Happy New Year! Okay, it’s a day late, that doesn’t man I want the other 363 days we’ve got going for us to be anything but the best for all of you. My resolution for this year is to get back to the article-a-day grind, and while the first day was skipped, I’m looking forward to taking

I’d like to think so. Heading into this year, Rielly had already put up pretty respectable numbers for a defenceman of his age, but his explosion into someone that can put up a 40+ point pace and good relative possession numbers has been a welcome sight to see.

A lot of that comes from being put in a better position to succeed than in previous years. Rielly was used against Toronto’s toughest competition in both of Mike Babcock’s first two seasons, and usually not with much help; his 2015/16 Partner was usually Matt Hunwick on his off-side, and even the most optimistic Nikita Zaitsev fan will acknowledge that he isn’t a world-beater.

Now, the Leafs have balanced out the matchups that Pairs 1 and 2 face a little bit less lopsidedly, and he appears to have meshed decently well with Ron Hainsey, who isn’t an optimal partner but does enough to stay above water. Taking some of the pressure off of him has been good, especially when you consider that last year involved him playing below-100% towards the end with an ankle injury, and that he was used more heavily on the penalty kill.

The issue with the #1 defenceman conversation is people use the definition so loosely. I think it’s fair to argue that there aren’t 31 defencemen in the NHL that I’d take over Morgan Rielly. But some, understandably, want more than that: they want an elite, dominant, Norris contending defenceman on the roster. That would be great, but I wonder if a team with the offensive firepower that Toronto has would gain more by addressing their defensive core in a weak-link fashion (trying to have three dependable pairs instead of having an elite, an okay, and a bad) instead of hoping that one player will come in and do everything.

I think there’s a real chance that he’s taken in the Top 5. Before he got ill, many had it as him vs. Nolan Patrick at the top of the charts, and before people started to realize that the Leafs would be, you know, actually good, many talked of tanking to get him.

It wasn’t completely unwarranted. In 2015/16, Liljegren had the 4th highest points/game for a U17 defenceman playing in the SuperElit league’s history (second highest of anyone to play at least 25) games and had the second-most productive Age 16 season in SHL history. The hype wasn’t quite as supernovic as it’s been for Rasmus Dahlin, but it was there. Given that Liljegren is now having the most productive Age 18 season ever for an AHL defenceman, it’s probably a safe bet to imagine that he would’ve had a heck of a draft year had he not gotten sick (especially if he played for a better team).

In other words, I think a healthy Liljegren has a very real chance of going over Miro Heiskanen (3rd, Dallas) or Cale Makar (4th, Colorado). Like I say every day, put Mono on Legend’s Row.

I have a bunch of stuff that I haven’t really worked into the rotation yet due to all the slow. Honestly, right now my most worn pair of shoes is a hilariously bad counterfeit pair of Toro Bravo Jordan 4s that I bought on AliExpress for $40 a few years ago, simply because I don’t care if the snow or salt finishes them off.

Once the streets are clear, though, my go-tos are typically my Motorsport 4’s, Royal 1s, Louisville Ultraboost 2.0s, MultiColour Flyknit Races, Zebra 350 V2s, and I really want to work in my Light Bone Air Uptempos that I just picked up.

It’s going to be very situational. I think that there’s no harm in them at least testing the waters on what they can get for the UFA group; getting all of Marchessault, Perron, and Neal signed is going to be hard enough, especially at a number that doesn’t go way above what they’re making now (that group currently has 93 points in 102 games at just $9.5 million total).

On the other hand, they don’t have much to gain by letting the air of the tires, and attempting to go on a run is probably better for them from a marketing perspective (both to the fans and to players on the future UFA markets) than accepting the middle.

Needless to say, it’s a tough spot. Perron is probably the most expensive of the bunch without crushing the dream; if they can turn him into a decent haul of picks and/or prospects I’d probably go for it.

It has to be the Ottawa Senators, no? They bought into their own hype of being contenders, gave up a ton to make a mostly-lateral move, had the percentage gods finally go against them, and now the team is free-falling off the face of the standings-based earth. Their generational talent of a defenceman and captain sure is speaking like he doesn’t have much time left there, and their owner is speaking like the whole team might not have much time left in the market.

Plus, it’s so hard to fix. First someone more sensible has to buy the team, then you need to make Karlsson feel comfortable with staying (or give that illusion so you can sell him without looking desperate), then you likely want to clean house and completely rebuild the depth chart, as even the farm teams don’t have a ton to be excited about.

I don’t envy whoever has to fix them. It’s going to take an incredible effort, incredible luck, and likely incredible amounts of money.

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