Speculation: Punchers & Picks

There’s a little bit of talk going around the hockey world today, and guess what? There may be some relevance to the Leafs! Or not. Or at least maybe. I don’t know, the hockey world is weird. Anyway, the Boston Bruins are letting go of one of their longest-standing members and a first round pick may be on the market. Let’s talk.

Shawn Thornton

As you can hear here, and was transcribed by quote-man extraordinare @Hope_Smoke today, Darren Dreger was on TSN Radio talking about things. One of those things was the potential interest that the Leafs may have in Bruins forward and soon to be free agent Shawn Thornton.

To sum up his thoughts: Dreger things the Leafs will kick around tires to see if Thornton is interested in coming here, but ultimately won’t pull any triggers unless they feel the fit is absolutely right. His age (he’s turning 37 in a month) is a concern, but he plays the game the “right way” and has good character. Combined with two Stanley Cup rings, this makes Thornton a good get.

I can’t say I agree with the rationale. 

First and foremost, Stanley Cup rings aren’t at all reflective of a player’s individual ability. It takes a 20 man roster to get there, and I don’t know if the 4th line enforcer is that vital, especially as the enforcer role all but disappears come playoff time. In the two playoff runs that lead to Stanley Cups, he contributed a whopping one assist and one fight in 33 games, while earning an additional 38 penalty minutes in that time. These include a Game Misconduct for being the third man in against Minnesota in the 2007 Ducks run, and two ten-minute misconducts in the 2011 Bruins run. He simply hasn’t done much in the post season, because his style of game is not designed for it.

In the regular season, Thornton has put up 15 points in last 109 games, playing about 8 minutes per. That’s not horrible for an enforcer-type; certainly better than what Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren have been able to put up. But a key concern for the Leafs next year is the expectation that their fourth line will play a regular shift, and I’m not quite sure he’s the best option when we’re talking 10 to 12 minutes a night.

There’s also the issue with him taking more penalties than he draws, that he struggles to keep the puck in the proper zone (having 16.3% fewer offensive zone finishes than starts), and that he’s been one of the very worst relative possession players in the league over the past few years. He has a knack for taking away the puck more than he gives it away, but you have to wonder how much of that is because he never has it to begin with.

Thornton seems like he’s an upgrade on Orr or McLaren, from the standpoint of contributing actual skill. But some of his numbers are really worrisome, and I don’t know if he’s worth persuing if he’s going to be marketed as a “premium” 4th liner, especially with so many “gritty” younger players available to choose from on the Marlies. Perhaps this is someone I’d be more keen on if the Leafs hadn’t already spent one offseason acquiring and promoting character, but I’d pass on him. Just like the Leafs did when they drafted him and did little with him afterwards.

Nashville’s First

Josh Cooper of the Tennessean wrote today about Predators GM David Poile being open to trading his first round draft pick. From the article:

“I’ve already been approached and … it’s a possibility,” Poile said during a news conference at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday. “There’s always that possibility I would trade that first-round pick — I’ve made that open to some people I’ve talked to. It would be for a top forward if we could do that. I’m not predicting that will happen, but if someone had that top-six forward I would certainly consider trading that first-round pick.”

Nashville picks 11th overall, not much further down from Toronto at 8. If I’m the Leafs, and this may be a tough pill to swallow for some, why not throw Joffrey Lupul’s name out there? As effective of a player as he can be while healthy, Lupul has the nagging issue of never being consistently healthy ever. Since signing his five year extension at 5.25 million per year, Lupul has injured his forearm, suffered a concussion, bruised his foot, strained his groin, and suffered a knee injury, all taking him out of the lineup. That’s all within the first 15 months of signing a deal that’s still got four years remaining. Toronto can bypass the risk and pick up a very quality draft pick, which may allow them to get two players they wanted at the 8 spot if the appropriate falling happens.

Lupul could work out as a fit in Nashville, on the other hand. Most of their forward talent plays either centre or right wing, and he would instantly become their top player on the left side. That’s just me speculating, though.

