I’d spend time on an intro, but I’d rather go for a walk and come back and write more articles. Here are five responses to questions sent to me over the last 24 hours. See you again in a week when we do this same thing again.

I am really bad at Mailbag intros.

This one’s a little tricky. Right now, the safest answer might not be a kid, but rather a vet; Chris Mueller has been pretty great as a support centre for the team this year, despite having a down year as far as AHL production goes with 42 points in 63 games. If the Marlies are weak down the middle next year, his minutes could trickle up a little further; and with a year left on his deal after this one, you expect him to be there.

As far as youth goes? I’d look to guys like Dmytro Timashov, Jeremy Bracco, and Adam Brooks to take a step up next year, and I’d expect for Carl Grundstrom to make the leap across the pond next season. If he doesn’t play his way onto the Leafs, he’ll likely be a lights-out Marlie.

Longshot pick: If Grundstrom plays his way onto the roster, and the logjam gets too tight, and the trade market isn’t big on him, I could see the Leafs finally biting the waiver bullet on Josh Leivo, having him make it through in the just-before-opening-night wave, and having him score his brains out. Again, that requires a lot of stuff to happen to get there.

I’ve got a bit of baited breath on that one right now. Ozhiganov hasn’t had a particularly amazing 2017/18 season; his usage has dropped by over three minutes per game, he’s playing less than ten minutes a night in the playoffs and being left out of most games. Assuming the Leafs aren’t too fussed and the signing is still on for May 1st (or later), I’d be keeping expectations lukewarm for next year. Like, “starts on the Marlies and might be decent” lukewarm.

Would be happy to be completely wrong, though.

That depends on what “never had them” means.

Does it mean that Toronto traded those three picks? If so, what did they get for them?

Does it mean that Toronto, say, picks, slightly differently in 2014 and 2015, and doesn’t win the lottery in 2016? If the Leafs still end up with say, Nikolaj Ehlers in 2014, Noah Hanifin or Ivan Provorov in 2015, and one of Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Matthew Tkachuk, or Pierre-Luc Dubois in 2016, that’s still a pretty strong core.

Or does it mean they butcher the selections completely? Do they end up with… hmm. It’s pretty hard to come up with a string of bad players in those immediate ranges. Go full Carlyle/Nonis era stereotype and end up with Nick Ritchie, Lawson Crouse, and Logan Brown, I guess? That probably puts Toronto in a much higher spot than 17 last year, though, still bad this year, and maybe they end up with an Elias Petterson type and a shot at Rasmus Dahlin this year.

Maybe you have the second scenario, but because they’re not as certain down the middle/up top with Ehlers/2016 1st up top, they’re even more aggressive with Steven Stamkos in his free agency window and give him a contract offer that blows history out of the water, enough to make him follow the money?

There are so many different variables at play here. It’s best not to worry about what-ifs.

Probably a combination of two things. One, the NBA is generally more progressive than the NHL at the moment in just about every way; socially, marketing-wise, and even on the court, where nearly every team has bought into the analytics movement and where most of the super-clubs have fundamentally shifted their systems to create more valuable shot selection. I’d presume that the average basketball GM is more aware of the value of draft picks, especially with the potential impact of a single player being so much higher in the NBA than it is in most other team sports.

As well, though, a lot of managerial decisions in pro sports are copycat-driven, and the NBA has simply had more time to get used to wide-scale lottery protection. Their format’s odds have changed over the years, but “every non-playoff team is in the lottery” has been a part of the process for 33 years now. The NHL only started having lotteries in 1995, and only allowed teams outside of the Top 5 to have a chance to win in starting in 2013. With some (and admittedly, recently increasing) exception, you have a generally good idea of whether your team is going to be in the Bottom 5 before a season starts, and generally, those teams weren’t trading away future firsts, so lottery protections were rarely used.

I suspect as time progresses, we’re going to see all but the top contenders begin to protect their picks whenever possible. It might take a while though, especially when you consider how rarely we see a year’s first-round pick get traded before that season’s trade deadline.

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