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With Shanahan in place, assessing the 'must keep' Maple Leafs heading into next season

I think a lot of us (not everyone, I realize) believed the Maple Leafs would take a step forward in 2013-’14.  The near upset of the Bruins last spring—albeit on the heels of a short season that may have camouflaged their roster flaws—suggested there was enough talent on the squad to do some damage in the mediocrity-plagued Eastern Conference.

The arrival of Bernier in goal, Bolland as a ‘glue’ piece in the middle (providing legitimate Cup-winning experience) along with the signing of Clarkson last summer had suggested progress was around the corner. And at various points during this past season, the Leafs appeared poised to do just that, perhaps most notably in the 15 or so games just prior to the Olympic break.

That the Leafs are where they are is frustrating for most supporters, but I do still believe there is talent here, some high-end talent in fact sprinkled throughout the roster. Whether we have a) an identity that I have long talked about here or b) the leadership required to get them where they want to go, I still don’t know.

We have spent the season debating about the coach, his roster decisions, the system of play, the fourth line and everything else we can imagine.  Whether a new coach would solve lingering and persistent issues (puck possession, shot differential, game night roster decisions, etc.), again, I don’t know for sure.

All of the above (leadership, identity, coaching, the direction of the team) will now fall under the oversight of Brendan Shanahan, a well-regarded ex-NHler with championship credentials as a player but no management experience as such. 

Regardless of what imprint Shanahan makes on the organization in the short term (if nothing else, I will prefer  listening to his hockey thoughts than those of Tim Leiweke), my thought for today is not about coaches or systems but about individual players.  Do we have, I wonder, not only the necessary team chemistry but also the right roster mix to be a serious contender?

Beyond the status of the General Manager and the Head coach, the Leafs (and Shanahan) will have to decide, it seems to me, who fits and who doesn’t—and who can be key pieces on a championship roster. I can’t see them moving players like Kessel or van Riemsdyk, simply because it makes little sense to trade guys who put up huge points only to have to replace them somehow anyway with similar players.

What I’m trying to determine is: who are the absolute “must keep” Maple Leafs at this point in time, that is, players management must refuse to even consider trading? (I touched on this subject in my most recent VLM podcast.)

For me, beyond the aforementioned forwards, it’s a short list.  Bernier is there for starters.  I don’t really know if he is as good as some fans have made themselves believe, but there is no point continuing to play goalie carousel in Toronto.  I thought last May we would finally have a summer without a goaltending debate, but then the brass decided they didn’t want Reimer. So if Bernier is their guy (and he obviously is), they need to make that commitment.  Play Bernier and bring in a real back-up, not a guy that also wants and deserves to be a number-one somewhere.

The most obvious name on the "must keep" list (and this shouldn’t even be a point of discussion) is Morgan Rielly.  Those kinds of talents really do come around infrequently, so when you have one on your roster, and they are only 20, you keep them as long as you can. The Leafs would not part with him, and shouldn’t.

That’s four guys (Bernier, Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Rielly).  And to be honest, my list stops there.

I have zero issue with having Gardiner and Reilly on the same team.  In fact, I like a lot of what they bring together, but if trading Gardiner (and you know how often I’ve said I loathe the idea of trading young defensemen) would get the Leafs the kind of gritty, skilled forward who would make a big difference, I’m for it.

I like Bolland but how much should we pay him?  Kadri has game, but, well, I’ll just say for me the jury is still out.  I see Mike Ribiero in Kadri and I was never a Ribiero guy, as good a player as he has been over the years.  You’ll have to convince me Kadri absolutely needs to stay.

I’ve written very positively about Bozak here, and still see him as a valuable piece.  He won’t likely be moved given his status on the first line, though we'll see how Shanahan views Bozak.  I don’t know what Bozak would net in return, anyway. (He's making a lot of money and some General Managers may wonder how he would produce without Kessel by his side.)

Phaneuf? A very good, hard-working player who has played a ton of minutes here. He's on a very expensive long-term contract and  I can’t see him going anywhere but if he was traded, I would be un-moved. I like Gunnarsson because I always like quiet, steady defensemen who just do their job, but as with Phaneuf, we haven’t won anything with him.  He’s maybe not the problem, but is he really indispensible?

