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What lies around the corner for the Leafs?

With the Leaf regular-season schedule set to kick off Thursday night, a lot of Leaf fans are waiting to see if the somewhat remarkable run that the Leafs went on just prior to the Olympic break was a mirage or the real deal. Most posters here seem convinced this Leaf team is indeed for real, though many acknowledge there are challenges ahead, obviously.

That said, there are some questions that will need to be addressed.  Some of the questions staring at us (and Dave Nonis) include:

  • Will Nik Kulemin be a Maple Leaf after the trade deadline?
  • Will the Leafs become a true four-line team down the stretch?
  • Will the post-serious injury Dave Bolland be the Dave Bolland we knew before the injury? Will he be worth a significant contract extension?
  • Can the Leafs win with what they have, or do they need, for example, another high-end defenseman to give Phaneuf a breather as well as a bit less responsibility?
  • Will Dave Nonis just stay the course or do something surprisingly radical before the deadline?

My view remains the same as it has been much of this season (even when the Leafs were in the  doldrums), heading into this run to the playoffs:  the Leafs, on paper, can compete with any team in the Eastern Conference.  Of course things can go south, but there is no reason to suspect they will.  Possession and shot differential issues have been a season-long concern, but some combination of goaltending, timely goals and a bend-but-don’t break approach seems to have worked so far.

The next few weeks should tells us a lot about this team…but only the playoffs reveal what a team really has.


I’ve mentioned here before that some Leaf fans might enjoy my eBook called, “The Maple Leafs of My Youth: what being a Leaf fan means to me”.  Those who have connected with me after reading the book have reinforced to me that I have seemingly hit the intended target: that is, this is indeed a book that does more than just talk about the “old days”.  Importantly, it acts as a bridge for Leaf fans who love the Leafs now but also appreciate hearing about how the franchise got to where it is today.

While it won’t be available in traditional book form it is now available on many electronic platforms.  Downloading the book should be really straightforward.

The book is available as an “iBook” on Apple iTunes on an iPad.  If you have an Apple computer, you can download the Mavericks Operating system (I believe it’s free) and read the book right on your computer.

“The Maple Leafs of My Youth” is also available on Amazon Kindle. (As I’ve acknowledged before, I’m not adept when it comes to how this technology works, but I know that you can download a Kindle “app” for free here— )

That covers the various downloading options. Here are the direct links to download “The Maple Leafs of My Youth”:

Click for:

I have really enjoyed connecting with those who have read the book.  If you’d like to share your thoughts, give me a shout at


  1. "Will Nik Kulemin be a Maple Leaf after the trade deadline?"

    I hope so. He has looked ok as a third line winger and center. He has also looked ok as a 2nd line winger with Kadri and Lupul. He plays defense, has size and versatility. That sounds like a combination that you don't give up easily.

    "Will the Leafs become a true four-line team down the stretch?"

    I hope so. It's all there...McClement, Bodie and any of Holland, Smith, Ashton, D'Amigo, Plus there is a whole other group with Lievo, Abbott, Carrick, Kolzun, and Broll.

    McKegg had two goals on Sunday. D'Amigo is up to 14 goals in 35 games.

    I'm sure other teams would like to have the Leafs depth and probably wonder why we don't use it, as nobody is willing to engage Orr and McLaren. Against most teams Bodie is tough enough.

    "Will the post-serious injury Dave Bolland be the Dave Bolland we knew before the injury? Will he be worth a significant contract extension?

    Not sure, probably need to watch and wait past the trade deadline. If he wants to stay he will. If he doesn't stay, there are others like Holland and Smith to take his place. Kulemin looked ok as third line center. Perhaps McKegg or Carrick will fit in that slot in the following years. In short, we have lots of options and don't need to pay a king's ransom.

    "Can the Leafs win with what they have, or do they need, for example, another high-end defenseman to give Phaneuf a breather as well as a bit less responsibility?"

    I think so. As long as they avoid Boston and Pittsburgh in the first round, they should be able to beat most teams and could win a second round.

    Another high-end defenseman?

    I think they may have one, we just don't realize it. Morgan Rielly has looked very good lately. Better than Gardiner, who is older. Perhaps Rielly is only a short time away from being recognized as a high-end defenceman. He is doing well enough that it's easy to forget he is still 19. Let's see how he does in the playoffs.

    Will Dave Nonis just stay the course or do something surprisingly radical before the deadline?

    I hope they stay the course. I worry that they will trade away some of these nice young prospects for a veteran rental who soon be exceeded by a prospect who has yet to get his full chance.

    There is a whole list of prospects that I want to see fully developed before we even think of trading them: Abbott and Brennan, (top AHL scorers) Carrick, Broll, Granberg, Percy, Lievo, D'Amigo,McKegg, and to a lesser extent McWilliam, Biggs (who is playing better) and Devane (who had his third goal on Sunday.)

