TLN Roundtable: What Now?

For this week’s TLN Roundtable, resident philosopher Cam Charron posed the following question to our writing staff… “What Now?” The Leafs have a new President, a coach on the hot seat, an underperforming team, and a top ten draft pick. It’s a simple question to ask, and a much harder one to answer. Cam, Logan, and Steve II weigh in below…

Cam Charron

The Toronto Maple Leafs, unlike a lot of rebuilding teams, are capped out for the next couple of years and absolutely committed to a core of players that may never develop into a contending squad. The Leafs will be paying $4-million or more on at least 7 players starting next season. The Canadian economy is not doing as well as expected keeping the cap a little bit lower than previously thought and the rising salary cap isn’t going to be enough to cover the Leafs sins from the last year.

The Leafs can either stick with this core and a new system and supplant them with the right pieces, which may turn the Leafs into a playoff spot but I don’t think they can build a contending team unless they make a couple of big moves. David Clarkson’s contract is immovable, as is Tim Gleason’s, but Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak potentially have some trade value and would be able to net the Leafs a player or two while also clearing those contracts.

Staying the course could lead to a playoff team within a year, but I think the more prudent move is to see what you can get for your current players now (minus Kessel, van Riemsdyk, Gardiner, Rielly, and maybe even Kadri) to at least clear some space for the future, and try and replace the current guys with good buys in free agency, spending fewer dollars trying to find the Mason Raymonds of the world rather than the Clarksons. That may lead to another year outside the playoffs, but I think the team will be stronger two years from now with a couple extra lottery picks in the system, less money committed to underachieving players, and most importantly, Kessel and van Riemsdyk will still be in their 20s.

Logan Broger

Everyone has to get on the same page, or Shanahan has to tell everyone what page to be on. What kind of hockey team do we want to put on the ice? Ultimately, one that is going to win a Stanley Cup. That sounds painfully obvious, but Nonis and co. seem to have miscalculated what kind of system and what kind of players win in today’s NHL. What do most of the top teams in the league have? I’m not going to use this roundtable to break that down, but management has to take a long look and figure out what is required to be successful and win a Cup.

I think the first thing they’ll determine is that the Leafs are way off in terms of how they play. That’s on coaching. Keeping the current coaching staff into next season would be an absolute catastrophe. And actually, so would keeping most of the men that whisper into Nonis’s ear. Loiselle and Poulin have said some things on the radio over the last year that not only make me concerned about the team, but the health and well-being of them both.

The good news (there’s good news?) is that there is a solid amount of talent already on this team, and while organizational depth is a concern (and needs to be addressed with a great draft – #teamNylander or #teamEhlers please), there are some important pieces already in place. 

Then, management has to figure out what to add to what they already have, and who is expendable to get the team they need to succeed. What free agents could help this club without hurting it long term? Who from the Marlies is ready to take an NHL job from someone next year? Other successful teams use cheaper AHL players to fill out the roster and provide solid depth to the big club. Hello Abbott, D’Amigo, Holland, Ashton, and Brennan.  

There’s a lot more to this offseason than what I’ve listed above, but those are some of the steps required in the most important summer in recent memory. Shanahan has a lot of work to do and a lot of decisions to make. Within a few months, we are going to see what he’s made of and if he is as intelligent as many claim. Let’s hope he is. 

Steve Tzemis

It starts with Carlyle. The experiment that Burke tried with his former cup-winning coach obviously didn’t work, and he has to be let go. Fans are clamouring for it, columnists are clamouring it and bloggers like us are clamouring for it. 

After that, the biggest issue for me is skating and speed. The Leafs have been lauded as one of the fastest teams in the league for a few years now, but there’s too many statues on the team. Franson, Gleason, McClement, Bolland, Orr. All these players seemed like they can barely skate – especially Gleason and Franson on the back end – and if the Leafs want to get better at controlling the puck, breaking out of their zone and raising their putrid possession stats, they need to become a more fluid team. 

Whether that’s fixed through free agency or from within, I don’t know. But I wouldn’t be opposed to all these players leaving and forming a Marlies line that can actually skate and bring some energy to the club. Watching Holland, D’Amigo and Leivo play as a third or fourth line would be pretty exciting if you asked me. 

  • STAN

    Can I suggest you show Nonis how to build a team with advanced stats. And none of this critique everyone of Carlyle’s off season moves but actually coming with a way forward using solid analytical analysis.

    For example should the team tear down and rebuild or partially rebuild or just tinker?

    And then what players to trade away and who to recruit in its place.

    You make using fancy stats sound easy in terms to building and I don’t think it really follows.

  • MaxPower417

    I really think that Bozak is the key to this offseason. His value will never be higher and this is a great opportunity to sell high on a player. If you can trade him, it’ll force the Leafs to find a legit #1 C who can play a strong two way game. It’ll also free up some money to help pay for that #1 C.

    Giving some of the Marlies some key ice time, adding another defenceman to help the top pairing, and selling high on Bozak (while adding a real #1 C)should be the top priorities for the Leafs.

  • Poluza

    The one piece that every contending has is a Selke candidate centre. You look at Boston, they don’t have a “true number one centre”. They have two guys who play at 0.75-0.8 points per game generally, and one of them can shut teams down basically by himself.

    This is who the Leafs need to get (obviously other holes, too). Someone who the coach can trust to win a face-off, be defensively responsible, as well as be a scoring threat.

