TLN Monday Mailbag: February 13th


Last night I went out to play hockey, since there wasn’t much hockey to watch. My skating is still pretty bad, though it could be worse for someone who hits an outdoor rink a few times a year and tries to self-learn from practice. Somehow, I’ve learned how to take decent snapshots and slapshots before I’ve learned how to make sudden turns and stops.

Ah well. One day I’ll claim to have played the game. For now, I’ll continue to be the Patrik Laine on the powerplay of shinny. Now that we have that paragraph of filler taken up, here’s this week’s mailbag:

I think a lot of that “space clearing” will come naturally. Ben Smith is a UFA in July, there’s a greater than zero chance that one of Tyler Bozak, Matt Martin, or Leo Komarov either get poached by Las Vegas or moved to another team in a trade, and on defence, you have similar possibilities with Roman Polak, Matt Hunwick, and Martin Marincin/Alexey Marchenko, and Curtis McElhinney in net.

It’s not like the players who have potential to make the leap are going to be starving for top line/top pair minutes. There are some good better-than-depth scoring and supplemental defensive options available to them on the Marlies, the type that fill up holes contending rosters in their best years, but nobody truly needs the way cleared for them.

The same goes for the Marlies themselves, who have a bunch of veterans at their disposal right now, but a few of them (Greening, Laich, Michalek) are temporary cap casualties and others are around due to uncertainty of depth at the start of the year. Another trade similar to the everyone-for-Grabner deal is possible, but I’m sure Toronto will want to see this season through to see which players were just cold and which are actually fading towards the line of being longshots.

It’s still here. Slumps happen. They’ve happened before this season. The next hot streak is going to be fun as heck. Don’t stress; things could change, but there’s nothing that feels particularly eighteen wheelery about the past couple of weeks.

You’re probably best suited to a combination of A and C, though I’d probably be aggressive on a compromise on A; specifically, offering Shattenkirk a significant amount of money on a one or two-year deal, so he can go on his chase for a ring on a young team while still being young enough himself to get his last big contract at the end of it. There’s an injury risk there, but it might be a route he’d consider.

Even if he signs, and even when the Leafs are winning, I’d still be trying to accumulate draft picks, though, and I’d continue to build and develop through repeatedly drafting the best players available as frequently as possible. Low-cost support on ELC’s and second deals is how you win continuously in cost-retrained sports, after all.

I think Babcock has found what he believes to be the best combinations possible right now in his top twelve, at least for what he’s preaching to his players. My best guess on the temporary change-ups is that they’re done to try to interfere with the opposition’s matchups; they’ll quick-stack to try to take advantage of a spread out opposition, and then revert back when they can find a weaker line to expose.

It hasn’t really worked yet, but it’s an interesting strategy. I really doubt that there isn’t a method to the madness, and that he’s really just impatient. It just doesn’t seem that likely.

They sure can. They’re two-thirds into the season and they’re an above average team in the standings and in the underlying data. Injuries can mess with that. A team behind them pulling a Columbus/Minnesota and going on a huge winning run can mess with that. The whole point of “Actually Good” was to counter the idea that this was a team that was in the Nolan Patrick conversation, as most outlets seemed to believe in September.

Them missing doesn’t mean that they aren’t actually good on the whole. It would mean I’d be wrong about calling them to make the playoffs way back at the start of the year, but that’s a different story.

Either way, I still think they’re fine. Hell, if you gave me a two sided coin, one that says “Win the Atlantic”, and the other that says “fall out of the playoff race”, I’m probably putting my bets on taking the Division. There’s a lot of hockey left and the teams surrounding the Leafs are going a little nuts. Hold tight, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

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  • Tigon

    Its funny how people panic considering they were believed to be going into the year and coming out with a top 5-10 pick.

    Lets just say the Leafs miss out on the playoffs, optically I think fans would be less disappointed if they never held a playoff spot in the Atlantic and just missed out after a winning streak instead of the early up and possible late down that causes them to miss. Optics.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Good observation. A lot of us tend to forget at the start of the year we were bitching about the fact Marner could not go to the AHL this year. We did hope he could make the team but most believed he would have to go back to junior for one more year. Consensus was Matthews would start on the third line and hopefully move up to the top two line by the end of the season. Nylander like Matthews needed to get a year of NHL experience under his belt. I don’t think anyone thought Hyman and Brown would make the team this year. Most felt we would start our first run at trying to make the playoffs next year.

    • LukeWarmWater

      Brother Luke I’ll tell you what a slump is. Just watch the Raptors in the past 6 weeks. Now there is a slump. Totally agree that the team is way ahead of where we thought they would be. Most of us new that the last third of the season would be the toughest as the defence strengthens, the games get more physical and scoring becomes more difficult.