he is overshadowed by the other Nikita in the room.

    Frederik Gauthier

    • Nick: This guy is good at puzzles.
    • David: Meh! This is also how you spell the noise a goat makes apparently.
    • Spencer: Another rookie making the most of his opportunity. If gets more physical he could make Martin obsolete.
    • Andrew: Not literally a goat.
    • Brendan: Working hard doesn’t make you a good hockey player. One poo for the fourth-line first rounder.
    • ?? Trevor: One girthy workhorse.

    Defence

    Jake Gardiner

    • ? Nick: Been the Maple Leafs best defenseman. Great at carrying the puck and getting the puck out of his own end.
    • ? David: Proud passenger on the Jake Gardiner hype train since 2012. Finally getting his due. Arguably the best Leafs D this decade.
    • ? Spencer: Fans have been trained to sees flaws. Start acknowledging his pros and you’ll learn he’s essential, like a good pair of jeans.
    • ? Andrew: Powerplay quarterback, zone exit wizard. Everything he does moves the puck up the ice.
    • ? Brendan: Breakouts make me want to dance. Leafs best defenseman.
    • ? Trevor: Still not entirely convinced but I like where he is trending. Great skater and a big shot.

    Morgan Rielly

    • Nick: Been good, but not great. Still great upside.
    • David: Wish he would put up more points.
    • Spencer: Leader among young D corps. Excited for what’s to come.
    • Andrew: He’s got chutzpah.
    • ✌? Brendan: Great player, but will end up being the second best defenseman on the Leafs.
    • Trevor: So much poise for a young stud and has still not hit his peak.

    Nikita Zaitsev

    • ? Nick: Been the Leafs best D-man behind Gardiner and Rielly. Nice surprise.
    • David: Great for a “free” pick-up. I think that and the novelty factor has some overrating his true impact.
    • ?? Spencer: Best European defenceman since Aki Berg, possibly Dmitri Yushkevich.
    • ?? Andrew: Nikita is a slick name.
    • Brendan: Is he all that special? Am I missing something? Team drives play better without him than with him.
    • Trevor: The second best Russian Leaf of all time, only to the original Alex the Great.

    Roman Polak

    • ? Nick: Read below.
    • David: Roman Poo-lak.
    • ?? Spencer: 99-times-out-of-100 I’d rather have Carl Gunnarsson out there. 100th time I’d rather have Raffi Torres.
    • ⚓️⚓️ Andrew: WHY WON’T YOU GET OUT OF FREDDY’S CREASE.
    • ? ? ? Brendan: Can he go join Robidas on vacation? Three pieces of poo.
    • Trevor: I don’t like how Lou makes him shave his beard because he is pretty scary with that on his face.

    Matt Hunwick

    • ? Nick: Good in the room.
    • ?? David: 7th worst regular defenseman (TOI > 400 minutes … 164 qualified) by relative shot differential this season.
    • ?️ Spencer: Just put Corrado in.
    • ⚰️ Andrew: No comment.
    • ?? Brendan: This guy plays over Corrado? Please. Go. Away. Two pieces of poo.
    • ? Trevor: At times he can be a ghost, which isn’t always a bad thing for a D-man, not very noticeable.

    Connor Carrick

    • ? Nick: As young D would, has been inconsistent and can struggle in his own end. Good offensive instincts.
    • ? David: Bullish on Carrick. Would like to see what he could do with more offensive opportunities.
    • ? Spencer: On a team with a weaker D corps, he needs to be impressing. Optimistic about the second half.
    • ? Andrew: Love his upside. Hits like a truck. Makes some really smart offensive plays.
    • ? Brendan: Goes missing some nights. Has not impressed this season. Has brief flashes of offensive touch, needs to get consistent.
    • ? Trevor: Scrappy player with some emotion. Looking forward to more of him on the ice.

    Martin Marincin

    • ? Nick: Who knows?
    • ? David: Injuries stink. Hope he plays over Polak or Hunwick if/when he returns.
    • ☯️ Spencer: Hasn’t wowed me, hasn’t disappointed me.
    • ? Andrew: Hurt.
    • ? Brendan: Been a fan of his for a little while, sucks to see him struggle with injury. Could be a decent add on the back end if we get him healthy.
    • ? Trevor: He scored a goal this year!

    Goaltending

    Frederik Andersen

    • ? Nick: He always looks sad but is playing well.
    • ? David: So glad he’s living up to (outperforming?) that contract.
    • ? Spencer: Expected him to get over his rocky start, didn’t expect him to play this much. Very solid despite his D6. I approve this trade.
    • ? Andrew: Flourishing right now. Providing really strong support despite a heavy workload in both games and shots.
    • ? Brendan: YOU SHALL NOT PASS.
    • ? Trevor: One of the most effective goalies in the league.