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Are you content with the Leafs’ D as it stands heading into the season?

Death, taxes, and getting angry about the Leafs’ defence.

So we argued: are we okay with the Leafs’ D heading into next season?

First, some short answers:

Evan Presement

Yes

Hayley Hendren

I’d much rather have things the way they are than give up something to change it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Megan Kim

Yeah it’s fine

Jon Steitzer

No.

Thomas Williams

As long as Babcock doesn’t overuse Hainsey, they’re fine.

And now, some longer ones!

Ryan Hobart

In the overall scheme of things I’m comfortable with the Leafs’ defense because I believe they have an offense so dominant that they’ll control play enough that defense doesn’t really matter. Ideally, they’d build a defense core focused almost entirely on that, as opposed to one that lacks mobility but is good in defensive coverage. Currently, with Lou’s fingerprints still on this defense in the Hainsey acquisition and Zaitsev extension, Dubas is limited in his freedom to rebuild this defense. They’re mostly stuck in limbo until Hainsey’s deal expires and Liljegren is ready for the NHL. At that point, the defense will really take shape. For now though, Babcock will do his best to pretend either Zaitsev or Hainsey are top-pair defenders, and we’ll hope Tavares and Matthews score 50 goals each to make that irrelevant.

Ziggy

I’m not content with the Leafs defence next season. It’s hard to imagine the Leafs directly solving the problem this summer, but I’m confident Dubas won’t make things worse than they already are. Hopefully the shortcomings on the blueline can be masked by the Leafs offence until a proper solution presents itself.

Scott Maxwell

While it doesn’t seem like they did much, losing Polak and replacing him with either Carrick or Holl is already a decent improvement. Obviously it’d be great if they could improve it, but as long as they deploy them right, this defense should be fine with the offense they have and the goaltending from Freddy

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  • ballballrun

    Nobody seems to be remembering Babcock’s comment last year that the lineup you start with in October isn’t the one you finish with in April, and that the one you start with isn’t always the best one one, but the one you finish with is.

    So lets apply that to the D … the players available to you for upgrades in July, are not the same as the players available to you for upgrades in February.

    Breath deep and look at the cap room, people. And remember – now whenever we see Roman roamin below the dots chasing the puck he just lost – he’ll be in our end trying to steal it back from Travis Dermott or Johnny ohmygoshhesaleaf Tavares.

    Hows this for a mantra: Cap Room. Dubas. Polak. breath in … Cap Room. Dubas. Polak. Breath out. Repeat.

    • Tommy Cat

      51 is the guy that cost us the most important game of the year remember??? Anyone who thinks this team is ok with the defense they have is either kidding themselves, have math in their eyes and can’t see right, or just know nothing about hockey. I’m sorry if that’s a bit harsh but its true. The Leafs are all in now after signing JT. The window is fully open. They need at least one but better 2 decent NHL defensemen. 51 has to go. Carrick is not an option. He’s just a depth defenseman. Its time to peddle the picks and prospects for some real backend help.

    • leafdreamer

      I’m excited about Marincin coming back up. Holl, Borgman and Rosen are all going to be a lot better than last year. We have serious depth on D on both sides. If it looks like we’ll need a top guy to contend then let’s grab a veteran off of a non-playoff team at the deadline. I know Rielly scores 50 points and that’s amazing but I don’t think he’s steady enough defensively and I wouldn’t be against replacing him with a bigger, more defensively-minded righty like Parayko or Myers or Dougie Hamilton. Dubas will never do that so it’s a moot point though… I guess we can hope that Rielly takes a step defensively – he’s still young.

      • magesticRAGE

        I honestly don’t think that Babcock has any patience left for Marincin. Borgman will at least kill penalties now and add physicality, Rosen will add mobility and speed, all of which Babcock likes.
        Rielly is a stud defenseman. When he was paired with a quality partner, like at the World Cup, he was elite at shutting talented forwards. Trading him would be a mistake 99% of the time, supporting him is much better and cheaper.

  • Brandon

    Defense isn’t just two players. The pressure applied to the two defenders depends a great deal on what chances the forwards they play with allow. I’m betting that with a bit of growth of young forwards, the addition of Tavares and the subtraction of two of the worst defensive forwards, our defense looks better this year. That said, I hope Hainsey is traded, or at least played a lot less. I’m also hoping Zaitsev has a better year.

    • ballballrun

      Defense is like pool – it aint the shots you make, its the shots you leave on the table for the other guy … the difference we will see by not having JvR and Bozak and Polak in the D-Zone will be extraordinary. We will see fewer quality scoring chances against, cleaner exits and less time penned in and gassing out, and fewer icings.

