TLN Monday Mailbag: July 11th



*snaps out of it*

Hey, there’s some stuff in this mailbag…

@markrweiss asked: Why would a rebuilding team with a smart stats department go after a possession black hole like Russell? Especially given the dollars he wants.

For what it’s worth, I’m very much against the idea of signing Russell based on the information I have, which is largely the same as everybody else’s information. Basic sports psychology implies that a shot-blocking specialist is also a shot allowance specialist. His offensive numbers aren’t incredibly good, though his eyeball work in his earlier years implies that he should be capable of getting the puck to his forwards. He seems to be a burden on suppression unless he plays a sheltered role, and his reported salary expectation is above that of a sheltered role.

With that said, teams that we believe to be stats-savvy like the Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers have kicked tires on him this summer, so maybe there’s something that the hobbyists are missing that these teams are aware of. Maybe they found a new correlation using the data we have presently. Maybe they’re collecting their own data. Maybe they feel he has benefits that outweigh the negatives. I’m skeptical, but I’m open to both sides of the coin here. I wouldn’t sign him, and I’ll still think it’s bad if a team with a good reputation signs him, but I’ll at least be open to the idea that there’s something to it.

@__Pete__33 asked: With the mass log jam the Leafs have on defense, and players like Viktor Loov and Rinat Valiev on the way up, do you see anyone being shipped out?

Given the logjam the Leafs have at, well, every position, it’s safe to say that just about every waiver-exempt player that isn’t an impact player (so, Matthews, Nylander, and Zaitsev) will have the Marlies in their initial plans.

There’s no exception here, especially with the two prospects you mentioned. Valiev likely has an NHL future, but is a second-year pro and will continue to be developed. I’d be shocked if Loov made a graduation here outside of a couple of games, and seeing as he’s a left-side shooter, there shouldn’t be plans being made around him.

The Leafs may still try to shed a contract or two on D, but these two won’t have much to do with it. They will definitely be full-time Marlies this year.

@highandwidemiss asked: Who do you find will surprise most out of the leafs picks?

Keaton Middleton. That was a baffling pick to me at first, and I still would have likely looked towards somebody else at 101.

With that said, the people who think the Leafs whiffed at the draft should keep in mind that we’re talking about a 6’5, 234-pound defenceman who is 5-6 years away from athletic prime. If the Leafs can draw up a well thought out development path that sees him work on hockey skills that they feel he’s a bit lacking on, he can still be a good player.

On the other side of the occasion, those who think the Leafs were draft geniuses seem to believe they’ve drafted the next great shutdown defenceman, which implies that shutdown defencemen are great and that a pick is great because it’s a Leafs pick. The kid still has a lot of work to do.

Ultimately, Middleton probably ends up like most 4th rounders and either squeaks into a third pair for a bit or becomes a good minor league player. Despite being the most likely outcome by a mile, this would also shock the bulk of the fanbase in one way or another.

@Bounce7 asked: Why are so many people all of a sudden defending Jonathan Bernier?

Bernier was a tough player to gauge in the moment. His performances were all or nothing and people’s hearts were either all in on him or they hated him for being the anti-Reimer. With Andersen’s acquisition and Bernier’s departure, it’s given people some time to evaluate.

Ultimately, as I wrote in detail yesterday, Bernier was a good goalie who’s mental strength in this market appeared to be the exact opposite of advertised. The fact that Andersen’s numbers aren’t elite looking despite his reputation being more about consistency hasn’t helped the idea that the team may have been better off just waiting.

Personally, I see what unfolded as the most sensible outcome, but there’s no doubt that there’s a lot of grey involved and that Bernier was probably a decent enough netminder, even if it was time for both sides to part ways.

@shutupisaac_ asked: What if Pogba was leaving Juve for the Leafs?

Finally, a question that matters. Pogba to the Leafs would be the only outcome that I would accept because it would keep him away from the champion’s league and he would give the Leafs a hell of a point shot (that would have to be deflected to avoid kicking motion issues).

With that said, this is also a business, and Juventus will need something back. Therefore, the lowest I can go is €120 million and Kadri.

  • Kyle Becker

    I’m definitely interested to see how Keaton Middleton develops.

    He was also the most confusing pick to me. Weighing 234 lbs at his age means he’s going to be a very big man in 3-4 years when he could potentially have a shot at the leafs.

    He’s just gotta focus on foot speed and a first pass. Something tells me it’s not going to be hard for him to develop a hard shot.

  • CMpuck

    Reimer/Bernier is the same thing as Bozak/Kadri, pretty much the same level of talent, the same position, the same overall impact in the big picture but people make one a hero and the other a villain, when it’s a wash.

  • CMpuck

    Polak is hands down a better dman then Russell. Another great move in signing Polak for a cheap one year contract by Lou, Dubas and the stats team by exploiting the market inefficiencies.

    And smart on Lou and Dubas trading Bernier at his peak value to extract maximal return for that asset. It is so great to have top notch management that doesn’t make many if any mistakes.