This is Part 1 of a series examining how fans feel about the most prominent players on their favourite Canadian NHL teams.
To qualify, a player must be a top-nine forward, top-four defenceman, or top-two goaltender according to the team's CapFriendly depth chart who appeared in at least 10 regular-season games with the club in 2022-23.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a polarizing NHL franchise, which makes them the perfect subject for some opinion polling.
Approval rating is the most basic metric by which we measure a politician's popularity, and there's little reason why it shouldn't be applicable to a hockey player. Below you'll have the opportunity to vote on which Maple Leafs players you approve of and which ones you don't, based on their job performance.
Our hope is you'll enjoy making your voice heard while we gain a better understanding of how individual players are viewed by the fan base.
So let's get started:
2022-23 regular-season stats: 74 GP, 40 G, 45 A, 85 P — 57.50 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 P — 58.96 xGF% (5v5)
Matthews' production fell back to earth after a 2021-22 campaign that put a Hart Trophy on his mantle. He played through a wrist injury for much of 2022-23, which seemed to affect his production, but it's hard to pin down exactly how much.
Despite the ailment, he produced the second-highest point total of his career, posted strong possession numbers and earned down-ballot Selke Trophy consideration. His playoffs were a mixed bag as he had an outstanding series against the Tampa Bay Lightning (five goals and four assists in six games), but fell silent against the Florida Panthers (two assists in five games).
2022-23 regular-season stats: 80 GP, 30 G, 69 A, 99 P, 55.18 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 3 G, 11 A, 14 P — 56.11 xGF% (5v5)
Marner was widely considered to be Toronto's MVP during the regular season after setting a career-high in points and taking his defensive game up a notch. Placing third place in Selke Trophy voting was impressive considering it's an award that hasn't been won by a winger since Jere Lehtinen in 2003.
The 26-year-old Marner exploded out of the gate in the playoffs with 11 points in Toronto's first five games. Like Matthews, he was unable to sustain his momentum and managed just three points in his last six appearances.
2022-23 regular-season stats: 80 GP, 36 G, 44 A, 80 P — 53.87 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 4 G, 4 A, 8 P — 51.81 xGF% (5v5)
The Maple Leafs captain produced points at a similar rate to his recent seasons, but took some flak for doing a high percentage of his damage on the power play. He also played a couple of games on the wing after the acquisition of Ryan O'Reilly, and his future up the middle began to come into question.
Tavares did not enjoy a strong playoff run, though he did produce one notable moment, sending the Maple Leafs to the second round for the first time since 2004.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) April 30, 2023
2022-23 regular-season stats: 80 GP, 40 G, 47 A, 87 P — 53.87 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 10 P — 55.62 xGF% (5v5)
Nylander produced a career year in 2022-23, managing 40 goals for the first time and dishing out more assists than he ever had before. Criticism of the Swedish sniper's intensity cropped up here and there, but seemed less acute than in previous seasons.
His playoff performance was roughly in accordance with what he did during the regular season. He started strong then slumped at the end of the first round and beginning of the second before scoring in the Maple Leafs' final two games.
2022-23 regular-season stats: 73 GP, 20 G, 19 A, 39 P — 51.32 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 P — 52.01 xGF% (5v5)
Järnkrok managed career-highs in goals and points in 2022-23, but some of that can be explained by a bloated shooting percentage (18.9%) and the fact he got a surprising amount of ice time alongside Matthews and Marner.
The 10-year veteran played up and down the lineup and chipped in on special teams throughout the season. He went cold in the playoffs after scoring in Game 1 of the first round.
2022-23 regular-season stats: 82 GP, 7 G, 20 A, 27 P — 48.77 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P — 39.23 xGF% (5v5)
Kämpf played an extremely defensive role for the 2022-23 Maple Leafs with an even-strength offensive-zone start percentage of just 27.2% during the regular season and 12.0% in the playoffs.
The 28-year-old produced very little offensively, but deserves some credit for the fact Toronto battled other teams to a 45-45 stalemate at even strength when he was on the ice across the playoffs and regular season. That's meaningful considering he was often buried in the defensive zone against tough competition.
His defensive work earned him a four-year contract in the offseason, and he's expected to be the team's third-line centre after working on the fourth line — and penalty kill — last year.
2022-23 regular-season stats (w/TOR): 19 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 P — 41.93 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 9 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 P — 44.73 xGF% (5v5)
Lafferty did not make much of a statistical impact in his brief time with the Maple Leafs, but his speed and inclination to throw his body around stood out. The aggressive winger delivered 54 hits in 28 games wearing the blue and white, often skating on the fourth line.
The 28-year-old provided more secondary scoring with the Chicago Blackhawks prior to his trade to Toronto, but he was receiving almost two more minutes of ice time per night with the Hawks.
2022-23 regular-season stats: 65 GP, 4 G, 37 A, 41 P — 50.90 xGF% at 5-on-5
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 4 G, 8 A, 12 P — 55.84 xGF% at 5-on-5
Rielly is coming off a peculiar 2022-23 campaign because his regular season was undoubtedly disappointing while his playoff performance was outstanding.
There's a case to be made that Rielly was the team's most effective skater in the playoffs, playing more aggressively and looking for his shot. Only three defencemen produced more points than Rielly in the postseason despite the fact he played in just two rounds.
2022-23 regular-season stats: 58 GP, 2 G, 12 A, 14 P — 55.88 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 0 G, 3 A, 3 P — 54.12 xGF% (5v5)
Brodie had virtually no offensive impact in 2022-23, but that wasn't unexpected for the stay-at-home blueliner. More importantly, he continued to log more than 21 minutes per night — including 2:57 on the penalty kill— and produced strong possession numbers in the process.
His playoff performance didn't stand out in a particularly positive or negative way, but it is noteworthy that Toronto saw Luke Schenn as a better option alongside Rielly on the first pair. Brodie turned 33 during the offseason and while any chatter about buying him out was nonsensical, he's not quite at the height of his powers.
2022-23 regular-season stats (w/TOR): 21 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 P — 53.05 xGF% (5v5)
2022-23 postseason stats: 11 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P — 47.88 xGF% (5v5)
Like Brodie, McCabe doesn't have much to offer offensively, but he wasn't as steady as Brodie after coming over from the Blackhawks in a midseason deal. The 10-year veteran had some shaky moments in his first postseason experience, posting poor possession numbers while Toronto was outscored 12-5 with him on the ice.
To be fair, he logged some tough minutes with a 66.1% even-strength defensive-zone start rate, but he didn't provide the shutdown work the Maple Leafs were hoping for. On the other hand, he absolutely delivered from a physicality standpoint with 47 hits in 11 games — including some bone-rattling collisions.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights & News (@HockeyDaily365) April 19, 2023
2022-23 regular-season stats: 27-10-5 with a 2.33 GAA, .919 SV% and +17.4 GSAA
2022-23 postseason stats: 4-4 with a 3.13 GAA, .898 SV% and -1.6 GSAA
Samsonov shattered expectations in the regular season, posting the fifth-best save percentage among netminders with at least 40 games played.
The playoffs were a different story as his overall numbers declined sharply and he was knocked out of the postseason with a neck injury.
Despite the poor playoff stats he had one shining moment. He helped propel the Maple Leafs to a Game 6 victory over the Lightning in a contest where Tampa Bay had 66.7% of the high-danger chances, 58.52% of the expected goals, and outshot Toronto by 10.