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Leafs 2018

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Let's be realistic. The Leafs are young, relatively inexperienced, and are still lacking in depth. That means a playoff spot is less than an expected "lock."

Hopefully they get more to beef up the blue line, the kids continue to develop, and injuries are not an issue.

Milestone's:
- expansion draft protection list June 20th
- draft June 23rd & 24th
- free agency July 1st
- training camp
- season starts October
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
steal one of ANH, CAR or MIN's young Dmen and get a veteran bottom pairing dman and another winger for the top 6 if they can and lastly a #2 goalie.

The great thing is you're not looking for young difference makers but rather veterans to compliment IE Boyle.
 

kyfe

TRIBE Member
here's a few questions:

Who would you rather have Bozak or Handzal?
Would you sign Jumbo for 2 years to be your #2C
Is Jagr useful to this team? he is truly ageless
Resigning Boyle seems like a no brainer
Would Brian Elliot consider coming in as a backup?
 

SneakyPete

TRIBE Member
here's a few questions:

Who would you rather have Bozak or Handzal? - Bozak is better in the offensive end and Handzal is better defensively. Since this will be a fast team will Handzel be able to keep up?
Would you sign Jumbo for 2 years to be your #2C - YES! would love to see Jumbo in a Leafs uniform. Would be a good fit too. Good in both ends of the ice and great at faceoffs. Still one of the best passers in the league.
Is Jagr useful to this team? he is truly ageless - useless. He faded BAD in the second half of the season. I think his age is catching up to him.
Resigning Boyle seems like a no brainer - I am not so sure about that. Does he want to come back? He's got a kid coming and wife is from Florida, could see him back in TB. Do the Leafs want to pay a fourth liner $3mil/yr?
Would Brian Elliot consider coming in as a backup? What's he going to cost?
 

Bernnie Federko

TRIBE Member
Neither.
No
No
Yes, depending on term
Elliott can suck it
here's a few questions:

Who would you rather have Bozak or Handzal?
Would you sign Jumbo for 2 years to be your #2C
Is Jagr useful to this team? he is truly ageless
Resigning Boyle seems like a no brainer
Would Brian Elliot consider coming in as a backup?
 

basketballjones

TRIBE Member
jvr and something will be gone in the off season for the d they need. i bet lou already has a deal lined up for the moment the playoffs end. the expansion draft is really gonna handcuff a lot of teams. gonna be one of the more interesting off seasons ever.
 

SneakyPete

TRIBE Member
Mirtle: What on earth do the Maple Leafs do with a prospect pool full of wingers?

by James Mirtle, Yesterday
This was my first thought, watching the Toronto Marlies torch Syracuse for three goals in 33 seconds on Tuesday night.

This team is loaded with young talent. NHL calibre talent. When they poured on the offence, and got more aggressive in the offensive zone, with the D pinching and maintaining pressure, they had a lot of finishers around the net.

Brendan Leipsic, 22 years old.

Carl Grundstrom, 19 (!) and in only his second pro game (!) in North America.

Kasperi Kapanen, 20, who we know so much about already from his exploits with the Leafs.

Add in 22-year-old Andreas Johnsson, who had the game’s first two goals — and who has played better and better as his first AHL season has worn on — and that’s a lot of young firepower.

It’s all coming off the wing.

With The Goat (Frederik Gauthier) out for the season, the Marlies lineup reminds me of an old debate in the Leafs organization, from the lead-up to the 2015 draft. Coach Mike Babcock was in the war room a lot that first spring, with Mark Hunter and others on staff, and they discussed again and again how to build a great NHL team.

The coach, who had struggled for years in Detroit after Nick Lidstrom’s retirement, was adamant you needed two things: elite D and elite centres.

But the Leafs took Mitch Marner — who projected as a winger in the NHL — in that draft, at fourth overall.

There’s no doubt he played well enough to earn that high selection. I’m not disputing that. But there’s also little doubt the Leafs young players are heavily skewed to the wings. The Marlies aren’t a top heavy team — they’re a side heavy team, with most of their best young talent skating straight lines along the boards, compensating for weakness up the middle and on the back end.

It can be a hard way to win. It could cost them against a deep AHL team like the Crunch, the Lightning farm club, which is loaded with good players who spent time in the NHL this past season when injuries decimated Tampa Bay.

