TLN Monday Mailbag: Holiday Edition

It’s summer and a lot of you guys are mailing it in. Heck, it’s a holiday right now for many of you.

So anyway I’m going to just jump right into the mailbag because no one has time for fancy/Fancey* intros.

*Ryan Fancey and I will be splitting this mailbag moving forward. Everyone should have time for Ryan Fancey, but just not today.


Personally, I don’t think the Leafs are going to change a whole lot from their roster at this point.

Moving a “big part” to give Soshnikov, Leivo, or Kapanen playing time is not a good idea. They’re all decent players with upside but none have been able to really produce at the NHL level over a consistent span. Combined, they have literally 27 career NHL points. I am aware they are all relatively young, at obviously different ages. But realistically none of them probably have a real spot on the Leafs top-9 this season, and I don’t think any of them probably should. It’d be nice to see any of those three as NHL regulars, but right now, they don’t really have a spot to fit in and that’s more of a good problem than a bad one.

As far as who they’d replace, Matt Martin is easily the most expendable regular forward, but also he is in the lineup every night he’s healthy (or at least has been so far), so I dunno if him being scratched is a realistic hope in anything but NHL 18.

Assuming there will continue to be a logjam for the 13th forward, “Banking on injuries” is also a dangerous mindset to take. Is someone getting injured really worth it to put in a player who might at best provide a marginal difference?

Long story short, I don’t really see any of Kapanen/Leivo/Soshnikov making an impact to start the season. I also don’t really have a problem with that.

Before we have to talk about regression, we have to talk about what we’re regressing from. I think we’re all pretty worn out from the mid-summer in-depth stats arguments, so I’ll try to be a little more approximate in my assessments of each player.

Auston Matthews was literally one of the best forwards in the league last season. He scored a lot, especially at even strength where he had the most goals in the league.

William Nylander was one of the the best powerplay forwards in the league last season, putting up 26 points on the man-advantage. He struggled a bit with even strength scoring based on the number of shots he took… but still scored 13 goals.

Mitch Marner set a Leafs rookie record in assists and still scored 19 goals.

OK, they were all very good. The Leafs! Wow!

There’s no major red flags per se (like a high shooting percentage or riding a better linemate) on any of the three, but if I had to bet on something specific, it’d probably be Matthews’ goal totals specifically. 40 goals is a lot, and not a lot of players can do it. Even though Matthews is a volume shooter, it’s still 40 NHL goals which is, like I just said, a lot. So maybe he’ll regress to 39.

“Good enough” is a weird term.

The Leafs are clearly going for the “WOW OUR OFFENCE IS DAMN GOOD” model (which was also employed by the Penguins) because, wow, their offence is damn good and they are going to roll with their strengths. No one needs to explain that their defence isn’t a list of superstars, but not having Roman Polak in the lineup for 75 games is honestly a net positive already. The back end is still a bit of a clusterpuck right now as to exactly what happens, but they should be slightly better defensively, at least-personnel wise.

Back to “good enough”. The 2016-17 Ottawa Senators were a bounce away from making the Stanley Cup Final. The Ovechkin-era Capitals never have even made the conference final, despite three Presidents’ Trophy wins. It’s beating down a narrative you’ve heard so many times, but in seven games or less the better team doesn’t always win. In a weird playoff format where it’s more focused on manufacturing and continuing rivalries than maintaining, “good enough” is hard to quantify. But if you’re asking if they’re a good enough team to finish in the top 2 or three in the division, and win three rounds? I think if the chips fall the right way, they could be.

I have a longer piece on this coming soon, but there is a path to win the division this year with a weaker field than usual and no real clear favourites. If the Leafs can improve to be a team in the 100-105 point range, line up a favourable matchup or two, and be firing on all cylinders? Dream big, @Tenkay23.

We got a few questions like this one, so only one will get answered.

Actually… yes.

And then there’s one final substantive question, which was the first question we got.

Well, there could be a lot of reasons for this. Our friend of the blog James Mirtle and this other upstart young blogger named Jeff Ler have both tackled this issue in recent weeks, which you can read here and here.

In case two Connor Brown articles isn’t enough,

We covered it here…

Weekend Roundtable: What’s Up With Connor Brown?

And asked you guys about it here…

WWYDW: What contract would you give Connor Brown?

In case four Connor Brown articles isn’t enough, the base of the reason why he isn’t signed is likely that the Leafs front office is bored.

Or they’re tied up in cap space right now and have an unofficial deal on the table. Or they just want to finalize a few things and aren’t worried about signing the deal and it will probably be okay.

Or they’re lollygagging with the only real task they have left before September and have no plan at all. But that seems unlikely.

We’ve seen it before. People like to freak out over unsigned RFAs every year and it’s almost never a problem. People were worried about Auston Matthews’ contract last year and that turned out okay. If Connor Brown isn’t re-signed, well… that would not be good. But he probably will be. Everyone else with RFA takes that I trust is mostly saying “yo chill”, so yeah, let’s chill about this one.

See you next week for another mailbag.

  • Kanuunankuula

    I dislike Kapanen being lumped in with Leivo and Sosh. He’s still extremely young and has top6 potential. He was ranked #1 European skater in his draft.

  • Stan Smith

    Pretty much agree with everything you said with the exception of the Polak comment. Polak had the lowest GA60 on the team last season. If the Leafs start the season with Marincin in the top 6 and no Polak, I think that is a definite step in the wrong direction.