The preseason is too long. I’m already tired of this. No one wants to see this game against the Montreal Canadiens tonight; the big one in a week and a half is all that matters.

Wait, a week and a half? Yeah, not ideal.

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Why the Max Domi incident and punishment should embarrass the NHL

Max Domi punched Aaron Ekblad when Ekblad had no interest in fighting. That is a bad thing to do. The NHL didn’t give him any regular season games off as punishment. That is also bad. The piece obviously goes into more nuance than that, though, taking on a bunch of different angles and snippets of opinion from around the hockey world to specify why this all is such an unfavourable outcome and a bad situation.

Who should play on the ideal Leafs third pair?

I wrap up my summer-long series about Toronto’s defence corps by tackling the third pair battle; including taking some of your own feedback. My idea is… well, you’ll have to read to find out.

The Mailbag

I’d imagine they’re looking at it as a calculated risk. It seems like Karlsson has his preferred markets (looks towards the Tampa-St Petersburg area), but the Sharks know that they can provide their own degree of great weather, competitive hockey, and a laid-back work environment. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Karlsson decides that he wants to stick around with them beyond this year.

As for doubling up and taking a run at Panarin? That would come down to the cost of acquiring the player; he seems for a near-sure thing to not return (when your preference is a clearly rebuilding team based on their market more than their cup chances, you know it’s going to take a miracle to pull the player out of that), and while San Jose didn’t give up any top pieces in the Karlsson trade (somehow), they’ve definitely lightened up their cupboards. If Karlsson walks I think that closes the cup window from a top contender perspective, but gives them a few long-shot cracks to win, a position that they’ve been in a few times since they joined the winning conversation before the 2005 lockout.

If the Karlsson push doesn’t work out, you’ll likely see a few years of trying to sell / age back the middle-tier group of players to try to make one more big breath before Burns, Vlasic, and Couture are in their late stages, but besides that, I don’t know what other route they can set themselves up for here besides seeing the group they have through.

His numbers on the penalty kill over the course of the career suggest that he’s already been good at this for a while:

In short, when the Leafs are on the penalty kill and Jake Gardiner’s on the ice, the team allows fewer shot attempts, fewer unblocked attempts, fewer shots, and fewer goals. The expected goals also sit in line with the goals, and maps of shot locations suggest that he’s particularly good at keeping pucks out of the slot.

A positive intuitive guess as to why all this is true is because he’s able to eat more time by moving the puck out of the zone with control when he retains it, rather than allowing for scrambles in front of the net or not getting the puck away from the point. A less positive intuitive guess that involves some questions of inflation might be that Gardiner has his numbers inflated by end-of-kill shifts, coming on with a few seconds left after the other guys have dumped the puck. It’s probably a little bit of both; I can see the numbers being somewhat fudged but his most full year of PK time is still impressive enough to believe there’s something there.

Now, is it enough to play him there? I don’t know – I feel like Toronto’s coaches would prefer to use him on a powerplay unit, finding a bigger gain there than they’d get on the PK. I wouldn’t be against him doing both, but he already plays the most even strength minutes on the team, and I’m sure they don’t want to tire him out.

via @theoakleafs on twitter

Absolutely. Babcock expects a lot out of the two and his call outs likely have more to do with trying to motivate them even further than they do with them actually not having a shot of making the team. Both have clearly shown that they can play at the NHL level, Dermott to the point where he might be the team’s third-best defenceman right now, neither has nothing left to learn in the AHL or in the press box, and I can’t imagine that there are twelve and six respective guys outplaying them in either position.

I wrote a post on the backup situation back in May and I’ve not changed my standpoint very much. I think Sparks sticks around, even with the “poor showing” (he’s 25th in SV% among NHL goalies in this preseason; he’s just been less dominant than the other three Leafs) he’s had so far – age and upside matters more even if you believe McElhinney is better today (and I don’t). As for moving on, it seems that most teams have a duo that they like at this point, or at least like enough to not give up serious assets. As that post details, the odds of getting a “best return” for any of the Toronto backups, even if it is Sparks (the most valuable of the bunch) is slim; history would likely have him at a fourth-round pick at most, which isn’t enough to not try to scratch off the lottery ticket for my liking.

Would he make my version of the Leafs? Yes – I detail that in the post that I linked to up top.

Will he make Babcock’s? Barring a miracle, I think you find him on waivers in a week. It seems like the big man’s loyalties lie elsewhere for now, and that the arrangement that I have that would free up that 3LD spot for Marincin won’t be there in quite the same way.

Unfortunately, by the time Rasmus Sandin hits his prime, defence will be permanently abolished and the Norris will become a figment of the history books.


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