    Right now, the Leafs have McClement in that role, but he only satisfies two of those categories. I’d love to see someone like Kesler or O’rielly (I might be wrong about the latter).

  • Poluza

    After ending the season the way the Leafs did its perfectly understandable to want wholesale changes to the staff and roster but for the most part I think that’s either unrealistic or unsound practice (selling low). That being said…

    To give the dead horse another kick Carlyle needs to be shown the door. From there however it gets a little less definitive. I believe the systemic failures resulting from Carlyle and co. make an accurate analysis of this roster pretty difficult.

    I think the dream of having a 1C or a top pairing D-man fall into our laps is nice but a bit unrealistic so in the meantime I’d go cap-efficient, young and fast. That starts with letting go Orr, McLaren, Bolland, Franson and McClement. Franson has some value so could probably net a return of some sort. Raymond’s been great value this year but that’s likely to end and if it does someone else can pay him while we look for Raymond/MacArthur 2.0. He’s certainly not a piece of the core moving forward.

    I’d hold on to Kulemin as the checking centre, with the obvious caveat that he’s not looking for a raise on his $2.8M/yr salary (at 9 goals how could he?). Could probably get him back at a reduced cap hit IMO. If that’s the case then I’m not sure where else to find a tireless worker, former 30 goal scorer, and defensively sound centre that can slot essentially anywhere in the lineup for less than $2.8M. I think he gives the Leafs more at essentially half the cost of Bolland.

    Really the conversation of cost-efficiency, youth and speed starts and ends with the Marlies. In with Ashton, Holland, D’Amigo. They’ve ‘paid their dues’ and in my estimation will provide excellent value, recouping some of the value lost with immovables like Clarkson and Gleason. I like how Ranger has progressed so I’d bring him back for the bottom pairing and a possible Franson replacement on the 2nd PP unit. Cheap, low risk free-agents and/or Marlies call ups to flesh out the roster.

    Broader picture? Keep investing in scouting and building the Marlies into a world class development program. Make it the bench stone for preparing players for the NHL, giving draft picks and what NCAA and European free agents we can lure a place to prepare properly for the NHL. Successful NHL teams in the cap-era are built on a steady supply of entry-level talent and that comes from only two places, good drafting and player development.

    Also, get players into the Marlies system as soon as possible. If they can handle a role, even a highly sheltered role, then stop sending them down for their draft+2 year. If the organization really is first rate then attracting the minor league veterans necessary to provide support for these young players shouldn’t be hard. Top end teenagers in Europe are consistently drafted out of men’s leagues, why can’t we expedite the process of preparing prospects to play against men here in North America?

    There, Leafs fixed haha

  • jasken

    From a lack of defensive-zone coverage to the brain drains of players who refuse to make the easy play and chip pucks out into the neutral zone, or send it down the ice on the pk the same problem will continue. Changing a center who has nothing to do with the problems fixes the problems sure it does.

    You people make no sense at all your logic is about as bright as a person saying replacing and engine to fix a slow leaking tire will fix the slow leaking tire.

    Shanny is going to look and say we are going to fix the problem, like any smart person would not create more. I would be surprised if Kessel, Phaneuf and Franson were still here after the summer.

  • TGT23

    So, amidst saying how stupid it is to fix things that aren’t the problem, you then say it wouldn’t surprise you if we traded our top scorer and top defensemen? Seriously?

    Top to bottom, trade Bozak, let Bolland go, draft Nylander, resign Kulemin. Top three lines go Kadri, Kulemin, Holland at C.

    Trade Lupul, let Raymond to FA, bring up kids to play the wings on the 3rd and 4th Line beside Clarkson-Holland and McClement, who should be resigned.

    Resign Franson only if he signs a good team friendly deal and use him as the 7th d-man PP specialist. Granberg to NHL. Trade Reims.

    Talk to Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Washington, see what they have available.

    • jasken

      Franson has poor skating ability is slow and careless and sloppy with and without the puck.

      Phaneuf not my choice but management and players said leadership is in need of change. That being said keeping him after striping him of captaincy would be a mistake. Either get rid of the players who said it or him. Easily fixable depending who the players are that are questioning leadership.

      Now where Kessel is concerned I can not explain to you how important it is to communicate with each other when you on the bench in between shifts. This is where you get support, guidance, motivation, increase morality within the group happens. When Kessel is on the bench he looks defeated it brings down morale that action is unacceptable. At the very least you have a chat with him about it not condone it and say he is our goal and point leader he’s allowed.

  • STAN

    If you’re Shanahan you have to address the insane management that was literally built by Brian Burke. Nonis, Loiselle, Poulin. It’s been a disaster. They are the worst judgers of talent I can recall as a long time Leafs fan.

    Just for the Clarkson, Gleason, Kessel and Phaneuf contracts alone they should be shown the door, not to mention the idiotic decisions on MacArthur and Grabovski and their cap MISmanagement.

    Oh, and look who’s a key contributor to Tampa Bay’s playoff defense? Mike Koska. Hmmm.

    I think an entirely new management team along with new, more and better scouts are the key.

    As for the players, I think Bozak is a bargain at $4.2M. If not for injury, he would have been second in scoring this past season.

    A different coaching staff and an actual system would help. Reilly, Gardner and Brennan should anchor the defense. All Gardiner and Reilly need is better coaching. Percy is also ready for a permanent spot, making Franson and Gleason trade bait.

    I’d also be working the phones to get rid of the nutty Clarkson and Phaneuf contracts and trade the rights to Bolland for a pick.