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Before we get too excited, Colorado moved Liles for a reason

When I first heard on Friday afternoon that the Maple Leafs had acquired a proven NHL defenseman and only gave up a second-rounder, it sounded good to me.

I mean, second-rounders are nice to have and sometimes they turn out well, but a look at the Leaf history over the years doesn’t show a lot of second-round guys who had lengthy careers in Toronto, so moving that kind of pick doesn’t trouble me in the least.

On the surface, he replaces Kaberle, who is a couple of years older and earned about the same amount of money per season.  (Liles evidently has one year left on his current deal, worth about four and a quarter against the cap.)

But before we get too excited, it’s always good to put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes.  I have to ask my self:  why has Liles been in the news forever as trade bait?  Why was Colorado so willing to move him- a good puck-moving defenseman- for something as absolutely uncertain as a mid second-round draft choice?

(A historical side note:  I appreciate that this is largely irrelevant, but I can't help but think back to many summertime or pre-deadline trades the Leafs have made over the years.  And I, as a devoted and ever-hopeful Leaf fan, wanted to believe it was going to be tremendous:  Gary Sabourin, Bill "Cowboy" Flett, Paul Gardner, Gaston Gingras, Brad Maxwell, Larry Murphy, Mathieu Schneider, Tom Kurvers, Grant Fuhr, Kirk Muller, Pavel Kubina, Hal Gill- the names just roll off the tongue.  All good players.  None played their best hockey in Toronto and most never came close to the hopes and expectations of fans...)

It’s clear Burke has had Liles on his radar for some time.  Liles has played seven seasons with the team that originally drafted him.  He was a minus player the past three seasons, but this past season he played more than 22 minutes a night—the most in his career so far.

He also earned 40 assists, much like Kaberle did most years in a Leaf uniform.

Now, I thought I heard Burke utter the “truculent” word again recently after a lengthy lack of usage of that term, but Liles does not bring that.  He rarely fights and takes about 30 minutes a year in penalties, not a lot for a defenseman, which for me is a good thing as long as he can play efficiently in his own zone .

Do I like the move? Yes.  Do I understand what the need was for Colorado to move him, other than the cap?  No, not really.

I think (I can’t say I know for sure) this makes the Leafs a better team than they were yesterday.  It costs them nothing off their roster and gives them a guy who plays serious blueline minutes.  The Leafs already have Phaneuf, Schenn, Aulie and Gunnarsson to take up "top-four" minutes, if needed, so this should only help.

I just hope the Avalanche don’t know something we don’t know….just like the Bruins likely figured we knew something they didn't know once Kaberle played as he did for the Bruins.


  1. Outside of Gilmour and Andreychuk most mercs the Leafs trade for or get as FA's are underwhelming; part of that is due to the fact we get them to be top players and they aren't.

    Liles is a decent 4-6 D man, but expecting him to be better than Phaneuf, Schenn, Aulie, or Gunnarsson ignores what Liles can do, which is be a solid puck moving center but does not have a strong D game and is not exceptional in any way. The best we can hope for is 'dependable'.

  2. What more reason does Col need to move a 3-4 guy making $4.2mil. And what's the big risk, leafs have more money than we can spend this year and then he's gone, he could die in the first game and it would only cost us money and a 2nd. I doubt colorado is hiding anything and I like this trade mostly cause I don't want to see komi on the second pairing and I don't want to see lebda at all haha

  3. I agree with Susan. We don't expect Liles to be our lord and savior, nor do we expect him to be a massive player for our future. The reason players like Kubina bust to us is because our expectations are so high. If we had expected a Lebda-like performance from him, we'd have been more than satisfied with his production.

    Thankfully, what people expect from Liles is a poor-man's Kaberle who is willing to shoot the puck more often. If we get that, I'm sure most of us will be satisfied. I like the word 'Dependable'; it defines exactly what I expect from him.

  4. I'm happy with trade, given his ice time, history and last years assists. Look my expectation on Liles flow bottom up and not top down. I expect he is better than Lebda and Komisarek and will make quicker/beneficial decision on powerplay than Kabby. Huge plus is he should perform better given final year of contract (like MacArthur). Bruins expectation on Kabby were unreasonable, Toronto on Liles totally attainable. I mean taking ice time away from Komisarek and Lebda -- priceless.

  5. Definitely a fan of the trade because of the lack of assets expended and the style of game he brings to a decidedly physical and stay-at-home defensive group. I might even continue to be a fan of the trade should Liles underperform next year because it still limits Burke's chance to overspend in an allegedly weak FA year and provides a stop-gap for similarly styled young defensemen in the system (Blacker, Gardiner).
    Well written article as usual Michael

  6. Yes, Liles does actual suck in his own end. That's a fact by the way. BUT, hopefully the Leafs won't ask too much of him. If injuries occur and we need to rely on more minutes from him, could be trouble.

    But the fact i like the most about this deal? He's an UFA at the end of next season. Which should mean, he will play a huge year in hopes of earning a great pay day on contract for his personal future. Like it or not, it's a huge motivating factor, and we can reap the benefits of it.