There are Kulemins and Raymonds all over the league.  Replaceable. 

I like the kids including D’Amigo, Ashton and Holland, but can we honestly say none should ever be moved?

Lupul is someone I thought had leadership abilities but I don’t know if any Leaf 'follows' anyone else on this team.  So he can go, too.

Clarkson?  Next.

A team that has not won a thing over the past few years (and no, we can’t blame the past on this year’s roster) surely can’t have a truck load of “can’t be moved” players, can it? 

Can we win anything of consequence with the four centers we have right now, for example?

I understand that the Leafs have assiduously built up a young pipeline, and maybe it’s a question of time and patience.  But do you really believe that all we have to do is “wait” and somehow this group will automatically be better a year from now and two years from now?

A new coach might help, I don’t know.  New coaches almost always have a positive impact—at first. And that’s regardless of the system they implement, and whether they are a no-nonsense coach or a so-called player’s coach.

I expected a better result from the Leafs this season. I was convinced they would make the playoffs and could be one of the better teams in the East.  Why they struggled at the end of the season, I can’t say.  Yes, the goaltending was off at times, but it was the same goaltending that stole games the team had little business winning earlier in the season.

I'm of the view that as culpable as Nonis and Carlyle may be, this is on the players.  While we keep saying this is a young team, look at the years of experience most guys have.  This is not a team of 20 year-olds with zero NHL experience.

So for me, the list of untouchables is pretty limited.  Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Bernier and Reilly (and Bozak by default).  And I’m not even sure you win a championship with Kessel- I just don’t know that it makes any sense to try and move him.

Is my list too long—or too short?


  1. Bernier, Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Rielly...I agree.

    I think I responded last time that I didn't want to give up any players that could become an important part of somebody else's perennial Tuukka Rask.

    Kadri and Gardiner could make that little change or take that next step and become important parts of contending teams.

    I could see Phaneuf being a key part of contender. He never gets a partner of equal quality. What would Keith be like without Seabrook?

    Most of the other untouchable Leafs are actually Marlies. From about January I have wondered why we didn't bring Granberg up for a game here and there. He seems to be exactly what we needed: a big, smart, mean, defensive defenseman, with mobility. He finally got his chance and didn't disappoint:

    Did you notice him out there directing other players with his hands? That's some presence and on ice leadership for a 21 year old.

    Do you remember Kenny Jonsson? I don't want us trading away talented Swedish defencemen that we drafted.

    I would see Spencer Abbott, T.J. Brennan as untouchables. They are AHL scoring leaders and all-stars at a young age and we haven't even given them a look. What might we have in these players? We don't know yet.

    The same goes for Broll and Devane...size and toughness plus they can actually play. I want them playing against Boston in a couple of years.

    Josh Leivo is almost untouchable. He has 21 goals as a rookie Marlie. He is the first to do that.

    Stuart Percy is very steady for such a young defenseman

    Finally there is Sam Carrick,just turned 22 a good two way player +14. He keeps producing and is up to 29 points:

    Watch what he does yesterday. Though he doesn't have the talent, getting up from big hit and fighting reminds me of Wendel. Spott describes him as a leader and he might have the heart that Leafs need

    1. Hi DP- it will be interesting to see if Shanahan wants the Leafs to go in an even younger direction, including some of the Marlies you mention above. I think they will need some veteran leadership, too.

  2. Hi Michael, On the big club my list would include the same 4 players plus it would be awfully hard to give up on Gardiner. I agree with DP that some of these young Marlies should be given the opportunity to make the team next year. To have a collapse three years in a row in some way or another just proves to me that the leadership of this group is weak. Don Cherry mentioned last night that Phaneuf should not be the captain, just let him play and I agree.Watching the Raptor game this afternoon, when Detroit looked like they were going to take over the game Lowrey and Derozan stepped up and came through.This is what your leaders should do. I don't see this quality in any of the players on the Leafs and would further state that it appears that they are looking around to see if one of them will step up.

