They did it. I can’t believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs did it. After years of being told that this team can’t land prime-age, brand-name local talent, their prodigal son is coming home.
But enough about Jordan Subban, we’ve got a mailbag to attend to. It’s been a quiet work week or so on my end so we’ll skip the “what I’ve been up to” bit and get straight to your questions.
So how do you win a cup? Recency aside, still need to stop the puck. Need a defensive zone faceoff man and a puck-moving d man
— Graham McMullen (@Gmcmulls) July 2, 2018
You score more goals than the other team consistently, get into the playoffs, and hope that your percentages get you through four successful coin tosses every seven or so games.
Those things you mention sound nice and they’re pieces that championship teams have happened to chase after because they’re told to, but the other 30 teams do as well but aren’t necessarily the reasons those teams have won.
We’ll go into defence more in the coming days/weeks, but while Toronto’s core there isn’t particularly elite, I believe they’re good enough to give them a shot.
What was your favorite thing about the reporting of Tavares watch
— 🌸Emily Goldstein🌸 (@SoIneedatag) July 2, 2018
I think it was just very interesting to see the dynamic of all the reporters involved. With a sharp eye, it wasn’t overly difficult to piece together which insiders were connected to which people on all the points of negotiation, and there were certain tells in how things were shaping. The idea that we were left in the dark and flooded by completely empty calorie speculation feels unfair; I think a smart person could have connected the dots and been relatively confident in his destination within a few hours of him making it.
(Relatively confident is the key word here. In something this high stakes I wasn’t locked in until I saw a LeafsPR tweet).
How do you feel about nylander with jt instead of marner? I like the idea of nylander being a shooting threat on his line.
— David Wallace (@DaveWallace33) July 2, 2018
One thing to keep in mind here is that Tavares and Matthews aren’t dissimilar players. Both shoot from similar positions and are positionally-aware poachers, with some two-way ability and cycle play skill mixed in. I like the idea of Tavares with Marner because he’ll have to build chemistry with either option, while Matthews and Nylander are already known to be magic together.
Current contracts not withstanding, would you prefer Sparks or Pickard?
— Jeremy 🐜 (@JerDavidson) July 2, 2018
The ideal situation for the organization is for Sparks to come up to the Leafs and for Pickard to clear waivers and stay with the Marlies. Both are legitimately good enough to play in the NHL, but Sparks appears to have the higher ceiling. Pickard’s semi-secret quality is in the room, though; you’d be hard-pressed to hear someone say anything that isn’t glowing about him, with many going as far as saying that he’s among the best teammates they’ve ever had. His upbeat, selfless attitude is something you want to be instilled in your younger players, and he can best do that as the Marlies’ starter.
Opinion: do you spread the talent over the 4 lines evenly? Or do you stack 3 lines and then ice a 4th of Hyman Lindholm Brown and cave in the oppositions 4th line and 3rd pair? You'd have to think that would wear out most teams, no?
— Mike Conn (@PokerMAJC) July 2, 2018
Stacking three probably makes sense in the case of Toronto. I’m a big “run four lines” guy, but even a Grundstrom-Lindholm-Brown fourth line already matches up pretty favourably against 90% of NHL fourth lines. More wearing down can be achieved with the triple-top-line system.
Do you think Matt Martin gets traded soon?
— Gannon (@shrewdcanadian) July 2, 2018
I wouldn’t be shocked. Whispers are everywhere that teams are calling, to the point where he appears to have become a positive-value asset. I would absolutely bet on him being moved in the coming days if its a matter of comparing offers that don’t counter-damage the team.
Are the Leafs better now with Tavares and the subtractions?
— Alex Hume (@AHume92) July 2, 2018
Absolutely. As much as Roman Polak and Leo Komarov are great people who laid it all out on the line for their team, removing them as “crutch” options is probably addition by subtraction for this group. James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak were legitimately good, but I’m probably taking John Tavares and a full year of Andreas Johnsson without doing much thinking about it. Even if there isn’t another addition, they’ve improved.