Something Something Phaneuf

Also from Hope Smoke’s twitter, it appears that Doug MacLean believes that Dion Phaneuf will head to San Jose. I mention this because it’s a notable open media speculation, not because I’d put any stock in it. After all, MacLean’s reasoning is along the lines of “gut feeling” and “he’d fit well”, hardly reasons to put stock into a trade rumour.

  • FlareKnight

    No thanks on Thornton. I would love the idea of actually putting together a fourth line that can play hockey. If he wants a retirement contract he can find it somewhere else.

    Honestly I wouldn’t be against moving Lupul. Just not healthy on a reliable basis to rely on him as a regular part of your attack. Could certainly live with a Nashville move of that sort. Plenty of guys in the 10-15 range that I don’t like at 8, but would be more than happy with taking further down if we had that kind of pick.

    Can’t say much on that Sportsnet panel talking about Phaneuf. I mean no one bothered to correct the belief that we currently have the 6th overall pick…

  • FlareKnight

    Devane and Broll’s numbers are far superior to Thornton’s AHL numbers at a similar age. Broll had 16 points, while Devane had 8 points and 4 goals. Those are nice numbers for young tough guys. Thornton had a mere 3 assist in his first AHL full season. Devane might even be able to take Thornton in a fight.

    The only way this works, is if it is short cheap contract and allows the Leafs not to rush Broll and Devane. Another year in the AHL with lots of time on a better line (developing their offensive and defensive skills) could benefit both Broll and Devane and make them better NHL players.

    Kyle Clifford is tough, but can play the game. He did well for LA in the playoffs with 7 points. Devane’s OHL numbers are quite similar. Imagine if Broll and Devane develop like Cifford.

  • STAN

    Ditto FlareKnight and ditto Jeffler.

    Why would a team with some good size, toughness and youth wanna bring in a one-point-one dimensional 37 year old? Makes so little sense that… it… could happen, given the Nonis track record of making atrocious personnel decisions.

    If the Leafs brain trust has a shred of intuition it will agree than Aaron Eckblad is destined to be an All-Star and Captain in the NHL. So go out and make sure you get him, no matter what.

  • Jeremy Ian

    I am agreeing with the sentiment above. Pass on Thornton. Bad idea. Lupul’s fun to watch when healthy and the Leafs are doing well, but he’s also a valuable trade chip for long run development and his value will only depreciate.

  • Leaf Fan in Mexico

    Trading around the edges for a Thornton seems at best marginally less than pointless.

    Lupul I love when healthy, trick to trading him for full value (by that I mean the potential opportunity cost he somehow gets healthy for a whole season and puts up numbers we have seen him put up) is to convince other teams he will be healthy…. its not an easy thing to contemplate

    Phanuef, trade him, he is no leader and just because he plays work horse hours donesnt make him a premier D man. If Leafs can convince others he is, adios in a New York minute is my thought.

  • STAN

    Leaf Fan in Mexico is dead on about Phaneuf. He has never been an elite defender and only twice (his first two years in Calgary) was he among the top offensive D-men.

    He. Is. No. Leader. And this persistent sports writer/broadcaster/analyst crutch that Phaneuf is a “workhorse” who “eats valuable minutes” and faces the other teams top players is ridiculous. He’s been miscast since Burke-Nonis brought him in. He should be 3-5 on almost every team’s depth chart.

    If any team will take him and his entire albatross contract, make the deal.

    In my armchair GM world, Phaneuf and the number 8 pick go to Florida for 1st overall so the Leafs can get future Captain, All-star Aaron Ekblad.

  • STAN

    I’d rather vomit into my own urine and pour into my eyes, than have Shawn Thornton be a member of the Leafs. Put that scum in the ECHL.

    Leafs 4th line should be reserved for Marlies graduates just getting their feet wet. Not a dumpster human. We have enough hated players on the roster.