Q&A with Craig Button: Your Questions – His Answers

Just before the NHL Trade Deadline, I was messaging back and forth with a former NHL executive/ current NHL analyst, and wondered aloud “would you consider doing a Question and Answer session with our readers at Leafs Hub?”   The answer that came back not only shocked me, but reaffirmed how great of a person Mr. Craig J. Button is with him saying “Sure, lets do it’’

Remember our website only began at the beginning of this NHL Season.  For a seasoned NHL Scout and former NHL General Manager to afford us this opportunity is very special indeed.   While the email response was sent by Craig in a very timely manner, due to technical difficulties we are only now getting a chance to put these answers out to our fans.  Sorry Girls and Boys…our mistake.

Please remember that these Questions and Answers were provided at the time of the trade deadline but many of them are still applicable at this point in the NHL schedule due to the discussion pertaining to the Entry Draft.  We thank all of our loyal readers and fans of the site for taking the time to send us these questions and hopefully can continue to do similar sessions in the future.

Without further ado…..I turn it over to the Man, The Myth, The Legend, Mr. Craig J. Button.


Jordan Angle (@talkleafs) wrote:

For the upcoming draft there does not seem to be a high end goalie prospect like some other years. Who would you think is the top couple guys to watch and where will they possibly land in the draft?

Mr. Buttons Response:


Goalies take some time to develop and while there is no goalie that stands out at the top of the class, there will be goalies who will develop into very good NHL goalies IMO. The five players I would watch are: (In no particular order)

Callum Booth (Quebec Remparts)

MacKenzie Blackwood (Barrie Colts)

Felix Sandstrom (Brynas, Sweden)

Daniel Vladar ( Kladno, Czech Republic)

Ilya Samsonov (Magnitogorsk, Russia)

Development is the key once they are drafted but these are five I like.

Larry Forman (@stormin_forman) wrote:

Mr. Button,

Thank you for taking the time. If the Leafs were fortunate enough to end up with the 3rd overall pick in the draft and it was your decision to make, would you pick Hanifin or Strome? Briefly explain why, please.

Thanks again.

Mr. Buttons Response:


I would select Dylan Strome hands down. Number 1 centers are just about impossible to obtain unless you draft them. I don’t see Noah Hanifin as an elite defenseman but as a very good one, a la Jay Bouwmeester. Dylan can do it all making plays, scoring, key areas and I see him at same stage as similar to Ryan Johansen but I think he plays a style of game like Kopitar and Toews and I’m not saying he’s those guys but plays a similar type of game. Can’t win in NHL without top centers.

Corey Connolly wrote (@canucksnaphook) wrote:

Good evening Mr Button,

With the Leafs owning two picks in the first round, is it prudent to keep BOTH or make a trade to move up (depending on the lottery pick)?


Mr. Buttons Response:


The situation is always fluid at the draft. They are not moving up with their first pick IMO because the price would be too severe in this year’s draft. Depending on where you are on draft day with your list and if you like a player that you have rated high, them by all means if the price isn’t significant, then I believe in getting players you want.

Miles Hoaken (@smokinhoaken) wrote:

Why has prospect Rasmus Andersson consistently not made the first round projections in this upcoming draft? He played in a mens league (Allsvenskan) when he was 16 and 17 and is point per game in the OHL this year as a right-handed defenceman. Seems like a guy who should be coveted, no?


Mr. Buttons Response:


Yes he should be coveted IMO. I can’t speak for others but I love his play – skill, head and competitiveness. He has a real poise to his play and can contribute in multiple ways. One more thing is that I believe that players in the 21-40 range are all in a similar boat with respect to projections and depending on individual team’s rankings, they can be the 20th pick or the 40th pick.

Rick Pearce (@rickpearce76) wrote:

How does the leafs scouting and player development stack up against other nhl teams. Since none of this matter to the cap what would you recommend to make it the best in the nhl?

Mr. Buttons Response:


I believe it’s too easy to criticize scouting for the Leaf’s woes. They stack up but the KEY is to know what you are looking for and then be patient in allowing the players to develop. Alex Steen & Tuukka Rask were selections in the 20’s by the Leaf’s and were traded. How would they look in the Leaf’s lineup today? Development is essential and that has to be a point of emphasis. It’s development and has to be treated as such with everybody understanding what has to happen. It’s about putting players into situations where they can learn from playing not sitting and watching. I’m not saying that is the case with the Leafs but it’s incredibly important for success at the NHL level. We won the Calder Cup in Saint John with 5 rookie AHL defensemen. They played, they developed, they won and Jim Playfair and Ron Wilson were instrumental in that happening.