What’s the over/under on how many minutes the leafs 4th line centre averages this upcoming season?
— Ronnie Sayers (@ronnie_sayers4) July 2, 2018
Honestly, it depends heavily on who it is and how much they trust the player during camp. If that 4C is an adept penalty killer, its likely that he’ll play a decent chunk – which should be seen as a blessing. Matthews, Tavares, and Kadri is great; but imagine if they could all have rest during games too?
My follow up question is: since the leafs now have 3 equally talented lines it makes more sense to give them names instead of sequential numbers. What would you name the 4 lines?
— Jobin (@ShoelessJobin) July 2, 2018
I abandoned the 1/2/3/4 at the start of 2016/17 and I plan on continuing that now. I tend to go with “Balanced” “Shutdown” and “Sheltered” for the 1ABC’s. Previously, that was Matthews, Kadri, and Bozak respectively: with Tavares, we’ll have to see initial deployments to see whether its Matthews or Tavares who gets to prey on the exhausted teams and live in the offensive zone.
Plus, you know, the fourth line.
What's our 4th line look like moving forward? Babcock mentioned lindholm today…so who else fills it out? Martin, Leivo, or Grundstrom on the left? I assume brown/Kapanen will cycle between 3 and 4.
— KapanenKlutch (@KapanenKlutch) July 2, 2018
I really think this is going to come down to training camp, especially if more signings make it through. Right now, I’d lean towards Josh Leivo, Par Lindholm, and Connor Brown; Carl Grundstrom will get a very serious look to make the team, but might be held back if they don’t think he’ll get minutes that will help him develop as a player.
Who gets the “C” for the leafs?
— ¡ZachWabason! ^S^ (@ZWabason) July 2, 2018
Kyle Dubas made a point yesterday to say that the team will sort itself out in that regard, and that its better to anoint a captain when they know its time than to name one based on an assumption. The Marlies have followed that trend the past few years with good results, and its worked out well. I suspect the Leafs will play through the preseason without one.
With that said, while Auston Matthews and Morgan Rielly had the inside track before, I think that the idea that John Tavares might end up wearing that letter isn’t without merit.
Does the signing of Tavares do anything to disprove the narrative that babcock is not a players coach and will prevent free agents from signing here ?
— Trevor E (@TrevorE86) July 2, 2018
I don’t think so, because narratives don’t need merit to be spread and people will always grasp at straws. With that said, I never really bought into that being an issue; even if its thought that Babcock rubs his non-favourite players the wrong way in the long run, his reputation within the Team Canada contingent (Marleau and Tavares, for example) has always been good and players know that situations with coaches can often be situation-dependent. While some coaches get reputations, most will take a shot with a guy who wins.
Say what you will about Babcock, but unless we’re talking about bringing someone he has a negative history back into his fold, I think his reputation remains more positive than negative around the league.
How will the Leafs signing of Tavares potentially impact the Leafs during a Seattle expansion draft?
— Robert Allen (@King_Rob674) July 2, 2018
It means they’ll lose their 10th best player today instead of their 11th, or whoever it shakes out. That’s probably fine, seeing as they just added their best or second best player.
Thoughts on the Derek Ryan contract? Some say it's a decent price for a late blooming 3-4c but some say he isn't worth it and make it sound like he's bad?
— Daniel Tiller (@tiller_daniel) July 2, 2018
It’s perfectly fine, but perfectly fine is its own issue. The allure of a Ryan-type player comes from them surpassing value expectations; he’s not at a calibre that he’d be considered worth pursuing heavily or getting into a bidding war over; rather, you want to find the next undervalued bottom-six centre.
I don’t think it’s a signing that Calgary should regret (especially when compared to deals like, well, everything Vancouver signed), but it’s not the “moves that help you win” deal that Carolina’s original discovery of him was.---
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.