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Can Leaf supporters assess the Leafs objectively when things are going this well?

How often have we discussed here at VLM over the years that, when the Leafs are winning and climbing the standings, it’s easy to see all the good stuff in their game. It doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t observe the issues that are still behind the curtain. We simply focus on the positives.  The guys with talent (Kessel, Kadri, Bozak, van Riemsdyk, Lupul, etc.) are scoring and making plays.  The goalies play really well and the defense corps is, well, good enough.

Is this time really any different, I wonder?

Wasn’t it a year ago when Leaf fans were feeling pretty darn good heading into the Christmas break? I may be misremembering, but weren’t we near the top of the Eastern Conference standings?  Weren’t we in a similar boat in Ron Wilson’s final year as head coach? That wasn’t that long ago.

Of course this team is different than those squads, but I recall that we Leafers were feeling pretty heady about things back then.  Of course, we know how those movies ended.

That all said, I guess my real question today is: can we, as Leaf people, really step back and assess how good this team is when things are going their way? Lately, there hasn’t been that much to pick at in their overall game, eh? They haven’t given up a ton of goals most nights; they score enough. I don’t know if I can exactly call them gritty, but they seem a bit more persistent, maybe.

And, hey, they’re winning. 35 points in 28 games puts them in 7th overall in the East, if I’m not mistaken, with games in hand on the Habs.

Of course, we know they need to go on the road, and that’s usually tough. But Wednesday night’s come from behind win in Detroit opens the door to the possibility that the Leafs can at least survive a dose of road games without losing all the momentum they have built up.

Do they have enough leadership? Team toughness? Are they good enough in their own zone (and will they be) against very good teams? What about their ‘will’ to win?

We’ve discussed all these things and more in recent times, and the questions, to me, are still in play.  We’ve proven precious little with a nice little run of late.

But it’s been better than losing.


It was good to see Reimer earn a win in a building that was kind of the beginning of his late season struggles a year ago. That was a stellar performance against the Wings. Yes, he caught some breaks. But he made saves all night long. After not playing for so long, we had no idea what we would get. It’s such a difficult spot for Reimer, or any back-up goalie, to be in.

It’s certainly a different experience watching Reimer compared with Bernier.  You watch Bernier and everything seems to be in order. He’s calm, composed, doesn't move a ton.  He’s a bit like some college professors—quiet and efficient, but not flashy.

You watch Reimer and he’s often (not always) all over the place, sliding, sprawling, arms and legs extended. But like Dominik Hasek in his own way, when Reimer is on, he stops pucks.

Importantly, he was calm and composed when he had to be, too, including when a Detroit forward broke in alone for a clear shot with less than ten seconds remaining in regulation time. Reimer made the save, not only preserving a sure point for the team, but giving them a chance to take two—which they went on to do.

For quite some time now I’ve felt very good whenever we go into a shootout with Reimer in goal. I always feel we will win.

Reimer has very little wiggle room left in Toronto.  Any time he plays a bad game, he’ll be on the bench for weeks, possibly, as was the case last season.  I’d like to see him get a chance elsewhere, but who really needs a goalie?

We’ll see if Reimer can stay composed and mentally embrace the underdog role and be a rock more often than not when the Leafs do turn to him. I still think we may need him before this season is out.


I did not read the story, but I saw a headline in the mainstream media the other day that called on the Leafs to make it a priority to sign Cody Franson.

It’s funny how quickly things change.  In Franson’s case, it feels like we have gone back and forth on this almost since the day he arrived from Nashville.

At his best, he provides capable play—a guy who can provide offense at times, play physically at times, and be reliable more often than not. When his game goes south, we have also thought of him as someone who is not indispensible.

While it always seems like a good idea to sign deserving players to extensions, sometimes doing so when a team is winning is not the right time to do it.  If they give Franson what he wants and his play becomes problematic, we’re talking about buyer’s remorse again.

Hockey, like other sports, has too often become about getting out of “bad contracts” that a player’s current club happily agreed to. Is Franson really worth a big money extension?

