Nylander, Brown an example of Leafs’ new-found patience


Now that the Maple Leafs, Marlies, and Solar Bears are all out of hockey games to play, the focus of everybody has started to shift into the off-season, if not directly into next year. Many are already curious to see where exactly William Nylander and Connor Brown could slot into a potential Leafs lineup come October. According to Kyle Dubas, however, there’s no rush to make such a thing happen just yet.

“We’ll bring them up when they’re read to be NHLers all the time.” said the Leafs’ assistant and Marlies full-on General Manager during media availability on Monday afternoon. “Full time, without any doubt that they’re going to be with the Leafs, and [be able to] stay with the Leafs for the rest of their career. It would have been very easy to say ‘Oh jeez, we need a bit of a boost, and some smiles, happiness, rainbows, and butterflies with the Leafs, so bring up William Nylander and Connor Brown’. It would have also been a massive disservice to William Nylander and Connor Brown”.

The two rookies made a lot of noise on the American Hockey League’s youngest roster, leading a late season push into the Calder Cup Players. Brown led all AHL rookies in scoring with 21 goals and 40 assists, while being the only Marlies player to participate in every game on the schedule. Meanwhile, Nylander joined the team mid-way through the season, and despite being the league’s second youngest regular player at eighteen years old, put up 32 points in 37 games.

Dubas expressed an interest in following a similar “over-ripening” model to the Detroit Red Wings, whose Grand Rapids Griffins were the team to eliminate the Marlies from the playoffs this weekend. In outlining the method, he stressed the need for competition to fuel the double-edge equation. “You’ve got to have good players on top that are significantly better than [your younger] players, so that it takes them longer to usurp the players ahead.”

In the case of Nylander, the Leafs are pretty set. The Calgary-born Swede has spent most of his time in North America on the Left Wing, which at the moment leaves him with the hurdle of overtaking James van Riemsdyk and Joffrey Lupul. Even with talent considered, this isn’t an easy task for a teenager. Brown has a it a bit easier, in the sense that the second line right wing spot is wide open at the moment, though management would prefer to see him make the leap out of growth and evolution rather than by circumstance.

For Brown, that’s not much of a concern. In fact, he’s bought into the idea himself. “You’ve got to trust the process. They’re trying to build a winning culture here, and that’s one way to do it. You’ve just got to trust it, keep your nose to the work, and keep going.”

The two will have close eyes but on them throughout the summer and into training camp, and get extensive ice time come the pre-season. Beyond that, there isn’t a guarantee, and at the end of the day, that might not be the worst thing in the world.

Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com

    • FlareKnight

      Depending on the circumstances I agree. The Leafs themselves said they wouldn’t and shouldn’t just copy other models. Trying to simply copy others will lead to mistakes. The Leafs aren’t Detroit in all kinds of ways.

      Detroit could condemn guys to the AHL because they drafted a lot of late round picks and had to be patient because guys weren’t going to be ready.

      It may be easy with some guys, but harder with someone like Nylander. We are going to be moving bodies out which means there will be less competition. We can sign filler roster players but they will only be so good.

      The key is the Leafs finding the right balance. You can waste a guy’s career and time by keeping him in the AHL when he’s ready, but you have to avoid rushing them. Find their own model and methods.

      • silentbob

        Of course its easy to keep someone like Nylander in the AHL if he isn’t ready.

        They just do it. Keeping a player in the AHL for a 1/4 or 1/2 or a full season “to long” won’t hurt them. Rushing players can hurt.

        Personally, I don’t think training camp is a good place to get a sense if a player is ready for the NHL or not simply because they aren’t real NHL games, often not against real NHL players. I think a good training camp should only give a prospect a spot on the call up list, and its during 10-20-30 game call ups that prospects prove they are or or not ready for the NHL.

        • FlareKnight

          And I think you are completely missing the point. Obviously you can keep Nylander out of the NHL if he isn’t ready. To say otherwise would be stupid. The point is how much time he’s actually going to need.

          A guy is going to be NHL ready in a different amount of time to another guy. That is the point. Nylander may not need half a decade in the AHL. The great highlights of the Detroit system are guys who were mid to late round picks, projects who were obviously not close to being NHL ready.

          And really keeping a guy in the AHL “too long” could certainly have a negative impact if it’s not handled right. You just won’t notice it because the guy never gets to the NHL level.

          Plus I think training camp is as good a place as any to make that call. If the guy actually isn’t ready then you just send him back down. You shouldn’t have to wait a quarter of the way through a season and for someone to get hurt to find out whether a guy is ready or not. That’s just avoiding making actual decisions and waiting for the situation to figure itself out.

          • silentbob

            No, its waiting to see how the prospect plays in the NHL against NHL players to find out if he is ready for the NHL. Thats just logical.

            And “ready” is a subjective term. When he is good enough to “hang” in the NHL is he ready? Or will he not be ready until he is able to be a 25 goal NHL player? Thats what the Wings do that the Leafs should copy. THey don’t let their prospects learn on the job. They stay in the AHL until they are ready to be NHL players. They don’t develop players in the NHL. Thats the mind-set the Leafs should have.

            We shouldn’t want to see Nylander get 15 goals, then 18 goals then break out and score 28. Let him develop in the AHL until he is ready to have that 28 goal season, that’s NHL ready.

      • jasken

        That’s a good point, there are some guys like Nylander who may not benefit from prolonged time in the AHL. If he’s ready sometime this year it’s likely better for him to see at least a bit of action.

        We just have to avoid doing with Nylander what we did with Kardri- posting his picture up all over the ACC before he even played a game, making him seem like he’s going to be the next legend in a leafs uniform.

  • jasken

    The more I hear Kyle talk the more I like him and can only say its about time. I haven’t heard anything this positive since the Leafs did this in the 80s see how productive those were. The weren’t as bad as people thought they had great potential the problem came when they were ready they were traded.

    I have no problems with what the Leafs are doing I only question years 3-5 when the pressure is on do they trade those young developing players for success like they always have done.