You ever have one of those days where you get the correct amount of sleep, immediately hit the ground running with a coffee, and still can’t really get into motion?

Yep. One of those today. But that’s a good excuse to get the brain kickstarted with some reader-response, instead of making everyone wait until the afternoon or evening. 

Recent Posts

How to bounce back, boost up, and re-approach Nikita Zaitsev – Just about every defenceman on the Leafs roster is polarizing to some degree, and Zaitsev is no different. While my enthusiasm for him has subsided since he’s come over to the NHL, I think there is more to him than what met the eye last year. This post tries to figure out what went wrong, how to fix it, and whether he’s worth keeping once mended.

The best alternate jerseys in every NHL team’s history – I spent far too much time poring over the uniforms of various NHL teams and deciding which sparingly-used designs I liked the best.

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The Mailbag

Probably somewhere closer to his awarded value on a deal with term. Negotiations are what they are and involve teams offering not enough and players/agents asking for too much on just about every single occasion, and this is no different. Trouba is still a quality player (especially in transition), and the ol’ “Right Handed Defenceman” tag goes a long way towards value, so I can see why he’d lead with a $7 million ask going into his case.

I’m curious to see where Winnipeg heads next with him, though. As good as he is, he’s a second-tier piece in their core, and after years of drama surrounding him, cashing in may not be the craziest idea.

It’s not so much that Andreas Johnsson was given one year, it’s that he took the automatically-acceptable one-year option available to him. What Johnsson accepted was his qualifying offer – a one-year contract that teams are required to offer to their restricted free agents to retain their rights.

Most of the time, players won’t accept; guys on the bubble might take less to get more guaranteed AHL money, and players clearly in the NHL are likely looking for more than their QO (for example, I doubt William Nylander is about to accept a million bucks).

The Leafs were likely looking to get Johnsson locked in to a medium-long term deal while he had no significant NHL experience to negotiate with, and weren’t willing to put up guaranteed money without verifiable result. While Johnsson looks like he’s a legitimate NHLer, and a monster AHL season and playoffs leans you towards that belief, he’s also right around the age where gaudy AHL numbers begin to carry less of a reputation for success.

I’d guess that Johnsson really believes that he can earn himself a spot higher in the lineup and is willing take the one-year risk. I wonder if that comes with some deployment consequence (for example, fewer chances at powerplay time so he can’t come to the negotiation table with too many points on hand), but it’s an understandable gamble for a player at the make-or-break part stage of his career.

It’s not impossible, but if he ends up being that in the Leafs organization, it will likely be because of a spread of offence, not because they feel he is the best or second best forward on whichever wing he plays. He’s a creative playmaker who is money in the neutral zone, and I expected another strong leap in his play with the Marlies next year. Middle-six on an average NHL team is probably where I’d slot him in the long run, and that’s not a bad thing.

Timashov’s expectations have always been a little broken compared to where he was selected; the fact that he became the face of the Leafs’ 2015 Draft methodology led people to give him the same degree of hype as a first rounder normally would, and while I still consider him a shrewd pickup, I don’t think that was incredibly fair to him. He’s developing on schedule, but victory for him, like most players taken on the second day, would be making it to the show.

Dzierkals had a very solid season with the Solar Bears last year. Whether it’s enough to keep him in the organization as a noteworthy prospect is an interesting question, but I imagine he at least shows up to camp and fights for a spot with the Marlies before any firm decisions are made.

As for Clune, I think him coming back in some role is a foregone conclusion, and because of that, they’re just waiting until it makes sense for them to sit down and hash out the negotiation. He still likes being involved hockey, and the Marlies still like having him around. He doesn’t seem to want to play anywhere but home.

This likely comes down to when a phonecall or a lunch is most convenient for both sides and it gets sorted then. For all we know, it could be right around the corner. Either way, expect him back in the fold next year.

Less predictability out of Toronto’s defence when breaking out. As the season progressed, it became more and more obvious that if the left-side defenceman was available to make a play, he’d opt for the stretch pass, and if it was the right-side defenceman with the puck, it would usually be a dump-in or a chip off the boards. I feel this is something that Boston took advantage of in their series, often forcing the play in the direction they were in the best position to cover, and really handcuffed Toronto’s ability to set up.

The Marlies are more carry-out oriented, something made evident to Leafs fans when Travis Dermott came up and was very rush-heavy compared to his peers. I’d like to see more of that, but more than anything, I’d just like the group to be a bit less predictable. Having mobile players on both sides is the biggest aid to that, and a big part of why I’ve been pushing certain combos over the past few weeks, but that’s something that can be addressed tactically as well.

I was going to say Melo, I’m all for more selfish shooters, but he appears to be heading to the Rockets. I suppose Dubas got Moreyballed here.

I think there’s always a context to consider when talking about the whole “own-rental” idea. For example, I was extremely in favour of moving James van Riemsdyk in the winter, despite his status being very similar and people being less open to the idea.

My rationale there was that Van Riemsdyk was somewhat replaceable in the lineup; not necessarily one-for-one, but Toronto had no shortage of offensive depth, Andreas Johnsson was on his way up and also played a “poacher” style game on the powerplay, and it was pretty obvious that the Leafs weren’t going to renew his contract in July.

Gardiner is a different story. He is probably Toronto’s second-best defenceman, and a departure from him would likely require an immediate search for a replacement. There isn’t really anyone who can fill his role in the same way internally; at least not right now.

Whether or not they can secure him beyond this year is a completely different question, but I think subtracting Gardiner from Toronto’s defence group would make a bigger impact on results than subtracting Van Riemsdyk from their forward group would have last year, and likely with a smaller return.

Ooh, a tough question but a fair one. Matt, there’s no single answer. Some readers respond to my integrity, others are more impressed with my incorruptibility. (Matt leaves the table) Still, others buy my determination to bring in more subscribers. And the bureaucrats in the mainstream media can put that in their pipes and smoke it!

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