Leafs Nation are a passionate bunch! We wear our hearts on our sleeves and aren’t afraid to fight to make a point so it’s always an exciting time when a new trade rumour, free agent signing, or other Toronto Maple Leafs news hits the web. Every Tuesday morning, I’ll break down what’s “in the news” and give you my perspective. You know what they say about opinions- everybody has one, some just stink more than others! This is how I see it… in my VIEW FROM THE BLUES!
The Plan Up Front…
You knew this was coming. A few weeks ago, I looked at all five goaltenders in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. Last week, that trend was continued when I looked at the Leafs’ “Plan of Defence!” So I guess it’s inevitable that I pull out the crystal ball once again and take a look at the forwards. I’ve tried to talk myself out of it, but at this point in the summer, finding anything good to write about is like finding the ingredients to make a really good salad at John Goodman’s house!
This past summer, it’s been hard to ignore the constant opinionated views of the fans.
Some have merit: “Dion Phaneuf is untradeable due to the value and term of his contract!”
Some don’t: “Dion Phaneuf is a pylon and should be traded for a bag of pucks!”
I try to ignore when an internet troll unleashes something resembling the latter. In fact, just making a statement like that will cause me to disregard that persons opinion, and I’m okay with that. It’s fine to have an opinion but it’s easy to separate the ones from people who know their hockey, and those that don’t. I’m dipping one toe in the water now, and it’s pretty cold, but I’m going in!
The Leafs went on a little “spending spree” in the first week of July signing four forwards (P.A Parenteau, Mark Arcobello, Daniel Winnik, and Shawn Matthias) and picking up another asset (Nick Spaling) in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. What do those five players all have in common? They all have either one or two years left on their contracts and make less than $3 million per-season. Gone are the days of bringing in guys and signing them to long-term, big money contracts. (see David Clarkson) The Leafs are bringing in “stop-gap” solutions while they watch their plethora of under 25 prospects develop with the Marlies. So how will things shape up this season?
James Van Riemsdyk: This should be an interesting season for the 26-year old forward after being “sheltered” by the fans in 2014-15 season. While linemates Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak were constantly raked over the coals for their apparent disinterest in any kind of defensive play, JVR was allowed to escape unscathed. A look at the numbers of all three players show that this was a combined “lack of effort” from all three of them.
|21||L||JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK||82||27||29||56||-33||43||9||1||4||248||10.90|
That’s a combined minus 101 between the three of them. Whoever he plays with, Van Riemsdyk will have to be better on the other side of the puck this season.
2015-16- Expect him to play on the Leafs’ top unit this season but he is not “untouchable.” If a contending team needs scoring at some point and are willing to move picks and prospects, JVR may find himself wearing different colours by the time March hits.
Tyler Bozak: What can be said about Tyler Bozak? Some Leafs fans seem to have no problem coming up with things and of course most of them are negative. The most popular thing that I hear is that “nobody wants him” and i’m sorry to rain on your parade but that is simply not true. Like many Leafs players over the past few seasons, Bozak has been asked to play a role that he doesn’t have the skills for. He’s a strong skater who also kills penalties and can chip in a bit offensively. He is also excellent on the draw and was fifth in the NHL this past season with a 53.2 face off percentage. There are plenty of teams, yes PLENTY, who could fit a guy like that into their NHL lineup.
2015-16- I have a funny feeling that Bozak may not see opening night in the blue and white. Lou Lamoriello has only been the general manger of the Toronto Maple Leafs for 6 weeks and he’s not the type who rushes things. Expect talk to heat up again once training camp starts.
Nazem Kadri: There has been lots of talk about him in the past week or so and he has been the subject of many articles lately including his one here at Leafs Hub. Videos and pictures that have leaked show a player who has finally gotten serious about conditioning and he seems poised to breakout under new coach Mike Babcock. Kadri will be expected to shoulder some of the scoring load without Phil Kessel.
2015-16- There are no job guarantees this season as Mike Babcock gets to know the roster. Kadri will be expected to play a huge offensive role for the club and will get that chance with a clean slate available. Expect a big year from him. If not, it may be his last chance in Toronto.