    Let's keep and develop our prospects like Detroit has in its recent past.

    1. Lots to look forward too, for sure, DP. We'll talk further as we wind the season down.

  2. Good Evening, Michael,

    I believe, as you do that this Leaf team, player for player, is as good as any team in the East. They have shown that in this past run. This next 8 game stretch, which concludes with the always difficult West Coast trip, will go a long way in determining their fate. if they can win 5 of these games I believe they can coast into the playoffs.

    Kulemin, in my estimation, is a very valuable player, doubly so now that he has proven that he can play effectively at centre. A defensively responsible player who can play all three forward positions and who can kill penalties should be kept.

    The enigmatic 4th line needs to be solidified. McClement and Bodie should be locks. There are many viable candidates for the third member. I cannot endorse Orr or McLaren here as it looks like their usefulness is a thing of the past.

    I am not optimistic about Bolen's effectiveness when he comes back. That type of injury usually takes at least a year to fully heal. I hope I am wrong but I will be surprised if he can assume his role of last fall anytime soon.

    Nonis dealing for anyone, let alone a high end defenseman, will be difficult because of the cap. There is little wiggle room right now and there would have to be a significant subtraction in order to add any high end player.

    The next few weeks should provide a lot of excitement and drama as a plethora of teams vie for the playoffs. I am confident that the Leafs are up to the task.

    By the way, I just purchased “The Maple Leafs of My Youth” through Amazon Kindle and I plan to sit back and spend an enjoyable rest of the evening reading it.

    1. We are very much on the same train of thought, Pete Cam, regarding the Leafs- and I don't believe we are simply looking at things through Leaf-cloured glasses.

      I don't pretend to be an expert on every team in the Eastern Conference, much less the entire NHL But from what I have seen, and the rosters I look over, there is absolutely no reason the Leafs can't compete seriously in the East. Most teams struggle after their first two lines. And almost have have questionable defense pairings after their "top four".

      Some teams have, on paper, a stronger centre ice lineup than Toronto. But if Bolland returns (and I do agree with your assessment, by the way- we can't expect him to be back to "normal" the rest of this season) and McClement gives us a solid fourth line presence and PK help, are the Leafs really lacking up the middle? Bozak and Kadri are competitive, smart players and as you note, Kulemin provides flexibility and a defensive presence, too.

      We've both followed this league and this team long enough to know there are no guarantees. The Leafs could exit the first round quickly. But based on the experience they gathered last season, their goaltending capability and the confidence they seem to have developed in recent weeks, I'm more inclined to see them as a team that can, as DP said, win a a round or more.

      By the way, thank you for purchasing the eBook- much appreciated. I really hope you enjoy it. Take care, Pete.

  3. Hi Michael.

    I don't see anyone available that would be an upgrade for the Leafs in any position including defense. I think Nonis might consider moving or waiving McLaren with Bodie improving of late. He actually puts in a lot of extra time before practice working on his shot. I like to see that he is showing that sort of commitment.

    There have been ongoing rumours regarding Franson but I don't think we can afford to give up a right-hand shot. He's been pushed to play a very physical game this year and has had hip issues. I think he'll be just fine with the rest he's had and will find a medium ground. I personally really like Cody.

    I'd sure like to keep Bolland and I doubt reports he is asking for 5 million to sign. I think reporters have just pulled that number out of their heads. I expect he would sign for 4. He certainly brings something special to the Leafs dressingroom. I am not expecting him to play on Thursday, though he is close. I saw a bit of a practice where his ankle seemed to give out from under him so he has more work to do.

    I'd really like to see a Bodie/McClement/D'Amigo (PK) or Ashton fourth line at some point.

    It will be an interesting Trade deadline with the injuries some teams have suffered during the games but I don't see Toronto shopping if they continue to play as well as they have. It must be a rough time of year for both the Leafs and the Marlies. I hope the Leafs can take advantage of some tired Olympians the next week or so. Hangout very soon I hope. C.N.

    1. Like you, I don't anticipate major moves from Nonis, C.N. I do hope Bolland does not rush his return. There is no point in coming back right now unless and until he is absolutely healthy.

  4. First things first. Can your ebook be purchased on Kobo?

    Ok, the Leafs. As for moving upcoming UFA's if I think my team is going to make the playoffs I don't move them unless someone blows my doors off and over pays. If Kulemin was available from another team at the trade deadline would we be willing to give up a 3rd round pick to get him to fill a hole for a playoff run?? I would think we most likely would. So why move him out unless we get big value? He is like a rental player for us but instead of giving up something to get him and him trying to fit into our system and room, he is already here and fits in very nicely.

    Will the Leafs become a true four line team down the stretch?? Only if they want to not only make the playoffs but make a run in them once they get there. You cannot over play your other lines with this tight schedule and expect to do well in the run run. Will they though?? We will see pretty quickly the mindset in how they handle FML with healthy bodies coming back now and having too many on the roster.