There’s room for debate, I think.


Back to my question of the day: how do we assess a team when they are hot?

Good coaches are often harder on their team when they’re winning.  It’s when their players are struggling that the coach becomes more patient, listens, tries to motivate, encourage and inspire in order to rebuild that all-important level of confidence that a team needs to thrive.

That’s why, as fans, it’s a good time now, while the team is doing well, to appreciate the good run but also to analyze what they need to do to be more than just another playoff-possible team in April.


  1. Not withstanding the past two wins (goalie standing on head), things do feel different this year, at least to me. There seems to be less fragility in close games, which is the biggest positive difference. The last two years, it really seemed that goals got scored in pairs (or threes) on the Leafs, as their seemed to be a complete loss of composure when faced with any adversity during the game. You could call it the "Game 7 versus Boston" syndrome, or the "18-wheeler heading over the cliff" syndrome, but I'm not feeling that sense of doom this year, at least not anywhere near that level of panic from the past.

    3rd and 4th line offensive production and eating of minutes is definitely the most noticeable change this year. You'll never have any tangible success if those lower lines are the go-to guys that you need to win games for you, but the Leafs seem to have built a bottom end that's more in line with expectations of more successful NHL squads.

    As far as Franson goes, that's a weird one. His numbers this year are really good, if you count plus/minus and point production as a decent starting point for analysis. He's 6'5" and 27 years old (a good age to lock up a defenceman, if he's performing well), so Bud's management can't flippantly ignore his desire to get paid, but I agree with your caveat, Michael. Hopefully this (kind of) new management team is more patient and less impulsive with contracts, and at least they looked wise not getting fished into the Dave Bolland cash-for-life lottery. I guess detractors could make the argument that they blew their wad on the Phaneuf cash-for-life lottery!

    I want to give a small shout out to Carlyle, someone I've beat on in the past, and I think deservedly so. He seems to be offering a more tempered version of himself this year, and I don't think it's just for the media, as a lot of players are speaking strongly of him. No, I'm not suggesting an extension, but at the same time I'm not in the camp that thinks this is an elite squad that's a coach away from a Cup run. Loved Randy's comments on Reimer's performance against the Wings as well.... nothing wrong with having a little fun.

    1. Thanks Russ- there are so many moving pieces here. The Leafs are pretty healthy across the board. They've played a lot of games at home. They've had solid goaltending for the most part. Is there really a new mentality that will last?

      Still lots of questions!

  2. Hi Michael

    Your question "how do we assess a team when they are hot?" is the very reason why people have sought objective indicators in the data behind performances to supplement our understanding of hockey. Fandom, by definition, precludes objectivity. So if we can't always trust our eyes, both because of our inherent bias as fans and also because our eyes are only on one piece of the game at any given moment, why not look for helpful analysis in the numbers?

    The reason why metrics like Corsi and Fenwick have something to add for us as fans, is that they offer that objectivity (beyond the foibles of data collection, of course) and therefore a framework within which we can have comparative conversations that aren't reliant on our faulty memories and biased perspectives.

    For example, as you mentioned above, the Leafs performance to date is a lot like two previous years when we have ended up completely awful. How, then, to address the question, will these guys be the same? Well, we could all spitball and share our best educated guesses and no doubt some of us would be right without ever really had much justification for our beliefs. Or, we could acknowledge the huge body of data that supports the fact that teams who are better at maintaining possession tend not to vary alarmingly in performance. We could then ask a question that has an answer based in fact: does this year's team have different possession metrics to the the leming-like Leafs of yesteryear?

    I'm not here to perch on a soapbox: anyone who claims data analysis holds all the answers is as big an idiot as a person who claims it holds none (*cough* Glenn Healy *cough*). Your question struck me though as being a perfect, if accidental, opportunity provided to try and show how data analysis can add value.

