It’s been a relatively quiet two weeks on here. Focus on a playoff final will do that, along with an array of personal stuff. Today marks the start of the offseason as far as site direction goes, though, so I’d expect a nice and healthy uptick from this point forward into July, with a couple of more planned (rather than circumstantial) reprieves scattered in between.

For now, though, let’s dive into a longer-than-usual mailbag to make up for the absence of it last week.

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The site was more or less just Marlies recaps in this stretch. Here’s Game 3, here’s Games 4 & 5, here’s Game 6, and here’s Game 7. The posts are very note-heavy and include all of my manually tracked possession and usage data from those games. As usual, those posts require a subscription to read.

I intend on carrying that additional layer of work into next season (and might go back and look at some noteworthy games within the regular season during the summer, AHL live archives permitting). Any work that involves this extra data will likely remain behind the paywall given the extra time and effort required to count it all, so subscribing to gain access to that and support that time put in would be both recommended and appreciated.

The Mailbag

I don’t necessarily believe that the pathway to retaining Sheldon Keefe, or in this day and age, retaining any AHL coach is a bridge promotion like that. Being a head coach at the AHL, or even the ECHL levels shows your ability to oversee all of the moving parts, whether it’s the overall system of your team, developing plans with your assistants, or even just standard person-management. Being able to find success with youth-led teams is also something that is more likely to catch the eye of rebuilding NHL franchises, who are most likely to have vacancies at the beginning of their projects.

As an assistant, you’re not creating the big picture, you’re following the primary orders of the head coach and executing a specific piece of the puzzle: overseeing a certain position, working on one part of special teams, that sort of thing. That’s why you’re seeing more and more assistants go down a level for bigger roles rather than waiting it out: the Leafs organization even just poached one of those this week. Ryane Clowe, who has been an assistant under Jon Hynes in New Jersey for the past two years, signed on to be the head coach in St. John’s for Toronto’s new ECHL affiliate, the Newfoundland Growlers. Part of that is a personal connection (he’s a Newfoundlander himself), but part of it is the ability to run the show himself.

If I’m a betting person, Keefe likely prefers being able to run the Marlies and oversee his staff his own way. Being limited to just a guy that helps Mike Babcock with certain items on the checklist might help the Leafs (particularly if Keefe pushes a more mobile, Marlie-like defence), but I’m not sure if it helps him. Besides, if he thinks Babcock is staying out his contract, no move you make is going to keep him here – an NHL team will take him on well, well before that.

Doing a quick flyby of the expiring contracts in the organization that played significant roles on the Marlies this year:

  • Colin Greening just signed a new contract with the Marlies today, so he’ll still be around.
  • Miro Aaltonen is an RFA. He’ll have a good shot at making the Leafs as a 4th line centre in September/October, and really enjoys the city, so I’d imagine he’d be interested in staying barring a big offer to go back to the KHL.
  • Frederik Gauthier likely played his way back into the Leafs’ good books in these playoffs. He’ll likely get a new contract and remain with the Marlies.
  • Justin Holl will get a new deal, but I’d consider him a better chance of being a Leaf than a Marlie.
  • Martin Marincin is an interesting one. His deal is up, he played a hell of a lot like an NHLer this year, and his qualifying offer is higher than a buryable amount. Would the Leafs be willing to eat $300,000 again if he doesn’t crack Babcock’s lineup? I’m not so sure. Similar goes to Pickard, who comes in around $50,000 over the cap.
  • With Pickard especially, I think there will be some consideration to letting him walk if they don’t find a suitor if only to do right by him. Pickard is an NHL-calibre goalie that’s currently stuck fourth in the depth chart, and his off-ice qualities as a teammate were lauded by many in the organization. I wouldn’t be shocked if they let him test the market as a thank you and as a bit of an antithesis to previous management of tweener players.
  • Kyle Baun will hit free agency. The Marlies really couldn’t find much of a spot for him after acquiring him in the Thomas Plekanec trade. No real loss there given how little he was used.
  • Ben Smith has signed a contract in Germany’s DEL, so he’s out.
  • Rich Clune confirmed at the Marlies’ post-championship rally that he’ll be back with the team next year.
  • Travis Dermott and Andreas Johnsson are obviously Leafs moving forward.

As far as newcomers, I’d imagine that JJ Piccinch gets a look at a promotion from the Orlando Solar Bears in the second year of his two-year AHL deal. Yegor Korshkov committed to an extension with his KHL team and will not be coming over next season, and Eemeli Rasanen can be crossed off as well as he’s headed to Jokerit for two seasons. As far as new regulars go, Pierre Engvall and Jesper Lindgren will join the team full-time, and we’ll likely see the team’s recent college signings (Brady Ferguson, Derian Plouffe, Scott Pooley) get a shot at playing with the team full time.

When Filppula was traded to the Lightning, part of that move included using his no-trade clause to block a trade to the Maple Leafs. There’s been some speculation that not wanting to play for Babcock was part of it, though both sides have seemingly downplayed that as a factor in the decision. Either way, this isn’t a pathway I see as likely to be revisited.

As a noted draft non-expert, I tend to just listen to whoever CanucksArmy says is good, with maybe a few other readings, highlight reels, and last second HockeyDBs mixed in. I think my early take is that I want one of Akil Thomas, Ryan Merkley, or if they trade down, Rasmus Sandin, but generally speaking I trust this group to focus on acquiring high-end skill and upside this year.

Next to none. People worry a lot about losing a piece, but if you’re able to get a player that’s Top 3-4 in your depth chart at the risk of bumping someone from 12 to 13, then you may as well do it.

Hard to say, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s jumped ahead. Holl’s a guy that Dubas and his camp seem to really like, based on how heavily he’s been depended on for the Marlies the past few years. He’s got the age, uhh, advantage over Carrick for Babcock’s purposes, and the height advantage, and the “kills penalties” advantage. If management identifies him as a guy they want in the NHL next year, I think Holl could win that battle.

To give a very political answer here, similar to what they would give, I think you’re always in the right spot to give up anyone, as long as there’s a reasonable incentive to do so. Toronto were far enough along in the rebuilding process to consider moving their first rounder in 2016, for example, so long as the phone call came with an offer of Connor McDavid.

If Toronto were to find themselves in a position to get a better long-term player by moving the first round pick than the best player they think will be available to them at 25th, they’ll do it. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be a defenceman, either.

No chance. I don’t really think he’s a great option for the Leafs, particularly because the coaching staff can’t be trusted to use him as a depth piece rather than a core piece, but I have no doubt in my mind that, with just one year remaining, that there’s a team that would give up positive assets if it came to that. There is zero need to jump straight to a buyout.

Call every GM and personally call them a coward. Put every deliverer of a matched offer sheet in a lottery for a free first or second round pick. Honestly, I don’t know. The current RFA process is tailored to favour signing top-end RFA’s to offer-sheet players if they are available on the market, but gentlemen’s agreements and fear of revenge have prevented that from happening. At this point it’s more culture than logistics, and it allows for every team to drive the price of their RFA’s down.

I’m really doubtful at this point. They continue to double down on middle-aged players with long shots to be more than replacement level NHL players, and it seems so counterproductive. Roster spots and contracts should be for youth that you can develop, and top-end vents that can help you develop. Tweeners do nothing but encourage mediocrity, and it seems like Edmonton still doesn’t quite get that.

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