Leafs Nation Has Spoken

Last week, we put out a survey challenging your armchair GM abilities on how YOU would shape this team going forward were you given the chance. We asked you to dig deep and attempt to truly capture the broad range of GM job responsibilities taking into consideration salary cap, prospect pipeline, future direction of team, trade opportunities and general business activity. We asked you to send a message to the Toronto Maple Leafs by completing this survey so that you as a nation could be heard. One week and 485 submissions later, we at The Hub are now ready to deliver this message for you.

Now for those who didn’t fill the survey (shame on you) and as such are unfamiliar with its queries, the details follow:

1. Of the Leafs current roster, which 5 forwards, 3 defenseman and 1 goalie would you want to keep on this team?
2. Of this same roster, which 4 forwards, and 2 defenseman would you want to trade?

The option of leaving a slot blank was also given just in case an entrant felt this Leafs team should be left as is.

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*Franson and Santorelli were removed from the survey after their trade announcement. 315 entrants participated in the survey up to that point. Jokinen was also added to the roster on that same day.

Above is a stacked bar chart breaking down each player’s survey stats into 3 categories; ‘Trade’, ‘Keep’ and ‘Indifferent’. The ‘Indifferent’ category signifies a player was neither selected to ‘Keep’ or ‘Trade’ by those that were surveyed. Was an entrant indifferent because they felt a player was not of any consequence or was it because there were other players of more pressing concern? This is open to debate, however with some context I think we can imply some conclusions.

If you refer to the chart above, ‘Indifferent’ rates increase significantly from Jokinen onwards, which is also the point where “Indifferent” rates are greater than 50% for all those surveyed. Of these players, only Robidas has a contract of consequence while the others are FAs at season’s end. The majority of entrants weren’t concerned with whether Holzer, Booth, Jokinen and Smith should stay or go because plainly put, they didn’t really care. As for Robidas and the 2 years left on his contract, I’m lead to believe that either people believed Robidas couldn’t be traded for a reasonable return OR that people believed keeping him wouldn’t hurt a Leafs team in rebuild mode. Since Robidas is a proven NHL veteran with a great deal of game experience that could go a long way in mentoring young talent, I’m inclined to side with the latter.

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Above is a chart showing the percentage surveyed who wanted to ‘Keep’ a player on the Leafs. If a player was ever labeled an “untouchable”, then Morgan Rielly fits the bill quite well. Of the 485 surveyed, 98.76% wanted to keep Rielly and not 1 person, NOT EVEN 1, felt he should be traded. I’m confident in saying that never has Leafs Nation ever agreed on something so unanimously. Learn more about Morgan Rielly in my recent post here.

Kadri, Holland, and Panik were no brainers IMO. All three are young talents with largely untapped potential and have shown the ability for improvement with each and every passing game. It would be a mistake to trade them at this point in their careers.

With respect to Gardiner, I admittedly have been a critic of his play in the past, but I also see that he has made some very noticeable improvements in his defensive game as of late. In particular, he’s become more effective shielding the puck down low and boxing out players in the crease. I realize this may just be another phase of inconsistency to his game, but during a rebuild can you realistically think of a better time to ride through these developmental bumps? Gardiner rightfully stays.

I don’t agree with the assessment on JVR and this will be discussed further shortly.

From Rielly to Polak the “Keep” rate is above 60%. These are the players Leafs Nation has given a resounding ‘Yes, we want you’. They are listed in order of ‘Keep” rates:

1. Reilly
2. JVR
3. Kadri
4. Holland
5. Komarov
6. Gardiner
7. Panik
8. Polak

I don’t find it at all a coincidence that majority on this list is 25 or younger (save for Polak and Komarov) and have also played less than 3 full seasons with the Leafs. IMO, the former would be consistent with pieces essential to any rebuild while the latter gives the benefit of a further evaluation period for these players. I’m also very glad to see that many in Leafs Nation agree with my opinion of Polak as a valued member of this defensive core going forward. Not only can he play the game well, but he will also serve an important role as mentor to this young defensive core, which is in dyer need of mentorship.

After Polak, the player “Keep” rate drops significantly to less than 40%. If we exclude the players that were deemed inconsequential based on ‘Indifferent’ rates, it is fairly obvious that Leafs Nation did not want the majority of the remaining players to be on this team. This brings us to a closer look at who Leafs Nation felt should be traded.

