Hey, we finally got this out on a Monday Morning! I was considering doing a bait and switch here and instead of answering the questions from when I tweeted that I was on a bus at about 11:30 PM last night, but that seemed unfair, so we’ll stick to the genuine ones this week. But I will stress that if all you have on your hockey mind are the same 3 or 4 topics that get beaten to death, I’ve got a lot of time for fun, completely off the board questions too.
But like, next week. We’ve got the below to tackle for now.
I know you’re a Leafs guy but with an 8-2 start, do you see my #NJDevils sustaining success? Big west coast road trip coming up next week.
— James Beattie (@JamesGBeattie) October 29, 2017
The short answer here is, well, no. There’s a bit of a growing feeling right now that the Devils may not be as bad as they looked on paper, to the point that a cooled off team might be expected to stay out of the basement if they get decent goaltending. But underlying numbers suggest that they’re not powerhouses just yet; New Jersey stands 20th in Score-Adjusted Corsi and 15th in Expected Goals For Percentage at the moment. Their team shooting percentage at 5v5 ranks 6th in the league, despite not having too many pure snipers available to them; though they have moved the puck into the right areas to capitalize throughout the year. Those hot sticks also bleed into the powerplay; their shooting percentage is third highest, which could be seen as a sign of talent, but they haven’t generated the type of volume that a legitimately elite powerplay team would typically have.
Looking at individuals, you look at guys like Will Butcher (11 points in 10 games, but no primary points at even strength), and Brian Gibbons (41 goal pace despite an AHL career high of 36 points at 29 years old), and you have to imagine the offensive shine wears off a bit soon. Where it all ends up? Who knows, the Metro is basically high-stakes Calvinball. But we’re probably not talking about the top of the standings for them in a few months.
Is it just weakness on the blue line that explains why the Leafs aren't winning/playing well right now?
— Conor McSweeny (@seemictweet) October 29, 2017
Probably not. We’re very quick to find a reason to blame things on a struggling blue line, but the reality is that a) sometimes teams have a pocket of losses and b) We’re trying to identify which skaters are to blame for a team that’s been middle of the pack in shot quantity and quality against, but bottom-five in save percentage. If there’s anything that particularly concerns me “defensively”, it’s probably the effort that the forwards have put into supporting their defencemen, but I’d probably brush this streak off as a blip that, unfortunately, their goaltending has been able to step up to bail them out of.
Leafs package JVR for Duchene as a wake up call for the buds and the skid they’re going through?
— Barry McCluskey (@barrymcc19) October 29, 2017
I really don’t think that a massive shakeup trade is in order for a team that has lost consecutive games exactly once this season. I also don’t think that, after getting a ton of interest for Duchene, the Avs will accept an expiring contract in return. This is probably a thought to move on from.
If Frankie Corrado and Josh Leivo play NHL games in the same week, how quickly does the world end?
— Kyle Cushman (@Kyle_Cush) October 29, 2017
7 minutes and 52 seconds.
Do you think Bab's insistence on playing Martin has anything to do with the 4 year contract that management signed him to?
— Jazib Khan (@JazzJackrabbit_) October 29, 2017
It’s probably a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation. The team committed four years to him because they believe him to be a useful NHL player (again; he is, the argument is that they have an abundance of guys that might be better), and it’s hard to tell the guy that you signed for four years that you don’t trust him enough to play every night.
This injury, as unfortunately timed as it was, might be the best thing for the dream of rotating him through the lineup. He’s no longer iron-manning his way through his contract, which allows for a little bit more wiggle room.
With Andersen struggling and Mcelhinney being Mcelhinney when should we expect Pickard up? Kaskisuo obviously in CHI but relief seems soon.
— Daniel Tiller (@tiller_daniel) October 29, 2017
The last time Frederik Andersen struggled, Mike Babcock played him until he fixed himself and went back to his self-described “F*** You Freddy” ways. Should they not do that, they’ll play Curtis McElhinney until he proves definitively that he’s not capable. As for which of Pickard or Kaskisuo is the best option…
I’m gonna go with the Wild Card that started the season as the Marlies starter, has seniority in the organization, got a multi-year contract in the summer, and hasn’t done anything this year to lose his spot.
I’d definitely consider the Leivo deal, at the very least. On paper, Vancouver wins that trade; Josh Leivo is a criminally underrated and undervalued player that is going to make the Leafs look very silly down the line, if the status quo remains. But unless his spot duty was enough to force him into the lineup for 39+ games moving forward this year, I’d rather cash him in than lose him for nothing.
Hutton is a good defenceman; Jeremy Davis of CanucksArmy did a thorough breakdown of him last week. I’m not sure if he’s Toronto’s solution (especially given that he’s a leftie), but that’s the level of player I’d hope to get back at the bare minimum.
Is Bozak on the block? How do you get him going again? If he's out this summer, who fills the 3C role?
— KonstantineKetsetzis (@KousKon) October 29, 2017
I don’t think a few rough weeks are going to change his trade status. More than anything, it feels like people came into this year expecting a little too much out of Toronto’s third line. Other teams have clued into their two-way deficiencies and the unique situation they were given to succeed last year, getting the easiest matchups of the three scoring lines, along with powerplay time.
When opponents adjust to that, the cold streaks are going to look rough. That said, patches like this might make it a little easier to bring him back on the cheap for one more season, while they sort out that final centre spot; if not, you wonder if the stopgap is to move WIlliam Nylander over to centre and run Matthews-Nylander-Kadri as your Top-9 trio, because the market probably won’t have too many cost efficient options come the summer.---
Thanks for reading! Hopefully you enjoyed this post. If you did, don't hesitate to share it on Twitter or Facebook; having more readers will help the site grow. As well, consider a subscription if you're interested in reading additional work that isn't available to guests.