    1. We're likely on a similar page here, KiwiLeaf. While I am a self-acknowledged old-timer who has tended to go with "what he sees", teams in all kinds of sports have employed various kind of statistical analysis to try and grab an edge for as long as I can recall. (I remember when the New York Rangers were the first team to start tracking "plus-minus" seriously in the mid 1960s.)

      So assessing individual players and overall team play is certainly best viewed as a combination of wise and prudent evaluation by those who have skill in that area, blended with data that provides valuable insight as well.

    2. I agree KiwiLeaf, about actually using a bit of hard data to evaluate performance. When Poulin/Loiselle were kicked to the curb I was happy, as they always smirked after a "massive" two win streak, happily tossing any analytics under the bus, ignoring puck possession, shots on goal, etc.

      Healy was loud (a given), about the Leafs making a BIG MISTAKE giving Reimer the start against the Wings. I've had a similar coughing issue whenever Glenn starts spewing his stuff.

      The Leafs have improved their puck possession numbers this year..... nothing groundbreaking, but I think they had a 5 percent increase, which gives the games a different feel for sure.

  3. I'm enjoying the success reflected in the standings and the contributions from a more balanced attack (such that we are not devastated by a downturn in first line production nor the injury loss of an emotional/energetic leader like Komarov). Yet... we still see 'troubling signs a-brewing' that conjures Dickensian memories of recent Christmas seasons past.

    One begins to wonder if it may be time to recognize some fundamental fallibilities inherent in this 'core' and consider the possibility of 'selling high' on whichever core 'pieces' that could bring in a high end center whose work ethic and 200-ft commitment matches the likes of Santorelli and Winnick. On the latter two (and possibly Booth) I would actually consider early January offers to keep these guys in the fold (if the contracts balanced a reasonable increase with some term that these guys have earned).

    I've heard others say that we probably can't afford them along with Franson, Bernier and Kadri raises pending, yet I think we would be wise to consider signing the cheaper guys first (their work ethic and effectiveness are well worth a reasonable raise), then expect to re-sign Kadri and Bernier to higher cap hits than you'd like, but I think it's still possible to avoid Edmonton-esque $6M contracts on any of the 3, even if it seems possible that Franson might be flirting with that (inflated) MARKET value as a UFA.

    If the latter can't be signed in January for no more than $5M and term, then I'd recover good assets by the trade deadline AND invite him to negotiate as a UFA (recognizing the value he provided to the team with his TDL departure - which might 'justify' a higher value as a UFA signing, especially if he wants to be here).

    All that said, the team would be far better positioned to know what they can offer in the summer (if we can't lock him up in Jan.). Your comments on Cody recognize he's a known quantity, but we do see the warts that accompany the package, so hope that Cody, Jonathan and Nazem don't cost us the 3 one-year tryouts who I'd like to see on the team going forward.

    Reimer is doing as much as you could ask from someone in his shoes/skates... and I hope that he continues to give us that best until everything becomes clearer. Whatever happens, I wish him all the best. Also, wonder if a 'package deal' is in the works with Ashton returning soon, Percy called up (though I just checked and he went back down... wondering if they were just giving him a bonus pay day in the NHL?!), Smith needing to clear waivers (unless up on emergency basis... don't think so), while anticipating Leo's return. Lots to juggle :)

    1. I guess these are the things that a GM has to juggle and consider, InTimeFor62. Are guys playing beyond what they will in fact deliver later? How much are they worth going forward? Who do we absolutely need to keep versus those that we can move for other needed assets.

  4. I am still not sure of what we have with this Leaf team. There has been a tremendous turnover from last season and rightly so. I count 9 new players who did not play for the Leafs last year. It takes time for a team to play cohesively with so many new additions, so I would withhold making a comprehensive evaluation until around the midpoint of the season.

