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It’s a small list of Maple Leaf “untouchables”: Episode 18 of “The Vintage Leaf Memories Podcast”

I could not bring myself to post after the game in Tampa on Tuesday night.  When you are playing out the string (even though the Leafs technically had not been eliminated heading into the game) fans can expect certain things.  That includes not much physical contact, very little driving to the net and not a lot of grit.

The Leafs provided exactly what most of us expected and played like a team that wanted to win only if, somehow, Tampa Bay wanted it even less.

I sensed most VLM readers would feel the same,  that we needed a bit of time to gather our thoughts on the heels of a season suddenly gone south.

In any event, I have no answers.  Despite the many positives that have been evident at times throughout the 2013-'14 NHL season, we’ve all discussed the same old things ad nauseum yet again this year when it comes to the Leafs—leadership, team identity, a lack of real playoff experience, the “system”, not enough grit…it’s a long list.

I’ll be posting at some point over the next few days, but thought I’d tweak your possible interest with a podcast version of Leafs who may be considered untouchable as we look to the future.  I’ll save my more detailed thoughts on this subject for my next post (and you can save your comments for that post), but for now, I invite you to tune in to Episode 18 of “The Vintage Leaf Memories Podcast”.


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  1. If a Stamkos or Tavares became available... who is untouchable? It seems to me that, if you need a shakeup to the core, you might be willing to trade a Kessel or JVR (for either). As nice as it would be to have both of our guys playing with either player, Kessel has some cache in the American market (as a recent Olympian of note) and JVR has a great salary (and an Olympic resume). It seems to me the latter would have to be included in such a deal (as part of a package).

    Having said that, I agree that it would be a shock if either player were included in any other deal that seems plausible (save Weber, if that's the kind of splash that the brain trust might want).

    For me, only Rielly and Bernier are the only players that I see as untouchable this year... and guys like Gardiner and Kadri could be part of deals for key roster improvements (depending on the chosen 'identity' that seems so enigmatic at this point).

    I guess I usually invest a lot of 'appreciation' into whomever wears the crest, but I often wonder if the players I'm watching are as 'committed' (as we likely should be :)

    In any case, there are so many variables outside our purview that it is hard to imagine what it would really take for the brass to 'pull the trigger' on various changes (whether trades, UFA departures/arrivals, RFA choices, etc.) when we really don't know where they're going... I truly hope there is a clear direction in mind and a will to reshape the coaching, systems, team makeup in a manner that provides a clear identity for the future.

    Perhaps we should look to the Marlies for clues about the internal development and 'identity' plans... at least they're in the playoffs this year!

    1. As you say it is difficult to know what Nonis et al are planning, InTimeFor62. I think it will be an off-seaon with so many things to contemplate. Trades, our "core", identity, coaching, etc.

  2. Michael,

    As usual another great podcast. Always enjoy hearing your voice, as well as your feelings on the current state of the franchise we hold dear.

    As fans we certainly are willing to fall in love with the players we cheer for. As time has gone by for me, I guess, I am more and more hesitant to allow myself to do so. It wouldn't be difficult at all to add a couple more names to your list, and end up right back where we started from. I see only one player I would be extremely reluctant to trade, Morgan Rielly. As a group, the rest of the team has shown me that they aren't made up of enough of the right stuff. For the right deal, and to be honest, in most cases, it wouldn't take a huge return, I would trade the rest of them if asked.

    There are many lessons that the team, and its fans need to try to grasp, or the 47 year drought, will continue in perpetuity. Other NHL organizations can be learned from and copied. The Western Conference, big, young, fast, and cheap 3rd and 4th lines, for example. Very recently on this wonderful blog, some have been championing the cause of bringing back Jay McClement, among others. Always players that we 'like', so to speak. For the most part, these types of players are replaceable. No appreciable difference between those we keep, and those we let go. There have been many over the years that have gotten some attention, they are no different in quality, than the ones we now have. The thing they all have in common, they are known quantities in the NHL. They are also all out of the potential to improve. The lack of potential to become more than they currently are, is my main reason for championing the youth movement the Leafs desperately need.

    The teams in the NHL that are successful today, are puck possession teams. They clearly want to hold on to the puck, and never let the other team have it. This is the philosophy the organization needs to embrace. Carlyle talks ad nauseam about this in particular. Yet, last offseason he forced Nonis to trade two of the teams best possession players, Grabbo, and MacArthur. There is a huge disconnect between what the team says, and does. Management needs to radically change the way they perceive the NHL. Advanced stats are not going away, nor should they. If the management cabal in place, can't see the forest for the trees, the new guys put in place need to.