    It also appeared to me that after the California trip that the team relaxed against Washington and especially Detroit. They would have been 9 points up on the Wings if they had won that game, instead they were up 5 and they couldn't jack it up again to stop the slide. I saw this characteristic in the team throughout the year, especially on the pk where the sense of urgency to get the puck out was not there the whole year. To go from 2nd in the league in pk to 28th with only one change in personnel [ Komorov ] tells me that the difference was between their ears. A very disappointing year, I don't think I will get excited about any changes or quick starts next year. I really thought the team was on the way up, time to reset......again

    1. My guess is a lot of Leaf supporters will "be from Missouri" next season, purch. We've seen some quick starts fall off in recent years, and may will wait for steady, consistent play before believing again.

      Leadership is so important, whether that's the old-time vets or emerging youngsters. Nowadays it seems that teams need a number of leaders to show the way and the Leafs are seemingly lacking this vital ingredient.

  3. My untouchables would be Bernier, Reilly, Kessel, van Reimsdyk, and Gardiner with a caveat, I would only trade Gardiner if he was part of a package for a true first line centre with size. As good as Bozak is he does not stack up well against the good first line centres in the league. Kadri has head problems, he will never be as good as he thinks he is.

    1. I hear you on Gardiner, mrj- he's such a talented young player. I don't like trading young defensemen with so much potential. But if the right deal can be made...

  4. I agree with your list Michael but would add one further comment:
    Before trading Gardiner, I would like to see the Leafs try him as a winger. With his speed, puck handling ability and good hockey sense, I think he could be a very useful forward. He doesn't seem to have the size to handle the defense position as well as needed and I think his inabilities/mistakes in this area ruin his confidence and affect his play. Freed from these concerns, I think he could be a really exciting addition to our forward crew. Red Kelly made the switch years ago and that turned out pretty well (although he was a pretty good D man too!)
    Once again it is wait until next year. Enjoy the summer everyone as we wait to see what develops in Leafland.
    Thanks for your efforts this year on VLM Michael!

    1. I think some have quite accurately described Gardiner as a "rover"- a guy who is not really a forward or defenseman. I don't know if the brass would see him as a candidate to switch positions or simply add a young player still learning his trade. Regardless, he may be one of the Leafs who the organization will have to make a decision about. Is he worth more to retain, or to move for what he could bring in return?

      Thanks for the good words, Ed- and for your continued contributions here. Have a great summer as well.

  5. Hi Michael

    Your top 4 is easy.

    If the objective is to win the Stanley Cup, at this point unless the Leafs were to get Tavares or Stamkos, it would not be wise to trade Gardiner who has significant upside. It wasn't until the Ducks had both Pronger and Neidermeyer that they became a Stanley Cup team.

    As everyone knows the Leafs were dismal for the past 3+ weeks. If not for Reilly and Gardiner, I swear they might never get out of their own end with control of the puck, except for the center ice faceoff after a goal.

    Long term success will depend on the organization's ability to develop their own players!!!

    For the most part, these long term contracts will become anchors past 35?

    1. You've touched on one key area where the Leafs have struggled, Ralph (RLMcC)- player development. As fans well know, it's one thing to draft well; it's something entirely different to then develop the players properly. While I'm sure arguments can be made about certain young Leafs developing fairly well, sometimes I sense we are seeing the same mistakes from the same players. To me, that's not a sign of proper coaching or development. So while I certainly agree we need to stick with talented young players, the organization has to to a better job of helping players reach their potential.

  6. Michael,

    It seems as though the more things change in Leafworld, the more they stay the same. Lots of players that we can't trade, I am unsure as to why. Why exactly can we not trade Kessel, or JVR? It's not like the Leafs are winning anything with them, as the go to forwards, did I miss something? For the record, I like Kessel, but he is what he is. Burke made the trade five years ago, and our world class, elite, $8 million player, has led the team to zero postseasons after a full season.

    We as fans, need to stop overvaluing the guys that put on the sweater, full stop. I have always said that there are dozens of players in the league that I would rather have in the blue and white. That hasn't changed. You know what else hasn't changed? Toronto fans, and management, are still far too enamoured with journeyman NHL'ers, who are giving us one dimensional play. The good teams in the League, draft players so that they can play on the big club, not for the minor league franchise. Toronto is not one of the good teams, by the way. Lots of fancy players, a really terrible team. Full stop.