    There are, however, some short term observations that can be made:
    1. Many of us were disappointed when Leo Komorov was not resigned last year. He was sorely missed and I could make the argument that with his increased offense along with his stellar defense and penalty killing, he is the team MVP to this point.
    2. The third and fourth lines are playing defensively responsible hockey as well as providing some scoring, a great improvement over last year. They are taking pressure off the first two lines by scoring, playing well defensively in crucial situations and eating up some minutes.
    3. There has been a huge improvement in the penalty kill. Winnick and Komorov might be the best tandem in the league.
    4. I have read many comments on other sites calling for Joffery Lupul to be traded. This, in my view, would be a huge mistake. He provides energy and scoring that would be difficult to replace.
    5. Our first line has become an embarrassing 5 on 5 liability, hemmed in their own end for entire shifts and rarely spending much time in the offensive zone. I believe the line shuffling experiment of earlier this season needs to be revisited.
    6. Our young defensemen, namely Gardiner and Rielly and lately Holzer are making a number of mistakes each game and are prone to poor decision making sometimes when under pressure. I guess that this is part of the maturation process and there is certainly enough talent there to warrant patience.

    I feel that this team is significantly better than last year and am hoping that they continue to show improvement and consistency.

    1. Your last sentence suggests hope, Pete Cam. At the same time, your first sentence reflects the reality of where a lot of us are: we're still not quite sure what we have just yet!

      All fair comments- I'm a fan of how Komarov plays. We've had too few guys like him over the past decade. Lupul just needs to stay healthy.

      Our first line needs to have some accountability, for sure. And I do have a concern about mistakes in our zone that will hurt against good teams.

    2. Pete is absolutely right about Lupul. Even some close Leafs viewers suggest to trade him but that is really a huge mistake. We do not have a lot of top six forwards and he is not expensive for 20 plus Goals.
      And Lupul is a real leader, he can really spark the team like nobody else on this club.

  5. I like Kiwi's post a lot. My thoughts are pretty similar really. Fancy stats are not the best thing since sliced bread nor are they useless. Used across a decent sample size of games they can give a leading indicator of what is to come unless something changes. What they cannot do is tell you what exactly to change. And I think that is what the dinosaurs hang their hang on when they argue the stats are useless. That is where a smart management and coaching group can look at the stats and say we have an issue we have to change. Then smart thinking and experience needs to kick to decide what to change and how best to implement the change.

    The last handful of games have been mixed. The team has had good periods but has not had any full 60 minute games playing the way they need to. The 3rd period with a lead has been downright scary and if not for great goaltending that we saw early last year I suggest they could have been 1-4 over the last 5 games as easily as not. The fancy stats back that up.

    So what does need to change? For starters, a good start to the first period. Too many games lately the team has looked flat at the start. And, don't change the game plan in the 3rd period either intentionally by Carlyle or the players just trying to play "too safe" and sitting back. We all know once that starts to happen it is not easy to change the flow of the game the other way.

    What else needs to change? We need Uncle Leo back. He brings that certain something (us dinosaur aged fans call that character) that fancy stats do not cover that the stats geek argue isn't real. He leads by example on the ice, and from all the reading I have done, he has a funny "keep the guys loose" leadership style in the dressing room. Make no mistake he IS one of the key leaders of this hockey club to me.

    Can Leaf supporters keep things objective when the team wins like they have been lately? Last year the answer would be 80% of them no. This year I would suggest more are due to the experiences of last year but I cannot guess as to what that percentage might be.

    1. The 60-minute reference you make is a great point. Sadly, it is not a new issue, Pep. It seems we have talked about this for several seasons now. The Leafs can "look good" for a period or two, but rarely are they a strong all over the ice team for 60 minutes.

      Until recently, we were seemingly able to win games without superlative netminding. The last couple of games showed we still need our goalies to stand on their heads at times. (And yes, we need Komarov!)

  6. Michael,

    There sure are a lot of similarities between this years incarnation of the Leafs and the last few teams we have watched go over the cliff. As you pointed out, the core of the team is the same, no surprise to me that the results would be along those same trolley tracks. They played really badly in Detroit, really badly. It was the Nashville game with stellar goaltending. Reimer stole us a win, the problem is the team need their goaltender to do that quite often.