      What if JVR and TB give up 1 extra scoring chance a game? That means 7.5 goals on league avg s%. What if the Leafs get one extra clean exit a game? Could that translate into 1 shot against every other game? OK, another 3.75 goals. Call it 11 total. What if we give up 1 fewer icings a game? Win 50% of facoffs, and give up a shot against on half of those we dont win? 2 goals? Thats 13 goals against. Lets say having mobile people on the back end end up making tons of mistakes and still give up 2 less goals against than Roman Polak. That’s 15 goals against we just shaved off. Which makes us the 5th best defensive team in the league, 3 goals back of the beastly Bruins.

      Let’s say I’m a Leaf fan, so I am ridiculously optimistic, so we reduce these estimates by 20% and we shave off three goals, and we are now only the 6th best defensive team in the league.

      Really folks, stop hating. This is what we’ve been waiting for.

  • Stan Smith

    Any moves the Leafs make are either going to be do add inexpensive depth for the short term, or make a significant deal deal which would include giving something significant up in return. I am completely happy with them going into the season with what they have. Just as in the start of the rebuild, they stocked themselves with draft choices, increasing their odds of coming up with NHL caliber players, they have recently stocked their system with a number of dmen. Out of that pool something should rise to the surface.

  • ihmac46

    The Leafs cant keep waiting for 51 to stop making mental errors. They could get a strong stay at home Dman in a straight up swap for him. Sorry but you can see the confusion on his face whenever they get in trouble in their own end. Its time to move on from him. That would be a start at improving the defense. IMO.

  • Matmarwill

    I am not satisfied with the current leafs d. I am also not satisfied with the way the team plays defensively, which is on the coaches. The defensemen keep having to flip the puck around the boards hoping to get it out when under pressure. The forwards should be in the right placement to receive a short outlet pass, or the defensemen should be mobile enough to maneuvre their way free.

    Oshiganov is a bit of a wild card, being a khl all-star just two seasons back, and he may pull a zaitsev and make the top 6. If he is sound defensively, he could make a good partner for reilly.

    I would hope that dubas would entertain trading hainsey if orzhiganov pans out. Also, i would give holl or carrick a chance to play next to gardiner, since carrick did ok with gardiner 2 years ago.

    If gardiner cannot be extended this summer, personally i would trade him to get something of value.

    Here’s some potential d lineups:

    a) gardiner + hainsey kept:
    Reilly + Oshiganov
    Gardiner + Hainsey
    Dermott + Zaitsev

    b) Gardiner + Hainsey traded:
    Reilly + Oshiganov
    Dermott + Zaitsev
    Maricin + Holl

    c) Gardiner traded, hainsey kept:
    Reilly + Oshiganov
    Dermott + Zaitsev
    Hainsey + Holl

    d) Ozhiganov cant hack top 4, rest kept:
    Reilly + Dermott
    Gardiner + zaitsev
    Hainsey + Oshiganov

    e) Ozhiganov is on marlies or back to khl, rest kept:
    Reilly + Dermott
    Gardiner + Zaitsev
    Hainsey + Holl

    Looking at the prospect pool, i think liljigren needs probably more than 1 season more on the marlies, but should be pretty good when he arrives in the show. From Sandin’s stats, he looks like he’ll become a solid 2 way d-man, and i would see him being ready maybe a little bit later than Lily, but not much. Other d prospects that look to have nhl potential are borgman, rosen, and durzi. If the two first rounders are ready the season after next, perhaps later in the season, and ozhiganov pans out (and gardiner + hainsey are gone), the d lineup could be:
    Reilly + Ozhiganov
    Dermott + liljigren
    Borgman + Sandin

    I think that d would likely be quite mobile and reasonably defensively sound.

  • Drapes55

    The Score made a very compelling case for a realistic trade a while back. They spoke of a Myers-Gardiner swap, one for one and why it made sense. When you say it out loud, it sounds ridiculous but when you break it down by numbers it makes allot of sense. Myers is currently 3rd line RD behind Trouba and Big Buff, Winnipeg could use a LHD with some offensive upside as they’re top LHD ids Josh Morrissey and the Leafs need a RHD That is more of a shutdown guy that can play big minutes. As for the one for one, I think RHD is a bit more valuable than a LHD but I think Gardiner + 3rd could probably be a good start. Here is the article https://www.thescore.com/nhl/news/1566880

    • Bob Canuck

      That Score article was terrible. The reasons are as follows:

      1. The author uses even strength instead of the customary 5v5, which has the highest proportion of all ice-time. It is an unusual situation to use in an analysis.