    It doesn't matter who you draft, if those same players never get more than a cup of coffee in the NHL. Detroit lost half their roster this season, including their two best forwards. Yet, there they are in the playoffs, and their young players were trusted to get them there. In Toronto, we get Jerrod Smithson, Troy Bodie, and Fraser McLaren. Then we all sit around and lament the fact that the Leafs never draft anyone. Does anyone really know what Holland, D'Amigo, Ashton, or the rest of the Marlies have to offer? I suggest that I don't, but, I sure as crap know what Jay McClement brings to the table, absolutely nothing.

    Unless the philosophy of this organization changes, the standings at the end of the year aren't going to either. If Brendan Shanahan allows the boobs in the front office to sign more Clarksons, and Bollands, we are doomed to the fate we deserve for suggesting that guys like, Troy Bodie should stick around. The only player on the current roster I would hesitate for even a moment to trade is Morgan Rielly. I find it shocking that there are any votes for keeping any other player on the team. This franchise is so behind the times in the NHL, it's no surprise at all that they can't make the playoffs in a crappy Eastern Conference.

    1. The one thing Shanahan (as an "outsider") might bring to the organization, Jim, is precisely the ability not to "fall in love" with our own players. On that note, I was a bit concerned that there were reports he had already decided he wanted to hire Peter DeBoer- a good coach, but I prefer the idea that Shanahan has no preconceived notions and will look to find the best management and coaching staff possible.

    2. this is just a great, passionate comment by jim. well done!

  7. Maybe I am being overly optimistic but I don't believe the Leafs have as many roster flaws as a lot of people seem to think. They have a lot of young players with a lot of potential and trading off any of their young players like Kadri or Gardiner would be a big mistake and a short sighted return to the old trading away the future for a quick fix ways which have never worked in the past.

    The fact is the Leafs were 3 points ahead of the Habs and 9 points ahead of the Blue Jackets when Bernier was injured. If Bernier had stayed healthy and Leafs finished 3 points ahead of the Habs things would be totally different. People would be talking about them being a young team with a lot of potential. So the Leafs have defensive weaknesses but so do a lot of young developing teams. The fact is Reimer couldn't do the job and if he had made a few saves things would be totally different now. Reimer actually played pretty good last night against the Sens but it was a nothing game when it no longer mattered, I wish he could have played like that when it actually counted. I realize everyone keeps saying you can't put this latest collapse on Reimer and they may be right but to me the first five losses of the losing streak were all games the Leafs should have won, after those five games everything went downhill with the team eventually giving up. It is a fact that teams can be totally deflated when their goalie gives up a soft goal and if the team has zero confidence in the goalie and is expecting to lose because of him they usually do.

    I think the Leafs should replace Carlyle and go from there with some new ideas and give some of the young players a chance to show what they can do before trading them away.

    1. There is always a wide divergence of views on questions like this, Alton. There are some young players with talent here, for sure, but I do wonder if we have anywhere near the leadership or experience required to win consistently.

  8. I also agree with your list. Maybe give Kadri and Gardiner one more year before "giving up" on them. If they can bring in something we need, then i guess i would trade them in the off-season. By something we need I'm not saying a 3rd liner or 5th or 6th D-man, but something like a Lucic or Hartnell or a good D-man.

    I don't know if Komarov will be back or not, but like I said here before, we missed him in a big way this year. I don't know what he had that was so especial, but he had it. Last year's team has nothing to do with this year's. With all the fights and "goonery" and with Komarov we were much better. Teams were almost scared to play us. We need that again.

    After 3 seasons of Carlyle, I think it's obvious he hasn't helped. Same mistakes, players still running around, wandering. Time to go. It's the square pegs in round holes thing. The roster isn't built for his style and he hasn't brought in guys who are his style.

    How long untill training camp?

    1. Hey, your last question made me laugh, portuguese leaf. We've all asked that question a few dozen times before.

      You may be right about the coach. I thought we had built "his" team this season but for whatever reason the consistency wasn't there in terms of results.

      We've discussed Komarov before. He was nothing out of the ordinary, as you said, but we had more of an identity last year and his edgy play was part of it.

  9. For whatever you want to make of statistics, it's interesting to note that the top four players in the league, and six of the top eleven, in plus/minus come from the Bruins, yet their leading scorer was only 19th in the league in scoring.