What’s a more significant issue than the Marlies getting out of Round 2, however, is what the Leafs do with all these wingers.

This was a problem even last year. Josh Leivo had to go through a sort of Frank Corrado-light experience where he was designated a non-roster player for ages even though he was ready to play. There just wasn’t roster room. Not with so many veteran holdovers and newcomers like Zach Hyman, Connor Brown and Marner claiming spots on the wing. Not with no injuries.

With the expansion draft looming a little more than a month from now, the Leafs are likely going to lose one young winger. Leivo and Leipsic seem to be the most likely options, although they could always deal one for a pick or younger prospect before Vegas get a shot at them. But this is what Toronto’s forward depth chart looks like, excluding pending UFAs, as of today:

Hyman – Matthews – Nylander
Komarov – Kadri – Brown
JVR – Bozak – Marner
Martin – [ ? ] – Kapanen

Other options:
Prospects: Soshnikov, Leivo, Leipsic, Johnsson, Aaltonen, Grundstrom, Bracco, Gauthier, Rychel, Timashov, Moore
Veterans: Fehr, Smith, Griffith

The players in red are UFA after next season, meaning they have one year left and will potentially be rentals by next February. Those in blue are dirt cheap entry-level deals (at least until Matthews hits more bonuses).

The Leafs have to make decisions on all of those in red in the next 13 months. Two (Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) are occupying key spots on the wing that could be filled by all of those many LWers in the prospect category.

Kapanen, we know, is ready to play in the NHL. Right now there isn’t a spot for him beyond the fourth line. Nikita Soshnikov is at least a fourth liner. Johnsson, given his second half (including playoffs) has included 34 points in 41 games, and the fact the organization loves him, can likely play in the NHL in a depth role, too.

Leivo deserves a shot as well, whether it’s with the Leafs or the Golden Knights. Leipsic is more of a tweener, but I’d like to see him have an audition at some point before giving up on him.

The organization needs room with the Marlies, too, with Grundstrom set to play the full season there in 2017-18 and Jeremy Bracco and others on the way. Clearing the logjam at the top will allow some of these prospects to get more ice time in the AHL, avoiding the fate of someone like Dmytro Timashov, who has had only limited minutes in his first pro season.

Depth is obviously nice to have. Always. It’s something Babcock talked a lot about late in the year, pointing out that the Lightning had it, in that they called up a pile of bodies from Syracuse and won more games with them than otherwise, nearly making the playoffs on the strength of their AHL roster’s ability to fill in.

But with the Leafs depth all concentrated at one position, and the Marlies light on talent in goal, on D and at centre, something feels like it has to give. Where the organization is flush with talent isn’t a position in high demand around the league, so there’s not a simple solution.

One big question I have is if Toronto trades Komarov or JVR and slots in a young player, how much does that diminish the threat (and core strength) that the Leafs forward group was last year? The Leafs have so much cap space that freeing up the dollars, for this coming season, doesn’t accomplish much. But if the drop-off from one of those vets to a kid stepping in is minuscule, they have some ammunition to pull off a trade to strengthen another part of the roster. (I went in-depth last week on their biggest need here.)

Keeping everyone will mean losing at least one decent prospect in the expansion draft. It also might mean not enough ice time for players like Johnsson who are ready to absorb some minutes.

There’s obviously a balance here. You don’t want to drain your AHL depth and get caught when injuries do hit. But the Leafs and Marlies could use help at every other position. A trade, even if it’s not for a right shot defenceman, helps the organization level out some of that.

If the Leafs decide to simply keep Komarov, JVR and Tyler Bozak for next season before letting them walk in 2018 — which might make sense for competitiveness reasons (i.e. they think they can contend) — that opens holes when these Marlies will be even more ready to step in. That then eases some of the salary cap burden that will begin to come with William Nylander’s new deal next summer.

I just wonder if it could (or should) come earlier. They could get an asset for one of their veterans. And some of these Marlies look ready to at least be cheap depth, which is a good sign the Leafs should be able to compete even when they have to pay their three budding superstars. Keeping that prospect factory churning, putting out players who can come in and fill the holes the salary cap will eventually start creating, is going to be vital.