    I think the team makes the playoffs, I actually do. There is not one team below them in the standings who is not in the playoff picture that I think is that much better than Toronto. The problem I am having is that after a great run, something like 7-1-1 in the last nine, the Leafs are in seventh place in the Conference. Is this what we are all getting heart palpitations over? Seventh place? Talk about a low bar, at least last year they were in first place.

    I still see a myriad of problems for the Leafs going forward, especially after this season. I do like Franson, but with the salary cap jail Nonis has this team in. I can't see keeping him without moving some other piece out, similar dollar wise. My temptation here is to crap on the most recent Gardiner signing/extension. But, it just seems like one more in an already too long list of bad decisions by Dave Nonis. Toronto and Edmonton, a lot a like in my mind. Both teams hand out contracts to players that haven't proven anything to anyone. Is that some of the reason for the apparent complacent attitude in those dressing rooms? I don't really know, but it seems to make some sense.

    There will come a time, if the team continues to churn its bottom 6 via free agency, instead of drafting and developing cheap, young, hungry replacements. When the Santorelli's, Booth's, Winnick's, etcetera end up being busts instead of great value. The odds of it always working out this well are just about zero. It is the situation the management team has boxed themselves into. They can't afford to keep them after the season. They will go somewhere else for more money than Toronto can pay, just like Raymond did this season.

    If we are all being honest, the core players on this team have always seemed to have the attitude that none of the little things matter if they are winning. Some of you have said you can see a difference, maybe, maybe not to my eyes. Are they better possession wise? Yes, but they are still bad according to the metrics. Still giving up the third most shots against per 60 minutes of 5vs5 play.

    The Eastern Conference is really bad, the Leafs are relatively healthy. Is Kessel injured? No one seems to be able to say. They are riding a good string of results, I hope that some of you save some optimism for the incredible volume of road games that are coming after Christmas. Along with the cold winds of winter, regression is coming.

    1. I well remember that you called the Leafs not making the playoffs last season, Jim, when the team was seemingly a lock to make it. You were prophetic.

      In saying that you believe they will make the grade in the East this year, you are acknowledging that the East simply isnt strong at all. So while the Leafs may make headway in the standings, there is still a ways to go before we can classify them with the league's best.

      The road games ahead may well be telling, agreed.

    2. Hey Jim, you added an element to the conversation that I didn't explicitly address... namely, whether the inexpensive UFA pickups can remain in the mix if their salary market is too high. As I said some time ago, if we can't re-sign these guys to modest markups with term (i.e. they truly command Mason Raymond money) then I would consider trade deadline exchanges for whoever brings back the best return and then give Carrick another opportunity to step in after a bit more time in the AHL. I wouldn't send all 3 (Santo, Winnik, Booth) away because the other 2 can remain as our TDL acquisitions (who had longer to mesh over the whole season). If we can't get a good return and can't re-sign them within our cap 'challenges' then we should just hope for the best in the playoffs (if they remain on the table for us).

      And, you're right, the chances of 3 more 'home runs' like this year is highly unlikely to anticipate for every year, so I truly hope some of the prospects start finding their way into the lineup soon!

    3. Interesting point ITF62. I am not sure you would get much more than maybe a 3rd round pick for any of those guys though. I think they are worth a lot more to the Leafs for the playoff run than they would be as a 3rd round or later pick??? I would suggest if they cannot sign them after January 1 (which I believe is the earliest you can sign them to a contract extension under the new CBA) and IF the team is in the running for the playoffs just consider them 'rental players' that the team doesn't have to give anything up to get.

    4. Pep, you're absolutely right about keeping them if the return is too low... If even one could garner a 2nd rounder, then I'd be on that in a heartbeat (if they were un-signable within our cap limitations) otherwise I would love to view them as our TDL acquisitions (and would suggest that we avoid any other high-priced rentals - unless it gives us a head start on resigning a UFA we might really want).

