leafshub.com
Leafs Hub
Before I get into the nitty gritty of this I'd like to say a few things. I don't dislike Nikita Zaitsev in any way, nor do I believe that he can't be a solid asset for the Leafs moving forward. When he started with the Leafs he was granted a fair amount of powerplay time, 2nd only to Jake Gardiner among defenders. As a result he produced 12 of his 36 points with the man advantage. He also played under 2 minutes a game short handed, which, I guess, was Mike Babcocks way of easing him into the role. His mobility allowed him to have good gap control in the defensive zone, and his strength meant that when he angled guys off along the wall he could stop them in their tracks and put them on their backside. He spent most of his time on Morgan Riellys right side, and, in my opinion, he's never looked as good anywhere else in the lineup. He started the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone as well, and by all accounts it had appeared that the Leafs had found themselves a 2nd pairing