Ideally, however, it’ll come up with a few more centres and defencemen from time to time. Because the holes the Leafs have are the same ones one rung lower.
 

SneakyPete

TRIBE Member
This is a more in depth article on Leafs prospects:

Monday Maple Leafs prospect report: A conversation on the state of the team’s future

by Joshua Kloke, Mon, May 8th
If you want proof that having a strong prospect pool leads to success, look no further than this season’s Maple Leafs: three of the team’s top five scorers were rookies Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner.

The Leafs still have an exciting group of prospects to keep an eye on for the future. Joshua Kloke (JK) has been profiling prospects throughout the year, while Scott Wheeler (SW) has kept an eye on the team’s prospect pool with regular features and a mid-season prospects power ranking.

As summer approaches, we decided to wind down our weekly prospect watches with one final report.

***

Joshua Kloke: Which Maple Leafs prospect has improved his standing with the club the most this season?

Scott Wheeler: At the end of each season, that’s generally the question on everyone’s mind. Just when the Leafs’ season ended, fans and Leafs management were already building lineups for 2017-18. Brendan Leipsic and Kasperi Kapanen are the closest Leafs prospects to becoming full-time NHL players, but each were already fairly well regarded internally. Jeremy Bracco was not. The team didn’t have a hugely positive impression on the diminutive Leafs prospect, despite an impressive pedigree. But that changed this season. After starting his season with a 26-game point streak with the Kitchener Rangers, Bracco was a huge part of Team USA’s gold medal-winning world junior team.

“He’s got the brain and he’s got the skills and he’s had a very good attitude with us. He has been outstanding,” USA head coach Bob Motzko said in an an interview at the world junior championships. “He’s been one of our bright surprises.”

Even after slowing down with Windsor, Bracco finished his OHL season with an impressive 83 points in 57 games. His new entry-level contract is well earned and there’s no question he was — and still is — one of the more talented players of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He’s on the right path too.

On the flip side, is there anyone you think might have exhausted their leash with the organization, pulling themselves out of the conversation as a legitimate prospect?

JK: The player that I think really jumped off the page this season is Adam Brooks. I don’t care if you’re a 20-year-old WHL player, 130 points in 66 games is impressive. He might not have the size, but if the Leafs don’t bring back Brian Boyle, I think there’s a spot for him on the fourth line. I don’t see Zach Hyman getting another full season on Matthews’ wing, but I could see Hyman lining up with Brooks.

The player that I haven’t seen enough improvement from is Tobias Lindberg. The Dion Phaneuf trade was more about dumping salary and changing the culture of the team, but Lindberg was the one piece coming back many thought could develop into a bonafide NHL player.

He spent some time with the Leafs last season but with the Marlies this season, head coach Sheldon Keefe hasn’t exactly given him a ringing endorsement.

“We see flashes of what he’s capable of doing in terms of making an impact, but it’s not really there consistently,” Keefe said earlier this season. “There’s a lot of competition there for very … little room in our lineup, so he’s got to work every day.”

There’s not much room on the wing with the Leafs. He’s lost a step offensively and he’ll be 22 next season. Mike Babcock likes his players to be the model of consistency. Lindberg has had injuries this year, but Keefe also noted how inconsistent he was before his injury. If he doesn’t turn heads in next season’s camp, I see him becoming expendable.

If the Leafs lose a defenceman next season, is there anyone you think could make the jump to the big club?

SW: You raise an interesting point about Brooks. Should he step right into the NHL without wetting his feet professionally with the Marlies? Absolutely not. But if the Leafs fail to re-sign Boyle and can’t commit to playing Nylander down the middle, then they’ll be right back in the same spot they were in for most of this season — without a fourth-line centre. Brooks probably becomes the best option in the organization, too, though he’d need to make a strong impression on Babcock in camp.

As far as the Leafs’ prospects on the backend go, I’m not sure there are any options internally that are ready to for full-time roles.

Andrew Nielsen still has a ton of work to do on his game defensively if he wants to be able to play regular minutes in the NHL. Travis Dermott and Rinat Valiev are a little closer, but the former could benefit from another season of less-sheltered play with the Marlies and the latter looks more like a fringe NHL option than an 82-game player. After that trio, there aren’t any legitimate options, unless the Leafs can land one of the top defensive prospects in the 2017 draft class.