    5. Hey guys, to expand on the situation you outline above. The Leafs in your scenario, would be in a playoff position, and looking to trade 2 of their best defensive forwards. Winnick and Santorelli, I'm not sure what Booth is yet, assume no one is really. Not to mention the fact that Santorelli is on pace for 60 points. How exactly, does a team that hasn't made the playoffs in a full season for ten years, sell off bargain players who are producing, and not add to the roster in order to make some move at competing in the playoffs? Let alone sell this kind of move to the vast majority of the fanbase?

      If Santorelli continues to put up points, as well as forecheck, play well defensively, he is certain to get a huge raise going into next season. It's clear to me that the Leafs will not be able to afford him, and I still see no one in the minors that is ready to handle the job. We can agree or not on that last point, but, it is apparent that Carlyle will not play a rookie in that kind of role.

      I just don't see how the Leafs can continue to roll the dice and have it come up 7.

    6. Just to clarify, I really think we hit the jackpot with Santorelli and Winnik... and have no problem keeping them for the playoffs as 'far better than the usual' TDL acquisitions who have had time to really mesh well (and lead within the system)... I even lean towards seeing if we could sign them and trade someone else to make the cap work. But IF we can't see an alternative and the team looks to 'barely' make the playoffs, I think either could bring a significant return that management would have to look at for the future (clearly NOT satisfying the fan base this year). I really hope to keep both, just think we may have hooped ourselves with other contracts.

      Now if we find consistency and address the bad habits that have crept back into the recent games such that we're looking like more than a bubble team, then one TDL acquisition may be helpful (if not too expensive)... I just don't think we're ready to be selling off the future for where we're 'at' now. I really love Santa's work ethic and skill (so would not be surprised if he could command Leo's salary or more) - I would love to keep him if we can.

      Winnik seems more 'attainable' at a reasonable price (perhaps a slight raise) yet would have to ask if his retention would keep a prospect out of the mix unnecessarily. These are issues that management will have to grapple with before the deadline. I very much like him, too. Still waiting on Booth to round into form in a few more games, yet I suspect he's the most likely candidate to 'go' in my theorizing - I would just hope he could bring a good return (if everyone is happy with the rest of the 4th line candidates).

      Trust we seem to be closer on these issues than it may have appeared, Jim. I was playing GM more than being a fan who wants to keep the 3 and add another (or upgrade one of our most desired areas for the future).

  7. Hi Michael.
    It will be interesting to see what happens by mid-season. I think a lot depends on the core players changing the way they've played for years, even under Wilson. Winnick, Santorelli, Clarkson and Booth probably never played "run and gun" so it may be easier for them right now than it is for the core or Marlies. I thought they were getting it but the last few games have shown they aren't there yet. Overall I think they've improved, with a few steps back, and won a few games where goal-tending was just average. I still wish they'd try Santo or Booth on the first line when the play is 5x5. They'll never be great defensively IMO.

    1. I wonder if Carlyle will ever really break up the first line, Colleen.

  8. Hi Michael,

    well, they are winning, and that's it. They are not good enough defensively and not only in their own zone. They have more depth on forward positions and you can see it but they are still not putting up strong 60 minutes constantly. If they can not improve in shutting the other teams offence down and reduce the shots against, they won't be able to continue winning and they won't make the Playoffs.
    They have to be harder to play against. Especially against Detroit you can see how big the gap is and what has to change.

    We will need Reimer for sure. The better he plays, the better for the Leafs. A strong Reimer will influence Bernier's new contract to a large extent.

    I am glad that Franson is a plus player and that he plays well. Some people wrote that Dion is better playing with Cody, but Cody is better playing with Dion.
    Management is assessing the team. I would not sign any player to an extension at this point, we all do not know what develops through the season. So be patient. But the people writing about trade rumors and contract extensions are not neccessarily intrested in the Leafs well being.
    As I said before after this season they need a plan where they want to go and execute it.
    As for Franson, look at our D, we have five players signed for the next season. If they sign Franson the D is complete and there will be no spot for Percy and there will be no room to improve our D that is still the week spot on this team. I like Cody playing well but in all the years he wasn't over Long stretches.

