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Monday Mailbag: October 22nd

The Leafs are losing, which feels pretty familiar, but also needs to receive the “this too shall pass” treatment. As much as it was nice to hear a bunch about the Leafs are going to be top contenders for the Stanley Cup, and the first few games made it seem like Toronto’s offence would be unmatched, this is still a team that is capable of bouncing between world beaters and lottery team. Thankfully they look like World Beaters enough that we’ll see the playoffs, but unfortunately they still have a lot that needs to be addressed before we comfortably view them as second round participants.

Anyways, the questions…

So we’ll get the Nylander stuff out the way early because that’s been dealt with already in this post. If you don’t feel like reading that, The answer to the first question is that Willy is in Austria practicing with a team there. He’ll likely be back in Toronto before December 1st. There is no situation between now and the day that Mitch Marner signs that Nylander is better off gone.

Since Cooom has been in Edmonton ruining the McDavid era, it stands to good reason that when he visits Toronto he has the same impact on the Matthews era.

It’s been pretty good for a Monday, thanks! Nice slow start to the work week, and my daughter was in a great mood when I dropped her off at daycare. Sometimes that can make all the difference. Thanks for asking. I hope you have a great day too.

Dump and Chase and Stretch pass are two of my least favourite options. My preferred option is to sign William Nylander, who has been one of their best neutral zone puck carriers over the past two seasons to assist in this.

Since that seems like it is happening anytime soon, I’d make a play for the Leafs to diversify their attacks more. Even with Dump and Chase being an unappealing option, players like Kapanen, and Hyman have skill sets that can benefit the Leafs in taking this approach. The stretch pass is comfort food for players like Zaitsev, Gardiner, and Dermott, and letting them use it to their hearts desire can help cover off the safe approach that seems to be killing the Leafs in the last couple of games.

My biggest issue with the Leafs always seems to be that they try to address what they aren’t doing well, instead of building off the strengths that they do have. In an attempt to tighten up defensively and take a more conservative approach to moving the puck up ice, they are under-utilizing the speed and offensive vision of a number of their players.

I think back to the loss against Ottawa in early October. It was painfully clear that the Leafs were trying to move the puck into the high slot area in Ottawa’s zone and the Sens clogged the center of the zone not letting anything get through. There was no attempt to adapt in game, and the Leafs suffered because of it. The stubbornness of sticking to a rigid game plan seems to be the Leafs greatest undoing, and I’d hope to see swifter in game adjustments by the people who should understand how to address the challenges a lot better than I do.

I mean they’ll beat them in the regular season for sure. They probably can beat them three times in a playoff round too. Right now I’d say it’s better to hope for the Leafs somehow playing into a situation where they don’t have to face Boston, or hope that Boston somehow doesn’t qualify for the playoffs. Boston will always be Leafs playoff kryptonite. As a Jets fan in the 80s I think back to the one year when Winnipeg finally beat the Oilers, only to get swept by the Flames in the second round. I feel that would be the Leafs curse if they finally beat Boston they’ll get absolutely stomped by the Lightning in round two.

I love Justin Holl and hope it will be very soon. I have no idea what Mike Babcock is seeing in Ron Hainsey and Nikita Zaitsev that they can’t be pulled from the lineup on a regular basis to accommodate Holl getting a look, but at the same time I have no expectation that this will happen or even that Holl will rotate in for Ozhiganov, who has been the best right side defender for the Leafs this season.

I think Holl will be more understanding of his depth role than Josh Leivo or Connor Carrick, but eventually he’s going to want to play and with the exception of Rielly, there isn’t a player on the Leafs blueline who isn’t deserving of some form of shakeup.

Since this question gives me a flimsy excuse to post what I’d like to see as defensive pairings based on the eight defensemen on the roster, I’m going to take it:

Gardiner-Rielly
Dermott-Ozhiganov
Marincin-Holl

Just give me a couple of games of this so I can experience joy. If you want to give me true joy, stick with this as the home pairings and rotate in Hainsey-Zaitsev as the road bottom pairing or something.

No time soon. I don’t think I can do this question justice in a mailbag setting, because I want to tackle it on a grander scale, but I will say that I think that Mike Babcock is a very good coach. I will also say that I really don’t like Mike Babcock at all and I have serious doubts about whether he is the optimal coach for the Leafs.

The reality is that he’s under contract for four more years after this one, and I’d wager that he’ll spend two more of those behind the Leafs bench, so if we’re saying when I think he’ll be fired, I’m going to say May 2021.

 

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