The Leafs made a first round exit against the Washington Capitals but they didn’t go down without a fight. They took the Presidents Trophy winners to 6 games and all 4 of the losses were one goal games, think about that. Our defense is way below the level of Washington’s as well as our playoff experience.
The Capitals management and team admitted after the series was over that they were worried about playing the Leafs and that they knew they’d put up a big fight and they wouldn’t go down quickly.
Many people from NHL Network predicted the Leafs to be swept by the Caps or eliminated in 5, and the Caps barely won it in 6. The inexperience did come into factor but our speed and energy is what put up a fight.
This team is on the rise, Trotz said after game 6 “they have a lot to be excited for, and they pushed us and hardened us”. He also told Babcock “you guys did a fantastic job and that was one hell of a series”.
Capitals twitter tweeted out after the game “to Maple Leafs and their fans – what an amazing series. The kids are DEFINITELY alright”.
Also considering that pretty much every other fan base says our future is bright, there’s nothing to worry about. The first round exit is more of a learning curve, don’t look at it as if we didn’t put in an effort cause we certainly did.
Anyways onto the off-season duties of Lou, Shanny and Babs.
This team is on the uprise now but there’s still quite a bit of work to be done before you contend for Lord Stanley. I think we can all say we played well in the postseason but there was a lack of experience on most of the team and the defence was average. I thought Hunwick and Polak were excellent, Martin Marincin was his drunk self and Gardiner was on his best game and Rielly and Zaitsev had their struggles.
The offense did well, it was dry at certain times, but this offense is already in good shape going forward. The big three rookies were probably nervous and excited, Marner struggled while Nylander and Matthews dominated in offensive zone.
So as mentioned this defence does need upgraded, the question is, when will it be? Free agency is not the route the Leafs should take due to bidding wars, the Leafs are not looking to overpay to get a Kevin Shattenkirk and screw up the salary cap for the next 6 years. While there’s a possibility of a Karl Alzner, Kris Russell and so on I don’t see any of them as a good fit except for Michael Stone who could help them round up top 4 or be a bottom pairing guy that you can rely on. Again, don’t want to overpay in free agency which is always what likely happens. Dan Girardi was bought out by the Rangers he would be a decent fit for bottom pair if they decide to not resign Roman Polak which might be a mistake. Polak did really well in a league that is getting faster and faster, he uses his power and size and uses long reach to advantage. Hunwick on the other hand, wouldn’t care if he didn’t return and I hope Marincin gets taken by Vegas or gets sent to Lupidas Island.
The way I think the Leafs will address their need is via trade, I’m sure management knows what we need and are trying their hardest but this is being done properly and they won’t rush and overpay just to get someone right away.
The assumption is that Anaheim is where the defensive help is coming from, and that’s likely where it’ll come from and where all the rumours have been. Anaheim is in trouble for expansion draft, they don’t want to lose Rakell or Silfverberg then on defence it’s a struggle, they’ve got so many to protect. A guy like Manson or Vatanen could be exposed and if so, one of them will be a Vegas Knight. That is why there’s speculation and rumours that one has to go via trade and Manson has been linked to the Leafs as well as Fowler and Vatanen.
I prefer Manson or Vatanen, they’re both right handed shot and are younger than Fowler, they can skate and keep up with today’s league, both offensively minded but what stands out with Manson is how he plays physically and he would fit in nicely with Rielly as would Vatanen but most fans as of now prefer Manson.
We will see what happens with the defence because there’s also Dermott in the Marlies that is soon ready and Andrew Nielsen after that who are both likely to be top 4 dmen but may settle as 5-6.
Lou and management could be looking in a totally different direction at a guy like Matt Dumba of Minnesota or Jonas Brodin or maybe even a long shot of Tyler Myers or Dougie Hamilton, don’t think the Leafs wanna pay too pretty of a penny, but they do need to work some magic.
Their offense on the other hand doesn’t need as much of a tweak, its in fact loaded up with depth in the near future. This past season there was a battle for a spot in the lineup with Josh Leivo, Nikita Soshnikov and Kasperi Kapanen. They also have Brendan Leipsic and Kerby Rychel who are almost proven that they’re too good for the AHL. Rychel is likely a guy that goes to Vegas in the expansion draft that’s not too big of a loss.
Carl Grundstrom may be ready in another year as well as Frederik Gauthier and Andreas Johnsson. Jeremy Bracco won’t be long after that and possibly Adam Brooks who’s been lighting up the WHL, even though they haven’t proven NHL star quality yet, they look to have huge upsides and great hockey IQ. Grundstrom seems to be a gritty Nylander or more skilled Hyman and Bracco could turn out as good as Marner skill wise. They’ve got the depth, they just need to tryout and find who deserves the spot and who may get dealt to another club or picks or another prospect that would help in another position.
Brian Boyle is a UFA and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Leafs make him a one year offer maybe two at most, his veteran presence was HUGE in the playoffs and what a great mentor.
Speaking of veteran presence, I’ve heard rumblings of Joe Thornton maybe being a Leaf after free agency, he’s up there but he can still produce and be a leader, if the term and price is right and a guy like Bozak is moved or Boyle isn’t back, that could be a possibility, not very likely though.
Ilya Kovalchuk has popped up numerous times in being interested in NHL return, Toronto one of the teams he’d be interested in, however Toronto would need to trade for his rights from the Devils. Again like I said with Thornton if it’s a one year deal and decent money, get it done and find room, maybe they could help us win if we had a better defensive core. But in order for Kovalchuk to be here maybe a JVR is gone in a trade for a dman?
I’ve kinda wondered about Justin Williams if the Leafs wanted a veteran winger, clutch playoff player with lots of experience and he’d be a big contributor in this locker room.
Goaltending situation should work out, Andersen still around and hopefully Leafs can resign Curtis McElhinney so we can have some reliable backup goaltending.
Captaincy is also up in the air, Lou said back in spring that they may go another season without a captain but I believe when they think he’s ready, Auston Matthews will be wearing the C, Rielly and Komarov alternates.
After all the debates and speculations and rumours this summer and the deals that get done here’s what I’m hoping the team looks like and what I think it’s going to look like.
Hopeful Lineup 2017-2018
Kapanen – Matthews – Nylander
Brown – Kadri – Komarov
Leipsic – Thorton – Marner
Martin – Boyle – Hyman
Rielly – Manson
Gardiner – Zaitsev
Dermott – Polak/Stone
More likely lineup 2017-2018
Hyman – Matthews – Nylander
Komarov – Kadri – Brown
Marner – Bozak – Kapanen
Martin – Boyle – Soshnikov
Rielly – Zaitsev
Gardiner – Montour
Carrick – Polak
Thanks for reading! If you have and opinions or thoughts on the Leafs offseason shenanigans, you can contact me on Twitter @Team_Babcock