    I always here the Leafs are hot, but for me a team or a player is hot when he is/they are playing strong. The Leafs are winning but they are by far not as good as their results.

    1. Hi Marcus- yes, playing well for 60 minutes remains one of the challenges for this roster. There are new players but they still struggle to be consistent.

      Many teams have that issue, I realize. But the Leafs will need to find that resolve to become a good team.

      I tend not to like in-season contract extensions, but I realize there can be reasons why it happens.

    2. You are right about the extensions, but not with this team in that situation.

    3. I don't think Nonis is a big fan of in-season extensions either - he seems to prefer to let players 'play for it' and then reward them in the off-season. It may well be the wisest course of action. I do wonder if a few minor trades are in the making as it looks like some players may have to be waived (Ashton?) before Polak and Komarov can get back from the injured reserve.

    4. It depends on the situation. Signing Phaneuf last season was okay, you know what he is and what he would get as an UFA, no reason to wait. But with Kadri, Bernier and Franson you do not really know what you have and the same applies for the one year guys Winnik, Santorelli and Booth. And with this team they Need to establish a plan and stick to it. And there are some players that we need places for next year and the cap situation is not clear.

  9. I really expect this team to make the playoffs and go deep. This is a team that was filled with young talent by Burke and each and every one of these young players (from 'veterans' like Phaneuf and Kessel through Kadri, Gardienr and Rilley to the emerging Holland, Panik and Koxun) have only been getting better. The coaching staff is improved with Spott (young man's coach) and Horachek (defensive expert) and the forward depth has improved immensely and at the right price (except for Clarkson but that's the only bad contract on the roster). If the playoffs don't happen than I think we need to seriously look into changing the core (Kessel, Bozak, Phaneuf) rather than coaching or management.

    1. I expect them to make the playoffs as well, leafdreamer..... not sure about the "go deep" part, but there's nothing wrong with having a cup-half-full approach to expectations. I agree that Burke put a small handful of pieces in place (and made a few mistakes along the way, like any GM in the league), and it's nice to offer the occasional shout out to ex or present Leafs management, as we all tend to make a cottage industry out of throwing them under the bus.

      They've lost badly a couple of times, and had a few ugly/lucky wins along the way as well, but just look around the league for some perspective. I wonder if LA is happy with 4 road wins thusfar, or if Boston is smitten with clinging to the last wildcard spot. Let's not even bother with the Oilers, as that perennial trainwreck is far beyond what the Leafs have offered up, especially based on the compiled high draft picks.

      I don't see a Cup contender here unfortunately, and the pieces they need are of the elite type that are really hard to come by, unless they get lucky with a diamond in the rough, drafting in the low/middle of the pack in the first round. But hey, if they can turn themselves into the Leafs under Quinn, with respectable regular seasons and a few deep playoff runs to glue us to our couches, that's something I'd welcome.

  10. Hey Michael, this is off-topic but with a couple observations on where the Leafs could utilize their financial clout, I started spit-balling some ideas and wonder what you (and others) might think. i.e. are these even 'realistic' ideas that we could hope that management (on every side) could even entertain?

    Dallas Eakins (with his 4 year contract) was terminated today before fulfilling a half year on that contract, could the Leafs 'relieve' the Oilers of that contract payout by hiring him to do what he does best and bolster the Marlies development side since they have struggled on the scoresheet (even though I don't blame Dineen et al), they may be open to his return, if told it's part of what comes next in my idea.

    It adds a significant financial incentive to the Oilers to consider letting go of the number one pick (at best for us) or helping us rework our cap issues). They have over $5M of cap space, so if we provided Gardiner (to pair up with his college buddy Schultz) + our first or second round pick, we could be in the lottery for a generational player.

    If they won't give up the pick for that (or more?), then we might see if Clarkson was really considering being an Oiler (and willing to go there), I would then look at helping the Oilers by taking Yakupov and Eberle. This gains us a couple million in cap space, for us... or to whomever we would trade Yakupov.

