To get the obvious question out of the way: Yes, I’m still mad about the Italy game yesterday, no, I won’t be over it or the buildup to it for several years, and yes, soccer is cancelled (until the next Toronto FC game). So we’re going to go all-hockey with the mailbag this week, answering questions that should’ve been answered 30 hours ago:

It’s really difficult to say. Marincin hasn’t just looked good with the Marlies, he’s looked like a force; his ability to break up plays is even more evident, he’s hopping up into the offensive zone more often, and he had that sick, sick goal on Friday that made everyone wonder if he was possessed by a different being. He looks a step ahead of what an AHL defenceman should be, and it’s been reflected in the results as he hangs around the top of the league’s defensive rankings in production and goal driving.

Will this lead to a return to the Leafs at some point? That’s going to depend almost entirely on Mike Babcock’s perception of his play. In training camp, the head coach pointed out that Marincin had certain elite tools that he wasn’t quite putting together, and references to his confidence level were plentiful. If he sees a player that’s getting his groove back, he may give him the chance; but it has to be the utmost of confidence now that his 30 days / 10 games of waiver exemption have passed by.

I think there’s still an NHL future left in him, but it’s difficult to know for sure when he gets that next chance to show it, or if it’s going to happen here.

Both Nylanders are beasts in NHL 18. Alex carried the top line left wing for my Franchise Mode Buffalo Sabres, until that save permanently crashed on me. William has been a staple on my All-Leafs third line on my Ultimate Team. They’re both agile skaters with deadly shots; probably closer together in the game than they are in the real world.

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As I’ll often say, I think JD had the right idea. For those outside of Canucks Twitter, Burke and Walker’s debate was about the definition of success when it came to Derek Dorsett’s start. Walker’s argument was that seven goals in seventeen games was a brilliant start for the player, while Burke focused on Dorsett’s continued inability to drive play.

Here’s the thing; Dorsett is definitely outproducing his expectations, and there’s not a single person who wants the Canucks to win games who would complain about him punching above his weight (figuratively and, given his play style, literally as well). If he doesn’t score again for the rest of the season, it’ll still be his best year for filling the net in over half a decade, so we won’t take that away from him.

The question becomes, is he playing great hockey, or is he getting great results? Walker conceded that Dorsett won’t continue to produce like this throughout the year, but remained firm that his play was excellent because he got the goals. But percentages are key here. Has Dorsett, a career 7.3% shooter, found a way to consciously make himself four times as good as finding open mesh over the past six weeks, without sacrificing shot frequency or improving quality? Or has he stumbled into a bunched together assortment of opportunistic moments?

If it’s the latter, and Dorsett playing the last 17 games the exact same way, 100 times over never gets him close to seven goals again, then he hasn’t played great hockey. You obviously take the results as you get them, and you make the most out of the hot streak, but if a player’s performance leaves you thinking “this would be a huge problem if the pucks weren’t going in”, then don’t argue that he’s playing good hockey.

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It depends on what your expectations were. If you wanted the 60 point pace he had last year, then of course not, but if you’re treating him like he’s an above-replacement, worth a shot 24-year-old winger, he’s been fine. Some good games, some bad games, and possibly a little too stick-gripping and worrying about keeping his scoring pace up. He’s probably somewhere in the middle of his peaks and valleys, so hopefully he can stay in long enough to find a proper groove.

As a related aside, I think we spend far too much time worrying about the definitions of players; particularly when you realize how subjective many of them are. For example, is a top pairing defenceman one of the Top 62 defenceman in the league? Is a Top 6 forward a Top 186 forward? I’ve seen some people take that approach, while others will tell you that there are only 15-20 #1 defencemen, or 10 true starting goaltenders, or something of the sort.

For what it’s worth, I think Rielly has been a very good defenceman for a number of years now. Toronto has placed him under some ugly, ugly minutes in the past with some mediocre to bad partners, and it hasn’t helped his case much. Ron Hainsey is a definite step up from what he’s had before, and with Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev taking some of the even strength load off that pair’s back, it’s helped Rielly display more of his talent. Also, getting the summer to recover from his ankle injury is something that isn’t talked about enough; he was dragging along for the back-end of last year and seems to be a fair bit more mobile now.

I’d assume that Russia are the favourites for now for the Men’s tournament, though the KHL potentially not sending its players over might put a wrench in that, same with the lack of previously-expected rebellion happening with Russian NHL players. If the federation was relying on either of those two things, they’re in trouble; losing the KHL would be an especially bad blow, that would likely thrust Sweden, Finland, or even Switzerland into the conversation.

As for the ladies, you pick Canada until they prove you wrong. That’s just how it works on the biggest stage, and I’ll hear nothing to the contrary.

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