I really need to be more consistent with these things, but we’re here. Let’s just hop straight into it.

Recent Posts

Last Train To Nylander

The saga has been solved now, but here was my stream-of-conscious heading into the final hours of Nylander’s holdout. It’s still worth reading as a bit of a recap of what went down leading into the final seconds.

The 2018/19 Marlies Analytics Portal

I’ve been tracking the Toronto Marlies’ underlying numbers for the entirety of the season thus far, and have decided to pass the deets onto you, the readers. Here’s how to keep up with them.

How NHL Teams are using their AHL affiliates to develop talent

Bringing back my most popular project of all time, I’ve also made it more accurate and more interactive. Which teams are playing their kids? Who relies on veterans? Who is stuck in bubble purgatory? Get your answers here.

Maple Leafs trade Nielsen to Flames for Klimchuk

The Leafs made a Marlies-focused trade this week, moving a once highly-touted prospect for some young help on the AHL wing. Here’s my breakdown of that, including data from the aforementioned analytics portal on Nielsen.

As a change of pace, none of these posts directly need a membership to read; you should be able to still read the bulk of the content. I intend on leaving more of my written words open moving forward; that’s not to say that this site will be fully free to read, but that membership will be geared towards giving exclusive data, visuals, etc, and bonus content on posts. There’s a reasoning for this, and I’ll be giving a more detailed explanation soon. If you’d like to sign up, you can register here.

The Mailbag

As someone who covers the Marlies, I would absolutely love for him to give us one last crazy week, with everything he’s learned in the NHL, just to see how silly he can make everyone look. With that said, I don’t think that’ll happen; it sounds like the plan is for him to have his medical today, start practicing tomorrow, maybe get in against Detroit on Thursday if he’s up to speed, and definitely get in against Boston on Saturday.

I don’t always agree with Mike Babcock, but one thing that I am fully on-board with that he does is his ideal line makeup. It’s very “Ice Hockey” for NES, except instead of a skinny, an average, and a fat, it’s a distributor (someone who can carry, run a cycle, and find the finisher), a finisher (someone who puts the puck in the net), and a displacer (someone who retrieves pucks on the forecheck, works along the boards, initiates the cycle for the distributor).

I don’t think Josh Leivo is necessarily a first line player, but I do think he’d make a fine displacer, and he can also shoot the puck on his off-wing in an emergency. I like him there for the same reasons I liked Zach Hyman there (and like him now with finisher Tavares and distributor Marner).

Of course, this idea would require a) Babcock to believe in Leivo enough to put him on Line 1 and b) Leivo to be in the lineup. History doesn’t lean towards the former, and that could be something that puts him at risk with Nylander back now; as a potential trade/waiver option today, or as a regular scratch or fourth-line rotation player moving forward. But I can dream.

I think it’s a bit of forgetting that he’s good, and a bit of the pushback coming from people who were always vocal against him anyway. There are all sorts of reasons for that; I imagine the fact that Toronto always has an X vs Y battle happening and that Nylander vs Marner has become the hot one doesn’t help, and I imagine that ingrained nationalism from some of the fanbase doesn’t help either. Lastly, some people see holdouts as a show of disloyalty to the team, instead of the complicated employment negotiations that they are and that they would be able to resonate with if this was a smaller-salary, real-world situation.

Not that Nylander is flawless on the ice, but he’s a talented enough player that if there wasn’t more going to people’s perceptions, he wouldn’t be as called out for the things he could stand to work on.

For starters, we can guarantee that Ron Hainsey isn’t getting renewed, at least under this management group. There’s three million.

After that, it gets muddy. Does Jake Gardiner have interest in staying without a significant raise? Possibly, if he likes the city, wants to win, and continues to have a not-so-great season. Maybe he can be coerced into taking a one-year breathing-room deal. If he doesn’t want to take less, he’s probably out.

Nikita Zaitsev will probably be put on the market in some respect. I don’t know if there’s a market for him, but right-handed defencemen are a weird whale in this league and there are still GMs who look at Ice Time as a talent. You might be able to get something for him still, and that would clear $4.5 million.

Patrick Marleau has been talked about, as he has one year left at $6.25 million, but is only owed $1 million in actual money after July 1st. He also has a no-movement clause, though, so he’d have to choose his destiny. I imagine this becomes way easier if there’s a scenario like the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup this season, and the Sharks going into enough of a transition mode that they’d give him one more victory lap. Maybe you still get him to waive otherwise if he wants to play but feels like he’d be too far out of the depth chart here. It’s hard to say, but that’s an avenue.

Nathan Horton is also an avenue. That deal only has one more year left, and I’m sure the Leafs would rather him be off the books entirely than used as an LTIR chip, especially with the chance that guys like Travis Dermott, Timothy Liljegren, or Rasmus Sandin dive into ELC bonuses and create an overage that LTIR can’t fix. Horton’s deal isn’t as conveniently back-loaded as a Hossa, Pronger, or Savard, but there are savings ($3.6M cash instead of $5.3M), so he might be moveable with an asset to a floor team.

Yes, it is a CBA stipulation that you cannot have a No-Trade Clause until you hit UFA age. Theoretically, it is something that can be re-negotiated during the next lockout labour discussion, though I’d be surprised if it came up – players associations across all sports tend to focus on issues that impact veterans rather than young talent, which I suppose makes sense seeing as they’re the most likely to be forced out of the sport early.

I don’t think the rule makes complete sense, as you get situations like William Nylander’s, where an NTC would have probably cut the negotiation time down by months as his biggest fear seemed to be a trade to another team. At the same time, you don’t want random 22-year-old third liners holding out for no-trades either. Maybe a middle-ground is possible, where an NTC becomes possible at a certain cap percentage.

I’ll probably wait until the deadline nears to give a firm take on the full field, but one I’d love to see is Wayne Simmonds in Philadelphia. Pound-for-pound, he’s the toughest player in this sport, which should answer questions in that department, and he’s also a quality player (not to mention, a local guy). He’d give a net-front presence to Powerplay 2, and he could be slid onto any line’s left wing – could you imagine how fun a Simmonds – Matthews – Nylander line would be?!

Not to mention, because the Flyers are a bit of a mess and Simmonds hasn’t been totally lighting it up this year, he might not be a super expensive pickup.

I would have probably pegged him at around 65-75 points at the start of the year, with the big swing coming off of not knowing what powerplay unit he would play on. A pace of 70 points for the rest of the year would give him 45 for the remaining 53 games (assuming he returns vs Boston on Saturday), but he’ll probably need a bit of adjustment time. Although, the opposite is true too; he’ll likely be in better shape come March/April than most players, as he had a longer offseason to work out and not wear himself down. I’ll say the swing is in the 40s, with my own personal guess being 42, but that I wouldn’t be shocked by more or less. Not knowing his condition makes it so hard to zero in on.

---
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.