Joffrey Lupul: The Leafs have been trying to deal him for a while but have found no takers on his $5.25 mil per-season contract that expires following the 2017-18 season. It’s not only Lupul’s salary that is keeping teams away, it’s his ability to stay healthy. In the past four seasons, out of a possible 294 games, Lupul has suited up for just 206 of them. Still, his numbers have been good when healthy with 69 goals and 82 assists for 151 points. He would bring experience and a definite offensive presence to a contending team. The Leafs will have to eat some salary to make any deal happen.
2015-16- I’ve heard some people say that Lupul “will have trouble cracking the Leafs Top-six.” Make no mistake about it, Lupul will be given every chance to do just that. It is essential that they do everything they can to put the soon to be 32-year old in a position to succeed. It doesn’t take a scholar to realize that they’ll get more for a Top-six winger having a good season than a player who’s best days are behind him.
Peter Holland: The 24-year old center showed signs of breaking out last year but will have lots of competition for playing time this season. He can also play wing and may have to do that to stay in the lineup.
2015-16- Expect a possible reunion with Guelph Storm linemates Taylor Beck and Richard Panik as Babcock searches for chemistry on his forward lines.
Leo Komarov: I can’t say enough about a guy like Leo Komarov. He’s responsible defensively, aggressive on the forecheck, and never takes a shift off. This is the type of player who is destined to see a lot of minutes under a coach like Babcock.
2015-16- Komarov has three years left on his contract worth just under $3 mil per season. He is definitely the kind of veteran player you want to have around setting an example for younger players during a rebuild. However, he’ll turn 29 in January. If the right offer comes along, the Leafs will listen.
Daniel Winnik: The Leafs signed him to a one-year $1.3 million contract at the beginning of last season but dealt him to Pittsburgh just seven months later for picks. On July 1, he became a Maple Leaf once again, signing a two-year contract worth $2.25 mil per season.
2015-16- Winnik is in the same boat as Komarov. He will be a good influence on the young players that will inevitably make their way onto the NHL roster, but is also the type of player teams look for when heading into the playoffs.
Richard Panik: He played 76 games for the Leafs last season after being scooped off waivers from the Tampa Bay Lightning and showed some definite potential scoring 11 times.
2015-16- As well as he played at times last year, he will be in a dogfight with several players for a spot on the Leafs 23-man roster. It may come down to a numbers game for the young Slovakian.
Nick Spaling: He joins the club after being acquired as a salary dump in the Phil Kessel deal. He’ll likely play center on the fourth line for Mike Babcock.
2015-16- Spaling has one year left on his contract worth $2.2 mil per season. The Leafs will likely try to move him at the deadline.
P.A Parenteau: A player looking for a fresh start after a disappointing season with the Montreal Canadiens. Parenteau didn’t get along with coach Michel Therrien and found himself in the bottom-six fighting for ice time. The result was a disappointing season in which he managed just eight goals in 56 games.
2015-16- He’ll turn 33 in March and is pretty much a short-term solution while the Leafs wait for younger players to develop with the Marlies. He will be given every chance to succeed in a scoring role with the Leafs if only to increase his value at the trade deadline.
Marc Arcobello: Due to the fact that he played on four different teams last season, I have decided to label him “Suitcase Arcobello!” A useful player, he plays all three forward positions and is reliable in the faceoff circle which will come in handy especially if Bozak is moved.
2015-16- On a one-year contract paying $1.1 mil per-season, it’s possible that he may change address’ again this year as teams search for cheap depth options going into the playoffs.
Shawn Matthias: The Leafs signed the 27-year old forward to a one-year $2.3 million contract back on July 6 and hope that the 18 goals he scored last year with the Canucks were not an anomaly. Matthias played bottom-six minutes last season and an increase in playing time may give him the chance to become a top forward for Mike Babcock.
2015-16- As promising as he sounds, Matthias fits into that category of cheap players on one-year deals that may fetch a nice pick or prospect at the deadline.
Taylor Beck: The date was November 18, 2014 when the Leafs stepped on home ice and were embarassed 9-2 by the notoriously low-scoring Nashville Predators. Many scored for the Preds that night but only one player potted two. That player became a Maple leaf in a trade for little used forward Jamie Devane just 7 months later.
2015-16- Beck only scored eight goals last season but was a prolific scorer in junior and may benefit from playing in a more offensive role. At 24-years old, he may be the type of player the club wants around during this rebuild.
