Monday Mailbag: July 29th

I can’t believe we agreed to a 7 year lease for this mail van..


Okay, now that we’re done with that, there are actually enough questions to do another mailbag. Hopefully we can continue this throughout the year. In case you missed it, this was last week’s 

Q: If the leafs trade franson , what do you think can be get back and be specific
Q: Do you think toronto will trade franson ?
will the leafs close the gap with franson on a contract or will he end up being dealt?

A: Steve wrote about Cody Franson. I wrote about Cody Franson. Cam wrote about Cody Franson. As you can tell, it’s a slow news week and we’ve all taken turns locking ourselves into a room screaming his name. In the process all three of these questions have been addressed. A short version of my thoughts: he’ll probably get traded, the Leafs can’t really take salary back, and they won’t get a bidding war, but rather one or two teams setting themselves up to have the room before lowballing the Leafs, at which point they’ll have to choose their own adventure.

Q: True or False: Cody Franson has a striking resemblance to the actor Devon Sawa.

wow, so he does. Maybe it’s just the v-neck, though. Also, that’s the third time this week we’ve used that Franson pic.
Q: How awesome is Jake Gardiner
Q: Do you think that Jake Gardiner could eventually get his game to a point where he can play top minutes next to Dion, instead of second pairing minutes?
Jake Gardiner is pretty awesome. He’s a very capable defenceman already, especially when healthy (of course, he has his misunderstood moments when he isn’t). The key to him playing Phaneuf is a stylistic thing – he’s much more prone to wander than most defencemen, whereas somebody like Carl Gunnarsson is more conservative and only jumps into the offensive end of the play when absolutely necessary. As good as I believe Phaneuf is, he needs a "bailout" partner, not just the second best defenceman on the team, which Gardiner may become sooner than later. 
When that is? That will probably depend on where Carlyle uses him and for how long. If he’s 100% coming into camp, I sincerely hope he gets heavy powerplay minutes and gets to anchor the second pairing.
Q: Thoughts on the leafs face punchers
A: I mean, they both put in a ton of effort to better themselves. When Colton Orr was sent down to the Marlies to begin his recovery from concussion issues, Dallas Eakins made it evident to him that he was going to have to become more than just a fighter to get back into the NHL, or even stay in an AHL lineup. Orr lost weight, worked on his skating, got choosier with who he fought, and was eventually rewarded with a return to the Leafs. I have nothing but respect for his efforts.
McLaren, on the other hand, is a slight upgrade as a player, in that he’s got the same qualities, but is also better at getting in position in the rare event that he gets a scoring chance. At $700,000, he’s a good thirteenth forward for nights where the Leafs feel they need a physical edge. As is Orr.
The issue with both players isn’t them, but rather the person who decides their usage. An enforcer, especially on a generally tough team, should be  used as an ace in the hole where felt important. If you know another team has a goon out there that’s out to cause trouble, then you put one in the lineup too. If not, you have half a dozen guys who can step in and drop the gloves. However, the Leafs appear to be planning to have both of them make up two thirds of a regular line. Consider that their probable centre, Jay McClement, will probably kept fresh for penalty kills, and this is a line that doesn’t get played much at all. Fine in theory, but this leaves you with a three line roster. That’s pretty risky.
Q: What would you do right now considering the Leafs cap situation?
A: I’d send Miley Cyrus to the NHL offices, and have her twerk for Gary Bettman in hopes he forgets to enforce said cap. There are lots of scenarios (that are all bad) to get out of the mess now. The problem is that it could have been avoided by not going into free-for-all mode over the past month.
Q: Do you think Bernier will work out in Toronto and be a #1 goalie here or do you think he will be a backup and get traded
Q: Who do you think will become the better goalie ? Bernier or Reimer
A: I think no matter what happens, it would be crazy to suggest that Jonathan Bernier won’t be the Leafs’ starting goalie next year. Does that mean he’s better? Not necessarily. We know that he has a lot of physical talent, and that fans and staff out of Los Angeles all believe that he’s the real deal. A goalie who’s ESSV% shot up from 0.901 to 0.930 in a 14 game sample size isn’t predictable, so we’ll say on a statistical level that this could go either way.
However, the Leafs gave up solid assets to acquire him. They retained $600,000 in salary to make it work. They went from James Reimer taiking up three quarters of the goaltending budget on a team with lots of cap space to taking up a third of the budget on a team up against the wall. Nonis and Carlyle need to prove their vision correct, and that probably involves making Bernier "the guy" unless he gets drastically outplayed. 
That may not be a bad thing. After all, Reimer is good when he’s healthy, but what if he gets hurt again? What if he can only hold his dominant stretches for 35 games (which we’ve seen him do twice, but without a full sesaon sample)?
This can go either way. But lets not act like Bernier doesn’t get the #1 treatment to begin with.
Q: What’s the bloggers fascination with Grabovski? The guy was a selfish shoot first centre who bitched about his role all year. The one thing he did well (scoring) he stopped doing.
A: Production and posession, my friend.
2008/09 78 20 28 48 1265 82 26 36 62 1640 3.9 0.371 979 52.5
2009/10 59 10 25 35 991 82 17 41 58 1640 13.6 0.138 903 55.1
2010/11 81 29 29 58 1568 82 30 30 60 1640 21.3 0.465 1015 50.2
2011/12 74 23 28 51 1303 82 29 35 64 1640 14.9 0.686 999 53
2012/13 48 9 7 16 747 82 20 15 35 1640 1 1.457 988 36.7
I want you to look at his O-St (Offensive Zone Starts) first. This stat is pretty simple, it’s how many times he started his shift in the offensive zone. Recognize the significant drop this year, going from an over 50% player like every other scoring forward on the planet, to 36.7%, a number usually reserved for shutdown forwards, which is how Randy Carlyle decided he’d like to play him because Randy Carlyle appears to dislike logic.
Now look at the numbers produced by Grabovski under adjusted (for injury, and for first line time) minutes. He, for all intents and purposes, appears to be a consistent 60 point centre! And that’s without playing consistently with the likes of Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, which definitely wouldn’t wo- okay, maybe it might. His PDO checks out too, which hints that he didn’t have the luck of riding a hot goalie or hot shooting percentage (the one year that he was over 1000 was the year where Nikolai Kulemin’s stick turned into gold).
The possession stats have always looked good, too. Even when put under a position to fail, this year, it still didn’t stop him from being one of the teams better players at being involved in shot attempts. In typical years, he’s been near or at the top of the forwards on the team. All of this while never playing a year against a negative quality of competition. 
He gets the puck on net. He produces efficiently. His coach didn’t like him. The Leafs had the right to their decision, Grabovski had the right to complain, and everybody has the right to their opinion. Personally, my opinion is that I would’ve rather walked away from Bozak and bought out Liles.
Q: Do you think, considering Carlyle’s coaching, that if Kadri continues to vastly outplay Bozak, that Carlyle will finally put #43 next to Phil Kessel on the top line?