    Very little chance Bolland can come back the same. Karlsson came back and looked good but even he admitted he didn't feel normal for a year after. And Karlsson is an elite skater. Bollan is decent but skating isn't his strength. If he loses a step it will definitely hinder his ability to play the type of game that makes him successful.

    I honestly believe Nonis is pretty smart. But is he building the team he wants or the one Carlyle wants?? Are they both really on the same exact page? Based on the handling of Holland earlier on I don't think they are.

    It will be interesting. Make some popcorn and stay tuned:))

    1. The Holland yo-yo has puzzled me, Pep, but I guess it's simply a matter of too many bodies. When he does play and get real minutes, he has seemingly been a useful addition.

      I agree with your comments around Kulemin. You hate to lose guys in the summer for "nothing", but would we really be happy with a mid-round draft pick for him right now? Isn't it better to keep him and see if he helps us in the playoffs?

      Going forward, the Leafs need to have (and play) four lines Carlyle is comfortable with- full stop.

      Regarding the book, unfortunately no, it won't be on Kobo. But the Kindle link I suggested is free, I believe, and I think you could download it directly on to your computer. Let me know if it works. Thanks Pep.

  5. I was wondering if anyone else read Gus Katzaros' story about the Leafs and Blackhawks failing penalty kill?
    I had read it a little while back. These are the only two teams that use this system and while both were at the top of the league last season for their PK, this year teams are using the 1-3-1 powerplay and the PK is not working for either team. It's not a case of players not executing but a case of a system that can no longer be effective against a powerplay system that the Leafs actually use themselves. I found it interesting. I hope Carlyle read it. C.N.

    1. Gus breaks down tape very well and provides a lot of technical insight.

    2. I agree, Gus is excellent. I love reading his work. I follow him on twitter and we have had a couple very interesting conversations about what he writes. From what I had read when Carlyle first hired his PK system was from Anaheim and was terrible. They actually brought up Eakins system from the Marlies, implemented it with the Leafs and it worked well.

      But, like all things in life, you change or you get left behind. PP's have changed and adapted to beat this particular PK and yet here we are still using the same PK system with poor results, yet very little to no change in it.

      It is one my major beefs with Carlyle. He is NOT an X&Os systems coach. That can be ok IF you surround yourself with an associate coach or assistant coach who is and let them run the systems. I think Boudreau is a prime example of that in Anaheim. Do we know if any of our assistants have that ability? I don't know.

  6. The flip flopping of Holland is mainly due to the fact that he is one of the few players that don't have to pass through waivers. Ashton can as well but Bodie and Smith can't. This is the reason I hope McLaren is sent down, if that is possible. It would not be such a loss if he is claimed. It's nice to have a promising player like Holland available if Bolland can't be signed. The Holland trade was both necessary and lucky, definitely one I'll never complain about. Spot has nothing but praise for Holland. C.N.

  7. We of course can only speculate, as we don't know what is truly going through Nonis' head this week. Is he, as rumour has it, throwing his weight around with Carlyle in regard to Peter Holland? Is he actively shopping Kulemin, Bolland, or anyone else? Has he been in any contact with Komarov or his agent and is it a real possibility to bring him back?

    So many questions on the bottom six forwards, and I have to think that the status of any of these players will cause a domino effect to settle the two lines going into the playoffs. I'd like to think that common sense will prevail and Orr and McLaren will be glued to the press box come playoff time, but then that didn't happen last year. As much as the value of face punchers has been debated in the NHL, it's pretty clear that most teams forego the fisticuffs when it matters. It is my sincere hope that Nonis pulls rank and demands a fourth line of hockey players that will play 8-10 minutes a night in the playoffs.

    I don't expect any earth shaking moves by Nonis before the deadline, just as he himself has said, and I'm quite okay with that. I don't believe in a rental player unless you are truly on the cusp of a Stanley Cup. As you have said, the Leafs can run with anyone in the Eastern Conference, but I don't think they are a cup contender this year. So that said, if Nonis finds it necessary to trade any pending free agents for value before they are lost forever, I do expect that he will attempt to do so.

    1. Hi Pete- yes, I never had an issue with "rental" acquisitions during, say, the Quinn years because we truly had a shot at a championship every year. (An in retrospect, very few if any of the draft picks or players we gave up in trades back then became elite NHLers...) Now would be a different story as we are not really a championship caliber club. A year from now...?

      I agree: the bottom six is very important and it's not settled yet. Whether there is any internal wrangling ongoing, I don't know. But we have the players who fit there. Carlyle just has to make it happen. I'd much rather skate and grind our way through the playoffs than keep players who have only one role. We all know that fighting is virtually non-existent come playoff time. Thanks Pete.