JK: If there’s no real help coming from the Marlies on defence, and we know the Leafs are in dire need of an upgrade on the blue line, which prospect would you ship out as part of a package for an NHL defenceman?

SW: If they’re going to move a prospect or two, you’d have to think the Leafs want to hang onto their centre depth. That should help the likes of Brooks stick around. Their wealth of options on the wing could prove to have some value, albeit fairly small. Nikita Korostelev has all of the talent in the world (minus high-end skating) and he’s still without a contract. The same goes for Martins Dzierkals, except he has the skating. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a prospect like Andreas Johnsson or Dmytro Timashov moved if the Leafs want to get a little more value back. I suspect Johnsson is more likely to be dealt because Timashov’s value will be muted after spending most of this season lower in the Marlies lineup. There’s no shortage of talented wingers on the depth chart, though.

JK: Timashov! I was thoroughly impressed by him when I saw him live at the 2016 world junior championships in Helsinki.

SW: It will be interesting to see whether that contract bind bites them. Will guys like J.J. Piccinich and Stephen Desrocher earn contracts? Timashov was a standout at the world juniors and again in training camp, but he’s another guy Keefe has harped on for being inconsistent. He could shine in a bigger role with the Marlies next season if he stays around and Leipsic and co. graduate.

JK: Piccinich, in gaining the captaincy with the London Knights, has to be on their radar for a contract. I know Desrocher is also captain of the Kingston Frontenacs but that Knights-Leafs connection is a little more prevalent, I’d say.

Which leads me to another question: When the Leafs brought in assistant general manager Mark Hunter, it was believed that they were going to start mining the OHL for talent. A few years later, is that strategy starting to pay off?

SW: The Leafs have certainly focused on the CHL in the last two drafts under Hunter, but they’ve also gone to the Russian well more than they used to. Under earlier regimes, they tended to focus heavily on the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and the USHL. It’s still a little early to be able to tell how well it has worked, but they must feel there’s an untapped market in Russia. The reverse is probably true about the OHL. Maybe it’s over-represented? OHL guys like Nicolas Mattinen and Keaton Middleton certainly don’t seem like they’re ever going to become legit prospects. The former has a connection to Hunter’s Knights but he’s a third pairing defenceman on that team, even a year later.

In talking to these kids and their support staffs/systems throughout the year for your reports, did any of them stand out as people? The Leafs and Hunter certainly seem to take pride in developing people rather than just players.

JK: I was really impressed by USA goaltender Joseph Woll. Not a bad first game at Air Canada Centre, topping Canada at the world juniors. He seemed genuinely at ease with the media, a good sign if he’s eventually going to play in Toronto. He’s a thoughtful kid, something of an artist away from the rink and appears to be the type of person who is appreciative of every opportunity. I know goaltending isn’t a priority with the Leafs development right now, but it’s always a good sign when a goalie has a good head on his shoulders. (Or, any player for that matter.)

SW: He was one of the only Leafs draftees actually in Buffalo when he was selected last June and he was extremely well spoken. I spoke with Woll’s longtime goalie coach in the aftermath of the draft and he spoke about the his love of the game and willingness to learn (he used to keep pamphlets his coaches would give him on his bed side table so he could read them over and over again). Big freshman year this season, too.

JK: We’re dodging another obvious question: What will happen with Brendan Leipsic? Can he crack the Leafs?

SW: He’s the rare kind of player who should be able to fill both of the roles Babcock loves. He’s gifted enough to play high in the lineup as a retriever, and he’s pesky enough as an up-tempo, in-your-face skater to play lower in the lineup. You’d have to think he gets a long look, at the very least.

And what about Kerby Rychel? Talk about a great few final months of the regular season. If he keeps it up, do you think he could surprise in camp next season?

JK: Rychel plays with a chip on his shoulder. I got the sense, in speaking with the player and those around him, that he believes he should have been in the NHL all along this season. He stepped in admirably for a depleted Marlies lineup. But surprise? I don’t know. This is a player that was a first-round draft pick. The skill is there, so he shouldn’t surprise anyone all that much. I’m just curious what else he could bring besides point production? He’s a feisty player who takes a lot of silly penalties. He’s now tied for a team-worst -7 through the playoffs.