Q: What do you think are Phil Kessel’s flaws considering there are so few?
Well, the second question can tie into the first one. If it’s true that Phil Kessel really needs his mediocre super-best friend on his line to stay on this team, then his biggest flaw is putting his emotions over his drive to win hockey games. But we don’t know if that’s actually the case.
As it stands, I’m sure Carlyle has a lot of reasons that he’d rather have Bozak as the first line centre then the options he had a month ago and still has now. They’re ones I disagree with, but he probably still believes that there’s a chemistry between him and Kessel, that the difference between a 52% and a 50% centre isn’t a draw every game and a goal less than twice a season, and that he has some sort of defensive ability based on the fact he’s been playing penalty kill minutes since the Leafs were so strapped for talent that Joey Crabb was on the first line.
Kadri had an incredible breakout season last year, and even showed chemistry with Kessel in the limited minutes he had with him. As I said in last week’s mailbag, I really don’t see him repeating the same paces as last year, but if falls off by 30%, that’s still a better production rate than Bozak has ever had in his career. 
However, now that we’re in this scenario, I wouldn’t move Kadri up to #1. Bozak has been almost entirely unproductive in his minutes without Kessel in his career (as few as they are). Kadri has played well with Lupul, and you have to imagine that Clarkson’s preference to fire at all cylinders will help that line. Having two lines that work pretty well is probably better than just one that works really well and gets all the opponent’s focus.
The only way I see Kadri going up to the first line, is if the entire first line becomes the second line.
If you’d like to submit a question for next Monday, you can leave it as a comment on here, on the Reddit /r/Leafs submission for this post, by tweeting me with the hashtag #MM, or by emailing me.


  • MaxPower417

    I’ve been a big Reimer supporter, but crunching some numbers today, there might be some validity to the idea that a Bernier may turn out to be better. Which is something that makes me quite sad.

    I was using

    to find what percentage of shots were taken from where on the ice, to see if there was anything to this idea that Carlyle’s system pushes shots to the outside. And the answer was yes. The Leafs allow a far greater percentage of shots from 30+ feet than league average. 59.46% vs 53.84%. I then took the percentage of shots taken from each of these areas (20-30ft, 10-20ft, 0-10ft) and multiplied it by league average save percentage from each area to find a “weighted expected save percentage”.

    This worked out to be 92.39% for the Leafs given their shot distance distribution and 91.79% for a league average shot distribution. Therefore the RC system seems to boost save percentages by 0.6%.

    The bad news, not surprisingly is that it also allowed 180 more shots overall than average and therefore inflated GAA by 0.14.

    But anyway, what came out of this, was that Reimers EVSV% according to the same source was 92.40% or pretty much exactly league average given the shot distances he faced.

    Bernier is still seen as a bag of potential, so if he can develop to be simply better than league average(no small feat in itself) he may actually be better than James Reimer.

  • MaxPower417

    Kadri has been a 1C everywhere he’s been. He is our best centre, and he’ll learn the fo’s. In the playoffs, gm 7 no less, he started on the number one line and scored a goal. I say he starts on the first line. He is our 1C and we should be looking for a 2C, cause Bozak isn’t that either. Lupul and Kessel should be Kadri’s linemate regardless as JVR, Clarkson are interchangeable with Lupul and whomever the other winger would be. Could be JVR if he’s hot, or Clarkson or Lupul on Kadri’s flanks depending on who is hot. Weather that is line 1 or 1a doesn’t matter.

    • MaxPower417

      I have to agree with Jeffler on this. Sure, Kadri could probably do better than Bozak, but Bozak would flounder in any other role. I rather have 2 dangerous lines. Hell, I rather have 3 or 4, but Carlyle and Nonis hate that idea.