The truth is that Alex Kerfoot is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ most invisible player. He always seems to float under the radar of Maple Leafs’ fans. This makes sense on one hand. Given the Maple Leafs’ roster, Kerfoot plays in some pretty big shadows.
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Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares, William Nylander, Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie, Jake Muzzin get much more media coverage. Perhaps, deservedly so. However, Kerfoot is not the only one who gets more press, positive or otherwise.
Kerfoot is only mentioned in relation to his $3.5million salary-cap hit. It seems a foregone conclusion that the Maple Leafs will use Kerfoot to gain salary-cap space to sign other “more important” players by alleviating themselves of him and, by proxy, that salary-cap hit.
One thing fans seem to notice about Kerfoot is that they just don’t seem to notice him at all. If he happens to have a good game where he gets multiple points, he still seems to be mentioned as a footnote, something along the lines of “and Kerfoot picked up three points tonight.”
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In fact, that’s what happened during last night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. Kerfoot was in a new role. He was covering for Mitch Marner, who was out under the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols. Kerfoot was able to score a goal, and then add two assists.
Recently. Kerfoot has received some notice from the media for being Kyle Dubas’ and Sheldon Keefe’s Swiss Army Knife. He’s a player who, as per his example last night, can be plugged into many roles. He’s been used as a third-line center and a second-line winger. He can kill penalties and he’s played on the second power-play unit.
He was asked to fill in for Tavares’ injured shoulder during the playoffs. And, he did that job rather well, finishing the playoffs with six points in seven games, which put him second in scoring on the entire Maple Leafs’ team.
Kerfoot quietly enjoying the best season of any career. Following the Maple Leafs 5 – 4 overtime loss to Colorado, where he scored a goal and added two assists, he’s fifth in scoring for the Maple Leafs with 24 points in 33 games played (he’s scored six goals and added 18 assists). This extends to an additional 82 games and equates to 15 goals, 45 assists (for 60 point), which is 17 more than his previous season.
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Kerfoot, who leads the team in plus/minus at plus-19, is even more impressive. To put that into an analytical perspective, at five-on-five, Kerfoot is tied for sixth at 66.67 percent in Goals For percentage among players who’ve been on the ice for a total of 40 or more goals. Kerfoot has played in five-on-5 play for 32 goals, and 16 against.
Fans who read this post might be reminded that Kerfoot was the main actor in the season, along with Tavares or Nylander. His production this season would be much better, however. Fans might add Nylander’s career season, with 15 goals and 35 goals in 33 games. This would make it 37 goals and 50 assists for an 87-point season. Fans could also add that Tavares is an excellent point-per-game player, scoring 14 goals and 20 assists (for 33 points) in 32 games. This would make it 36 goals and 51 assists (for the 87-point season).
It would make sense that just playing with these players would help improve Kerfoot’s scoring numbers. They would be right, it is obvious. But, every NHL line is a partnership. As a result, it could also be said that having Kerfoot on a line with Tavares and Nylander is playing an important role in them having the seasons they’re having.
There’s another way to look at Kerfoot’s value to the team. Maybe it’s time we all saw Alex Kerfoot as being more than the player who takes up $3.5 million of usable salary-cap space and credit him for being a player who’s worth the $3.5 million he’s being paid.
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[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
Jim Parsons, Sr., the Old Prof was a professor at the Faculty of Education of the University of Alberta for more than 40 year. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He lives on Vancouver Island with his family and is now retired. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, writing is not his only activity. The Hockey WritersHe teaches research design to graduate students at several Canadian universities.
He is looking forward to sharing his thoughts about the Toronto Maple Leafs as well as how sports can be integrated into everyday life. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf