TLN Monday Mailbag: January 30th


Funny thing about last week’s mailbag: It doesn’t exist. I actually got a bunch of questions, but it was a hectic Monday both in terms of the amount of content we had on here and in the number of things I had to do in the, uhh, “real world”.

But we’re back, and I’m armed with a lot of questions. Let’s go!

It’s a very, very odd thing, but an understandable one as well. All three of these young players seem to have legitimate NHL upside, but the Pro Rookie duo have been getting the bulk of the attention. Part of that is “new toy” bias, part of that is local boy bias in Dermott’s favour, and part of that is that people are gawking at Nielsen’s production and declaring him ready already, despite the fact it’s almost all coming on the powerplay.

Those two will likely be the best of the trio, with Dermott being the piece with the highest all-around upside, but that doesn’t change the fact that Rinat Valiev is a very legitimate prospect in his own right. He’s been playing tough minutes for the Marlies for a solid year and a half and looked surprisingly good in his call-up. I think in the event of multiple injuries to left-handed defencemen that would force a call-up, I’d be looking to Valiev as the best suited to make the jump.

The Marlies have a few players on their roster that are on AHL deals but are still treated as organization members. This comes as a result of the 50 contract limit that the NHL has; they’re in situations where the team would like to sign them, but presently don’t have the flexibility. I’d say that this applies to one veteran and three “prospects”. Rich Clune is in his second year of taking AHL deals and earned an NHL contract through the process last season, and the kids involved are Colin Smith, Tony Cameranesi, and Shane Conacher.

Smith has consistently been one of Toronto’s best players since being acquired in the Shawn Matthias trade last winter, Cameranesi had a hot start with the Solar Bears and has looked good in his stint with the Marlies, and Conacher is starting to draw back into game action after getting injured in training camp. All three are seen as legitimate prospects by the organization and, while they technically run the risk of losing them by using this method, they are all likely to be signed if/when they look like safe bets to be NHL contributors.

I don’t see it. I’m a huge Brooks Laich guy, having watched him a lot in Washington, but the Leafs are just about the fastest team on skates these days and I don’t know if he can keep up. I do like the presence he brings as a person and mentor, and I think that helps the Marlies a fair bit, but I imagine he’ll try to get another NHL deal in the summer. If he is okay with sticking around, though, he did play enough games last season to make himself eligible for exposure in the expansion draft; Toronto could, in theory, sign him to a cheap extension and hope that George McPhee would select one of his old boys, while being able to protect both of Leo Komarov and Tyler Bozak.

Aho (not to be confused with the forward from Carolina) is putting up yet another impressive season with Skelleftea of the SHL, notching 24 points in 37 games in what many consider to be the third best league in the world right now. That’s not bad for a 20-year-old with no ties to an NHL team; though the fact that he’s only 5’10 and is a left-handed shot makes him less appealing to the casual Leafs observer. His mobility is a huge plus, though, and could help him fit into the system.

At the same time, my interpretation of Article 8.4 in the CBA leads me to believe that he would still be draft-eligible this season. The Article states that players who will start the following season between the ages of 18-21 are eligible minus some exceptions, and at Aho’s age, the exception would be either being drafted previously, or having played in North America at 18, 19, 20.

I’d be down to use a late pick on him, though. That might even be better since it wouldn’t waste a contract.

Ultimately, while shot metrics are the best indicator of future success that we currently have, and they align with the common sense philosophy of “get pucks on net”, being a good indicator isn’t the same as being a perfect predictor. Outliers still happen, often in three different ways: shooting percentage, save percentage, and record in one-goal games.

In Ottawa’s case, their percentages aren’t too far out of the ordinary, but that’s also because their goaltenders have had some awful nights to obscure the fact that they’ve stood on their heads even more often. Mike Condon has nine starts where he’s posted at least a 0.950 and is 15-3-2 when he posts at least a 0.885 or higher. Before Craig Anderson’s leave of absence, he had a 0.950 or greater in 8 of his 18 appearances and a 10-2-1 record when posting at least a 0.885.

By comparison, Frederik Andersen has had >0.950 nights in 12 of his 39 appearances and is 21-6-5 when at least a 0.885. Very good, but not quite as lucky. Back to the Senators, one goal games have been vital; they’re 12-5-6 (0.652) in those, outperforming the 14-10-0 that they are in multi-goal games (in which 9 of their 14 wins come with Anderson or Condon either allowing just one goal or posting a shutout.

Add in the fact that many of their top scorers (Stone, Turris, Ryan, and Smith) are shooting well above their career average, and a couple of cold streaks could sink them. Will they? That remains to be seen. If you play this season a hundred times, I can’t imagine they’re doing this well in most of them. But even the safe bets go awry at times, and that’s happening to the benefit of the Senators right now.

  • Stan Smith

    Everytime I read, or hear something about the Sens, it seems there is always a mention about Boucher’s defense first strategy, and how they need to learn how to play better in their own end. I could see where that could easily result in a team coming out on the short end of shot metrics.