    Months ago you raised the question about our top line, if it is truly one of the league's elite top lines. I answered in the affirmative then, and I still believe they are. They keep defenses on their heels and command respect when they are on top of their game. Kessel is what he is, and he will show a lack of heart at times, but we can expect to continue to receive his usual 35-40 goals and 80 points a year for some time to come. JVR's upside is just beginning to show its full force, and Bozak, well, we all know he's here to stay anyway.

    The contrast I'm trying to illustrate here, I suppose, is that in spite of this top flight line, the Leafs can't just run and gun and hope to outscore everyone. It clearly isn't happening and clearly is not how the NHL works today. So with that top line intact, management needs to examine what the rest of the team needs to do, what it needs to be, to complement this line, to give it changes, to wear out the opposition, to create line mismatches, and allow the scoring line to fly.

    Kadri was pressured too much early, but his time has arrived and he simply hasn't shown a willingness to play his full game often enough. The time is now to trade him for a useful asset before he's gone for free. Lupul I still love, but his injuries clearly get the best of him and if they can unload that salary I'd be okay with it at this point. I can't see him fighting off too many more health problems, and that's a shame. If media reports on Bolland are anything close to accurate, let him go, he's not worth anything near $5 million a year. I can't say much about Clarkson except we're stuck with a poison contract, unless a new coach can get more out of him and his game.

    Kulemin has been alright but not worth his salary. You know my love for Komorov and if they can bring him back, it would be at a third of Kulemin's salary and his game would be worth twice as much. McClement plays his heart out but he simply isn't all that good. Raymond has produced more than expected but if he wants a raise due to that, he can be replaced easy. Troy Bodie-Leiweke brings nothing to the table in my observation. The face punchers need to be gone forever.

    Defensively, I think that Gardiner began to show his full potential as a rushing d-man the second half of the season. His ability to bring the puck into the offensive zone is invaluable and if the Leafs can get their forwards in synch with him he will be something very special. For that reason alone I think he's as much of the core moving forward as Rielly. I don't know if Phaneuf is tired or hurt or what, but I'm afraid that he's going to be too beaten up in a few years to fulfill the long contract he signed. He's probably here to stay either way. Franson I think had a real down season and I wouldn't miss him much. Gunnarsson always slips under the radar and that's fine with me, he's steady. Gleason seemed to play his heart out for a couple weeks after being traded here, then went invisible. He was absolutely dreadful paired with Phaneuf Saturday. Paul Ranger has lost whatever he had, he can't seem to make a first pass out of the corner without turning it over along the boards. I liked what I saw in a small sample in Granberg, he played a simple game and stayed on his man without puck watching. Can he play like that through a full NHL season?

    Well there are my long winded thoughts on the roster this year. I'll save any more comments about the administration for another day, I'm sure you'll be discussing things with Shanahan coming aboard in the near future.

    1. I nodded along through much of your post today, Pete. Your thoughts are always well crafted and I appreciate your input.

      The Leafs do have some players with skill. What we need is character, grit and leadership, and a 'will' to make it hard for the other team win puck battles, etc.

      This is where I believe Shanahan's assessment will have to start: how many players on the current roster will be the kind of players you win with?

  10. Great post Michael. You seem able to look at the roster in an appropriate, dispassionate manner. In the past five years the Leafs have had very little success, so by definition there can be no sacred cows just young building blocks.

    Admittedly my preseason prophecy was 9th or 10th missing out on the playoffs by a handful of points . Never the less the last few weeks were very bitter.

    With exception of the top 15-20% and the bottom 15-20% of players the skill sets across the NHL are about the same. Some skate better, some play make better etc but there isn't much difference. So how do you build a winner? Maybe look to the greatest champion and athlete of the 20th century for a clue.

    "Champions aren't made in gyms, champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision - the will must be stronger than the skill". Muhammad Ali .

    Now surely I have invited a lynch mobs of stats guys to hunt me down for having the temerity to suggest that something with no place on an Excel sheet is so important to a players tool box or to a team's success. I admit that there have been many times that I believed "the guy's a pro, a pro will always have the will, that's why they are in the NHL". That thinking is wrong headed. Also I am not the sort to think that just because a guy will punch another in the face or go elbows first into the corner means he has these traits. 'Energy guys' play that way because that is all they have to earn a paycheque with. They may actually be playing more for a paycheque than a skilled guy who seemingly avoids the corners. There is a dangerous fallacy that assumes a player who will 'mix it up and pay the price' wants to win more than others. Simply put they need to play that way to get paid and put food on the table. Basic human motivation 101.

