It’s been a heck of a start to the offseason, hasn’t it?
Teams have been coming out swinging, throwing about half a billion dollars at
players in an attempt to make themselves better. The Leafs? Well, they’ve made
some moves, but none of them have really been swing for the fences. Me? I’ve
been half way across the country as everything shakes down. Here’s a few
I’m so, so happy to see Leo Komarov back in Toronto. He’s
one of my favourite hockey players on the planet. Not because I think he’s
super gifted, but his ability to change a game by pissing people off is
arguably the best of any player in any league right now. Beyond that, he draws
penalties, kills penalties, throws the body, and throws the play into the
offensive zone. What more can you ask for?
Production. That’s what you can ask for. For him to be worth
$3 million, he’s going to have to be a better point getter than he was during
the 2012/13 season. I mean technically, he was scoring at a rate that DavidClarkson struggled with this past year for $2.3 million more, but the bar
shouldn’t be set that low.
However, I do think that Komarov is capable of doing more on
that side of the ice than he did before. He lead Dynamo Moscow in scoring this
year, showed he could keep up with better linemates during the lockout (though
Ovechkin and Backstrom is a pretty cruise-control pair to work with), and while
he didn’t put up big numbers, showed he could at least contribute to Team
Finland in the Olympics and World Championships.
I think for him, it comes down to how Randy Carlyle uses
him, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it be a bit more favourable than last
time around, where he received brutal zone starts and situational assignments.
You’d have to assume that he’d take Nikolai Kulemin’s role on the third line,
and find himself with more penalty kill minutes.
Something I’d like to see tried at least once? Him and
Clarkson together during an intense, rivalry or high implication game. It could
be a disaster (Clarkson cancelling out every Komarov penalty drawn), or it
could be the best thing ever (imagine the Bash Brothers from the Mighty Ducks
movie series, in real life, with more languages to chirp in). Though they may
be a little talent lacking. I guess we’ll see.
Stephane Robidas seems like an interesting add. When
healthy, he’s got as good of a shot as anybody to play on the top pair with
Phaneuf, or at least allow the second pairing to take on more of the high-grade
minutes. He’s been a reliable player throughout his career, and can probably
teach the kids a thing or two.
I’m worried about two things, however. The first is his
injury history. As you probably have heard, he’s had this little issue where
his career basically almost ended thanks to a leg break. You have to imagine
that will put a damper on his mobility a bit, and another serious incident will
surely wrap things up for him.
This leads me to my second issue. Robidas is over 35 years
old, which means that his entire salary stays on the books if he retires. It’s
a way to get around the “retirement deals” a la Chris Pronger’s contract with
Philadelphia. In the event that something does happen that fully makes him
unable to play, the Leafs are safe. Looking at Pronger again, he suffered a
career-ending injury (against the Leafs!) and Philadelphia’s way of getting
around it is by having him not retire and placing him on the Long-Term Injured
Reserve. But if Robidas just loses a step and decides he’s good but not good
enough, the Leafs are stuck with his deal. It may be better than playing him if
he turns terrible, but it’s still not a great scenario.
With that said, having a minute eater is important, and at
$3 million, he’s a step in the right direction, as long as he stays healthy.
Lastly, I’m starting to warm up to the two trades that were
made. I initially had them in favour of St. Louis and Columbus, but you know
what? Maybe there’s some logic.
In the Polak trade, one has to remember that Carl Gunnarsson
has played an extended period of time with a bad him. He’s getting corrective
surgery done, but that’s a heck of a risk. If it works, St. Louis has an
awesome player and the egg is on Toronto’s face. If it doesn’t, he’s going to
see an early decline in his ability.
As for D’Amigo for Frattin, I’m not wholly against the idea
of trying one last time to turn Matt Frattin into a top six winger. He seemed
to do well with Kadri and Lupul in 12/13, and has a heck of a release. If he
comes to training camp in good shape and with a bit of commitment, the Leafs
could have a better player on the cheap. Barring that, he could line up with
Peter Holland and give the team some depth that can actually play hockey. That
would be a change of pace.