Nick Konarowski (@nkonarowski2) wrote:

Rumour has it many teams were interested in Joffrey Lupul, but what can the Maple Leafs reasonably expect in return for him?

Mr. Buttons Response:


I don’t think there is a significant return on a player with injury woes. Perhaps the Leafs can structure a deal where, if Lupul plays a certain amount of games and/or produces points above a certain level, then a draft pick could become higher. That is a draft pick scenario. In a player transaction scenario, the Leafs may have to take back a player who is in a similar situation. The key is to identify what players may be able to get an ‘uptick’ in their play through a trade.

John Spain wrote:

Mr Button,

Do you feel that the Leaf ownership/senior management group are made up in such a way so as to allow a rebuild to be successful or are they too nearsighted and or lack the hockey pedigree to get it done the right way?


Mr. Buttons Response:


The keys to building any successful enterprise are pretty much the same. A good plan, right people to execute the plan, realistic expectations about time line, commitment to the plan and the requisite patience. I believe that Brendan Shanahan has undertaken this approach with that understanding in place. Will there be times when you question certain things? Almost assuredly but if the plan is to build a team that can sustain success over time, there is no other way.

Colby Murphy (@murphycolby) wrote:

Craig, if you’re leafs management. Do you offer whatever it takes to get that #1 pick to acquire McDavid on draft day? If so, what does it cost to get that?

Mr. Buttons Response:


I believe you explore every avenue to see how you can acquire a significant talent like Connor. Being in a rebuild, I would have nothing off the table in any offering. That being said, I would estimate the chances of acquiring McDavid at just about zero because when you have a talent such as him available, why would you forgo having him on your team? So while inquiries will be made, the #1 pick will not move on
draft day IMO.

Doug Stewart (@ldsooner) wrote:

In a NHL trade situation who usually sets the parameters of a perspective trade? Does the team with the asset establish the expected return and wait for respondents? Or does the market place telephone in bids with the “highest bid wins” scenario. Do teams still call in asking for the availability of a certain player or does the team with the asset call all the teams stating that “Player A is available” if you are interested?

Mr. Buttons Response:


Trade discussions are borne out of daily conversations. First, teams are always assessing their own group of players and trying to fill the ‘holes’ in their lineup. You look outside and try to see what players from other teams can fit those needs. You also look at how you can potentially fill another team’s needs with players you may have. That is the foundation of trade talks. If you can’t ‘help’ a team in an area they need help in, you won’t be making a trade. There is always the inquiries when a player is slumping because GM’s always love to acquire a player for ‘cents on the dollar’ but GM’s also know they can’t act too hastily in trading players. At the trade deadline, the term rental player gets thrown around and that is where you see more bidding and GM’s saying this is the price. Looking back to the 2014 trade deadline, Brian Burke established a price for Mike Cammalleri and no team was prepared to pay it so he wasn’t traded. On the other hand Garth Snow was looking for a substantial return on Thomas Vanek but when he didn’t get his price, he was willing to lower his demands and thus Vanek was traded. There are instances when GM’s phone and ask if you are interested in a particular player but that is usually a case of trying to get somebody to take your player. Call it ‘dumping’

John Forman wrote:

With a week to go before the Trade Deadline, and the Draft Lottery and Draft itself still to come, what would be your strategy moving forward with the Maple Leafs? Which players do you move and when? Would winning the Draft Lottery (and presumably selecting McDavid) affect your plan, and if so, how?

Mr. Buttons Response:


First, winning the lottery wouldn’t affect my plan in any way. McDavid is but one player and would be a pillar piece for the rebuild but lots more players need to be added. Keep in mind that the salary cap system requires teams to spend a minimum amount of money so you have to keep players to meet this fundamental requirement in the CBA. I don’t want to be having long-term contracts for players who can’t help the team move forward so have to be very careful about what position you leave yourself in. That being said, there is no player I wouldn’t consider trading. You have to evaluate all scenarios with a player in or a player out, what it means short-term, what it means long-term, what it means contractually. There is so many moving parts but the key to my mind is knowing what type of player you want in the organization and then make your decisions based on that fundamental criteria. It’s not about one certain type of player, but about the qualities you want in the players and how you see those qualities being part of the bigger picture. Also, a coach that can help the team grow yet be competitive because there will be numerous challenges in the next few years.

Thanks again to Mr. Button for taking the time during a very busy part of his season and schedule, for providing the insight that many fans clamour for, but don’t necessarily get the chance to hear or read.   (Follow on twitter @CraigJButton and continue to watch on TSN, and the NHL Network)


Corey Connolly

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