How has Rielly done since Phaneuf left?

The 2015-16 season has been classified as a write-off for many fans, as the Maple Leafs wrap up the first year of the long-awaited rebuild. On the other hand, these last few weeks have presented the Leafs management with less of a time waster and more of an evaluation period for their prospects.

We have already seen the likes of William Nylander, Nikita Soshnikov, Zach Hyman, and Connor Brown play valuable minutes on a nightly basis since the trade deadline. Their play, teamwork, and confidence have brought excitement and buzz amongst Leafs Nation to watch games now and provide hope for next season.

Meanwhile, there has been another player that has quietly been performing an important role for the Leafs. He has seen an increased role and ice time, which has resulted in a drastic change in possession after a veteran defenseman left town.

I’m referring, of course, to Morgan Rielly.

When the former captain, Dion Phaneuf, was traded to the Ottawa Senators in early February, it signaled the end of an era for the Leafs. It also presented Rielly with a chance to show what he is capable of as the number one defensemen on the team as besides Gardiner, there really wasn’t many options that can handle the job effectively.

In his first 21 games since Phaneuf has left the team, Rielly has proven he is up to the task.

Here’s a look at Rielly’s Corsi numbers prior to the trade compared to his numbers since the trade:

Corsi-For %
Corsi-Rel %
iCorsi For
First 51
Last 21

Let me break down the columns bit by bit. The first two columns represent a number of moments the Leafs controlled the play versus when the opposing team controlled the play while Rielly was on the ice. The middle column is the percentage of positive possessions with Rielly on the ice. The fourth shows how close Rielly is to the relative Corsi for percentage for the Leafs when Rielly is on the ice vs. when he isn’t. The last column the average number of Corsi for events affected solely by Rielly.

Let’s focus specifically on the third column. Over the course of the season, while Phaneuf was with the team, the Leafs had the puck less than half the time when Rielly was on the ice. This would give the opposition more chances to score, and less opportunity for Rielly to contribute. Some players that have produced around this number include Ryan Murray (48.5%), Calle Jarnkronk (48.3%), and Troy Brewer (48%).

Amazingly, Rielly’s Corsi for percentage spiked up by 8 points in the 21 games since the blockbuster. It shows that the Leafs right now have the edge in possession when Rielly is on the ice, which leads to more scoring chances and, potentially, more goals. Torey Krug (56.8%) is a perfect comparable, as he currently is at the same Corsi for percentage.

It seems clear that Rielly has seen a huge boost in possession numbers lately. The following numbers could explain why this is so.

Goals per game
Assists per game
Points per game
SOG per game
Shifts per game
First 51
Last 21

Each half of the chart tells a different story of how Rielly has performed this season. His point production has taken a hit since Phaneuf left, a decrease of 0.07 PPG. Players that put up a similar PPG to Rielly’s first 51 games include Zdeno Chara (0.45) and Teuvo Teravainen (0.45). The list of players that have match his PPG in the last 21 includes Tyler Myers (0.38), Chris Stweart (0.38), and Jason, Demers (0.38).

What is most surprising is not only his increased average of shots on goal but also his average ice time. The shots on goal average proves that Rielly is getting more involved in the play by triggering the puck to the net in hopes of creating a rebound opportunity or a scramble play which could lead to a goal.

It doesn’t help his average point totals, but it does represent that he is getting involved in the play and, most importantly, giving his team more chances to win. Players putting up a similar average number of shots include Ryan Callahan (2.11) and Darren Helm (2.09).

The average ice time has taken a huge leap by five minutes, which shows that Mike Babcock has trusted Rielly to be on the ice in more critical situations offensively and defensively. By being on the ice more, Rielly has more chances to control the play in the Leafs favor to created more scoring chances and, more importantly, increase their chance to win.

Rielly’s previous ATOI is similar to players such as Mike Green (20:06), Erik Gudbranson (20:05), and Mattias Ekholm (19:58), essentially the amount comparable to second/third pairing defenseman. Currently, his ATOI is comparable to the likes of Francois Beauchemin (25:12), Mark Giordano (24:58), and Dustin Byfuglien (24:58), players viewed by their respective teams as top defenseman.

Overall, Rielly has seen some drastic changes to his game and performance since the captain left for the nation’s capital. His point production has taken a hit, but he has seen his ice time, average SOG, and his Corsi for percentage improve dramatically.

While it may not lead to much on-ice success this season, this represents the early stages of Rielly being the number one defensemen on the team. The numbers don’t lie: Rielly is ready to take on this responsibility and he has nowhere to go but up.

All stats were provided by Hockey Reference and ESPN.


  1. Interesting. But how much of the change is actually related to Phaneuf's trade and not to Hunwick's injury, forcing Rielly to play with Marincin? I personly believe Rielly's numbers improving have more to do with Hunwick's absence than Phaneuf's trade(except TOI).

    1. Actually didn't think about Hunwick to be honest. It is interesting, though you can't deny Rielly has performed at the rate of a top defensemen in the time since Phaneuf left.


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