    To continue a little on the philosophy going forward, no more goons. None, not a single one. Orr's roster spot, should have been Ashton, Holland, or D'Amigo. The decision to keep these three in the minors all year so that goons could dress, is the best reason for firing the coach. The second best reason, his system doesn't seem to work well at all. That or the players are unwilling to play it the way he draws up. I personally don't see Tim Gleason as a guy who is unwilling to do what the coaches want, but, he still is out of position more often than not. Toronto is not the Ducks of 2006-07. Maybe the game has passed our coach by, I really don't know. What I do know, he is unable to get this team to resemble anything other than a garbage fire defensively.

    Before the team trades all of its players for more castoffs from other organizations, I would ask them a question. Who taught Crosby, Toews, Getzlaf, Perry, Bergeron, Lucic, Malkin, Brown, Kopitar, Williams, Richards, and many others, how to play with grit, heart, and do the things necessary to win championships? I think the answer is the organizations that have won, cultivate that atmosphere. Players, and management are committed to winning, and are held accountable when they don't.

    If the hollow platitudes don't end here, the losing won't either.

  3. That's a blog post right there, Jim- and a very good one at that.

    How often have we spoken here about players we "like" (and we all do, and that's as it should be). But ultimately, teams don't always win with players we "like" and I certainly recognize that.

    I've spoken here at length about the qualities a championship team needs-- and those qualities include the attributes you mention above, and the atmosphere you site as well.

    I'll put pen to paper with additional thoughts on this subject in my next VLM post.

    1. I look forward, as always to hearing your thoughts. Thank you for the kind words, no one appreciates what you have here more than I do. I cherish the ability to politely discuss things with others willing to do the same.

  4. I am going answer this in terms of one of today's headlines:

    "Bruins' Rask should take home Vezina Trophy"

    I don't want to give up players like that....players that could become an important parts of another team's perennial contender. Some are more obvious than others

    Kessel..our shy chubby version of Patrikc Kane..keep him.
    JVR...big, fast, skilled, there are only a few like this in the league..keep him
    Bozak... pretty good, proven chemistry with Kessel..less important but keep him.
    Kadri...our skinny version of Brad Marchand playing center. He got 50+ points at 23. He could become the 2nd line center of a contender...keep him.

    Reilly probably a top pairing center during his career...keep.
    Phaneuf...never gets a partner of equal quality. Phaneuf would be top four on most contending teams...keep.
    Gardiner he could become top four on a good team in the few years...keep.
    Gunnarson ok but replaceable....maybe with Petter Granberg. We get our first look tonight.
    Gleason ok but replace with Andrew MacWilliam.
    Franson, great shot but horrible defensively...replace with TJ Brennan.

    Lupul.. older, great offense, bad defense unlikely to improve. We beat Boston without him and he served up a piazza for Winnipeg to kill our season... we could keep, but we could trade him at the right moment if the return is good.

    Kulemin, I like, but at what price? Does Broll or Leivo provide a better option at a cheaper price?
    Bodie much better speed than I thought, provides really good value, he could play 4th line on a contender...keep.
    McClement maybe but at what price? Does Sam Carrick take his place in 12 months?
    Mason Raymond...slowed down when it counted and will want too much money...gone.
    Bolland...will want too much money and we won with a cheaper option in Peter Holland. Bolland is gone.

    Clarkson? We are probably stuck with him....for 7 years...he is part of our core even if we don't like it.

    1. Thanks DP- we'll discuss this further in my next post.

  5. "Reilly probably a top pairing center"

    You can tell I am trying to watch the game while typing

  6. Michael, I just wanted to ask, assuming Carlyle is replaced, who you feel a good choice for coach would be? I really like Trotts but I don't think, even though the Preds are out of the playoffs again, they would let him go. He's very well liked in Nashville.

    Also, with Shanahan now in the picture, possibly bringing in his own staff, where does Nonis fit in?
    Leiweke takes credit for bringing in Bernier and I suspect it was he who wanted to make a splash in signing Clarkson. I'm sure Carlyle put in his two cents worth and Nonis must have felt like a push-me-pull-me. It's impossible to know what decisions if any were his own or if he was truly ready for the job. I don't think this is Nonis' team at all. C.N.

    1. I haven't given serious thought to possible coaching candidates, Colleen. I'm not sure how Shanahan's arrival changes the picture, but clearly he will be doing a review of the hockey operations department.