The club is overflowing with young forwards at the AHL level. With the likes of William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Connor Brown, Brendan Leipsic, and Frederik Gauthier set to dawn the Marlies sweater. The organization has said numerous time this summer that they will not rush their young prospects into the NHL. With that being said, Babcock is adamant that if you can help the club, then you’ll win a job. So what have we got down there?
Matt Frattin: After returning to the organization last January in a trade for Jerry D’Amigo, Frattin showed up for training camp doing his best impersonation of the invisible man and he could have won an oscar with his performance. He was rewarded with a trip to Ricoh Centre and a job with the Marlies. After a slow start, Frattin found his stride, eventually finding his way onto the team’s top scoring line along with William Nylander and Byron Froese. “The Voice of the Marlies” Todd Crocker appeared on the BNWT Podcast last week and called Frattin an NHL player with an impressive shot.
2015-16- Frattin will turn 28 on January 3 and is no longer looked at as a prospect. He will have to come into camp with a chip on his shoulder. If he does, he may be rewarded with an NHL job.
Zach Hyman: The 23-year old set a record while winning the NCAA scoring title last season and will come to camp looking to win an NHL job. He has NHL size (6’1, 205) and is in tremendous shape.
2015-16- The only question is will Toronto want him to spend at least one season with the AHL’s Marlies before making the jump to pro? I’m sure Hyman plans to make that decision a tough one for Mike Babcock and he could be a threat to grab a spot with the big club.
Casey Bailey: He was also a standout in the NCAA and was a Hobey Baker finalist last season while playing with Penn State. He was signed to a two-year entry level contract on March 21st and played 6 games down the stretch with the Leafs last season.
2015-16- Bailey is tall at 6’3 but will need to add some bulk to his 195-pound frame if he plans on being an effective NHL power forward. Expect to see him play a big role for Sheldon Keefe and the Marlies.
Sam Carrick: As Todd Crocker told us last week on the Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast, Carrick is working hard in the off-season and is coming to training camp with the intentions of winning an NHL job. At times during his 16-game stint with the Leafs, Carrick seemed to be one of the only players who was trying and that goes a long way.
2015-16- Anything anyone did last season is out the window with a new coach running things. Carrick will be in tough with so many players trying to make the big club.
Josh Leivo: After scoring 23 goals in his rookie AHL season, Leivo dropped to 11 last year. Playing time will be scarce with the Marlies this year and there will be a battle for AHL jobs. As promising as he is, it’s very conceivable that he’ll play some games with Orlando.
2015-16- Like Carrick last year, Leivo is entering the final year of his entry level contract and will have to make a bold statement if he wants to be a part of this organization’s long-term plans. Will this be his year or will he fade away like the Jeremy Williams’ and Kris Newbury’s of the past?
William Nylander: This is a tough one. There is no denying the talent and potential that Nylander possesses but he has only played 42 games in the AHL since coming over from Sweden in January. He will move to his natural position of center this year according to Kyle Dubas.
“William will play centre. I think we’ve made that commitment, and as Mike said yesterday, he wants to play there. It’s going to be up to him to show he can do it, but he’s going to start the year..he’s going to come to training camp..and start by playing centre. It’s going to be up to him in terms of where he takes it. You see the growth in him there, and you see him here leading the group. Physically, he is a guy that continues to work hard. It’s going to be a lot of fun to see what William does this season.” (Kyle Dubas- July 12/ 2015)
2015-16- The angel on my shoulder says to let him play a full year with the Marlies before moving him to the NHL level. The devil says “wouldn’t it be nice to have him with the big club?” My gut says the Leafs will leave him in the AHL for a full season playing centre but what if he absolutely dominates in the preseason?
Kasperi Kapanen: He turned 19 six weeks ago and is set to play his first full pro season in North America. He’s a slick skater and makes things happen when he gets the puck on his stick. Although his size has been called into question by some members of the media, Kapanen is around 6’0, 180 pounds and is still growing.
2015-16- I can’t see a scenario where Kapanen plays on the Leafs this season. He is still young enough that if he hadn’t already played pro in Finland he would be sent back to junior. At least one full year with the Marlies won’t hurt him.