SW: I don’t think it would be surprising to see him in the NHL full-time. It just seems like, with the Leafs’ depth on the wing, he’s the odd-man out among Kapanen and Leipsic. He certainly generates a ton of shots and stands out on the Marlies. The finishing touch around the net is obviously there too. I like what he brings along the boards — with his size and his physicality he wins a lot of battles. But he’s got slow feet and in today’s NHL that doesn’t help you.

JK: So you and I have the luxury of watching a lot of the Leafs top prospects that currently play in North America. But there are some talented prospects across the pond as well. Anyone stick out?

SW: You know, it’s a shame Yegor Korshkov broke his leg because he was putting himself in some pretty elite company with his U20 production in the KHL before he was injured. He’s got a ton of talent for a kid who is 6-foot-4 and there’s still room to add to his frame. He was quiet in a reduced role in the playoffs, but he was still getting back to speed.

Carl Grundstrom has made a name for himself as a scorer in the SHL at a young age too, and had a strong world juniors, but I worry he’s too reliant on his shot. I often joke that almost all of his assists (which come about once every 10 games it seems) are off of rebounds. He’ll need to learn to better survey the ice in North America.

After that, you’re looking at a few middling prospects. Pierre Engvall had a big year in Allsvenskan and he’s a towering presence, but he’s in tough to earn a contract.

JK: Why don’t we end on a few quick ones: Before this season, the Leafs had the consensus best prospect pool in the NHL. Where do you think they rank now?

SW: When you take as many high-end prospects out of the equation as the Leafs have this season, the pool takes a hit. They have certainly slipped pretty considerably and their lack of depth on the backend is a huge hole in an otherwise strong pool. Woll’s success adds a goalie prospect to a pool that has lacked one since, well, James Reimer probably. They’re probably a slightly below average group now, in the 15 to 20 range. Kapanen, Dermott, Timashov, Brooks, Grundstrom, Rychel, Johnsson, Nielsen, and Bracco stand out. After that, it drops off pretty considerably to a larger group of fringe, borderline prospects. With the young core they already have in the NHL, that’s nothing to worry about. They’ve also got a decent group of picks in the next two classes.

JK: It’s something that has been lost through the playoff push this season, but the organization still has a surplus of draft picks and are well positioned to possibly turn those picks into prospects.

Top three prospects you think will be Leafs next season?

SW: Kapanen and Leipsic should make the jump. After that, I’m not sure there’s a third. Rychel is the closest.
 

basketballjones

TRIBE Member
they would obviously have a deal for a new contract for whoever he gets traded to
plus he scores goals, something every team needs
 

Musical Rush

TRIBE Member
(Is Jagr useful to this team?)

Fuck no why the hell would you want that old cunt on this team for, the guy is finished. John Tavares is a free agent after next season save the $$$$$ for him. He wanted to get drafted by the shit leafs of the past, I'm sure he would love to come to this team now. The timing would be perfect, 4th season into the build.
 

Musical Rush

TRIBE Member
You need 3 lines to win in the playoffs, who cares if Mathews is the 2nd line they all get their minutes, Kadri used to light it up as the 3rd center. Say Bye to Ballsack, JVR, and Polak there's $10 million in 3 players that this team can afford to lose.
 

basketballjones

TRIBE Member
they have 4 lines, they need d. they have a crap ton of forward prospects
jvr will be gone this off season for d. bozak is great as a 3rd line center as mathews is 1st, kadri second. the leafs dont need tavares
 

Musical Rush

TRIBE Member
The leafs are going to need more than Kadri as a #2 . Most of the contenders have that 1 ..2 star punch.. Mathews and Kadri don't have the same ring to it. Mathews and Tavares sounds so much better. With Kadri as the number 3 which he is..Kadri is playing the roll of a shit disturber and will continue to take dumb penalties. You don't want that in your number 2 guy. They'll have Boyles and maybe Martin's money for the D help
 

basketballjones

TRIBE Member
kadri got more points than tavares and disrupts the other teams best guys, i would rather kadri than tavares cause he hasnt done shit
 

Musical Rush

TRIBE Member
Tavares finished with 5 more points than Kadri and played 5 less games. Kadri 95 PM..John 38 PM and a better faceoff guy avg 50%
 
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