    This Yakupov piece was actually the part that I thought could facilitate another deal, namely, with Tampa Bay. What would it take to 'extract' Stamkos? Clearly they would need someone to fill a production and marketability role that could 'justify' the trade of their captain. Yakupov only helps with 'potential' and 'cache' (as a #1 pick), not with the production and marketability. That role would be filled on the Right Wing by Kessel (a perpetual top ten player with MVP US Olympic Team credentials in a US market).

    On the cap side, Kessel and Stammer are almost a wash, with Kessel's signing bonus already paid, he costs the pro-rated remainder of 5.5M this year, but 10M next year, whereas, Steven costs 8M in real dollars this year and 5.5M next year, so on the financial side, we'd have to 'top up' a couple million, which is where Yakupov comes in (at 925K) PLUS my other proposal to take Mattias Ohlund who is 3 years already LTIR (with this and next year left on the contract) off their financial ledger and bury him in our LTIR ledger.

    It would seem fair to consider the possibility that Stevie Y may know Stamkos would consider a UFA trip to Toronto, so he may want to optimize possible returns before there's any pressure to do anything rash. Of course, we don't control a Yakupov type contract right now, but I think we could get one with Gardiner in a scenario like that and I, for one, would be willing to part with both Gardiner and Kessel in order to get Stamkos (just don't think TB has the cap room for that trade directly).

    Of course, waiving a Carter Ashton (before any foray into such a deal) to see if he could return to the AHL, may enable his addition to such a deal as well.

    There are so many tweaks, additions or unidentified factors that could be a part of these ideas, but I'm just wondering if you think (A) that it would be reasonable/fair for all involved, and (B) whether you would do it?

    You know me, I always enjoy 'rearranging' the pieces like an armchair GM when I'm not entirely thinking about the 'pieces' as people (which makes it much harder in reality), though I actually think there is some 'good' in it for Stamkos, Kessel, Gardiner and Yakupov (for various reasons) and even Ashton (fresh start) and Clarkson (significant leadership role on a team lacking what I think Santa and Winnik could bring if we re-up them).

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

    1. I'd love to have Eberle, that's for sure, InTimefor62. I do think it's time to consider moving Gardiner (just my view!).

      Getting Stamkos would be awfully difficult!

  11. To add a further fantasy proposal (just for fun, if the above actually could happen), I would look at Bozak and JVR (another US Olympian to market in Brooklyn) for Tavares (L shooting center for Stamkos to play with when not at center himself) as the foundation of another deal (likely needing more than that to pry him loose, but you never know).

    1. Luckily we have Pridham who knows exactly what we can do and not do and still stay within the cap.
      If Kadri can change the way he plays in such a short amount of time I can't see why Lupul, Bozak, JVR and Kessel can't do the same. Maybe they each need a talk with Shanahan and some time learning how it's done with Winnick / Santorelli and/or Komorov. Clarkson was best with them too.
      With the first line (Gosh they've been brutal at times!) , it's gotten to the point where PP goals for and 5x5 goals against are cancelling each other out. Randy is reducing the first line's time on the ice and increasing the others. By the end of the year we could be down to three lines again with them out only for powerplays.

    2. You make a great point, Colleen. Ideally I'd love to see the core of this team going 'all in' and you have to think that the presence of the guys you mention with such a high work ethic (plus responsibility and commitment) has to 'rub off' on the rest eventually. I hope JVR finds his speed, Kessel recovers his health and they both stop 'blowing the zone' (and or skip the Kessel-esque 'fly bys' all over the ice), then I'd be a happy camper without changes.

      One of the reasons I like Stamkos is his dedication/work ethic which would mesh well with the lunch bucket crew and would consolidate to create a 'team identity' that the core is still struggling to find, hence the willingness to consider changes at the top. If the top line would buy in to what the others are doing (leading from the bottom/middle of the pay scale), then I would be far less inclined to disrupt what we have started to build... it's just that cap seems to create a need for change and I'd like to keep the 3 guys you mentioned, 2 of whom have raises coming.