The Toronto Maple Leafs did something positive for their franchise this past Saturday when they signed free agent center and Penn State standout Casey Bailey to a 2 year deal. Bailey’s season had just ended with the Nittany Lions due to their loss against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
The 23 year old had one more year of eligibility in the NCAA, but his play has proved many that he is ready for an NHL opportunity. Bailey was a key contributor almost every night for Penn State and finished the season top ten in the nation in goals and also led the nation in total shots on goal and shots on goal per game.
There had been rumors that the Buffalo Sabres had interest in Bailey, but General Manager Tim Murray did not want to play Bailey this season which the Maple Leafs were willing to do. Bailey seems to fit better with Toronto as well. The Sabres already have tremendous depth at the center position and another one likely on the way in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. The Leafs lack depth, as far as talent goes, in most positions and the signing of this college hockey standout with bring another potential NHL star under William Nylander.
Oct 3, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander (62) during the pre game warm up against the Detroit Red Wings at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Casey Bailey gives the Toronto Maple Leafs the insurance that between him and William Nylander, the organization is bound to have at least one above average NHL player. The Leafs are “officially” in a rebuilding stage and have two cornerstones in Nylander and Bailey to build upon. After dangerous draft picks such as Frederik Gauthier (1st round, 2013)and Tyler Biggs (1st round, 2011), it is nice to see the Maple Leafs pick up prospects with such high talent and potential as William Nylander and Casey Bailey.
Another topic comes up, besides rather poor drafting and prospects, when discussing the Leafs, poor possession. In terms of Corsi and Fenwick, both statistics that following shot differentials, the Leafs have been one of the worst teams in the NHL in the past two seasons.
Courtesy: War On Ice
This table shows that the Leafs are at the bottom in both categories, but they are indeed getting better. A player like Casey Bailey who leads the nation in shots per game and total shots could put them as an average team in the NHL as far as shot differential is. Obviously there is still a long way to go for this team due to the “start” of a rebuild.
The Maple Leafs plan on playing Bailey with their NHL team this weekend, so it will be interesting to see how many shots Bailey will put up in his first NHL action. Good things happen when you throw the puck at the net. Bailey knows that better than anyone else with his 22 goals and almost 5 shots per game.
In terms of an immediate future, things do not look bright for the Toronto Maple Leafs. When it comes to a much broader future, the Leafs look like they could become a very good NHL team if they make more moves like this signing.