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A resounding ‘No, we don’t want you’ is prevalent for Phaneuf, Bozak and Lupul with “Trade” rates nearing 75% or greater. Phaneuf has failed this team as its captain and as a mentor to its younger developing players. Collapses in 3 of the last 4 seasons and a game 7 meltdown of mass destruction are testament to this epic level of failure. At the same time, Nonis pretty much shut the door on his own coffin when he signed Dion to that 7×7 and the nails went in shortly after when he picked up Clarkson in UFA. Yes, Nonis made an ingeniously clever trade to take Clarkson off the books, but how many more teams will he find that screwed up their player insurance forms going forward? Good riddance to all of them.

On the other hand, Lupul is a victim of his own fragility. When actually playing he is beloved by fans, feared by opponents and is undeniably a great presence on and off the ice. His ability to deal with the Leafs media is as much a skill as any and does not go unnoticed. In fact, there are many loud voices in Leafs Nation that have called for him to replace Dion as captain for this very reason. But, and this is a big BUT, he can’t seem to stay healthy as he is constantly plagued by injury. Is he the unluckiest human ever or is he simply made of glass? Either way, Leafs Nation is fed up and wants him gone.

Bozak… oh dear… Bozak. He has been unfairly labeled from the day he arrived here. Hated by many solely due to him being paired along side Kessel, he has probably endured more abuse than any other Leaf over the past 4 years. First, it should be noted that he doesn’t get to choose who he plays with. Second, he was never deemed a #1 center and his $4.2M AAV cap hit is indicative of that feeling. Third, he arguably has the two most defensively impaired players on the team as his wingers. If Grabovski or Kadri would have actually done something more to impress for that 1st line center position, I wonder if Bozak still suffers the same fate? We most likely will never know and to be frank, at this point I’m done caring. Good luck wherever you end up, Bozak.

If you refer to the very first chart once again, players of consequence who have a fairly even split on Keep vs. Trade votes include Kessel, Franson, Santorelli and Winnik (Winnik to a lesser degree but a split is still prevalent). The divide here is consistent with the equality of the tradeoff represented by these players. They are good players that have proven productive, but these players also represent a potentially valuable return in the trade market. The fact that more votes leaned towards ‘trade vs. ‘keep’ signifies Leafs Nation sees more value in the assets these players can return rather than what they can do on the ice. Again, this is consistent with the mechanics of a rebuild.

The top six players to be traded on this team are as follows:

1. Phaneuf
2. Bozak
3. Lupul
4. Franson (Traded)
5. Kessel
6. Clarkson (Traded)

It is no coincidence that these players are associated with being the “core” of this team and these results are clearly an indictment by Leafs Nation that this locker room is in need of a complete culture change. Tear it down!

On a side note, I’d like to talk about JVR in a little more depth and how I found it somewhat puzzling that more votes weren’t levied towards the ‘Trade’ category. JVR has had every opportunity playing the best minutes with the best players throughout his entire tenure here and yet he has been left unscathed by the majority of Leafs Nation. No one wants him traded even though he probably represents the best return of all our assets and everyone wants him kept even though he is one of the main reasons this team has failed. It is not a secret he is a huge defensive liability, but for some reason Bozak and to a slightly lesser degree Kessel, are bearing the brunt of Leafs Nation’s ire. I don’t see the consistency in the logic applied here and would’ve expected a much higher proportion of votes in the ‘Trade’ category similar to that of Franson, Santorelli, Kessel or Winnik. I suspect it has a lot to do with the MSM’s focus on other players on this Leafs team that has allowed JVR to escape public scrutiny under the microscope. Luckily, we at the HUB aren’t MSM and I think JVR should be gone as well.

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Well, I’m sorry Reimer Nation, but Leafs Nation doesn’t agree with you. Pack your bags and your million dollar smile James, because you’re out too. This debate needs no further entertaining.


Conclusion


 

We at Leafs Hub would like to take this opportunity to give our sincerest thanks to all of you who participated in this survey. We are humbled and equally grateful by the large number of participants we received in our first of what we expect will be many more surveys to come in the future. ‘Tank’ you very much from all of us at the Leafs Hub.

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