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Monday Mailbag: August Edition

It’s August, and the last interesting thing in the hockey offseason is done (if you can call arbitration hearings interesting). But, apparently there are still questions that need to be answered.

I’d argue that both divisions are hard to win in in different ways. The Metropolitan division is hard to win in because the number of good teams in it makes it hard to make the playoffs. Between Pittsburgh, Washington, Columbus, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and maybe Carolina, it’s hard to squeeze into the 4-5 possible spots, but once you’re in, it’s a relatively even pool between the teams, and any team could pull ahead of another and win the Cup.

The Atlantic division is easy to make the playoffs in because there aren’t a lot of good teams in it. Ottawa, Montreal, and Detroit are bad, Buffalo is unproven but has potential, and Florida is just a little bit below good. It’s easy to make the playoffs in this division because of how little competition there is. But, once you’re in, it is a lot harder to advance in the playoffs between the powerhouses that are Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto and good teams are out in the first and second round of the playoffs that could make it to the Conference or Stanley Cup finals.

So, to summarize:

Metropolitan: More good teams, less great teams

Atlantic: Less good teams, more great teams

William Nylander because no matter where you are in the world, you always have a great view.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Leafs 2018-19 version of Johnsson and Kapanen (Grundstrom?) cracks the lineup near the end of the season and replaces Leivo/Ennis around playoff time. But, if I had to pick the two of them, I’d go Ennis, just because it seems very unlikely that Babcock will ever use Leivo again.

There’s a reasonable argument for both. You could look at Matthews season, and how he was a point per game last season, and that he’s tied with McDavid for the most even strength goals over the last two years, and that he’s just getting better, and say that he could certainly be the fourth best centre in the league.

But, look at who’s ahead of him. McDavid, Crosby, and Malkin are by far the three best centres in the league, and no one is touching them. They’re in a tier of their own. So, do you really think Auston Matthews is the best centre in the next tier? Maybe, but you could make a case for several other centres as well.

Matthews will eventually reach that point in his career, maybe as soon as this upcoming season. But I don’t know if he’s quite there yet.

I don’t know when, but there is chatter that the package will be Brown, Nielsen, and a 2nd.

I feel like the Nylander contract is close to done, they just stopped working on it for a while, since it is August. It might cut close to training camp, but I feel like it will get done sometime in late August/early September.

My ideal lineup would be as follows:

Marleau – Matthews – Nylander

Hyman – Tavares – Marner

Johnsson – Kadri – Kapanen

Ennis/Leivo – Lindholm/Jooris – Brown

Gardiner – Rielly

Dermott – Carrick

Marincin – Zaitsev

But I doubt that happens.

Very likely, considering that the Leafs still have four NHL calibre goalies, and not all of them are going to clear waivers. If they want some return, they’ll have to trade one of Sparks or Pickard.

Well, Tyler Seguin is a UFA next summer.

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  • Matmarwill

    Lineup out of training camp:

    Johnsson + Matthews + Nylander
    Hyman + Tavares + Marner
    Marleau + Kadri + Kapanen
    Leivo + Lindholm + Brown
    Ennis

    Reilly + Oshiganov
    Gardiner + Carrick
    Dermott + Zaitsev
    Hainsey

    Andersen
    Sparks