    Yea sure, every guy wants to win, of course~! But how many would take a 75% haircut in salary to win. How many of that large swath of 60%-70% of players with relatively the same skill level play for simply the pay cheque?

    No harm can come from heeding the words of an indomitable champion who over came incredible hurdles and road blocks to win and win again. What Ali said is the true heart of winning at the highest level.

    Yes Michael a team needs its share of the top 15-20% of skilled players and as few of the bottom 20% as possible. The differentiator is "a desire, a dream, a vision - the will must be stronger than the skill". Those are the traits of most of the players we should keep. I am not saying Kessel is that way , not at all, BUT as an example if he were lacking in these traits one would need to seriously ask why he is on the roster.

    I can't tell you with any reliable expertise which Leafs have these traits. Simply watching them game in game out for 7 months offers clues. Likewise I think it is flat out absurd to suggest motivating players to try harder to win is a coaches job. that is simply an admission that you have a bunch of guys who are there to collect paycheques first and foremost.

    My general observation is too few Leafs fall to sleep at night obsessing about hoisting the grail, too few Leafs are eaten at by the failure to realize that dream and too many, like A LOT of their NHL cohorts, think about their bank account more than Lord Stanley. Identify and hold on dearly to those who obsess, those who throw up at not achieving more AS A TEAM. Hold on to any and every player who can help instill these traits in teammates. That more than anything is else is what the building blocks should be made of.

    1. That'a a great post, Bmaximus.

      I think those who follow VLM a bit know my views: I write about the word "will" a lot here. And to me, that's precisely what the Leaf shave been missing for years. As you say, everyone wants to "win". That's easy. But there are degrees of commitment, eh?

      I agree that the Leafs need to identify players with the traits you just talked about, and build from there. Every team has skill, every team has third and fourth line guys fighting to keep a job in the show. Special teams need special players- regardless of the line they play on. Thanks Bmaximus.

  11. Bernier, Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Rielly as untouchables..

    I would only put Bernier and Rielly in this category. JVR is really close to untouchable for me as well. But Phil? No. I have never seen a cup winning team built around a super star winger without having a super star centre. And more cup winning teams were built around super star centre's that didn't have super star wingers. If they dangled Phil to Garth Snow for John Tavares and maybe added in a draft pick and he bit would you still say he is untouchable Michael? I realize its a long shot deal but Garth Snow and Wacky Wang have completed dumber trades by far.

    As for Shanny coming in. Well, it totally depends on the model used and how the chemistry of the executives work. The Cam Neely/Peter Chiarelli model/chemistry seems to work awfully well. The Sakic/Roy looks good for now but still needs a longer time to prove out. The Lafontaine/Murray one obviously not so much. BUT, we are seeing this new model starting to become a bit more of the norm and I expect over the next 10 years you will see more of it not less.

    One thing that is a given is being a Leafs fan never seems to be boring one way or another:)

    1. Never boring for sure, Pep.

      The Leafs do need to get better at centre, no question. They just do.

      It will take time to see how the Shanahan move will turn out. As you say, Neely has a role in Boston, Sakic does in Colorado and now Linden in Vancouver. Shanahan doesn't have the history with the Leafs, but if he is a good decision-maker that should not make any difference.

  12. My opinion is that there are only 3 untouchables on this team and they are Rielly,JVR and Bernier. My reason for this is that the Leafs "do" have an identity and style. The style of a team is almost always identified by its best talented players. The Leafs pure veteran talent is Kessel, Van Riemsdyk and Kadri. What they all have in common is super offensive breakout talent negated by poor back checking and defensive end support. Boston maybe the best managed team in the NHL. What did they do when a young 21 year old talent scored 36 goals in his first or second season. They traded him for draft picks (an unknown). Kessel did not fit into their strong structured system and they knew his hockey DNA would probably not change. I think Kadri for sure and possibly JVR has that same DNA that maybe impossible to change as defense sometimes "cannot" be taught. I include JVR as a keeper because I feel he could become a complete 200 foot forward with good coaching plus the fact he has great size to speed ratio.
    So I would say just about all options are on the table for the Leafs management.....