Connor Brown: Drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Brown was an afterthought for most onlookers unti his last season of junior. That was the year that he managed to win the OHL scoring title with 45 goals and 128 points. He followed that up by winning the AHL rookie scoring title last year in his first pro season and earning a spot in the All-Star Game.
2015-16- The Leafs will more than likely stay the course with young Connor by keeping him with the Marlies another year. He’ll be a fixture in their top-six forward group for sure.
Brendan Leipsic: He came over back in February of this year in the deal that sent Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators. After multiple years of over 100 penalty minutes in the WHL, Leipsic had just 22 in 74 games between Toronto and Milwaukee. He should add some of that aggressiveness back into his game in his second AHL season.
2015-16- Leipsic found good chemistry on a line with fellow rookie Connor Brown last season and will probably renew that connection again. The future is definitely not now for the big club so another year in the AHL won’t hurt.
Frederik Gauthier: Announced at 215 pounds when he was drafted two summers ago, rumour has it that he is now carrying 240 on his 6’4 frame. Despite suggestions from some people that he may end up with the Orlando Solar Bears, Gauthier will play a big role with the Marlies especially on faceoffs where he is more than exceptional.
“I think this year it’s going to be great for him. He’ll be with the Marlies. Sheldon really likes him. The more he sees him out here on the ice, he likes him even more. For us, we don’t just want to have him pigeon-holed as this defensive centre. We want him to grow as a player. We want him to expand offensively. We want him to be more assertive defensively. We’re going to want him to close on people quicker and get the puck moving up the ice and I think you’ll see his offensive game expand from there.” (Kyle Dubas- July 12/ 2015)
2015-16- This will be Gauthier’s first season as a pro. Keeping with the organization’s vow to not rush young prospects, expect the 20-year old to play a full season with the Marlies before they even consider moving him into the NHL.
Other possibilities include Rich Clune, who signed an AHL contract and Devin Setoguchi who will be in camp on a tryout. Either of them will have to do something pretty spectacular in order to earn an NHL contract. There are only 50 of them available and the Leafs would likely have to trade a body to make room for another. It’s going to be interesting to see who stands out to Babcock during training camp. Two weeks is a very short period of time to impress the new coach. You know what they say, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” This year, it will be a first impression for everybody.
The Blue N’ White Tonight Podcast…
This week, we had ourselves a good old-fashioned hockey debate in the first period before being joined by former Toronto Maple Leaf Greg Terrion for period number two. Greg told some great stories about his days playing with the Leafs back in the 80’s including…
-The very unique NHL record that he holds
-Rooming with Captain Rick Vaive
-How Borje Salming’s very attractive sister-in-law got him in trouble with his wife
-Wendel Clark’s wicked shot and awesome personality
-What he told Leaf rookies about Bob Probert
Check it out here…
Next week, I’ll be heading down to London, Ontario along with producer Ryan Gilchrist to take in the Leafs’ game against the Habs on Saturday night in the annual Rookie Tournament. The Leafs will be lead by 2015 draft picks Mitchell Marner and Travis Dermott as well as William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, and Frederik Gauthier. Listen in as Jude MacDonald of Leafs Hub joins us live from Budweiser Gardens during the Leafs practice leading into their final game of the tournament against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Most podcasts usually die a quick death usually because of irregular releases and lack of interest. Let us assure you that is not gonna happen with the Blue N’ White Tonight! We’re in this for the long haul and will put out a show every Monday as promised. Once the season starts and some of the “seasonal” Leafs fans come back, we have a feeling that our show will explode! With that being said, the support we have gotten so far from people who enjoy listening is just overwhelming. Some huge announcements are coming up in the next couple of weeks regarding guests! We’re finishing September off with a bang!
Tweet of the Week…
This week’s tweet comes from Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun after interviewing new coach Mike Babcock. My thoughts regarding Phaneuf from last week’s piece were confirmed.
Babcock on Phaneuf: “He’s going to have the best year he’s had in a long time … We’re not leaving him hung out to dry. ” #leafs
— Mike Zeisberger (@Zeisberger) September 6, 2015
Much like Scott Stevens in his later years, Phaneuf needs to focus strictly on being a rock solid defenseman who takes care of his own end first. His days of 20 goals and 50+ points are over.
Please send all comments, opinions, and hate mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Twitter: @robb_ellis
I’ll catch ya next week… FROM THE BLUES!!