What more can we say about Nikita Zaitsev that hasn’t been said repeatedly on this site throughout the year? He’s been underwhelming. He’s not a top four defenseman. He’s overpaid. He’s probably not going anywhere unless the Leafs get a little creative and they probably should.
It was the third year of the Nikita Zaitsev era, and once again Zaitsev enjoyed a guaranteed spot in the top four solely on the basis of shooting right. Well, that’s only partially true. The Leafs defense really wasn’t that great until Muzzin showed up, and you could make a case for him being the best defenseman behind Rielly, Gardiner, and Dermott, although beating out Hainsey and Ozhiganov for the distinction doesn’t warrant a passing grade.
It was another year of failed stretch passes and declining offense for Zaitsev that didn’t endear him to anyone who wasn’t focused entirely on his xGA/60 Rel TM. Of course, that might be a little too harsh on Nikita. For all of his faults, he was one of the better Leafs defensemen playing down low in his zone, and when given a tough assignment against Boston, …
Author: Jon Steitzer / The Leafs Nation