    1. As I mentioned above, Keith, I sense Shanahan can be objective about our existing roster because he didn't pick them. So he can come in with a 'clean slate' and few preconceived notions.

      The Bruins have guts, for sure. They aren't afraid to move young "stars"- including Seguin, because they want players who are absolutely committed to the team.

  13. I agree with your keepers, Michael. I'd be very hesitant to trade Gardiner this summer (even if it brought the gritty forward you suggest) because I think after two seasons with Carlyle as his coach, the Leafs would be selling low. I would like to see him play a year under a different bench boss. Kadri and Phaneuf fail my eye test, yet I know the advanced numbers say differently so I would be VERY hesitant to trade them this summer for the same reasons... you'd be selling when their stock is lower than their true values. Just my humble opinion.

    1. Very fair comments, Dave. Gardiner may well deserve the opportunity to play for a different type of coach. And yes, the "eye test" which I have relied on too much, I'm sure, over the years, sometimes fails us. Trading a player when they are at a low ebb is rarely wise.

  14. I would say Rielly and Bernier for sure, hopefully Gardiner. I'll add for now JVR, Kessel, Bozak. That's six. I think a change on the 1st line is a possibility during the season but highly unlikely this summer. (Even if a trade for a top center were possible, I see Kadri as one of the pieces moving out and Bozak switched to the 2nd line.)

    Ranger has a no trade, doesn't want to be moved and will stay for cheap as a 7th Dman. Clarkson won't be moved easily and can't be bought out. Dion isn't untouchable but I doubt he'll be moved. These are the nine I expect to be still on the roster after the summer. C.N.

  15. Nice analysis, Michael.

    But I will try convince you that Kadri should be included in that list .

    For one, I believe too many Leafs fans are impatient with youngsters. They endlessly clamor for “the farm to be called up” yet want to trade everyone away if the results don’t come right away.

    Marchand still makes Bruins management scratch their collective heads with some of his antics, yet he’s still a Bruin, and still helps personify what they want to accomplish.

    Kadri is a perfect example of that. Some pessimists will say “Well, he was drafted in 2009, what’s taking him so long?”, I’d rather look at it as if he played his first full season last year and his first 82-game season this year.

    If Kadri was still bouncing between the Marlies and the Leafs, and showed great potential, then of course, please trade him. But in his first two full seasons on the team, he’s top 3 in points on the team (Although a healthy Lupul would fix that).

    Trading Kadri will not get you a Toews, Getzlaf, Tavares type player unless you include a whole lot more in the transaction, making such a utopic move seem even more crippling to an organization that is still trying to stack its cupboard, especially at center.

    IMO, the only realistic trade involving Kadri in which the Leafs would not give up more is for a Ryan Kessler – a man praised for everything Kadri is not – hard checking, defensively responsible, heart-on-the-sleeve, humble play. Yet, even with his “complete game”, his typical point output for a season is what Kadri just put forth – 50 points.

    Yet, who gets more criticism for their play? The 23 year old playing in his first full season or the veteran Kessler?

    When Kadri becomes more defensively responsible, and a better faceoff man, he can be a perennial 70 point player. A bit of patience, in his case, is warranted.

    My two cents.

    Antoni Nerestant

    1. That's a good two cents, Antoni. I said I was willing to listen to reasons why the Leafs should keep Kadri, and you raise fair points.

    2. Antoni,

      Generally, I like the things you have to say with regards to the Leafs. I enjoy your site as well as your thoughts here. Assuming that young players are going to automatically improve in certain areas of their games, is dangerous. Suggesting that this is true is always a slippery slope, and this is true in Kadri's case as well.

  16. There are other people who feel the same way. On Leaf chat today Damien Cox said Kadri is a lot farther ahead at age 23 than Steen was - he also said he was betting at age 29 people will love Kadri but he may drive people nuts the six years in between. Cox also said if Bernier had not been injured the Leafs would have been in the playoffs. I'm only mentioning it because I totally agree, the Leafs had a bad stretch for sure but it is way to early to push the panic button.