      2. The numbers are not correct. At even strength, Gardiner’s HDCA/60 is 10.17 and not 12.24.

      3. Even if you use the author’s numbers, Gardiner’s SCF% is 54.2% (31.81/[31.81+26.86]); Myers is 49.7%. In other words, when Myers is on the ice the opposition has 50.3% of the scoring chances. When Gardiner is on the ice, the opposition has 45.8% of the scoring chances. How is that a good trade-off for the Leafs?

      4. Using the incorrect numbers, Gardiner has a 50.0% share of high danger scoring chances. When Myers is on the ice, the Jets have 46.5% of the high danger scoring chances. It is better to have the majority of scoring chances and high danger scoring chances rather than the lesser share of either or both. Therefore, how can the author conclude that Myers makes the Leafs better if substituted for Gardiner?

      5. If you use the correct high danger scoring chances per 60 at even strength for Gardiner, his HDCF% is 54.6%. That is a HDCF% that is 8.1 percentage points higher when Gardiner is on the ice than when Myers is on the ice.

      6. At 5v5, Gardiner’s SCF% is 52.4%; Myers is 50.7%. With respect to HDCF%, Gardiner is 53.0% and Meyers is 47.2%.

      7. The quality of competition data is at odds with Extra Skatr. Per that site, Gardiner’s quality of competition at 5v5 is 74th percentile (100 is the toughest). Myers is 44th. This disparity makes sense. Why would the Jets have Meyers take the tough match-ups when they have Byfuglien and Trouba on the right side? We know that Gardiner has at least the second-toughest D-pair match-ups on the Leafs. Gardiner has tougher minutes than Myers.

      • Drapes55

        I wouldn’t say the article is terrible. You’re basically arguing what the article is already saying, that Gardiner is a better offensive defenceman than Myers, we all know that. Also you said the author should have used 5V5 stats vs Even Strength stats but Gardiner’s 5V5 stats are generally worse than his Even Strength stats whereas Myers is more or less equal or better 5V5 than ES. Look, we love the offence that Jake brings to the table, seeing him skate and make great long stretch passes is a thing of beauty but with those great things Jake has a terrible knack of giving the puck away and making terrible decisions that end up costing the team (See game 7 in Boston 2018). Were not saying Myers is necessarily better than Gardiner, but more that the Leafs can afford to let him go and allow a guy like Borgman or Rosen or Hainsey to play bottom 6 minutes and have more complete R side of the D with Myers, Zaitsev and Holl/Carrick.

        Basically instead of Reilly – Hainsey
        Gards – Zaitsev
        Dermott – Holl/Carrick

        You have Reilly – Myers
        Dermott – Zaitsev
        Hainsey/Borgman/Rosen – Holl/Carrick

        To me personally, I’d gladly give up offensive ability and terrible giveaways and, at times, inept defensive zone coverage, for a more stable group even if its not as flashy or exciting.

        • Bob Canuck

          I want players that, when they are on the ice, my team generates more scoring chances, high danger chances, and Expected Goals than they give up. For example, I would rather have Defenceman A, whose team averages 7 high danger scoring chances for and 5 against per 60 minutes when he is on the ice, than Defenceman B, who averages 2 high danger scoring chances for and 3 against per 60 minutes. In this example, Defenceman A’s HDCF% is 58.3% [7/ (7+5)]; Defenceman B’s is 40.0%.

          Jake Gardiner has made some awful decisions with the puck. One of his weaknesses, to paraphrase Justin Bourne, is that Gardiner does not have an “Oh Crap Alarm”. In other words, when Gardiner is in trouble, he does not recognize that he is in danger and then fails to make the safe play. However, all the bonehead plays, miscues, and other errors are reflected in his scoring chances against, high danger scoring chances against, and Expected Goals Against.

          If you just look at high danger scoring chances against per 60 at Even Strength, I don’t see Myers as an adequate replacement for Gardiner. Myers HCCA per 60 is 11.32, which is higher than Gardiner’s 10.17. Myers has more high danger scoring chances against than Gardiner and he faces lesser competition.

          I do agree that the Leafs should seriously consider trading Gardiner. It is a competitive disadvantage for the Leafs to have their three best puck movers on the same side of the ice (left). They need an upgrade on the right side. The Leafs also cannot afford to let Gardiner go without receiving value in return after the 2018-2019 season because their pipeline of young, quality players is not as strong as it once was.

          I believe three things to be true. First, Gardiner is a very good second-pair defenceman. Two, Meyers is not equivalent to Gardiner; the Leafs are diminished if you replace Gardiner with Myers. Third, if the Leafs want to trade Gardiner, they need to look elsewhere (Dumba, Spurgeon, Faulk, etc.).

          Thanks for your response and the reference to the Score article. Although I thought the piece was terrible, I appreciate it when commenters supplement their views with links to related opinions and analysis.