We’re back! It’s been a few weeks without a mailbag, and a slow stretch in general; I hosted a friend’s vacation and then went on my own two-week break from home to close out August and start September. Unlike the heavy-hitters who clocked out in July and came back on Labor Day, I saw out the rest of the week, returning from British Columbia (both Vancouver & Victoria) this weekend.

A couple of days of jet lag adjustment later, and I’m ready to get this show on the road. Some fun stuff is coming over the next few weeks that I can’t wait to show off. For now, though, let’s reach into the pile of questions that Twitter has brought us.

Recent Posts

Leafs fall in overtime to Senators to open Laval rookie tournament
Leafs eke out victory against Canadiens to close rookie tournament

The Toronto Maple Leafs had their annual rookie tournament weekend over these past few days, facing the Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens. The results were mixed, and the games weren’t great, but the above two posts come with notes and some tracked numbers (which, honestly, don’t have a lot of enlightening meaning, but it’s good practice ahead of the Marlies season).

What does it take to work in NHL Player Development, anyway?

Hayley Wickenheiser was hired by the Leafs a few weeks ago and while most (rightfully) supported the move, there were a few people who believed she hadn’t earned her stripes beyond her brand name yet. This made me curious as to what it supposedly takes to get hired to a role like this – I went through the entire league’s development staff and travelled through their story arcs to figure out what the typical pathway is.

The numbers behind the NHL’s Top 20 Centres
The numbers behind the NHL’s Top 20 defencemen, and the roles of today’s elite
The numbers behind the NHL’s Top 20 Wingers

The NHL Network put out their annual Top 20 rankings in each respective position, and as always, people got mad online about them. Rather than worry about ranking everyone, I took a look at the players they included using various metrics to see what makes these elite players tick compared to the rest of the league.

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The Mailbag

“Best” and “Best Per Dollar” are two separate requests altogether.

In my case, I’ve switched over to the Beats line this year due to some luck with sales and for active use, I really, genuinely love the BeatsX earbuds; they’re light, the battery life is good, they charge quickly, the connection via iOS and they stay in the ears without weird wings. My Studio Wireless 3’s are more for at home or noise-cancelling-required use, but have lived up to the steep discount I got them for.

As we know, though, Beats aren’t a great bang-for-buck buy – while the X are good enough that I’d probably consider paying the $179 for them if I lost my pair, there’s no way I’d buy the studios at $350. Certainly, there are better options per dollar out there.

What I tend to recommend for a solid bang-for-buck value are the August EP650 ($57) for over-ear, and the Skullcandy Smokin 2 ($39) for earbuds. I’ve had both and they served me well for their respective prices – I still keep a pair of EP650s around as a backup.

Erik Karlsson. He is the best defenceman at playing the hockey. Or Rasmus Dahlin – he’s the long-term best option accounting for age curves. Or Victor Hedman, just to mess with Tampa.

Or just abolish defence altogether. Seventeen Forwards and Timothy Liljegren, baby.

Sign Marner, Matthews, Nylander
Sign Autographs for adoring fans after my strong negotiation skills
Trade you for a #1 defenceman, because as sad as I’ll be to see you go, the opportunity cost is just too lopsided.

Shooting percentage luck or completely re-designed special teams systems that perk up their respective results. We learned some lessons about how much one player can carry a team in today’s game last year, the answer is ‘probably not enough, no matter how great they are’, and I don’t know how much better the team is on paper – so it’ll have to come from some sort of tactical ineffiency being found, or wild luck.

As I’ve previously written, I’d stack the first pair and put Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly together.

It is an article! Here’s what I wrote about them back in May. My early feel is that Sparks gets the job, based on his ability, age, and waiver status.

Yep, I’ve got your back there too.

You’d think a team would soon, right? He’s proven his salt at a few different levels now and would probably improve a few NHL teams behind the bench. With that said, teams doing smart things aren’t usually the first ones to fire coaches, and any guesswork at firings now would be a product of organizational incompetence, so it’s hard to identify who would have a sharp eye towards him and not just go for an alumni or an internal promotion.

Just getting away for a bit, honestly. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been taking great care of myself over the past several months and that attached stress and anxiety that followed combined to create a version of me that I’m not particularly fond of.

I’ve got some work to do over the next few months. But the time away acted as a bit of a release valve for what was clouding that realization up, and gave me some room to create a plan of action. I’m pretty confident this is going to be a big few months for me as long as I can commit to it.

Besides that, seeing friends that I haven’t seen in a while was great, checking out the Art Gallery and Stanley Park (both of which seemed to elude me the first four times I showed up in Vancouver) was great, checking out Victoria for more than a few blocks was awesome, and just generally exploring was great.

I wish I had known that the Stanley Park bike lane was one-way before trying to ride a bike share in the opposite direction, though. The race to a station to get there before the 30-minute mark on Thursday was something else. Besides that, no regrets at all – only positives that should carry into momentum for the months ahead.

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